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 series, Freestyle, we take a look at who they are and what they do.
Last time, we touched base with Saint John-based translator, Christianne Vachon.
This week we chat with Rothesay-based photographer, Jennifer Irving, owner of Jennifer Irving Photography:
How did you get started?
I’ve always been fascinated by photography and having the ability to capture a moment through my lens. In elementary school, I used to bring my camera to the school playground to capture portraits of friends. I remember composing the subjects and location. I loved looking at the exposed film and was so excited to develop the film and admire the photos.
Throughout my lifetime I always used photography as an outlet and have always found pure enjoyment in the process of creating images and documenting everything around me.
In 2006, I decided to follow my passion and enrolled in the professional photography program at the Nova Scotia community college to study photography as a potential career. The program required students to do a 30-day internship at the end of the term. I began interning with an incredible company called Hemmings House Pictures in Saint John. I became a full-time employee after the internship and worked as a commercial photographer and video producer for 10 years.
While working at Hemmings House I worked with an extremely talented team of creatives who were always finding ways to advance their skills. They were also willing to teach me about everything from technical aspects, different equipment, client relationships and also the fundamentals of running a business.
What made you want to go freelance?
I’m a creative person and I always had a passion for business. I love the idea of working from home, creating my own hours and building a business and brand from the ground up. I was also just starting a family and love the idea of flexibility with my schedule. When I worked for Hemmings House Pictures in film, and TV as a video producer and commercial photographer, I was combining photos and elements of documentary filmmaking and telling stories. I married the two passions with an environmentally conscious photography to tell the stories behind the photo.
What’s your skill-set focus?
I’ve studied many aspects of photography, and have studied lighting through strobe kits, through studio lighting, as well as working with natural light. I’ve learned to create dimensions in my photographs by using interesting lighting on the subject to really make it stand out. from commercial, editorial and portraiture but I found my passion with nature photography. I feel that my nature photography is what stands out most to me, and what I find brings me the most joy. I love to travel and enjoy learning as much as I can about my subject and places.
Who is your client base?
Through my commercial work I have worked with industrial clients, tourism companies, IT firms, architectural firms, interior design companies, print including magazines, billboards, newspapers, marketing material, billboards, flyers, newspapers, websites and more.
My client base for my photographic prints are people who enjoy bringing elements of nature into their home. They follow me through social media on my journeys and find inspiration or connection. The clients tend to have an emotional connection to the piece and I enjoy working with clients who carefully choose what they put in their homes. Being authentic and passionate about my work helps me connect with ideal clients. “All things return to nature, horses are a reminder of that”.
How do you go about finding work/clients?
Researching commercial or gallery spaces that align with my style, strong online presence through web and social media, and submitting my work for awards and features.
How is working freelance in photography different from others fields?
For my fine arts series, I love project-based work- I zone in on a subject and learn as much as I can about it. I love coming up with creative concepts that I am truly passionate about and I have a very vivid idea in my mind of how I would like the final image to turn out. I go with my gut and connect to what I’m photographing, and what the final product will look like.
What’s your favourite tool/app/website you use for work?
My ultimate favourite app is Monday.com for staying organized. To manage my bookkeeping I use Wave. Which is a great tool for startups because it’s free! I use Later and Planoly for social media planning. These apps help me get ahead of my social media posts which is great because not only does it help me plan my posts but it helps me stay consistent with posting which in turn increases my followers.
When do you start your day and when do you end it?
I start my day at 6:30 a.m. with my kids while they have breakfast and I plan the day. My two employees arrive at 9 a.m. and we work together until 3 p.m. I love what I do. I’m passionate about my work. My business is flexible and even though I have two employees I still make time for my kids in the afternoons. Balancing motherhood has been interesting. I try to spend my afternoons with the boys doing fun activities where I unplug from work and focus on being a mom and getting as much quality time in with them as possible. By 8 p.m. when Henry and Hector are in bed I enjoy listening to podcasts, reading, and making action plans for the day ahead.
What’s your favourite thing about working for yourself?
I love project-based work. I zone in on a subject. I love coming up with creative concepts that I am truly passionate about.
What’s the biggest challenge as working as a freelancer?
My biggest challenge as a freelancer is exposing my work in multiple marketplaces.
When do you take a vacation?
Having two young kids and with my husband and I having busy schedules, I find that having all four of us under one roof wherever that may feels like a vacation.
One piece of advice for someone looking to break into the freelance economy?
My biggest piece of advice is to figure out what you’re truly passionate about. There are so many elements from finding mentors, building networks and business planning. But at the foundation is loving what you do.
Check out past Freestyle interviews:
Christianne Vachon, a translator who loves words but hates accounting
Elaine Shannon, film and TV production manager and a ‘geek with a label maker’