What do you do if you can’t find flexible work?

In Blog by Lucy2 Comments

Inspiration for flexible work.

Have you ever looked at how the working world is set up and asked

Who set it up like this?

What were they thinking?

Being a parent isn’t a new thing. Yet so many businesses are not set up to make life work for people. To fit in around school runs and the practicality of life.

Cue the army of small business owners!


Fed up of the traditional working world not meeting our needs, an army of small business owners is growing at a record rate.

80 new businesses an hour – according to research from StartUp Britain

That’s incredible.

Although flexibility is not the only reason people set up their own business, amongst many people I know – lots of them women – it was a key driver and decision maker. You can read their stories below.

Often having kids is a trigger. Many women still want to work after kids but can’t see how to make it work.

The Digital Mums #WorkThatWorks report (Sept 2016) found almost seven in 10 (68%) of the stay-at-home mums  they surveyed said they would go back to work if flexible working around childcare was an option.

And we know flexibility makes sense because 83% of businesses that do adopt flexible working practices said it had a direct improvement on productivity.

I was chatting to Lindsey Fish, Founder of Mums Enterprise recently, and she mentioned that there will be 2000 mums attending the London Mums Enterprise Roadshow this year. That’s 2000 Mum’s who are looking for something better, looking for flexible work or inspiration to set up their own business. [Mums Enterprise puts on free flexible work and business shows around the country for mums on a mission.]

And there are many more events like this planned.

I’ll be at the Birmingham event on 31st October if you want to come and say hello!

(Find me at the Story Stage)

So what do you do when you can’t find fulfilling, flexible work?

Many of us set up our own businesses.

Setting up your own business means a lot of hard work, but it also means you can organise your life in a way that makes your commitments and responsibilities more possible.

While the traditional working world takes an age to turn around – like a giant ocean liner – it’s clear there’s a problem that needs solving, and we’re looking to ourselves to solve it! – Lucy Griffin-Stiff

The reason many of us do, is because we want to build a successful brand and business we love, that makes a difference to our customers, and gives us the flexibility and autonomy to create work that works for us. And the by-product is the income.

I’m an example of that myself, and you can read many other inspirational examples later in this post.

I run Starting Conversations to support other small business owners who are in a similar position to me. They are looking to create work that works for them, and I saw that I was able to help.


Before I set up Starting Conversations I spent months observing and researching the communications problems business owners had.

It would break my heart to see people with the best of intentions grafting their arses off, trying to build a business with blood, sweat and tears without actually having put the strategic thought into their brand, their message, what makes them different and how they’re going to connect with their ideal clients.

Essentially how best to communicate what they do.

So I put my 20 years of strategic communications expertise to work, and developed a system and toolkit that helps business owners create an authentic brand (and business) that they love, and build a message that connects them to the clients they’re looking to attract.

In my own way I’m helping small business owners create work that works for them by helping them attract clients and grow their business. The way I do that is by helping them build a brilliant brand message (around their business offer) and then show them how to communicate clearly so people buy what they do.

If nobody knows what you do, why they need it and why you’re the best person to help them, you’re not going to win that business.

Putting more value on flexibility than income

The research also shows us that people are beginning to value flexibility alongside, and even above, income.  With flexibility often being the primary reason they choose the work.

There are hundreds of trailblazing mums in business out there, creating a new set of rules and a new way of working for themselves. Nicola Huelin -in her up-coming book – refers to it as the Invisible Revolution.

Alongside the army of small business owners is also an army of support and camaraderie building around it. I’m hoping that this movement of mums in business in particular, will ultimately have a positive impact on the wider working world as people see that flexibile working is entirely possible and the outdated corporate ways of working don’t need to remain, just because ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’.

I absolutely love this quote from Margaret Mead

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has”


If you are thinking of setting up your own business let these ladies be an inspiration to you:

I asked a group of small business owners whether flexibility was a key factor in deciding to set up their own business, and it was an overwhelming yes.

Here’s what they had to say:

“I totally set up my business to give myself more flexibility as no normal job would allow me the opportunity to take my son to school / nursery as they are all so tightly bound by the 9am start time! And it’s worked perfectly for me, growing my business from 20 hours a week when my son was very little, through to now when I share custody with my ex-husband and can alternate having a short working day on the days I have my son and a super long working day (if needed) on the days I don’t have him. This would never have been possible with a traditional “employer!”

-Jo-Anna Francis  Maidstone Virtual Assistant  –  helping small business owners with marketing implementation and automation

“I set my business up partly because I wanted more flexibility, other reasons were that I had fallen out of love with my previous career as a City lawyer, I realised it was ok to go for it in an area I love (jewellery) and I realised I’m fairly unemployable.

I constantly feel like I don’t have enough time but I think that becoming a parent and launching a business in a totally new area was never going to be easy. I wouldn’t go back in a million years though. My work now is so much more satisfying.”

-Susie Jones  www.mildredjones.co.uk – I create personalised luxury jewellery to mark special life events.

“I set up my business after maternity leave. I was previously a freelance office space planner but 4 out of 5 companies I worked for went bust. Now I work with my sister –  the flexibilty was crucial to her when she had breast cancer. We hope to make more flexibile working opportunities as we grow.”

-Natasha Dennis www.littlecreativedays.co.uk

” I have a business to cope with childcare. I couldn’t not work but my job in the city would have meant a nanny and a part time mum position at the weekend. My first business I couldn’t manage around such little ones but the one I am working on now is much more manageable and I can see how it will work as my children grow and their needs change.

In this transitional period I have also taken on a part time CFO position which is 100% work from home and is a great way to stay fresh. To make sure I balance my work and family I will be selling/closing one business and getting the other on track and growing. All of this has required adjustments and flexibility but the vision is in sight and the work to get there is worth it!”

-Natasha Mockett –  Write My Name

I run my business so that I can be flexible around my children and my own needs. I hardly work in the school holidays, I never work between 3pm and 7:30pm and if there’s stuff going on at school during the day I’m always there. No employer would grant me this.


-Lucy Parsons – I help students to get the top grades and into the best universities  www.lifemoreextraordinary.com

“I retrained as a social media manager to be able to work from home, around my children. I am working more hours than my previous job as running your own business means you’re needing to do your own marketing,admin etc on top of client work but as I can choose my working hours, I don’t mind it.

Today’s technology means I can work from anywhere as long as I have a decent wifi connection and my laptop or smartphone with me.”

-Ümit Işıl Şimşek  www.socialthyme.co.uk ~ I help businesses plan and execute their social media strategies.

“I don’t have kids to work around, but after traveling and contract working in Sydney for 18 months, when got back to London I found the rigid structure and enforced ‘face time’ of strategy consulting didn’t suit me anymore.

I work a lot more at the weekend now than I ever did before, but the flexibility to work around my life feels right (plus the weekend or evening working is now a choice I make for myself).”

-Beth Searle  I run Be So Baby – great gifts for your nieces and nephews

“I started my own business because the logistics of having 2 children in school and a toddler/pre-schoolers meant it was impossible for me to continue to work, and my stress levels were through the roof. I love being self-employed, but it’s hard to work around the children and all their committments. I love the flexibility it gives me, but I definitely wish I had more time to work!”

-Sara Bussandri – I’m a freelance writer and blogger with a focus on self-care and decluttering.  www.mindyourmamma.com

“I started because I wanted more freedom and time. But I also wanted to teach my children they don’t have to live inside a box, that they can actually create a life by their own design and not have to do the 9-5 drudge for the majority of their life (if they don’t want to).  I work with mums starting a small business or aspiring to to stay focused, confident and productive.” 

-Aimee Leigh www.aimee-leigh.com

“Similar to a lot of people, I’m running my own business to have more flexibility as I’m a single mum with three children . I’d been working full time for 4 years and something had to give! I don’t work less hours but have a much better balance, I’m here for the kids when they need me, I can exercise regularly and am not caged in an office! I also enjoy it which is a massive bonus.

It brings its own set of pressures but you succeed and fail by your own efforts 😳 “

-Jane Gray www.artrocks.co.uk   My business sells affordable, unique and fun oil paintings and neon signs.

“Running my own business has given me the flexibility to spend time with my family and do the school runs/be around in the holidays and also to do something that I’m extremely passionate about – improving gender diversity – I am motivated by the impact I have with my clients and the possible career opportunities when my girls are older.”

Sally Dhillon www.career-mums.co.uk Career-mums helps parents return to work after a career break and supports employers to engage better with working parents.


“I’m still trying to get the balance right, but I went ‘full time’ with my business because I had no childcare out of school hours and so working in a ‘regular’ job was no longer feasible. My littlest is still at home so am still working weekends and when the children are in bed to try and get things done, but ultimately I want to be disciplined and organised enough to just work school hours, and be more present for the kids. This is my first summer holiday that I’ve not had to arrange childcare and it feels so liberating!”

Amanda Overend www.bookspieces.com I source brilliant books for 0-6 year olds at low prices.


“Flexible working for me is working remotely using Skype or Slack to keep the communication channels open. It’s working hours to suit me and being able to catch up in the evening if I need to do something. It’s being able to take my kids to school and be home for my dogs rather than leaving them alone all day. It’s pulling my hair out in the school holidays (now that my children are too old to go to clubs) but at least being home for my kids even if I’m on the phone or laptop. And it means being much more autonomous in how you spend your time, how you direct your efforts and how you are in charge of your success.”
-Cathy Wassell  – I help businesses with social media marketing strategy and management. http://www.sociallycontented.com

“I started my business after many years of employment. I so craved the flexibility I saw other people enjoying, so I took the leap. I’d trained as a life coach while still working full time and now enjoy a very busy career, but on my terms. I work just about full time hours, but can choose patterns of work to compliment what’s going on in my life at the time. And I no longer have to work to other people’s deadlines or whims. It’s fantastic and I haven’t looked back once. “

-Julie Brown www.thesassylifecoach.com – Helping people turn their lives around.

“I started my business when I was looking to increase the hours I was working as my daughter was getting older. I had always worked from home ( as an open university lecturer) so was already loving the flexibility this gave me. Really didn’t want to go back to a more traditional job so it was natural to start more freelance teaching and then moved onto my dyslexia business which I’m developing at the moment.”

-Debbie Abraham  – I work as a dyslexia specialist www.dyslexiadeb.co.uk 


“I started my business after being made redundant so it came as a bit of a surprise but I love the flexibility and I’ve increased the hours I work as my kids have got older. I also love the freedom to do things I wouldn’t have had the chance to previously – all the PR and marketing especially the writing. I couldn’t ever imagine being employed ever again! “

Sarah Archer  www.careertree.org.uk I’m a Career Coach specialising in Change, transition and confidence to enable people to fulfil their potential 😁

If you are a small business owner or solopreneur looking to connect with, get support from and build relationships with other like minded people in a similar position, do come and join the Business Owners Conversation Club. We’re a supportive community of business owners “who get it”. We’re like that virtual team you sometimes miss when you work alone in your business. We believe that working alone doesn’t need to be lonely!

Hope to see you there

All the best



I’m Lucy. I help small business owners communicate clearly so people buy what they do.

If people don’t understand what you do, why you do it, the benefits you bring, and why customers should choose you – it’s hard to grow a business.

I help you get that absolute clarity on what you’re all about, craft that message and then use it to attract clients and grow your business.

Find Starting Conversations on Twitter and Facebook 

2 Comments on “What do you do if you can’t find flexible work?”

  1. I don’t think this is just something mums think about, either. I don’t have kids to have to work around but I’m hoping to be able to grow my ‘side hustle’ to main job soon – and this is really inspiring! Thanks Lucy

    1. Thanks Sian, I agree it’s not just Mums. But it sure does kick a lot of Mums up the bum when they realise they want to build an alternative! I believe the revolution should be for all! 🙂

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