THE BUZZ Your source for everything indie





PIC chair Arlene Amitirigala has some tips to fill your days with “joyful labour.”



PIC members Heather Finley, Cathy Ledden, RGD and Sabita Singh, ABC answer Sue Horner’s three questions about how they get new business.



This month, we welcome new members Brent Artemchuk, Pearce Bannon, Carolyn Black, and Christopher Trotman.



New PIC member Danièle Dufour tells Caroline Horcher how she became a solopreneur and what advice she has for others.

PIC and IABC/Toronto stand firmly against racism and discrimination. In our online and in-person activities, we aim to provide an inclusive space that is welcoming to all and fully representative of the diversity in Toronto. We see you, we hear you, and we are with you. We also welcome your comments and suggestions on how we can do better. Please email our chair, Arlene Amitirigala, at toronto-sig@iabc.to.


The independent view

Seek out your ‘killer work’

By Arlene Amitirigala

My favourite branding coach, Greg Monaco, facilitates Fearless Circles, a weekly session where we discuss how we’re building our brands and share what’s on our minds. Recently he categorized the kinds of work entrepreneurs take on as “killer work,” “cover work” or “caca work,” and how they relate to a scarcity mentality.

Given this is my second go at being an indie, I listened keenly to this conversation. Here’s what I gleaned.

  • Killer work is the stuff you love doing so much that you would do it for free. It’s the dream work where you are in flow and energized.
  • Cover work is what you do perfectly well, and it consistently brings in the bucks, but it often leads you away from your heart’s true desires.
  • Caca work needs little explanation. It’s a drag. You don’t enjoy it and you would rather say no to the business, but you’re doing it because there’s this thing called a mortgage. (To be fair, what is drudgery to you might light up someone else’s life and they would love to get their hands on that contract.)

Given the choice, which one would you pursue? The killer work, I’m sure. You chose to become an independent so you could channel your energies into this area, following the adage, “Love what you do, and you will never work a day in your life.”

But there’s the reality of hard times. When we find ourselves living paycheque to paycheque, a scarcity mentality can creep up on us. And that’s what often keeps us mired in caca work.

This is particularly true in the early days of being an independent. You focus on getting those first few contracts and doing the best job possible. It doesn’t matter whether the work is exciting or not, you don’t have the luxury of saying no. Frankly, you’re excited to have any clients at all.

Or perhaps you never stopped to figure out what your killer work is, or were hesitant to go after it. You’ve been in your comfort zone cranking out cover work for years, why rock the boat now?

If, for whatever reason, the joy you thought being an independent would bring isn’t there right now, this could be the ideal moment to redirect your business to capture emerging killer work opportunities and fill your days with more joyful labour. Here are a few thoughts to bear in mind:

  • Reflect on what the work you love doing looks like.
  • Align your energy with what you are curious about.
  • Give yourself space to figure out what you want to focus on and the freedom to experiment.
  • Revisit your personal mission statement. If you don’t have one, get cracking with Write your personal mission statement.
  • Be specific about the work you want to attract and what you will offer.
  • Figure out what you need to leave behind to step into your future work.
  • Remember that when a ship is changing direction, there’s a moment when the sail goes slack. Not to worry; it is simply part of the process, you will pick up speed again.
  • Talk to other independents to learn how they built their business over time and transitioned into doing the work they love.

This last point is key. Our 3x3 articles are my favourite read as I learn so much from our members. I encourage you to reach out to fellow PIC members online and on social media, build relationships and stay connected with others in our LinkedIn group.

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone virtually at our upcoming PD event on November 23 in a convenient lunchtime slot. We’ve also started planning for our holiday social on December 14, so mark the date in your calendars!

As always, if you have any ideas for professional development topics, possible speakers, or any questions, concerns or ideas about PIC, please don’t hesitate to reach me at toronto-sig@iabc.to. I would love to hear from you.

Arlene is PIC's chair and IABC/Toronto's VP of Special Interest Groups. She is a senior corporate communications professional with extensive international experience delivering integrated communication strategies to drive enhanced reputation and improved performance.


3x3: Getting new business

By Sue Horner

Whether your business is new or established, finding new clients can be a challenge. Are you looking for client love in all the right places? To get some advice, we have 3 questions for 3 PIC members: Heather Finley, writer, editor and specialist in strategic communications; Cathy Ledden, RGD, founder and creative director of Ledden Design iT; and Sabita Singh, ABC, LinkedIn strategy coach, profile writer, trainer and speaker.

From left to right: Sabita Singh, Cathy Ledden, Heather Finley

What’s your most effective way of getting new business?

Heather: Building strong relationships with different individuals and organizations, including your competition:

  1. Referrals. They could be from other clients, from people you’ve worked with on other projects, from colleagues. The beauty is that when these clients come to you, they are already interested in you and may even hire without competition because the referrer has spoken so highly of you!
  2. Sub-contracts from competitors and communications firms that can’t do or don’t have time for a project. The key is building a relationship with the contracting person where they’re confident you’ll represent them appropriately. And when you’re in a position to subcontract or refer, you can return the favour.
  3. Recruiters. Some specifically focus on creative services, and often for temporary placements and contracts. The upside is these jobs can be regular, you’re paid promptly, you come away with good portfolio pieces and can build new relationships. The downside is the pay is often lower than if you were hired directly.

Cathy: Referrals from suppliers and colleagues, including PIC members. I also pursue possible clients within PIC and IABC. At the start of my career, I was more zealous in going after a wide range of communications design projects. After 17 years in business, I’m confident in saying, “I’m not the right fit for this.” I’m learning to be more focused on going after the right clients – those who need digital publications where design reduces complexity.

Sabita: Referrals and LinkedIn are my primary sources of business. I use LinkedIn to keep relationships strong and build my brand as a LinkedIn expert. Since I show my clients how to use LinkedIn to attract new business, it is perfect that I am my own success story. I am often introduced to prospects as the LinkedIn go-to person and the referral makes it very easy to win the new business.

The Freelance Writing Rates Benchmark Report says the top ways freelancers found new clients in 2020 were referrals from clients (66%); referrals from colleagues (57%); and professional networking sites (46%), followed closely by social media (45%).

Where did your most recent new client come from?

Heather: From a Slack channel for freelancers. Someone had accepted a full-time job but had great clients she wanted to pass along. I reached out and she referred several to me.

Cathy: Through one of our suppliers. We do a lot of work with the Ontario government, and all material must comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Font sizes, colour and contrast are part of it, but large technical documents need another level of treatment, which we subcontract. Our supplier with expertise in that area recently recommended us for the AODA-compliant design and production of over 300 interactive forms and documents for a large insurance company.

Sabita: A referral from November 2019 led to some initial LinkedIn profile writing and coaching work. Two years later, the company asked me to manage the LinkedIn presence for one of their leaders. Keeping my brand strong on LinkedIn helped me stay top of mind for this opportunity.

Should entrepreneurs always be prospecting?

Heather: It depends on the situation. I’m always monitoring online groups and postings for opportunities. With networking events, it should be part of a natural conversation and be helpful, versus being too self-interested. And in a social setting with strangers, I’m likely to just say “I’m a marketing writer” and leave the door open for more questions if they want to ask them. That said, you should still pay attention because every relationship starts somewhere.

Cathy: I recall a PIC member using the acronym ABM, for “always be marketing.” I would add to that “to the right client” rather than casting a wide net. Focus on what your secret sauce is. Look at the clients you have and how you make their life easier, and go after similar prospects. When you’re clear on the right client fit for you, the rest of your business falls into place.

Sabita: I’m not sure “prospecting” is the right word. I think we always need to build our presence as experts to build trust and attract new business. It is important to make our unique value proposition clear and show how we’re different from other professionals who offer similar services. Even when you’re busy, you should be engaging on social platforms and putting out a steady stream of valuable content so you are the first person a potential client thinks of when they are looking for help.

We launched this column in May to bring the voices of more PIC members into The Buzz. If you’d like to suggest a topic, or want to volunteer yourself as one of the three “voices,” please contact Sue at getwrite@sympatico.ca. Our thanks to Gary Schlee, ABC, MC, for suggesting the name “3x3.”
Sue is a writer, principal of Get It Write and PIC’s co-director of communications & social media. Her best source of business is referrals.

Ho-ho-hold the date: Dec. 14

Plans are underway for the PIC holiday social on Tuesday, December 14. Watch for more details soon.



We’re excited to welcome four new or returning members to PIC.

From left: Pearce Bannon, Carolyn Black, Brent Artemchuk and Christopher Trotman.

Brent Artemchuk

Toronto | LinkedIn | artemchukb@gmail.com

Brent is an agile senior leader with expertise in global brand management, internal/external communications, marketing communications and media/public relations in both B2B and B2C environments. During his 25 years of experience, he's created a successful track record of developing digital and traditional programs that promote stakeholder engagement, increase brand awareness and deliver against strategic business objectives. Brent loves to lead transformational change and provide senior executives with advice on how to build organizations of value while mitigating risk. Currently, Brent works for TD Bank where he manages strategic executive programs, organizational effectiveness and inclusion and diversity initiatives.

Pearce Bannon

Toronto | LinkedIn | ptbannon@hotmail.com

Award-winning writer and editor with more than 20 years of combined experience in advertising, marketing and journalism. Proficient in both digital and print but always up for a new challenge.

Carolyn Black

Toronto | LinkedIn | carolyn@carolynblack.ca

For over 20 years, Carolyn has helped organizations write digital and print resources to inform and educate. Clients include universities, educational and academic publishers, and companies designing apps and platforms that provide informational content. Work includes e-learning modules, higher ed communications, labour trend reports, children’s educational books, K-12 and academic editing projects, information architecture and taxonomies.

Christopher Trotman

Toronto | LinkedIn | christopher@seetrotman.com

Christopher is committed to collaboration and supporting organizations that help to create healthy and thriving communities. He is the owner of Trotman Communications, a boutique strategic communications agency that works with non-profit and social purpose organizations to improve their digital communications, engage with strategic stakeholders and provide grant writing support. As an experienced presenter and educator, Christopher is passionate about supporting organizations in building their internal capacity and telling their stories more effectively.


PIC Personality: Meet Danièle Dufour

By Caroline Horcher

Danièle Dufour is principal of D. Communications, which offers corporate communications consulting to companies that wish to elevate their reputation. Specialties include communications planning, stakeholder and employee engagement, crisis management, and communications coaching and workshops. Learn more about Danièle at dcommunications and get in touch at daniele@dcommunications.ca.

When did you launch your independent business and how did it come about?

I spent 30 years working mostly for large corporations, and learned a lot along the way—about my craft as well as about myself. Last fall, I started reflecting on the ideal next step for me. I knew I wasn’t a routine person, that I enjoy variety and like projects with a beginning and an end.

Throughout my career, I pondered the idea of having my own practice, but fear held me back. I realized it was now or never. I shared the idea with a few people around me and everyone was extremely encouraging. I also started getting offers to consult on a few projects and really enjoyed it. So, I launched D. Communications in May 2021.

What do you enjoy most about being an indie so far?

I love the diversity of projects and clients I serve. So far, I have supported small companies, charitable organizations and large corporations, each with different needs: I created a PR plan, helped finalize a narrative, advised on a stakeholder engagement strategy and helped manage a potential crisis, among others. I am also quite honoured to help someone I consider to be the best presentation coach in Canada deliver some of her sessions.

What don’t you like about being an indie?

It is a bit early to say. Ask me again in a year! That said, if I had to name something, I would say that as an independent, I expect there will be busy times and not-so-busy times. I like to be very busy so I suspect the not-so-busy cycles will be challenging for me. I already factored that in my plan and have identified things like training I can do when business is slower.

How long have you been an IABC member and what value do you get from your membership?

I joined IABC in the late 1990s. I was a member of another large association but decided to focus on IABC only because of the outstanding quality of the newsletter, professional development and other offerings. I even served on the Montreal board for a couple of years.

IABC continues to be my source of professional development, excellence and networking. I attended the virtual conference this year after years of not being able to travel to them because work was too busy. I enjoyed it so much! I look forward to next year’s conference and other IABC and PIC activities.

What advice would you give someone new to independent life?

In the few months I’ve been operating as an independent, I have found two things to be most useful:

1. Spend time on your business plan whether or not you need financing.

I didn’t think I needed a business plan because I am self-financing my business, but it’s probably the best thing I have done so far. It forced me to think about all aspects of the business and to prepare for all possibilities—good and bad. For example, how will I conduct business development, how will I manage growth, what does the market look like in my specific niche, what are my cash flow and financing projections, how will I manage security, etc. I regularly review the plan to update it with any new insight. It has helped me formalize my approach and equipped me to manage my business with clear objectives and key performance indicators.

2. Build a strong support network with other entrepreneurs.

I feel very lucky to be in regular contact with a few women entrepreneurs with whom I can share the journey. They are at different stages of the entrepreneurial experience—some starting just like me and others well established. We share advice and experiences, inspire and support each other. This is priceless to me.

Caroline is principal of Catalyst Communications, providing writing, editing, media relations, event planning and other strategic communications services.

PIC Exec: Warm welcome, fond farewell

Our heartfelt thanks as we warmly welcome or say a fond farewell to members of the PIC executive.

We’re delighted to welcome to our ranks:

  • Brent Artemchuk, director of marketing & sponsorship
  • Austine Fischer, who is co-director of communications & social media with Sue Horner
  • Maureen Hosein, director of membership
  • Gaby Moreno and Christopher Trotman, co-directors of programming.

We’re saying farewell and thanks to:

  • Judy Irwin, ABC and Sharon McMillan, who have so capably kept us informed and entertained through several years of programming professional development events and socials.
  • Kathy Lim, who has welcomed new members, taken minutes of our exec meetings and applied her eagle eye to proofreading The Buzz.
  • Nancy Miller, PhD, who transitioned our newsletter from a PDF to a bright, flowing online version that gets rave reviews as being “graphically beautiful” and “very trendy.”

Changes to the PIC member list due November 25

As a PIC member, you can gain visibility on the PIC member list on the IABC/Toronto website. Send your updates to PIC’s director of membership, Maureen Hosein, ABC at maureenhosein@yahoo.com, by Thursday, November 25.

For new profiles, send your:

  • name
  • company name
  • city (to help us know who’s in our neighbourhood)
  • email address
  • telephone number (optional)
  • website and LinkedIn URLs
  • social media accounts, if any
  • business description (up to 80 words).

If you are already on the list, does your listing include your LinkedIn profile? Have you earned an OVATION or Gold Quill award you can brag about?

See you on social media!

Build and strengthen your connections, advance your business and network with other PIC members on social media. In case you missed them, recent posts shared on our social media channels include:

Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn

Who we are

Professional Independent Communicators (PIC) is a special interest group of IABC/Toronto. PIC's mission is to support independent IABC/Toronto communicators through professional development, networking and marketing. The Buzz informs members about upcoming events, shares professional development tips from past meetings and keeps us connected.

IABC connects communicators from around the world with the insights, resources and people they need to drive their careers and their professions forward.

Editor: Sue Horner | Designer: Austine Fischer

Executive Team

Chair: Arlene Amitirigala | Past Chair: Nkiru Asika | Membership: Maureen Hosein, ABC | Marketing & Sponsorship: Brent Artemchuk | Communications & Social Media: Austine Fischer, Sue Horner | Programming: Gaby Moreno, Christopher Trotman