Freedom Makers: Bringing Freedom of Employment to Military Spouses
Interview with Freedom Makers: Employment Opportunities for Military Spouses
It is an age-old adage that behind every service member is a spouse or family that supports them. While many in our military are on duty year-round, day and night, the same reality exists for their families.
Military spouses are often left to manage child rearing, home operations, and financial management while their service members serve and defend our great country. Even when the family is together, the spouse is limited in options for personal endeavors like education or meaningful employment. In fact, according to the 2018 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, military spouse unemployment/underemployment remained a top financial obstacle for respondents, with “the likelihood of underemployment for military spouses increasing with the number of military moves.”
Designing flexible employment opportunities that work with the demands of the military lifestyle is a top improvement for military spouses un/underemployment. Military spouse un/underemployment remained the top obstacle to financial security among military family respondents, with the percentage of military spouse respondents who indicated they were unemployed (not employed, but actively seeking work in the past four weeks) increasing to 30% in 2018. 56% of working spouse respondents reported they were underemployed. Frequent relocation was cited as the cause for underemployment.
Indeed, many of us face the burden of underemployment as we try to raise our families and still forge ahead with our vocational desires. All too often, our career aspirations are shelved in order to serve our growing families or prepare for the next military move.
What if I were to tell you that there is an organization that can match business owners and entrepreneurs with highly experienced and capable military spouses all over the world?
There is such an organization, and they are known as Freedom Makers. Founded by Laura Renner, an Air Force Academy graduate, and Air Force veteran, Freedom Makers consists of military spouses around the world who are qualified and actively seeking virtual work opportunities with these businesses.
The Freedom Makers Interview
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Jenny Boyles, Marketing Manager and Freedom Maker Success Manager with Freedom Makers, and she was able to provide exclusive information about this great employment opportunity. Please enjoy the outline of our interview.
Who can become a Freedom Maker?
Military spouses, military family members, and veterans are all welcome to apply for positions with Freedom Makers.
“We span over the whole country, well, the world because of where people are stationed,” explained Jenny. “The only thing we ask, is we make sure that our Freedom Makers have a computer.”
How many Freedom Makers are there?
“So, right now, our database says there are 170. That’s who is receiving our notifications.”
That number is increasing regularly, as there are more and more spouses and veterans signing up to work remotely.
What is the hiring process to become a Freedom Maker?
In the last year, Freedom Makers experienced a 60% growth, which is astounding. Part of their success, in addition to already conducting business online, stems from their hiring process.
“As you can imagine,” Jenny said, “when that kind of growth happens, there is a lot that needs to grow with it.”
When the company was first starting out, there was a lot of interest in what they were doing, but they noticed those spouses who signed up were more curious than anything.
“The question we weren’t asking was, ‘Are you actively seeking work?’ Because, up to that point, it was okay that we only had a core group that was interested, while the other ones were kind of testing us out.”
Jenny identified three important questions that redefined their hiring process:
- Are you a military spouse, a veteran, or a military family member?
- Do you have virtual work experience?
- Are you actively seeking work?
Once those questions are verified, potential Freedom Makers are guided through the process of creating a profile, filling out forms, and are finally linked in with one of their most important contacts, the Freedom Maker Success Manager (FSM). The FSM connects the Freedom Maker to the community, answers any questions, links them up with training, and helps them land their first client.
“This way, I know every Freedom Maker that comes through our doors, which helps clients,” Jenny explained, who herself was a Freedom Maker and an FSM. “We want people to go after our opportunities. That’s important to us!”
After a spouse applies and is linked in with their FSM, how do they get a client?
Freedom Makers, the company, contracts with small businesses all over the world. Those clients are coming to Freedom Makers to get help with various virtual tasks, which they make available to the Freedom Makers. Individuals then select posted jobs to be considered for these positions, which usually involve an interview between the client and the potential virtual assistant.
Once a spouse applies, goes through the vetting process, and completes their profile, they have a conversation with their FSM.
“So, we finish it with a conversation. We have a call. We would never want to put somebody in front of a client that we haven’t talked to,” Jenny stated, as she explained the importance of matching clients with Freedom Makers.
“I’ll ask a couple of questions to make sure they’re a good fit, personality-wise. But then, I take them through how they can succeed through Freedom Makers. We have an online, private Facebook community page, where people are asking questions, they’re interacting. It’s becoming more active in the past year. If I have something going on, I’m going to share it on that Facebook page. So, I encourage them to be on that.”
“And then, once we have that conversation, they sign on to our guiding principles, make sure they’re on board with who we are again. Then they sign that document, and then they’re going to receive our opportunities. They’re going to receive our newsletter. They’re in. Then, it’s up to them to go for opportunities and make it what they want to make it.”
Are Freedom Makers 1099 or W-2 workers?
All Freedom Makers are 1099s.
When asked about why this was an important distinction for Freedom Makers, Jenny explained, “I think it’s important because we’re spread out all over the country, and even the world. And with the transient lifestyle [of the military], I think it would be hard having a W-2 and constantly changing the tax structure. I think if we did the W-2, it would have to be a completely different structure, and the overhead might be insurmountable.”
“I would say look at one of our guiding principles,” she continued. “Freedom. For clients, yes, we say that they can hire us for as little or as much as they want. But the freedom is also for the Freedom Makers, in that, you can work as little or as much as you want.”
How often can a Freedom Maker work?
“So, some of our Freedom Makers have one client and they work 2 hours a month. Some have five clients and they work 40 hours a week.”
“For my story, personally, I joined in 2016 and had never been a virtual assistant. I had a master’s in museum administration. What was I going to do? I knew that I was somewhat smart and had been a military spouse. So, I had to sell myself. Fast forward 18 months after getting my first client in 2016, I had nine clients. I was working 40+ hours a week. And then, I launched into getting independent clients. So, Freedom Makers launched me into my own career of virtual assisting.”
What kind of work can Freedom Makers expect to do?
Freedom Makers are hired to provide virtual assistance. Tasks ranging from social media management, email management, making travel plans, and research opportunities are just a few of the things Freedom Makers do.
“So, our clients are all over the board. We have attorneys. We have web developers that just need client care. We have entrepreneurs and solopreneurs that are starting think tanks and business mastermind groups. We have a lot of coaches, business coaches,” Jenny declared. “So, all these different types of clients are coming to us for social media management. Someone who can keep those wheels turning while they run their business.”
“There’s also client care. Following up with their clients. We have people that are a complete mess with email and calendar management. So they just need somebody to clean up their calendars, clean up their email inboxes.”
Research is another common task. “Sometimes clients just need to know about travel. Travel research is a popular one. When I was a Freedom Maker,” Jenny smiled, “I researched how to get around Australia through the train system for one of my clients.”
“It just runs a gamut. But, a lot of it is admin based. But then you do have tangents like social media management. Sometimes, the lawyers that we have will even train our Freedom Makers in the more legal-based CRM tools. Project management tools. Some need you to come in and manage a project.”
Cold calling can also be part of a Freedom Makers’ duties.
What training opportunities are available to Freedom Makers?
“We are now offering consistent monthly training, where you can get badges that go on your profile. Those are shown to clients. We have Freedom Makers that have maxed out all three badges. You get three stars for each badge. We’re coming up with new ways to let clients know, ‘This is a rockstar!’ So, the training is important to us. It’s going to help us. It’s going to help our clients. But, we want to give that to the military spouses.”
How is training conducted in a virtual environment?
“I offer social media management training. So, anybody can sign up with me, anytime. It’s 45 minutes. We get on Zoom, I give them a workflow. It’s a workflow as opposed to just training.”
Jenny not only teaches a Freedom Maker how to do social media management, but she also teaches them how to propose that management to a client.
“This month, we’re just doing a basic, ‘How to Land a Client’, because we have a lot of new Freedom Makers, so we want to help them. Down the road, we have just basic things, like WordPress, because a lot of clients just need their blogs updated, so we’re offering an intro. We’re trying to give them all sorts of little training opportunities.”
“Along with the monthly training, we offer ‘popcorn’ training, and these are just videos that we’re popping up on Facebook. It’s going to be [things like], ‘How to Make a Canva’, which is important for social media. Just little five-minute [sessions] … offering a glimpse of what our clients need, how to do it, and [we] try to nurture them through the process.”
What sets Freedom Makers apart from other employment services?
“Our Success Managers. We started out with just having ‘a’ success manager, and her job was to balance both the client’s and the Freedom Maker’s needs. But obviously, with our growth, we realized that we were meeting our client’s needs, but we were losing sight of the military spouse. We decided that we were the Chick-Fil-A’s and Southwest Airlines of VA [virtual assistance]. We want to take care of our people. And then, once we take care of our people, that’s going to help our clients as well. So we broke the Success Manager position into Client Success Manager and Freedom Maker Success Manager.”
When Freedom Makers are struggling, not getting hired by clients, or even not applying regularly, the FSMs will reach out and offer all the assistance a Freedom Maker needs to succeed.
“So, I’ve been reaching out and doing emails like that. Touching base with people that continue to go for opportunities and don’t get chosen. So, how can we help their journey? How can I encourage them? How can I help them so they don’t give up? That’s really where we’re at. It’s just keeping track. I think that’s the thing that sets us apart. We fill the gap of insecurity on both sides.”
In less than a minute, describe Freedom Makers.
“So, we are comprised of military spouses that are helping business owners support their businesses remotely, by providing meaningful, flexible work for the military spouses. We do that by nurturing our Freedom Makers, giving them training opportunities, and at the same time, coming alongside these small businesses, and partnering with them. Because their success becomes our success. That’s important to us.”
“Another thing I wanted to mention, is that we have a lot of veteran-owned businesses that we support. Everybody loves our mission.”
Indeed. What’s not to love? A company, founded by a veteran, that employs military spouses and veterans, who help clients around the world, many of whom are veteran-owned businesses. That’s my kind of company.
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