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 project and event organizer Kayla Johnson.
This week, we chat with Dieppe-based digital marketer Juliana Walckoff:
How did you get started?
Almost a decade ago, I realized the job market was changing as employers were starting to hire more freelancers to work remotely. Working wherever I had my computer and internet and adapting my work to my personal demands, most of the time at least, appealed to me. Next thing I knew I decided to start working as a freelancer for digital businesses around the world and fell in love with the experience.
What made you want to go on your own?
Most people like to work in an office; they need that office-like environment to feel secure and perform better. But that is not the case for me. I like to work on different projects, for different brands, different teams and doing everything online. Freelancing provides all that, and I knew it would be the best way to keep me motivated and happy.
What’s your skill-set?
At this stage of my career, my focus is on growth marketing and leadership. When I start working for a company, they generally expect me to establish or improve their KPIs [Key Performance Indicators], offer marketing strategies to help them grow faster, and establish a way to manage their projects and teams better online.
What is your client base?
Currently, I am working for an e-commerce company located in California and for an internationalization consulting company located in Toronto. I try to work for only two or three clients at a time as more than that, I feel, would require me to compromise quality.
How do you go about finding work/clients?
In the beginning, Google was my best friend in the quest for new opportunities online. Now the opportunities come to me most of the time as my network and reputation grows. From what I have experienced and see, this is what normally happens when you work as a freelancer for many years.
How is working freelance in your profession different from others fields?
Due to the nature of my work, I only need a laptop, internet and good apps to operate my business. Not all freelancers can perform their job with such a minimalist and cheap infrastructure though. So if you want to become a freelancer, make sure it is logistically feasible in your field.
What’s your favourite tool/app/website you use for work?
Can I cite more than one? I have three actually: Trello to organize and manage teams and tasks, Google Drive to store and update folders and files, and Google Analytics to track performance and collect data for my clients.
When do you start your day and when do you end it?
I don’t have a routine, since it varies according to the clients’ and my own needs. Instead of organizing my day around a fixed working schedule, I establish it around my daily goals. What do I need to accomplish today for work? How much time do I need to take care of my personal stuff? Based on the answers, I create my agenda for the day.
What’s your favourite thing about working for yourself?
The constant reminder that tomorrow everything can change professionally and financially for me without notice, for the better or the worst. Yes, I could lose all my clients next week but I could also land an amazing one that I was not expecting. Those types of surprises excite me!
What’s the biggest challenge as working as a freelancer?
You can’t be complacent as it’s almost impossible to hide incompetence or lack of knowledge in an area as you may be able to do when working in a group of coworkers. Your strengths and weaknesses will always be easily seen by your clients. For this reason, it is vital for a freelancer to be always on top of their game. I never stop learning new things and polishing my skills. You can’t survive in this market if you don’t continue to invest in your skills.
When do you take vacation?
Real vacation? This is like an urban legend to me, haha. Regardless if I am in my condo in Dieppe or in a hotel in Lisbon, I am always working. And this is undoubtedly the downside of working as an online freelancer and having teams and tasks depending on you – the show can never stop.
One piece of advice for someone looking to break into the freelance economy?
You need to be capable of separating work from recreation and family affairs. For those not used to being their own bosses, it is easy to get sidetracked from work when a kid is crying in another room or when that amazing TV show finally gets to Netflix. I have met a lot of great professionals that failed in working as freelancers because they couldn’t manage their careers alone nor motivate themselves to work.