Sara Sutton Fell has more than 20 years of experience in the online job market industry. She is the CEO and founder of FlexJobs, an innovative career website specializing in telecommuting, flexible, freelance and part-time job listings. Sutton Fell is a graduate of UC Berkeley and currently lives in Boulder, CO. Find out how Sara got started helping other moms find legitimate work-at-home jobs.
You’ve been in business since 2007, tell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey.
Yes, this year is FlexJobs’ 10th anniversary! It’s hard to believe 10 years have passed since I founded this company, and overall it’s flown by. I started FlexJobs officially when my first son was three months old and had my second son less than two years later, so much of the “time flying” might just have been sleep deprivation!
FlexJobs was an idea born out of my own personal experience of how frustratingly difficult it was to find good flexible and work-from-home jobs. I didn’t believe it should be that hard, given all of the technology we have available, and so I wanted to create a better way. Not only for myself and the millions of other working mothers like me, but also for fathers and anyone else who needs and wants work flexibility. I’ve long been passionate about helping people find jobs that make their lives better.
Along those lines, my entrepreneurial experience actually started back in 1995 when I “dropped out of college” with a friend to co-found the first entry-level job search service, JobDirect (sold to Korn|Ferry International in 2000). My reason for wanting to start JobDirect was the same as the reason I created FlexJobs—I believed there had to be an easier, better way to help people find the jobs they are looking for.
Over the past 20+ years, I have deeply believed that a modern workplace should address the needs of today's workforce, and in today’s world that means utilizing technology to support telecommuting, freelance, part-time, and flexible work to achieve societal, environmental, and economic benefits for both workers and employers.
People from all backgrounds, in all career fields, and in all life circumstances can benefit from flexible work options, including working parents, people with health issues or disabilities, military spouses and veterans, people living in rural or economically disadvantaged areas, people at or near retirement, environmentally-minded folks, millennials, digital nomads, and anyone who values work-life balance.
In support of that belief, I have also launched an advocacy initiative, 1 Million for Work Flexibility in 2013; a resource for integrating remote work into business models, Remote.co in 2015; and most recently The TRaD* Works Forum (*Telecommuting, Remote, & Distributed), an event that brings together organizations looking to further leverage the benefits of telecommuting, remote and distributed teams.
Do you have any special training?
Most of my “training” has been experiential—starting and running two successful job search companies and related organizations, as well as several senior-level positions with other companies. I have always actively sought out people to learn from, and I work hard to continually learn proactively on my own as well.
In the traditional sense, I hold a BA in Society, Technology, and the Environment from the University of California at Berkeley. It’s a degree I designed myself, combining the areas of study I was most passionate about at the time and, really, still am today. And I can definitely see how I’ve carried that background with me throughout my career—it seems each of my experiences focuses on providing societal and environmental benefits through technology, specifically by helping people take more control over when, where, and how they work.
Tell us about FlexJobs and what a membership includes.
FlexJobs is the leading job search website specializing in professional-level jobs that offer some type of flexibility. We list pre-screened, legitimate, high-quality jobs that offer flexible work options like telecommuting, flexible scheduling, freelance contracts, and part-time work. With over 55 career categories and jobs ranging from entry-level to executive, freelance to full-time, we really do offer something for almost anyone.
A membership to FlexJobs makes it faster, easier, and safer for professionals to find the quality flexible job listings they’re looking for. Members can trust our trained team to hand-screen the jobs for them and remove anything that's not legitimate or high-quality, including scams, ads, bogus business opportunities, commission-only jobs, and other job junk that is so common on traditional job boards. Instead of spending endless hours digging through the junk, ads, and scams for the “needles in the haystack” – the good jobs – we do the digging for job seekers. Then, members just log on and have instant access to the best telecommuting, part-time, freelance, and flextime jobs.
FlexJobs members also get access to more than 170 skills tests for free (normally $14.99 each) to gauge professional strengths and market themselves to employers. Members can have a free resume created for them based on their resume profiles in their FlexJobs account—resumes they can download and use anywhere. And they get access to 60 special discounts on products and services related to job searching and work-life balance.
How does FlexJobs ensure that the jobs are 100 percent legitimate?
We have a team of excellent, educated, trained researchers who go out and scour the hundreds of online job resources every day (including industry blogs, employer sites, reliable job boards, and more), looking for jobs to post on our site. When our researchers find a job listing that appears promising, they research the company for legitimacy by using several critical evaluation points. We also work with thousands of awesome, legitimate companies to post their flexible jobs directly to our members.
Does FlexJobs have a guarantee?
Absolutely! As a membership site, we are 100% focused on providing a valuable service to our members, and we realize that there are thousands of free options for job searching out there, so we need to make sure we’re providing real value. The bottom line is that we want our users to be happy with our service, so if they are not satisfied with the quality of our service, they can simply request a refund and receive it—promptly and easily.
A lot of people are looking for entry-level positions that can be done remotely. Is FlexJobs a good fit for them?
While a majority of the listings on FlexJobs do require at least several years of experience, we do have some entry-level job listings on the site. Before signing up for FlexJobs, anyone can search the jobs on our site to see if the listings match what they’re looking for. They’ll see information like job titles, location, type of flexibility, and a short description of each job. That allows people to get a good idea of how the job listings on our site match their interests and needs. When they become FlexJobs members, they’ll be able to see the company names, full job descriptions, and application instructions.
What sorts of telecommuting jobs will individuals find on FlexJobs?
There’s a huge variety of telecommuting jobs on the site! We list telecommuting jobs in over 55 categories, and the ones that typically have the highest number of telecommuting and flexible job listings are medical and health, computer and IT, customer service, sales, administrative, education & training, accounting and finance, project management, and software development.
Some of the most common remote job titles we see include business development director, writer, project manager, account executive, customer service representative, case manager, clinical trial manager, analyst, consultant, software developer, and teacher or adjunct faculty.
We also see some pretty surprising telecommuting jobs like nurse, librarian, interior designer, attorney, pastry chef instructor, genetic counselor, and fish and wildlife technician.
One really important thing to know about telecommuting jobs is that there are different “levels” to telecommuting. Some telecommuting jobs are 100% from home, some are mostly from home with occasional in-office work, and some are more of a split between home and office work. We divide the listings on our site so people can see jobs with exactly the level of telecommuting they’re most interested in – or all levels, if they don’t care and just want to work from home at least some of the time!
Do you need to be a U.S. Resident to use FlexJobs?
FlexJobs has job listings from all over the U.S. and the world, although the majority are U.S. based. The important thing to know is that most telecommuting jobs do have some location requirement, and we make those requirements very clear in each listing. There are also some telecommuting jobs that let you work from anywhere!
On average, how much time does a FlexJobs membership save job seekers?
This amount of time a job search takes really depends on several factors like a person’s career field and the type of flexibility they’re looking for. But I can say that our job search team spends the equivalent of 100 hours per day, seven days per week searching and screening jobs. So for the average job seeker, FlexJobs can save them many, many hours of not having to do that searching and screening themselves. Ultimately, we hear from our users that they can find the jobs they are interested in faster, which means they can apply to the jobs earlier, and then hopefully land a job days, weeks, or months sooner than they would have on their own.
Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
Ultimately, I would encourage everyone to do some research to see what types of flexible jobs exist in their career fields. I think a lot of people might be surprised to find so many opportunities that they didn’t know existed! After 10 years specializing in these jobs, I’m still amazed and impressed by the types of high-quality flexible jobs our team is able to find every single day!
Thanks Sara for sharing your story! For more information on FlexJobs, check out this link.
Originally published November 16, 2009. Content updated on July 24, 2017.
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