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. That’s below the national average of 12 per cent (2,194,440 people).
“The gig/freelance sector is an important part of the economy. New Brunswickers already generate over $600-million a year worth of self-employment income,” says David Campbell, operator of Jupia Consultants, a consulting company that conducts demographic and economic analysis.
Though they play an important role already, Campbell says there’s still lots of potential for New Brunswick to grow its gig/freelance economy.
“New Brunswick has an opportunity to leverage the trend towards the ‘gig’ economy to attract freelance professionals that live here but work for clients across North America and beyond,” he says. “We can sell our lower cost of living and lifestyle to attract these professionals but we need to figure out how to add value – to support them and make New Brunswick one of the best places in North America to be a freelance worker.”
Whether you call them “freelancers”, “consultants” or simply “self-employed,” 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.
This week we chat with Moncton-based marketing consultant Natalie Davison:
How did you get started?
In 2015, I was looking for a job and came across a project that I really wanted to get involved in. The project was for a nonprofit with a limited budget and they didn’t have the resources to hire me full-time. I decided to start a consultancy so I could take on this project. The rest is history.
What made you want to go freelance?
The best part of this journey was that I didn’t want to go freelance. I just really cared about a particular client and project, so I found a way to help them. The business was born from my interest in finding a unique solution to a customer problem and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
What’s your focus?
Inbound marketing strategy is my focus: content planning, development and subsequent distribution through channels like social media or email. I also spend a lot of time on brand strategy and communications.
Who is your client base?
My client base is broad because the processes and systems that I use apply across most industries. I work with products and services but mostly in the B2B space.
How do you go about finding work/clients?
I invest heavily in developing my network. I do a lot of public speaking, I attend community events and I organize monthly dinners to go a little deeper with businesses in my city. The goal of my dinners isn’t to sell my services but rather help entrepreneurs meet each other and connect to grow their own networks.
Do you have to combat loneliness?
I’ve definitely had my moments but my best pro-tip is that Starbucks on Main Street in Moncton is a great place to work when you’re feeling lonely. So many smiling, familiar faces will stop to chat and you always leave on a high note.
What’s your favourite tool/app/website you use for work?
A good CRM is essential for me. I’m currently loving Hubspot for this – It’s very simple and keeps me on track with my business development.
When do you start your day and when do you end it?
I don’t start and end my workday. Everything starts when I wake up and ends when I go to bed. This works for me, for a few reasons. First, my kids and husband are entrepreneurial. Both of my 9-year-olds have businesses so last night, as an example, J wanted to design a logo. This was a great opportunity for me to catch up on emails while he sat beside me and we worked together. I don’t think of my clients as “clients.” We go deeper than that. I have real relationships with people that I care about so, it doesn’t feel like “work” and I don’t resent it when it spills into time that isn’t traditional work time. That said, I have to be intentional about carving space for my family. We’ve just recently instituted Wednesday night art parties that take place at our kitchen table. This means that I don’t work on Wednesday nights. I have a standing, super fun commitment.
What’s your favourite thing about working for yourself?
Being able to choose my clients and escaping the feeling that I have to chase transactions to achieve someone else’s goal. I can focus on what’s important to me and the clients that I can make the biggest impact with.
What’s the biggest challenge as working as a freelancer?
Saying no and avoiding taking on too much.
When do you take vacation?
I take two weeks at Christmas and a lot of time in the summer. For the past two years, I’ve taken all of July off.
What’s your one piece of advice for someone looking to break into the freelance economy?
Go build real relationships in your community first. If you can build trust and real connections with the people around you, they will support you and want to be part of your success.