All across New Brunswick, people are using their skills sets to make a living – while at the same time being their own boss.
According to the 2016 census, 8.5 per cent of the provincial workforce (31,785 people) reported that they were primarily self-employed. Whether you call them “freelancers,” “consultants” or simply “self-employed,” there’s no doubt they play a significant and growing role in the province’s economy.
In this new series, Freestyle, we take a look at who they are and what they do.
How did you get started?
I did this for myself in my various roles over many years so I started a company that helped other people do it. I started a fitness consulting company that grew into a full service corporate medical company in downtown Vancouver. When I was getting that started in my basement on my computer it was 1996 and the Internet was new, so I taught myself how to build a website, how to use the website to get new customers and quickly grew it and kept it at the top of search results for many years. I made myself look like an established, professional company and I won the contract to do all fitness testing for the Canadian Forces for the BC/Yukon district. An exciting start for me!
What made you want to go freelance?
I just kept growing my knowledge and skill with marketing and communications, in a way that was measurably connected to growth, and eventually brought what I knew to my role as the first Executive Director of Propel ICT just as social media was about to explode – so I experimented and learned how to use it to grow a pretty solid and widely-known brand in the startup world, leveraging the reputations and contributions of some remarkable founders and early supporters into an active community and an interested public.
During those early years, we introduced words like “startup” and “angel investor” to mainstream Atlantic Canada. I did a few other impactful things I was proud of during those years as well and when I decided I wanted something new after propel, I chose forever-new; I started Sociallogical so I could do impactful things with new leaders, new businesses, new movements and that’s what I’ve been doing since 2011.
What’s your skill-set focus?
I love doing research and making plans. But I also love to educate and I think that is probably what I do better than other things. I just naturally pick up the ways in which someone might not understand something and share what I know with people, especially when I work with them, and my clients seem to learn and grow from it, especially when what their learning is based on a structured plan they can understand. I fear this trait makes me obnoxious at times but I can at least keep clients focused on outcomes (while friends and family just have to live with me :P)
Who is your client base?
My clients are businesses and the people who lead them. We all know some great leaders and companies who have figured out how to use social media and online marketing to grow, but in 2018, the vast majority still haven’t. And the ones who are late to figure it out are further behind. So our clients are the ones who need our help – to build the platforms, the networks, and the methods – and who know they need to learn this to really make it work.
How do you go about finding work/clients?
We use the methods we teach to our clients. Strategic, augmented word-of-mouth, I suppose.
Do you have to combat loneliness?
Yes! And no. I spend most of my days with my entrepreneur wife – we eat almost every meal of our lives together! I think the loneliness for an entrepreneur comes from the challenges, fears, anxieties belonging only to you. We work with a lot of different people so success is shared but the digging deep for the motivation to continue to grow belongs only to you. Does that make sense? So my wife and I are lonely in our careers. Alone together 🙂
What’s your favourite tool/app/website you use for work?
Oh man, I couldn’t pick just one! friendsplus.me is a great little secret I’ve been keeping. It’s a small Czech company (that’s about to undergo a rebrand) I have been mentoring for a few years. It’s a huge help for us in making it easy for people in an organization to help with social media. Appear.in is fantastic for easy group meetings. Screencastify is incredibly simple for making screen videos, which is great for showing clients how to do something that they can keep and refer to. Can I recommend a non-work app? Headspace! I use it every day. It’s a survival app.
When do you start your day and when do you end it?
I start between 8:30and 9 and I’m working right now at 1 a.m. I have sacred chunks of time every day with my family in the mornings and evenings, with myself for a workout most days, and I’m less productive in the afternoon until my second wind in the late evening. I’ve been doing this for most of my adult life now so I try to work with what works for me.
What’s your favourite thing about working for yourself?
What’s the biggest challenge as working as a freelancer?
When do you take a vacation?
Not very often, but that’s mainly because we never get around to planning it, with kids, et cetera, to consider, and a penchant for saying yes to work. Days off sprinkled throughout the year to do something fun on “school days” and whenever Kelly plans our breaks in Nova Scotia. Business travel isn’t a vacation, btw.
One piece of advice for someone looking to break into the freelance economy?
Learn discipline. Even in my laid back, flexible-schedule way, I still check boxes on lists and keep promises to clients and to myself. Distraction is a terrible plague in our modern times and is probably the biggest threat to the success of an entrepreneur. And stay focused on the impact you make more than the method of making it. Methods change but making life better for others is always in demand.