Freestyle: Event And Project Organizer Kayla Johnson

Kayla Johnson (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 series, Freestyle, we take a look at who they are and what they do.

Last time, we touched base with Saint John-based personal stylist Amanda Hansen.

This week we chat with Kayla Johnson, a project and event organizer specializing in startups, based in Saint John.

How did you get started?

I was volunteering and supporting where I could in the startup space with little projects and events for a couple years, and a few of my mentors suggested I should look into turning the volunteer services I was already doing into a side hustle, so I did just that. A year ago, I registered “Kayla Johnson Projects & Events” and started doing small support projects and events on my spare time. And about 2 months ago, I decided to turn it into a full-time job.

What made you want to go on your own?

I’ve known that I wanted to be my own boss since before high school. My mother has been an entrepreneur my whole life, and I’m pretty much just a clone of her. I graduated university a little over a year ago and had plans to gain more work experience before I jumped out on my own, but the entrepreneurial bug was too prominent so I just went with it.

What’s your skill-set focus?

My focus and skill-sets are based on my event coordination and project execution background. I’ve been working/volunteering in the event space for about half of my life and decided to get certified in event management last year. These skills are fairly transferable when it comes to project execution as well. I do a lot of project work around idea development, business model development, process mapping, and internal program implementation around adult education and employee engagement.

Who is your client base?

My client base goes from early-stage startups to small businesses, all across New Brunswick.

How do you go about finding work/clients?

It’s been mostly through word of mouth and network building at this point. New Brunswick has such an amazing business space, where everyone is out to support one another.   

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

Currently, my two favourite tools are Toggl and Trello. Toggl is a time tracking tool that easily helps me track where my time goes throughout the week so I can be more accurate with clients. And Trello is so far my favourite project management tool that helps me organize my life. Both tools can be found online and in your app store!

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

I typically try to aim for an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. work day. Within the busier weeks, I could start working at 6 a.m. and end my day around 10-11 p.m.. But balance is key!

What’s your favourite thing about working for yourself?

I love making my own decisions! I have more freedom to “go with the flow” and work at a pace that is most productive for me. I find I am much more productive working for myself than any other position I’ve been in. 

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

The “unknown” is the most challenging at this point in my venture. People can try to help prepare you for the jump as much as possible, but there is so much to consider as a solo business owner that it’s difficult to remember or consider it all. The good thing is you learn something new every day.

When do you take vacation?

I like to plan for at least one or two large vacations a year, and random mini-vacations as well; any chance I can get to turn off the phone and recharge.

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

Don’t be afraid to reach out to strangers for advice and never stop asking questions! There are so many smart and inspirational entrepreneurs in our province who have gone through all of the ups and downs of starting a business, and I haven’t yet met someone who won’t share their experience. You can learn something new from everyone you meet, try not to let that be a missed opportunity.