Perhaps you’re thinking about expanding your family and would like to scale back your hours. Or maybe retirement is in sight, but you’re not quite ready to quit working altogether. Read on for some valuable advice from advisors who are making a part-time track work for them.
Determine your game plan
Once you decide you want to be in the advisory business part-time, you have to figure out your strategy. You’ll need to determine, for example, whether your current firm can accommodate your needs, or whether you’ll need to look to another firm or branch out on your own. You’ll also need to decide whether you’re going to manage assets or stick to something a little less complicated like an hourly, fee-only model.
For example, George Syata, a certified financial planner with Practical Planning LLC in Overland Park, Kansas, chose an hourly, fee-only model rather than managing assets because the latter would have added too much complexity and been too much of a time commitment for him. “When you have assets under management, you’re basically on call 24 hours a day. I didn’t want that,” said Syata, who retired from the life insurance industry several years ago and now works about 30 hours a week in the winter and half that in the summer.
Have realistic expectations
Make projections about what you think you can earn on a part-time basis and determine whether it will be sufficient for your particular needs. You might make less than you did as a full-time worker, you might make more, but it’s a big unknown when you first make the switch to part-time.
That’s why it’s so important to have a business plan. “To at least have some projections and some idea of what your market might bring you, or not,” said Abigail T. Pons, who works about 30 hours a week as a certified financial planner with Capella Financial Services LLC in Pittsboro, N.C.
One of the most important aspects of a successful part-time business is being efficient. You need to make a schedule that’s reasonable for you and block out your day in a way that meets your work and family obligations.
“Because my time is so limited, I really have to make sure I’m getting all the critical work done first, and I also want to keep it efficient because it costs my clients less,” said Liane Warcup, a certified financial planner in Geneva, Ill., who works about twenty hours a week. “It’s not for the organizationally-challenged.”
Make sure your foundation is solid
It is not prudent to start out in the advisory business on a part-time basis, according to Karen Lee, a financial planner with Karen Lee & Associates LLC in Atlanta, Ga. “You can’t be effective part-time unless you have a foundation,” said Lee, who works about 20 hours a week. Lee believes that to be successful part-time you need to have about five to 10 years in the business. Having that amount of experience allows an advisor to build up a client base and accumulate assets which can provide a blanket of security during the transition.
Consider hiring staff to back you up
“For a client, there’s a perception that your physical presence means you’re working,” said Lee. But having a full-time staff person helps take the onus off of you. For example, Lee, who only keeps office hours two days a week, has a full-time staff member to handle things that come up when she’s not available. “Ninety percent of the things the clients call about the staff can handle,” she said.
Don’t be afraid to test the waters
Many financial companies have flexibility policies on their books, but some people might hesitate to take advantage of them given the precarious economic situation, according to Sylvia Ann Hewlett, founder of the Center for Work-Life Policy in New York. “There’s a fear factor,” said Hewlett, who helps plan flex-time programs for financial services companies.
Indeed, “in today's climate it's going to be rare for investment brokers or financial planners to work part-time and make any decent money if they aren't already employed and trying to set this up internally,” said Robin Ryan, a career counselor, author and national speaker based in Newcastle, Wash. She suggests that advisors interested in cutting back their hours discuss their options with their boss and human resources department. Some companies are very receptive to this, and it may actually save your job from a layoff, she said.
Service clients as if you were full time and don’t overcommit
Because she works part-time, Warcup of Clarus Financial Planning said it is particularly important to be connected via Blackberry or iPhone just to stay up on e-mails and be very responsive to clients. For example, she tries her best to respond to clients the same day or at least within 24 hours. She also learned not to take on more than she can handle so as not to run herself ragged. “I still don’t like to say no to people, but I’m able to schedule it better,” she said.
Don’t sell yourself short
Some part-timers have a tendency to sabotage themselves by putting down their efforts, or apologizing for being part-time. This is the wrong approach, according to Dr. Debra Condren, author of “Ambition Is Not a Dirty Word,” a career guide for women.
“Even if you are working some hours from home, in your pajamas, feeding your toddler while squeezing in an emergency client call to answer a question, remember to tell yourself that you’re getting it done, you’re great at what you do, and you don’t need to explain or to apologize (the client needn’t know that you haven’t made it into your street clothes yet today),” she wrote in her book.
It is also important for part-timers to continue to take their career seriously and to do all they can to better themselves, such as by keeping current with licenses, certifications and continuing education, and also by regularly attending industry conferences and networking, according to Condren.
Syata, Pons and Warcup, for example, are all members of the Garrett Planning Network, an international network of fee-only financial advisors and planners, which serves as a source of referrals among other things.
Consider the trade-offs
True, you might not make it up the corporate ladder as fast as you could on a full-time track, but there’s more than one way to measure success. When Lee, for example, chose to go part-time to accommodate her family needs, she was worried that her income would drop, but it did not, and she benefited in other ways as well.
“I found that by splitting my work time between home and the office, I was able to reduce my overall ‘work time’ without reducing my income,” she said. She become so focused and efficient while at the office and during her time at home that she got the same amount accomplished in less time. She also saved time commuting and getting dressed and could multitask some household chores while working at home. “It was the old ‘quality time’ over ‘quantity time’ philosophy that worked out,” she said.