In 2016, Veena Sidhu was at the height of her career — she was the Director of Sales and Publishing, as well as Senior Partner at Mindvalley group of companies, a global transformational education organisation with a multi-award winning company culture. But the entrepreneur at heart and new mom still believed that freedom and flexibility were vital to fulfill both her professional and personal goals.

Today, three years after leaving the corporate world, Veena runs her own company, Dreamcatcher Enterprise — where she works closely with C-level executives and advisor boards for companies that are looking to scale their online operations to US$30 million and beyond. 

You had a distinguished role with your previous company. What made you leave?

I had always felt a strong desire to "build my own brand". After a decade of serving as an executive member at other people’s companies, I was ready to create something of my own.

Through my role at Mindvalley, I was also exposed to different work cultures and the evolution of the freelance and remote working economy. After having my first child, the idea of having such independence made more sense to me for where I was in my life, so I made the leap!

Why was having a flexible work arrangement important to you?

I wanted the freedom to choose how, when, and where I work. I also wanted to be able to be there for my family whenever needed (like sending and picking up my son from kindergarten) and not stress about running errands during office hours. The idea of working from a beach was also very appealing!

Most people worry about acquiring clients and work once they go “rogue”. Did you face any struggles in the beginning?

Honestly, I just trusted the process, and fortunately, everything fell into place rather nicely. The key for me for peace of mind was to have enough financial savings to carry me through at least the first six months in case things didn’t work out! 

In fact, when I first thought about leaving my job, I wasn't even sure what I was going to do next and decided that I would wait until I had fully exited before making my next plan. One conversation led to another, and I found myself starting a consulting company with what I had learned about growing businesses in the past.

I was also blessed to have supportive leaders and peers who supported my venture and were open to spreading the word on my availability, so I found some clients there. That’s also key — making your future availability known throughout your network and maintaining your bridges during your full-time employment. 

How has being a free agent impacted your relationships and your wellbeing?

Being able to choose how and when I work has also made me more creative, positive and happy. I have more time to learn and apply new things more efficiently along the way, which enables me to optimise my life more and more. I can't imagine living any other way at the moment — I really enjoy being a consultant and an entrepreneur.

As a mother, I now spend plenty of quality time with my son (who is in his early foundational years), which is so important to me. If I had a full-time job, he would only see me on weekends. I also travel as and when the need suits me and have started fun projects with some of my close friends — something I wasn’t able to do before!

I do believe that this working style has made me way more productive than when I was working full-time. I do more in about five solid hours of work a day compared to a week full of daily meetings, commuting, and social interaction at the office.

Do you have trouble avoiding distractions and setting boundaries with your loved ones when working from home?

I have a home office (yes, it looks and feels like an office!), and I’ve explained to everyone around me that when I'm in that room, even though it’s at home, I'm in serious, do-not-disturb, work mode. Sometimes I have to remind them again and again but it’s still worth it. Besides, since I went out on my own, I rarely work more than 8 hours a day. In fact, if I plan it well and have complete focus, I can even work 4 hours a day, and be able to hang out with my family or friends right after!

What tools or practices help you the most with managing your flexible schedule?

I still have meetings (mostly virtual), to-do lists, and an active calendar, so I use apps like Trello and Asana to manage my tasks and projects with teams. I also track my time with Timely so that I can log how long it takes for me to complete a task, measure my hourly costs, and optimise my timing.

However, I have always been self-sufficient at managing my work. Back when I was working full-time, I learned a lot about managing tasks, projects, and teams, so it wasn’t difficult for me to adjust on my own. Also, after two years of building my enterprise, I hired an executive assistant so that I could use the extra time to learn new skills, spend even more quality time with family, and pursue creative inspirations.

It’s still easy to go overboard and slip into “busyness” even without a boss, so for me, personally, I have to keep reminding myself to not pile on extra (and sometimes unnecessary) work when I have free time. It’s important to take regular breaks during the day to pause, breathe, and relax — even in the comfort of home!

Is there anything you miss about having a full-time job?

Nothing at all. Everything I desired and imagined about flexible work is exactly what I hoped it to be, if not more.

What would you say has been the most surprising lesson of all as a freelancer?

Having to really trust the journey — why and how opportunities come and go. I’m also grateful for the immense learning I’ve had since going out on my own; having to master skills like finance, investment, optimisation, negotiation, and time-management as an entrepreneur.

If you could share any advice or words of encouragement for anyone thinking about leaving the corporate life for a flexible career, what would it be?

Take the time to identify and understand the reason behind your needs and desires — and follow that down the right path. Really knowing why you’re making this decision and what you want from it is what keeps the momentum going as you start your new journey.

Be prepared financially before making the leap; have at least 3 to 6 months-worth of income saved up to support you while you earn your first few payments as a free agent.

It’s also important to deliver great work to your current employer(s) up until you leave, so that you have a positive track record and referrals that will vouch for you.

As humans, we often stress out over uncertainty and not knowing how something’s going to turn out, so get educated on the industry and the skills required for it. Then your confidence levels will rise, and your stress levels will drop.

Don’t forget to spread the word among your friends, peers, and network about your job change and your availability. There are also many platforms out there to help you seek and be sought for freelance gigs and projects — like Gigple!

Imagine what life could be like if you were free to choose where, when and how you work! Gigple is making that vision a reality — by matching qualified professionals with leading employers that are hiring for flexible and remote positions. Create a free profile on Gigple to get access to available flex jobs and get noticed by companies seeking expertise in finance, business and strategy, sales and marketing, branding (UI/UX), and technology.