Feature Life

Freestyle: Accountant Heather Ferguson

Heather Ferguson. Image: Submitted.

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.

Last time, we touched base with St. Andrews-based lifestyle photographer Shannon-May Pringle. 

This week, we chat with Moncton-based Heather Ferguson, of By the Books – Bookkeeping Services:

How did you get started?

I was looking for a change within the workforce and wanted something that gave me more flexibility and to spend some more time with my kids. I decided to reach out to a few friends that I knew who are running their own business to see if they needed any help with their bookkeeping. I found through conversations that there was a need for this service. I then set up a home-based business.

What made you want to go freelance?

I have two small kids at home and really wanted to spend more time with them as well, having more flexibility to do extra curriculum activities. Having a full-time position was difficult to have that extra time; the kids go to school and daycare a few days a week so I decided to give it a try and set up an office from home.

What’s your skill-set focus?

Administration and Accounting

Who is your client base?

Small businesses. People who just need a bookkeeper for a few hours a month as well people starting their small business; working with them on building excel spreadsheets or teaching them the accounting software they have chosen to use. 

How do you go about finding work/clients?

Connecting with people. Learning who is running small businesses, seeing if they need any help. I also visited a couple of tax places with my business cards to see if bookkeeping services were needed for their clients.

What makes working as a freelance accountant different than working in other common freelance professions (Like marketing or graphic design)?

I think we all have a lot of similarities when it comes to freelance work. But with every business, bookkeeping is a core position in keeping things smoothly and organized. Whether a company does their own books or hires someone to do it for them, I feel that it’s an important part of running a business successfully.

What’s your favourite tool/app/website you use for work?

Our city website is alway a good way to see what business are around and areas where you can connect. Any event website to be a part of for anything upcoming where you can network. 

When do you start your day and when do you end it?

Usually, I designate my mornings and some evenings I would spend some time working, but mostly mornings. 

What’s your favourite thing about working for yourself?

The flexibility; everyone I’ve worked with has appreciated the work load I take on with Bookkeeping. Everyone works with your schedule. And the flexibility to enjoy things with my kids at the same time or even time for myself; which I think is very important as well. 

What’s the biggest challenge as working as a freelancer?

The biggest challenge for me was the start up and of course wondering if this will work out; will I find enough work and will I have enough time to do all I want to do. But it’s important to connect, meet with people, social media is a big help as well but I enjoy meeting people one on one. Another challenge is being organized-  now that you are your own boss your still running a business so sometimes staying on top of things can be a  challenge as well.

When do you take vacation?

I pre-plan vacation; like working any job I try to book vacation ahead of time and notify all my clients well in advance the time I will be away. 

One piece of advice for someone looking to break into the freelance economy?

Connecting with people personally, not just on social media. People love to talk to people. Find connections, set up meetings, attend any event in the area that will help you network! Also, be organized, set up work times like any other job and designate your time to that only; that will allow you to succeed and also give you the free time you deserve for working so hard!