Listen Here to my BBC Radio Interview


If you’d like to read the transcript it is below:


BBC Radio


Leslie Curwen: Hello I‘m Leslie Curwen. Welcome to Business Daily! In today’s program: what’s the price of austerity for the Greek people and the young mum in Pakistan who’s discovered the joys of working from home.


LC: You’re listening to Business Daily from the BBC with Leslie Curwen. As jobs get harder to come by, many people across the world are having to rethink how they earn a living. They might change their working hours, where they work, or have a selection of part time jobs. Well today, Business Daily is beginning a new series called “Challenges of Work” and in the first we’re looking at how you can build a successful career while working from home.


Salma Jafri in Karachi, Pakistan did just that. She set up a marketing business after she was laid off from her job and had her first child. She runs it from the comfort of her own home. And her staff – well, they’re dotted all over the world. Here’s her story.


Salma Jafri: Once my daughter was born I decided I cannot really leave her and go to a traditional work space. I started searching online and I found all these opportunities! And that’s how it all started.


LC: What sort of opportunities did you find?


SJ: Since I’ve always had a marketing/writing/communications background, I realized that there’s a lot of stuff that I could do freelance. There’s a lot of companies looking to outsource business functions such as getting their newsletters written, or their marketing communications material written.


I realized that I had a talent in writing proposals. I was very careful about who I chose to work with, I got better at selecting clients and companies that really appealed to me and subject matters that I was passionate about. And so I realized by being my own boss and working for myself I could have a lot of flexibility in the kind of work I chose to do and who I chose to do it with. And so that realization really made me understand that this whole work from home deal is actually quite liberating!


LC: How does it work with your daughter?


SJ: She’s my first priority, so I structure my work around her. And when she was younger, of course, it would be more difficult but as she got older and started going to school so it became a lot easier and I have to say that a good family support system has been extremely crucial. So I can rely on my husband, I can rely on my parents and other close family members to help out, you know, when need be.


It can get really, really tough. At some point I’m probably going to take myself out of the equation and I’ll probably go back to basics like just writing!


LC: So how was your business actually developed since you first started it?


SJ: I first started with – as – a solopreneur, right so I was the only one really working and then as things got complicated I realized that I could hire more people in specialized fields. I’m still building up, but I think we have a pretty good, you know, mix of people with their own specialized functions, and so now when work comes in I can sort of segment it and hand it over to the right project manager to take care of.


LC: I’ve gotta ask you: are these people that you employ on the same terms and conditions as you? Can they also work from home?


SJ: Yes, completely! And they do. In fact one of my project managers – he wanted to shift to Nairobi, Kenya with his family for 6 months, so my only concern at that point was will you be available online and can I be in touch with you? And he said of course, I’m gonna give you my, you know, cell number and these are the timings I’m gonna keep. And he’s kept his word! And how many people can say that they can just take a 6-month sabbatical while still earning and working?


LC: I can see this works really well in your industry – and media and communications and online. There are some industries where you just couldn’t do this.


SJ: I’d have to agree with you. I’d have to say that I guess I’m lucky in that I found something that I was skilled to do and that I could do this way. A lot of industries it could work in … like it could work in financial, accounting … I know people who do engineering work online as well, you know, they draw drafts and blueprints to pass on diagrams to their clients. And some people even do video online.


LC: You’re a woman working in Pakistan. Is there any way in which it makes life easier if you’re doing a lot of this remotely from home?


SJ: It does, I guess. Well actually I’ve started going out and having local clients now. There are meetings and there’s a lot of physical interaction, face to face interaction.


LC: Is it perhaps sometimes difficult for women in Pakistan to have face to face meetings with clients?


SJ: Like I said, I’m very choosy about who I work with so I probably wouldn’t work with a client who had apprehensions about working with women in the first step. So they would probably be disqualified at that stage. So I’m just working with people who are open-minded and who are respectful and who are – they’re just great to work with and I feel like I’m doing something meaningful.


LC: Do you think there’s some Muslim countries where women would find it easier working from home as you’re doing?


SJ: No doubt. I think that the kind of business model that I have; I think a lot of women would gravitate towards it because it offers them the chance to use whatever skills they’ve learned and to exercise their intellect while at the same time appeasing their family members by not going out. For me, of course, it’s a choice but for a lot of other people it may be a difficult choice – one where they do not really have any other options.


LC: I was talking to Salma Jafri in Karachi about the attractions of working from home. There’re’ll be more from our challenges of work series throughout this week. Send us your thoughts by email – the usual address:


The original interview can be found here:

Broadcast on BBC World Service, 8:32AM Mon, 6 Feb 2012