Becky Flansburg is WAHM, Influencer, Blogger, and Freelance Writer. Her veteran blog Franticmommy.com shares her unique and humorous perspective on children’s books, parenthood, and women in business. She is also the project manager for the non-profit children’s literacy event, Multicultural Children’s Book Day and is one half of the dynamic mommy-duo at UpNorthParent.com. She is a mom to 12-year-old Sara and 15-year-old Jake. Parenting a tween and a teen is a challenge, but she truly believes that being a mom is the Best.Thing.Ever.
Read on to see how Becky Flansburg ditched the cube and launched a home business from scratch.
You left your stable 9-to-5 job in 2011 and launched a home business from scratch, tell us about this career transition.
My transition from employee to freelancer was fueled by 1/3 burnout, 1/3 determination, and 1/3 listening to the gut feeling that a better career was waiting for me somewhere!
After 30 years of working in the midst of office politics and missing out on way too much of my very young children’s lives, I simply had had enough.
I’ve only had four jobs in my 50+ years on this earth: Babysitting, picking sweet corn, working in the office products industry, and running my successful virtual assistant and freelance writing business. Pretty amazing in a world where some people change jobs like they change socks.
My longest stint was the time I spent working in the office products industry – 30 years to be exact. I started when I was 16 and worked for two different companies in two 15-year stretches. For the longest time, I loved my job and enjoyed sales. But soon I noticed the challenge was fading away and going to work wasn’t fun or exciting anymore. Right around my 43rd birthday, I had this epiphany moment of, “Is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life?”
The answer was a resounding no. I felt a strong need to try something new for the “second half of my life” because, well, life is an adventure, right? Writing was something I had always loved, and blogging gave me a thrill that I had never experienced in my 9-to-5 gig. Social media ran a close second, and it was also something that fascinated me. The problem was I just didn’t know how to make a living doing those things. Then one day I mentioned my dilemma to an acquaintance, and she immediately said, “It sounds like you want to be a Virtual Assistant.”
I have to admit; I’d never even so much as heard of a VA much less thought of myself as one. But once I had that word, that title, of Virtual Assistant, I very quickly discovered where to go for support, training, skills, and even clients. It was the piece of the puzzle I needed to move forward in creating a new career path that offered me the steady income and flexibility I needed as a mom.
Do you have any special training? What did you do to prep for your new business endeavors?
I always say that I am a case study in how NOT to gain a new skill or career! When I first got started as a VA, I decided to be frugal and find as much free info or cheap courses as I could to gain skills. That’s not a bad idea to a point, but if you are serious about being a VA, a freelancer, a graphic designer, etc., invest in at least one quality and in-depth course. I say “invest” because you are investing money and time into your future. You can piece-meal your training together from 15 different places like I did, but I promise it will take longer to reach your goals, your learning curve will be huge, and you likely will end up spending more money anyway.
Give us an example of how you landed one of your first clients.
One of the best stories I have about how I gained my first (and biggest) client is the one that involves Valarie Budayr of Audrey Press; a boutique children’s book publishing house. At the time I met Valarie, the wheels for creating my new business were in motion, but I hadn’t taken the plunge to leave my 9-5 job yet. I had signed up to attend a BlogHer Creative weekend-long Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota and was looking forward to some time to learn while also making plans to leave my job to be a solopreneur.
As I attended the various breakout sessions, I kept noticing this beautiful red-haired woman in all the same classes as me. I noticed her mainly because she had on the best boots ever. I have boot-envy since I have wide calves and don’t typically wear them. Finally, I leaned over and said, “I love your boots!” She laughed, and we spent the remainder of the weekend chatting, hanging out, and learning more about each other. I shared with her that I was building a VA business, and she said, “I use virtual assistants all the time! Call me in January, and I will give you some work.”
Six years later, Valarie is still my biggest and best client and one of my best friends. We’ve grown our businesses together, and even though I am in Minnesota and she is in Tennessee, we get together to work and goof-off once a year. The lesson here is that sometimes clients come to you when you least expect it!
How has your business evolved over the years?
I love this question. Mainly because I have found it is natural and healthy for freelancers and service providers to not only evolve, grow, and add services but also to subtract them too. As the years have passed and my experience has grown, I’ve gained wisdom on what work I want to do and the type of clients with whom I want to work. I think this is so important because you need to enjoy what you do and your business can’t be stagnant. The opposite of growth is death.
When I started out as a VA, my focus was providing social media services and blogging to clients. Six years later I have shifted away from those offerings and now focus on Project Management work, freelance writing for magazines, and helping authors with marketing and book launches. My work as Project Manager for the children’s literacy initiative, Multicultural Children’s Book Day (co-created by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen) is in its fifth year, and it has opened many doors for me. Plus the work is crazy-exciting!
I am also working hard to focus on my side ventures. Client work over the years has been fantastic, but my own creativity has gotten sorely neglected! In 2018, along with my client work, I am carving out time every day to work on building my primary site, Franticmommy.com, and a new parenting site called UpNorthParent.com. I am so excited to see what path unfolds for me in 2018.
What advice do you have for other women who want to start their own freelance business?
Do your research. Talk to other people in your skillset or potential career field and gather all the facts and advice that you can. The first year is always the hardest, but business ownership is amazing!
How do you manage all of your personal and business activities? Do you outsource any parts of your business?
Finding the proper work/life balance is something we are all need. It’s like a unicorn; we all want to find it, but it’s just not that easy to pinpoint! When working from home, you need boundaries for your business, your family, and also your clients. I am done with work for the day as soon as the kids get home from school, and I only work on weekends on my terms (or on my own stuff!). Finding that balance is hard sometimes, but necessary for health and sanity reasons.
Do you have any courses, mastermind groups, or books that have been helpful on your journey?
As far as mastermind groups and courses, I’ve been a fan of Leonie Dawson for years, and her teachings have truly helped to create the businesswoman I am today. I also love Ruth Soukup, The Brave Girls Club, Brene Brown, and Marie Foleo. I absolutely advocate for getting offline and networking with like-minded people in real life. Join your local Chamber, go to a Meetup gathering, or even find a book club to join. Human connection and relationship building will help your business grow and also help to make us all better people.
Thanks to Becky Flansburg for sharing her story!
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Originally published April 14, 2014. Content updated February 12, 2018.