Why millions of Canadians are planning to choose self-employment, and how to make that transition

Home BusinessWhy millions of Canadians are planning to choose self-employment, and how to make that transition

An estimated total of seven million Canadians are making the transition to freelance or starting their own business

By Déjà Leonard* – Nov, 2021 

We’ve heard a lot about “the great resignation” over the last year: The widespread trend of workers leaving their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. But there’s another trend that appears to be on the horizon: Canadians creating their own jobs. Accounting software company FreshBooks says that 30 per cent of traditionally-employed professionals plan to transition to self-employment over the next two years. The findings are from its first-ever Canadian Self-Employment Report, which analyzed data collected online from a representative sample of more than 3,000 self-employed and traditionally-employed Canadians. It translates to an estimated total of seven million Canadians making the transition to freelance or starting their own business in a short amount of time.

Tara Robertson, a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant, made the leap toward self-employment early this year after working as the global diversity and inclusion lead at technology company Mozilla.

“Doing D&I in the tech space, especially in the last couple of years, has been really intense,” she shared.

“I wanted to take what I learned in-house and help other companies, in different industries, make systemic change.”

She said work-life balance was a factor as well. “I was traveling a really unsustainable amount – both for me as a person, but also in terms of the environment,” she says.

According to the report, the top two reasons people are choosing to shift to self-employment are more career control (37 per cent) and more career fulfillment (36 per cent).

Karla Briones, a business coach who specializes in working with underrepresented entrepreneurs, says she’s seen her business triple since the pandemic hit.

Due to mass layoffs and job insecurity during this uncertain time, “People realized that the jobs that they were in were not safe,” Briones says, and many started to consider becoming self-employed.

Making the transition isn’t easy though, and Robertson says she had her fears about diving into entrepreneurship.

“The idea that I would start my own company and incorporate a business was really kind of foreign and scary to me. So I had to unpack some of those feelings,” she says.

This fear isn’t uncommon. Briones says a big portion of her offering is working through fears with her clients and working on their mindset by challenging their doubts and “being a cheerleader with strategy in mind too.”

Both Briones and Robertson say figuring out where to start is one of the most challenging parts of self-employment.

Briones has three tips for people thinking about making the transition, whether they’re looking to start a small side hustle or a full-time business.

Don’t do it alone. “Surround yourself with people that are doing it already,” she says. Briones recommends joining local networking groups, or your local economic development agency. They often have free resources and you can meet people who are on the same journey.

Understand your “why.” “I want to make sure that the person has a ‘why’…if it’s just to make money, that’s not good enough and won’t sustain them in the long term or when things get tough, which they will,” she shares. “Then I want to know what problem they’re solving for a potential customer.”

Create a plan. Creating a business model canvas, which is a tool used to visualize all the building blocks when you want to start a business, is a great place to start. “There’s this idealized version of the business in our head; we see it and it’s sparkly and shiny. But it takes a long time to get there,” she says.

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About the Author

Déjà Leonard is a copywriter and freelance journalist based in Calgary.

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