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 photographer and videographer Dan Culberson.
This week, we chat with Amanda Hanson, a personal stylist based in Saint John:
How did you get started?
I was working part-time for my husband’s company after leaving my career from being burnt out. I loved the flexibility that working for my husband gave me, but I was not happy with the work and was looking to leave. I brought the “Buy Nothing Project” to my community and it was thriving and growing. This project is a hyperlocal gifting economy to make face to face connections with your direct neighbours.
One day, a neighbour asked for a gift of time and service. She struggled in her closet and knowing how to put outfits together and what she should be wearing or getting rid of. I have always been passionate about style, shopping and putting outfits together, so I offered to help her. I arrived at her house and we had coffee and spent three hours in her wardrobe and then went shopping together at a later date.
She received so much value from our session that she told me that I should do it for a living. So I made the decision to! I applied for the Venture Validation Program through Enterprise Saint John and went through their course. I then took a Marketing Bootcamp with Marketing On Purpose and started my business full-time in November 2017. I am an all or nothing person, so if I was jumping into this, it was going to be full-time.
What made you want to go freelance?
I am not technically freelance as I don’t work for other companies, but as a personal stylist, I could have decided to find an agency and work for them. However, there are not any options locally and I wanted to create something of my own. I have a very specific purpose, brand and message that I want to share with women and my business is my way of doing that. I also want to create something of my own and have the flexibility that meets my lifestyle.
What’s your skill-set focus?
Helping women embrace the shape and size they are now and help them find their confidence in their clothes. I use my background in psychology to get to the root of why they struggle with their self-image and use my background in education to teach them the knowledge and skills they need to dress for the body they have now, find their personal style, put outfits together that makes them feel confident and work for their lifestyle.
Who is your client base?
I work with professional women, entrepreneurs, mothers coming off of maternity leave, retired women, transgender women and have even worked with some teens. Basically, if you are a woman or identify as a woman and need help with your wardrobe, then I can help! I work face to face with local women and virtually with women in North America.
How do you go about finding work/clients?
Word of mouth is one of my biggest ways to find clients. I am also very active on my blog, email list, Facebook and Instagram to give my target market value and grow my following and increase my potential clients.
How is working as a professional stylist different from others fields?
This is a broad question, so all I can say is that I get to work 1:1 with women. The work I do is very personal and they accept me into their home, closets and intimate details of their lives. We talk about their insecurities, their body and their goals. I teach them something about themselves so that they can make change for the positive. I take away their frustrations and increase their confidence. I work in the field of confidence, not clothes. It is more about how they feel on the inside, rather than the clothes.
What’s your favourite tool/app/website you use for work?
I have my own website through WordPress.
I use Hue & Stripes to work with my Virtual clients. This software allows my clients to upload their virtual closet, allow me to shop for them online and then create outfits for them using their own clothes and the new clothes that I shop for them.
I use Good Drive for all my documentation, personal style guides for clients, mood boards for clients and spreadsheets.
I will be expanding the tools I use online shortly when I develop my online course to sell.
When do you start your day and when do you end it?
I start my day at 6:10 a.m. When I end my day is different each day. I work with clients on the weekends and evenings. I also try to be home with my daughter when she gets off of school, so those days I am home with her, I work in the evenings.
What’s your favourite thing about working for yourself?
Creating something that is all mine. That can be an insane amount of pressure at times, but the ways I have pushed myself and have grown over the past year far outways the pressure. I have had to become more vulnerable, take more risks, get out of my comfort zone and learn SO many new skills. I have always loved to challenge myself and I have never been more challenged in my life. The people and relationships I have developed during this journey have been priceless to me. Working for myself has also forced me to let go of my perfectionism. This has made me grow and be a better person. I can’t have the perfect life, perfect business or be the perfect wife or mother. All I can do is strive for progress and not give up. This far outweighs the need to be perfect.
What’s the biggest challenge as working as a freelancer/consultant?
The pressure and the doubt. The pressure to do it all. To do it fast. To grow faster. Also the worry of paying the bills when I have a slow month. So, I am starting to put things in place to combat that and have different revenue streams. I am starting to develop an online course to expand my reach and not constantly have to trade my time for money.
I also have doubt. Since I am the only person in my company, I often have doubt as to whether I know what the hell I am doing. Am I making the right decision, the wrong decision? In the end, I keep focus on my goals and trust my gut. It has not steered me wrong yet, so as time goes on, I doubt less.
When do you take vacation?
Not often. Since I started my business almost a year ago, I took a week at Christmas and one week this summer. There is a big learning curve to finding balance when you work for yourself. I am trying to relax more on slower weeks and then ramp up when I have busy weeks. It’s a work in progress.
One piece of advice for someone looking to break into the freelance economy?
Get to know your target market. Be where they are, engage with them and continually give them value. They are the most important thing for your business. When you understand them, you will know how to relate and talk to them and this is how you will attract them.