Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in freelancing but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Gary Jansz, Owner of Dots & Loops Digital, located in Gatineau, QC, Canada.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Dots & Loops Digital is a UX Strategy, User Research consultancy. I focus on creating value and opportunities for businesses while advocating for users. Fun fact, the name Dots & Loops comes from the name of an album by the experimental pop group Stereolab (I’m a big music nerd and musician in my spare time). My customers are typically large B2B companies as well as big tech, health, education, and non-profit space.

Tell us about yourself

I have worked in the digital space for roughly 12 years now in various roles, kind of a digital generalist. But in 2014, I decided to focus strictly on UX and research and really embrace the idea of user-centered design. I’ve always been attracted to great visual design, but I’m more of an audio guy. Consequently, UX Design seemed to be the perfect sweet spot that allowed me to focus more on usability and end-to-end experiences rather than just the aesthetic layer on top of a digital product. To that end, I prefer to refer to myself as a UX Strategist (rather than a designer) as I feel that more accurately speaks to my skill set, approach, and methodologies in creating delightful experiences. Apart from running my consultancy, I’m a drummer/composer that focuses on experimental and avant-garde music. Check out some of my music here:

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Honestly, my two biggest accomplishments are tangentially related to being a business owner. The first is having had the opportunity to teach the craft of UX and Design Research at a local college, easily the most rewarding and enjoyable experience I’ve had in my career. The second is having the ability to balance my work life with creative pursuits and devoting a good chunk of time to playing, writing, and recording music.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

This is strictly from the lens of someone who is a solo freelance consultant. Number one is probably creating and maintaining a network of client partners to keep the work and income steady. I’m very lucky to have some great ongoing relationships with clients and agencies who trust my work, approach, and dedication. The second is working alone and not always having the ability to bounce ideas off of colleagues or peers.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

My tips are from the perspective of being a freelance UX consultant.

  1. Specific to the practice of UX, I would say don’t limit yourself to only saying, “I solve business problems or challenges.” While this is true, it’s become a bit of a tired trope in the UX world. What I like to say and think is more accurate is that I provide value and opportunities for your business. Being able to have a 360-degree view of the business you’re helping, whether it’s strengthening their brand by delivering a kick-ass product or optimizing the experience for scalable growth, is where the value and opportunity truly come through.
  2. There are a number of great benefits of freelancing, but there are some big trade-offs to be aware of. The biggest ones are handling things like costs, taxes, admin, and business development. Taxes, in particular, can be tricky to navigate. I started as a sole proprietor but transitioned to incorporating my business. This opens opportunities and widens the field of companies that will do business with you if you’re incorporated. It’s also a great tax benefit. That said, it can get complicated, so I’d highly recommend finding a good accountant to help manage all this so you can focus on the work
  3. If you’re a freelance consultant, you’re trading a 9-5 working week and salary for the freedom to take on work with clients and projects you care about. That said, you’re working from project to project. Therefore make it a practice to always have a minimum of 6 months runway of cash flow in the bank for those lean times (because they will occur).

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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