Jen Pritchard had no idea that virtual paraplanning work was an option until she graduated college. Now, three years later, she works as a successful, full-time virtual paraplanner – and is thriving!

So many financial planning students (and planners who have been in the industry for a while) don’t consider their virtual options when planning their career. But, as the world gets more connected and we consistently work toward a place where work/life balance is viewed as more important, virtual options are becoming more available.

In this episode, Jen dives into the ins and outs of virtual planning, how to build a strong relationship with virtual clients, and how to construct best practices and operation processes as a virtual company.

Hannah's signature

For me, it’s been the best thing I could’ve done. I had a really hard time when I first got started in the industry finding my place. I was really lucky that I fell in with these advisors, and I was able to test the waters. If you’re not sure where you want to go in the industry, it’s a really good way to find out what you enjoy doing.

What You’ll Learn:

  • How to build virtual business processes.
  • How to map out a communication plan for virtual advisors and employees.
  • How to grow strong relationships with virtual clients.
  • How to transition to working with virtual employees if you’re currently an in-person firm.
  • What virtual paraplanning can bring to your financial planning practice.

 

Texas Tech University – Personal Financial Planning

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Click here to find out more about NexGen Gathering 2018! FPA Members can register here.

 

Show Transcript

Ep82 Transcript


Hannah: Well thanks for joining us today, Jennifer.

Jennifer: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Hannah: We were just talking beforehand and you have only been in business for three years, which just blows my mind because when anytime I think of virtual planning, I think of you.

When I first met you, you were working for four different firms virtually, is that right?

Jennifer: Yes, that’s right.

Hannah: How did you get there? How did you get those four firms to sign up and what was that like?

Jennifer: I actually … so I graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in financial planning and I kind of did some job hopping afterwards. The first year was kind of rough. I reached out to one of the advisors that I ended up working for and he was part of the XY Planning Network and I saw what he was doing and I was like, “This looks awesome, how do I do that?”

I reached out to him and was just trying to get some insight into his path and how he got to where he was and I started a mentorship between me and him and I mentioned one day that it would be really cool if I could actually work for someone like him or other people in that XY community. Him and his study group were actually looking to hire. None of them could really hire full time so they were looking to maybe hire someone where it would be part-time for each of them but then it would equal full-time for the person that they hire.

Because I was already talking to him, it kind of made sense for me to connect with the other advisors that were in his study group. I interviewed with all of them, which was kind of a fun interview. It was very laid back and just getting to know each other. That’s how I met all of them and then they decided to hire me from there.

I went from working as a full-time in person employee at a local firm to basically giving that up to go work for these advisors that were paying me hourly, hoping I would get 30, 40 hours a week.

Hannah: Where are these advisors located around the country?

Jennifer: The advisors that I worked with … I’m down to two now but originally … one of them is in Ohio, two are in California and then one of them is in Oregon.

Hannah: Do they all have different processes or is there some continuity between them.

Jennifer: Right now, the tow that I work with, their processes are pretty much the same and whenever I started working for all of them, they were sort of the same but they didn’t really have processes I guess, I don’t know if you could say they were the same or different. That was part of what I did when I came in is actually help them establish their processes.

The idea was being that, because they were all friends and they shared ideas already, if we could set everything up to where I do the same thing no matter I’m working with, then it makes them all more scalable and allow them to have more time to focus on their clients.

Hannah: That’s really interesting, so what I’m hearing, correct me if I’m wrong, you basically created these processes for them, right?

Jennifer: Sort of, it was in conjunction with them. We would meet weekly and I’d be like, “Hey I thought of this process, what do y’all think,” and then we would make tweaks.

The thing is, whenever you’re by yourself, processes … I mean, it’s good to have processes and it’s good to have them established but most people don’t do that. Most people don’t get those in place until they actually hire someone. We went through a whole … we’re still working on processes to today but that first six months was really figuring out how do we set this up to where it’s easy for me to work virtually without having to go back and forth on a lot of things and without there being a lot of confusion.

Hannah: Okay, so processes do no come naturally for me at all. I’ve been pretty open with that. Did you learn how to build up processes through your Texas Tech program or is it just an on the job skill or are you just blessed? Just know how to do it.

Jennifer: I think part of it … whenever I was job hopping, one of the companies that I worked with had really good processes so that kind of helped me realize that how important they were. Whenever I went into this, I was so used to having those in place that not having anything drove me crazy. I don’t think that I’m the best at creating them but I do think that I know what I want the outcome to be so it makes it easier for me to create them.

I don’t enjoy necessarily sitting down and putting workflows into Redtail, but I do creating the process, if that makes any sense.

Hannah: Yeah, yeah, that’s great.

Jennifer: It’s basically in order for me to be sane and be able to work with all these different advisors virtually, I needed processes in place. It just happened naturally I think.

Hannah: What type of work are you doing with these advisors? Is it planning work, client services, are you talking with clients?

Jennifer: It’s changed over time. When I originally started, I was doing a lot of paraplanner admin type work. I spent a long time organizing all of their files, I spent a long time creating the processes, doing account paper work. I was communicating with clients from the beginning but mostly through email. I think about … it wasn’t that long, it may have been three months in, I started sitting in on client meetings, which are done virtually.

One of the advisors that I work with only works with clients virtually. It made it really easy for me to be able to sit in on client meetings, ’cause we just did it through the camera, versus being in person. I kind of transitioned from paraplanner, data entry, account paper work, that kind of role into an associate.

I didn’t drop off on the paraplanner admin stuff because I am the only … I was the only employee, I was just adding on and doing more associate work so actually creating plans, presenting some of the topics in the client meetings and being the relationship manager with the client. Now, I think the goal this year is going to be taking on my own clients in 2018. It’s been kind of a quick transition but I’ve gone through all the stages.

Hannah: Yeah, that’s a normal career path. If we were to say there is a normal career path in financial planning. And to do it within three years, that’s just crazy to me. That’s really cool.

Jennifer: I don’t know if being virtually is what kind of helped speed it up but I work with some amazing advisors and they’re super encouraging. They’re kind of my cheerleaders and they push me to learn more and to speak up in client meetings. I think that’s really helped. I don’t think being virtual has hindered that in any way.

It’s interesting because you talk about career paths and that term actually makes me cringe a little bit because yes, I like the idea of career paths but I don’t like the idea of timelines because everyone should be on a different timeline depending on their skill level. I just happen to be working with people who believe in me and believe that I’m at a certain point that I’m able to now be client facing and starting to lead clients three years in.

Hannah: You said that tone of the advisors has all of his meetings virtually, but the other ones, do they still meet their clients in person?

Jennifer: Yes, one advisor, she’s actually based out of LA and she only has one client that she meets in person with just ’cause he really, really wanted to meet her in person, but the rest of our 40 clients we meet with virtually. Then the other advisor that I work with, he’s also based in California out of San Diego and he meets probably, lets say 75 percent of his clients are in person and then the rest of them are virtual.

Hannah: When he meets somebody in person, is he just putting the notes back into Redtail or the CRM and then you’re following up on that?

Jennifer: It depends. It depends if I’m the associate on the client or not. If I’m the associate on the client we’re actually bringing me up during the meeting on the screen. I’m actually sitting in on those in person meeting. If I’m not the associate on the client then he does the notes and kind of does those associate task of putting it into Redtail and those items.

Hannah: Do you get paid differently if you’re the associate on the account versus not?

Jennifer: No, I’m on salary so it’s the same, depending on kind of what I’m doing.

Hannah: On what you’re doing, so it’s more of just managing the total hours that you’re working.

Jennifer: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah and I just have to make sure that I’m splitting my time kind of evenly between the two advisors that it currently work with.

Hannah: I think it’s so interesting that you just made this assumption that everybody wanted me virtually except for this one client and I feel like most advisory firms would say, “Everybody wants to me in person except for this one client.” That’s really fun.

Jennifer: Yeah and it’s interesting because we’re able to work, for that specific advisor … most of our clients, that once they join us and they go through the onboarding process, we haven’t really had any leave. It’s been an interesting experience because I think because we are virtual and most of our clients live in other parts of the country. They don’t pick us because of location, they pick us because they want to work with us and it’s a very good personality fit. You couldn’t match up as easily if you were just choosing other people that are in person. If that makes any sense.

Hannah: Yeah, so what do the clients look like? Are they younger clients? Older?

Jennifer: They’re younger, our average age is actually 40, which I think is a little bit higher than I original thought it was but when I ran it the other day it’s 40, but that’s because most of our clients are early career physicians, so they’re just now getting out of residency, kind of in their mid-thirties. That’s kind of our niche.

Hannah: When you’re working with these clients, is it a high touch relationship with them as they’re going through this process?

Jennifer: It is. We do a lot for them. We have a very … we kind of call it, we have a very high level of concierge service. We’re communicating if they’re buying a home, we’re communicating with the mortgage people. If they’re getting insurance, we’re direct contact for the insurance people. We even have clients where we have direct contacts to their employ, to their HR people so that we can help them with their employee benefits. It’s very high level service that we’re providing to the clients.

I don’t know if that … I think you can do that in person versus virtually, you can do that no matter whether it’s a virtual or in person but it still … that’s kind of how we are set up.

Hannah: It makes sense with doctors because they’re just naturally delegate.

Jennifer: Yes.

Hannah: To their nurses and to the staff and everybody else. What does it cost, if a doctor wants to sign up for your services?

Jennifer: It depends on which advisor. The two advisors I work with, they have different fee structures, it really kind of depends on which one. I guess the physician focused advisor … there’s one that focuses on physicians and her fee is higher. We do a retainer fee for the year. If you’re under a certain level of assets, then we do a flat minimum fee. Then once you go above that level of assets, which we don’t have a whole lot that are above that amount, then you switch to … we calculate it based on …I hate saying assets under management because it’s not your traditional assets under management. We basically look at what at are the investments including, real estate, 401k plans, anything that we help them with, we calculate that and then we do a percentage of that amount but then it’s affixed for the whole year. It doesn’t change throughout the year. Does that make sense?

Hannah: Yeah, absolutely. The minimum that you charge … that she charges, is that several thousand dollars or …

Jennifer: Yes, are minimum right now is at 10,000.

Hannah: At 10,000 dollars?

Jennifer: A year.

Hannah: Yeah.

Jennifer: I mean, obviously we change it. We’ll work with residents who are still kind of going through the residency program and will provide a discount to them. Then we have them on a schedules saying, once you’re done with residency, you switch over to our normal fee schedule.

Hannah: Then when people are working with you, how often throughout the year are you in touch with them?

Jennifer: It depends. For the first year, we actually meet with people about every two months. Once they get past that first year and we get a lot of the upfront work done, we switch to quarterly. We tell our clients that we’re always available, if something comes up and you need us, email us schedule … we have an online calendar so it’s something they can go on there and schedule time. We’re pretty much available whenever they need us.

Hannah: These are all over the country, right?

Jennifer: Yes. We have … if I can remember correctly, I think the last time I ran it and I think it’s changed since then, we ran about 20 different states.

Hannah: Wow.

Jennifer: Yeah, and that include Alaska. It’s pretty cool how it’s crazy that we can work with people from all over the place. We even had client meeting where it was me, the advisor, and it was a married couple. One of the spouses was in … they were in Pennsylvania and one was in South Carolina. We were able to meet, even though we were all in different locations.

Hannah: One of the critiques that I’ve heard of virtually planning is that you aren’t able to develop the deeper relationships with clients. Has that been your experience?

(silence)

Well it’s all about finding solutions for your clients, right?

Jennifer: Right, and I think we still do … we do life planning and we do Kinder 3 Questions and we’re still able to have those deep goal discussions virtually and it doesn’t seem to be an issue so far at least.

Hannah: What I like about your story is …I hear a lot of planners who are looking to start their own firm and to do it virtually and it’s really like a one man shop, or one woman shop or whatever.

Jennifer: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hannah: But I like it that you’re working for somebody else virtually. I know that is a huge trend that’s happening right now where people are looking to … there was a local company here who … they’re not young but they have somebody who moved to Oklahoma and she’s working virtually now. Can you talk about best practices if you were working virtually, whether it is for a startup company that’s just structure that way or even one whose more traditional.

Jennifer: I guess it depends on if you’re talking about whether you’re talking about working with clients or working with your employee. Do you have a preference which one I talk about?

Hannah: Yeah, lets jump to employee.

Jennifer: For employee side, I think it’s really important to have communication standards. For me, and everyone’s different and this is why, you need to talk to between the employee and the advisor, how do you guys want to communicate. For me, I prefer … it works really well to do instant message and so me and the advisors will do Google Chat all day. If we have questions, we send it back and forth. We prefer that over just sending each other emails and bogging down our email system.

Then also, randomly calling. Because I work virtually, I work from home and I don’t work normal hours. I could be doing something that’s not related to work whenever they call me and then it’s kind of like, Oh, I get flustered and so … we know how we communicate best. We schedule everytime they talk face to face, which to me means through camera. Then we talk through instant messaging.

I think having that communication figured out is extremely important. Then also, not every … and this is kind of something that we’re trying to figure out now. I think that every position can be virtual but I think certain positions are a little bit harder of the advisor to outsource to be virtual.

Back office kind of stuff is a lot easier to … for an advisor to outsource and have that virtual hire versus someone that’s client facing. We managed to be able to do it with a client facing role but part of the reason I don’t necessarily work with some of the advisors I started out with is because they needed someone in person to be that associate. Knowing your personality and knowing what can you, as an advisor, handle as far as hiring someone virtually is really important.

Hannah: What would be the signs that you shouldn’t be hiring somebody virtually?

Jennifer: I guess if you’re talking … if you’re hiring someone that you want to be client facing, if you have … if you have an issue bring them in on client meetings because you meet with your clients completely in person and you don’t feel comfortable bring them up on a screen then you probably shouldn’t hire a client facing associate virtually.

Also, just if you have an issue doing those communication styles where you have to use instant messenger or other ways of doing things other than just poking your head in the door, then it might not be very easy for you to hire a virtual person, but if you feel comfortable using technology and utilizing other areas of communication, then it’s usually pretty easy.

Hannah: What about the person who’s working at a firm but is looking to move or whatever their life situation may be. How would you pitch that to the firm owner to maybe working virtually?

Jennifer: It kind of depends. I actually have a really good friend that’s about to go through that. She currently works in Louisiana in person and she’s moving to Oklahoma. She’s kind of been asking me about the same thing, she didn’t have to pitch it to her boss because they knew it was gonna happen but the idea of that transition and I think you really have to look at what do your current processes look like and can you be virtual with them.

If you’re doing everything on paper and you print everything out and now you’re expecting your associate to move across the county and be able to do their work, that’s gonna be really difficult if you’re not using the cloud for your document management system.

If you have everything set up on the cloud and everything’s set up to where that associate or paraplanner can work from home then it makes sense to me that they can live wherever they want. That’s also up to the advisor and does their personality welcome that and does it work well for them.

Hannah: Right.

Jennifer: Did I answer your question?

Hannah: Yeah, I think that’s great. If it was me, I would say I want my pay to stay the same. Is that a fair thing to ask? From your perspective, do you get paid more being in person versus being virtual?

Jennifer: I wouldn’t say so. I would say … I don’t feel like there’s standard in our industry that’s well known and so it’s kind of hard to say. Whether I’m in person or virtual, my salary should be the same unless there’s a cost of living adjustment. We’re talking about me possibly switching to be in person now that I’m going to be more gonna be in a lead role but that’s still up in the air but if that happens then I have to go out to California. Well, that’s a big cost of living difference between Texas and California.

It’s the same as if you were working in person in Texas and in person in California, it’s gonna be different. I don’t think there should be a difference now. It is a different on the advisor side because if you have a virtual hire, you’re not having to pay for all the extra thing that you would if they were in person. It’s actually cheaper for the advisors to hire virtually than it is to hire in person. I don’t think that should change what you’re paying that person.

When I started, I was a 1099 contract worker and not a salaried employee and I think that’s also a different situation. If you’re hiring someone part-time, a part-time hire to do all of your plans, you’re probably gonna be paying a higher hourly rate than what you would if you were hiring someone full time in person. The reason being you’re outsourcing a specific task and who you’re hiring has expertise in that task and you’re only using them for the amount of time that you need versus hiring a full time employee.

Hannah: Let’s talk about the advisor who would be looking to hire somebody to put their plans together. What does the advisor need to have pulled together in order to be able to do that?

Jennifer: The biggest thing with that one is making sure you are able to get that back office planner or paraplanner, whatever you want to call them, they need to be able to get all the data that they need. Easiest way to do that is to be on the cloud. If you’re not then you have to have some way of getting them the information they need. If you’re not on the cloud then it’s just gonna make that a little bit harder.

Hannah: It’s getting on the cloud, then do advisors need to already have their processes ironed out or can they jump in without that and kind of work with that along the way?

Jennifer: I always tell people that it’s always best to have your processes in place. I was also hired without processes in place and I created them. It kind of depends on how much control do you want to have over the processes and if you’re outsourcing plans, making sure that that planner is using the assumptions that you want them to use and creating the reports that you want them to create, that also depends on how much control, do you want them to take full control and just do what they know how to do or do you want to control what they prepare for the client.

It really depends on the situation and the advisor you’re working with.

Hannah: How does it work with all of your processes that are in Redtail? The virtual planner would obviously have to have access to those, right?

Jennifer: Right, you would have to give them, if you have Redtail, so a Redtail login. With a lot of CRMs now you can actually assign by role versus just a person. That seems to be really helpful if you can say, this virtual hire is assigned to this client as an associate. In Redtail, you can go and say, “All of these clients have this person assigned as their associate so the workflows are built out, anytime it’s assigned to associate, it assigns to that person.”

Hannah: I guess maybe good communication’s answer to this next question. How do you manage the work load of that?

Jennifer: You’re right, it’s communication. There are times whenever I do have to tell, since I work with two different advisors, there’s times I have to tell one of them, “Hey, I’m doing all of this for you right now but I still need to do this for the other advisor, I need to kind of balance my time.”

It’s a matter of being okay with having that open communication and not shutting people down whenever they do that. I’m in an unique situation that the two advisors I work with also are friends and so it’s easy of me to do that. It kind of depends because there’s a lot of … I don’t think we mentioned this yet. I work with Simply Paraplanner, which is basically connecting virtual paraplanners with advisors. There’s a lot of different ways you can go about hiring someone. You can hire someone that you want to only work with you or you can hire someone that has expertise and they have their own business and they’re working with multiple advisors. That kind of changes the dynamic of the relationship.

Hannah: How much does it cost to outsource to a virtual planner, a virtual paraplanner?

Jennifer: It depends on what you have them doing. It ranges and it depends on their experience. It’s just like hiring someone in the traditional world, what’s their experience, what are they gonna be doing? If you have a CFP who’s been in the industry for 10 years and has a business doing virtual paraplanning and creating plans for multiple advisors, they’re probably gonna be on the higher end and when I say higher end you’re looking at 50 to 75 dollars an hour. Whereas if you’re hiring someone to do account paper work and kind of do more of the, I guess operations kind of stuff and maybe just some data entry, then that’s gonna be closer to the 20 to 35 range, I guess.

The reason I’m giving you such wide ranges is because it varies depending on experience, whether they’re a CFP or a register paraplanner and just how long they’ve been in the industry.

Hannah: People do just flat rates, if they’re gonna make a plan for somebody, will that just be X dollars? Is that an option as well?

Jennifer: For some paraplanners, I think it is. We have kind of seen a trend with the virtual paraplanning community moving away from that. We’re seeing a lot of people setting minimum hour requirements. If you decide to work with me … I own my own business as a virtual paraplanner. I work with multiple advisors. If an advisor wants to hire me to create plans for them, then I’m requiring that they have to pay me at least five hours a week.

The reason people are doing that is because people would hire them and then they would decide, “Oh well, I’ll use you this week but I’m not gonna use you for the next three weeks and then I’ll use you again in the week after that.” And it was just really in consistent. That doesn’t really work well whenever you’re trying to run your virtual paraplanning business.

Hannah: Right, no, that makes sense.

Jennifer: I do know there are some people that still will charge just on a plan … just to do a plan but the other inconsistency with that is every advisor, what they call a plan is different. You can have one that you’re doing like a 50 page plan or you could have one where you’re doing one page plan. There’s some inconsistencies in there as well.

Hannah: For the amount of time that it takes as well to.

Jennifer: Right, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hannah: If somebody wanted to find a paraplanner or even, I love the idea of some who’s listening being like, “Oh this would be a great way to outsource some of the work that they’re doing.” Even though they work for somebody else. Where can people go to find paraplanners?

Jennifer: I don’t know if I’m allowed to plug in from here…

Hannah: Please do.

Jennifer: Simply Paraplanners, so that’s what we do is we connect virtual paraplanners with advisors. You can also … one of the advisors that I work with, we just hired a client service associate to take some of those task off of my play and we basically just post it on Facebook.

We got I think 10 applicants and ended up with a really awesome CSA. It’s who you know, social media and then also using things like the job board that we have on Simply Paraplanner.

Hannah: Do you have any tips or thoughts for somebody who is interested in pursuing this virtual planning route?

Jennifer: Yeah, I mean for me it’s been probably the best thing I could have done. I had a really hard time when I first got into the industry finding my place and I got really lucky that I came across these advisors that I fit in really well with. I was able to test the water. It’s kind of one of those things where you’re not sure where you want to go in the industry, I think it’s a really good way to figure out what do you enjoy doing, by doing kind of this virtual work for maybe multiple advisors or even just one advisor, just kind of figure out, what are the tasks you enjoy doing and I think that’s helping a lot of people find their place in the industry, rather than try to work for a traditional firm and finding out that they don’t want to work with those types of clients or they don’t fit in well with the company. It gives you a little bit more flexibility in figuring out where you want to be.

Hannah: If somebody’s graduating college right now and it’s just like, “I’m interested in this,” where do they go to build their network?

Jennifer: I think it’s kind of like traditional, you do traditional networking and then also joining different groups online. There’s FPA Activate, there’s the XY Planning Network has their own Facebook page. There’s Simply Paraplanner that they can join. There’s a lot of things online if you’re wanting to do that virtual route.

My partner in Simply Paraplanner, she met the advisor she works with at a conference. There’s still that traditional networking that you can do but then there’s also the online networking now that things are becoming more and more online.

Hannah: And it would make sense if you want to do virtual planning to meet people virtually.

Jennifer: Yes, yes.

Hannah: In person as well but also the virtual.

You had alluded to the fact that you are looking to become a lead advisor so what does the future look like for you?

Jennifer: That’s a good question. We’re still figuring it out. As you already mentioned, my path has been an interesting path and it’s been a very fast path. I think that’s just because the nature of working with startup firms, things can either go down really quickly or they can go faster.

As of right now, we’re looking at 2018, me starting to take on some more responsibility and taking on some clients of my own, not necessarily completely by myself but just leading the relationships. Eventually I will have to go down to working with one firm, just capacity reasons and then also marketing reasons.

We’ll see how that goes. We’re still figuring that tout and it’s constantly … things are constantly changing because we’re growing very quickly. It’ll be interesting six months from now where I’m at.

Hannah: Well I hope these firms are bidding against each other to get you to stay.

Jennifer: They don’t talk about it right in front of me so I’m not sure how they. But they do both try to convince me to move to either … ’cause one’s in LA and one’s in San Diego and they’re both like, “You should move here.”

Hannah: You expect that you’ll likely be moving in the future?

Jennifer: I do. It has nothing to do with … one of the advisors, she works completely virtually, she’s told me, she goes, “If you do work with me full time, there’s no expectation that you come and work with me in person ’cause we actually work very, very well virtually.” That would be more for, I guess extra experience and extra learning, if you want to look at it that way. It’s just kind of like if I’m in person, we can sit right next to each other while we’re going through an analysis and talk about where right now, we have to put it aside and then talk about it on our weekly call.

It could just increase my path or make my path even faster. There’s no need for me to meet in person but more than likely, I will be.

Hannah: That’s so interesting, you start out virtual and you end up in person even though you might not have to.

Jennifer: It may be one of those thing where I go in person for a year and then I end up going somewhere else. Not changing jobs but staying with them but moving ’cause my ideal world would be to live in Colorado. I may end up there one day. There’s so many different paths I can take because we are capable of being virtual.

Hannah: I just love it that within financial planning, you really can find your career path and what really fits you best.

Jennifer: It’s interesting because I actually met, doing this virtual paraplanning thing, I met a lot of people doing this and networking within this world. There’s a lot of people who really enjoy doing financial planning but they don’t enjoy being client facing. This is kind of a perfect job for those types of people. They really enjoy the analysis and putting things together, making things look good but when it comes to actually presenting it, they don’t really want to do that. They don’t really want to interact with clients.

I think there’s a lot more people out there that are like that than they realize in the industry but traditionally it’s always been, “Oh, you have to go through this whole traditional path where you’re doing the background stuff and then eventually you’re going to be expected to be client facing because we want you to bring in more clients.”

A lot of people have found that they can do the background planning without having to be pressured in to being client facing by doing this virtual paraplanning stuff.

Hannah: Like you said, if that’s where you want stay, that’s great but you could also advance if you wanted to do something different later. What I love about your career path or your … maybe not a career path, whatever phrase that is, is that you just keep learning and evolving as a professional. That’s really exciting.

Jennifer: It’s interesting ’cause I … when I fully explain the path I’ve taken, everyone thinks it’s so crazy but if you really think about it, it’s actually pretty close to the traditional path but it was just much faster and it’s done virtually. That’s not to say … there are a lot of people who are doing this virtual paraplanning thinking that that’s what they want to do. They want to be virtual paraplanners, they don’t want to be client facing, they want to do the background stuff.

I’ve kind of taken … I started as the background person and I kind of worked my way up like you would in a traditional firm. There’s a lot of different paths you can take in this industry and I think it’s … it’s just so exciting to see how things have changed, even since I graduated three years ago because I didn’t think this was possible when I graduated and there are so many more things that are possible now and it’s just really exciting to watch.

Hannah: Lets kind of switch gears a little bit and talk about working from home.

Jennifer: Okay.

Hannah: As somebody who does work a lot from home, what are you tips on making that work out well for you because I know a lot of people really struggle with that.

Jennifer: For me, and this isn’t something I’m always successful with, but I will say having kind of a schedule does really help. For me, I actually realized over the past couple months, ’cause I actually just moved out of a family member’s house into my own place and that’s when I really needed a schedule because I’m now living by myself and working mostly from home.

I figured out a morning schedule that helps me get my mind right. That’s really helped. I do say … I did join an office space last month. I worked from home of are year and a half but I was living with other people when I did that so it was very easy for me because I would be in my own head all day and then my family would come home and I’d interact with them and I’d have my social time.

Now that I live by myself, I have to find somewhere else to work because I’m just a social person so I needed a space to talk to other people. I guess another thing would be making sure that your office space has its own space.

In my apartment now, I originally had my desk towards the center of my living room, then I realized when I sat down on my couch and wanted to look out my window, which looks out on forest, I couldn’t see my forest because my desk was in the way and I could relax and watch TV because my desk was in the way and I was constantly thinking about work.

I actually shifted it over to the corner of my living room now and now it feels like I have a designated office space and when I walk out of the space and go sit on my couch, I don’t have to think about work anymore. I would say that another thing working from home that I found helpful.

Hannah: Isn’t that just a great analogy on life?

Jennifer: Yes.

Hannah: That’s great. What advice would you have to the person listening or maybe to yourself when you first graduated college?

Jennifer: That’s a hard one. I’ve actually thought about this a lot. Anything is possible and I didn’t realize that. I guess the advice to keep an open mind and anything is possible. Whenever I was in school, I was under the impression just ’cause of the nature of the business back then, which was only three years ago, that you could only work with retirees that had a ton of money, because I was searching and I kept an open mind and I networked with other people, I found this other world where we work with 30-year-olds and I do it from my home.

Just keeping an open mind is a big … I think, have been advice I would have given myself.

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Audio updated on 01/24/2018 (Thanks Stacy!)