The demand for flexible working is huge and rising, with parents in particular looking at all different kinds of options to fit work around family life.
Increasingly that includes freelance work. The number of working mum freelances is rising fast and one website which is hoping to cater to this is www.freelanceparentsnetwork.com.
It was set up earlier this year by Rosalind Kent who left her job as a lawyer for a local council in London when her daughter was born. Because she didn't want to go back to a normal office environment and also found it hard to find work after taking time out she started writing freelance legal articles on issues like consumer rights for local papers and financial website www.lovemoney.com. She realised there were a lot of women like her who had “amazing professional backgrounds” and might be interested in freelance work.
She runs the site with a few other working mums. It covers a whole range of freelance work. Advertisers post jobs for free and candidates can register for free. They pay a 10% cut of their earnings for a freelance job to the site.
Rosalind says the number of freelancers registered on the site is rising, particularly after publicity in local media and on aol and yahoo. The publicity is also driving up job adverts, but she is also building the adverts by attending local networking events and directly emailing businesses. SMEs in particular find hiring freelances attractive, she says, because it is much cheaper than hiring an employee.
She has been really impressed by the quality of parent freelancers who include lawyers, writers, accountants and IT workers. Part of the reason she set up the site specifically for parents was, she says, that “employers know when they come to us that they will get decent people who have years of experience rather than people who are just starting out”.
The type of freelance work most parents are looking for, says Rosalind, is remote working and she is trying to put an emphasis on this in her negotiations with employers. “Even the most flexible job is not as popular as one they can do from home,” she says.
The package the site sends parents who register includes invoice templates and service agreements which they can use with employers to ensure they do not end up being exploited and doing extra hours unpaid. The site also signposts parents to other websites which give advice on issues like tax. Rosalind is hoping to add a blog to the site soon with freelances writing about their own experiences.
She is very keen that the site offers “proper” jobs for proper pay rather than becoming a site where people from around the world undercut each other – what she calls “an ebay for jobs”.
Unlike a recruitment agency, the website does not vet its registered members, but Rosalind does look through the cvs and applications for jobs come through her. She weeds out the ones which are unsuitable for the post in question because the candidate lacks the right skills, but she says employers know that they are posting for free so cannot expect all the extras that go with a recruitment agency.
Rosalind says the fact that the site is the only one in the UK, as far as she knows, that is specifically for parents has brought it welcome publicity and has meant that she has not had to pay any money yet on advertising.
She herself works round her daughter, who is now six. During schooldays she manages the site and also does voluntary work in an independent advice centre giving advice on benefits and debt. She logs on again when her daughter is in bed. It's a kind of working life that is increasingly attractive to parents, men and women [the site has a number of men registered], as long as they can make enough money to sustain their families. The demand is definitely there from freelances, it's a question of getting the message out to more employers that such work is in their interests too.