Almost a year ago I got a message from Roos via LinkedIn. At the time she was a graphic designer-photographer-filmmaker and was interested in seeing if we could collaborate sometime in the future. We had some coffee together, a friendly chat about her work and my first dip into the freelancing life and that was it. Unfortunately, no joint-project came up. But I didn’t forget about Roos. She made an impression on me—a young, eager, pro-active professional who had pleasant confidence in her capabilities. Fast forward a few months later and, I saw that she had repositioned herself a bit, as she can now be described as a brand designer-interior photographer; she makes video portraits as well as gifs too, and has even given lectures to students on how to create gifs. It was about time that we caught up.
Hey Roos, how have you been?
Hey, it’s been awhile, right? Yes, well, I’ve been busy! Just before the summer, I hired a business coach to help me reassess my business proposition. This helped me, and in just a few days, I completely changed my website. My new focus is now on interior design. I mean, I still do product photography and portraits of people, but I love interior design. This has also helped me in my product photography, having a good eye for interiors helps the product pop on the picture too. It also supports the whole storytelling process around the product. I’m thrilled that I’ve made this switch in focus. Of course, I could only do this now. When I just started, I was doing all kinds of projects just to get work and experience.
Yes, so you’ve been freelancing for three years now, tell me more about how you got started. We actually grew up in the same area of Baarn, right?
Yes, that’s true! My parents still live there and that’s also where I went to school. After school, I went to the Academy of Arts in Arnhem, but that wasn’t for me. I’m a very creative person but I really missed the commercial aspects of it. So I quit and went to study Communications, as I felt that combined both creative and commercial aspects. During my studies, I also spent a semester in Budapest and in Istanbul. Both amazing cities. After I graduated, I moved to Amsterdam. I found a job as a multimedia designer at interior webshop fonQ and left after 3 years as an art director. The job was fabulous, and I learned a lot, but I wanted to work in Amsterdam, fonQ’s office is in Utrecht. I got a new job at a booming scale-up but it was a total mismatch, I left just shy of 6 months. Because I didn’t want to work in a company with teams and departments anymore, I decided to become a freelancer.
But you didn’t have that big of a network as you had just started working in Amsterdam, how did you find clients?
I had to build my client base from the ground up and was super active on social media for networking. By having a pro-active approach, I started to get more projects and regular clients. I made sure that my response time was quick and that I was ready and available for any new projects. And referrals are always the best way to get new clients, of course.
Where did you pick up photography?
When I started the Academy for Arts I had to buy an expensive camera, which I found totally ridiculous at the time. I quit the Academy but I still had the camera, of course, so I decided to take it with me on holiday, and I quite liked using it. I started to understand it more and more and took up street photography. I even started a street photography blog, but I’m not much of a writer. Then, a friend who’s a photographer supported me in fashion photography, taught me on how to work with models and accessories. Also, during my time at fonQ, I had to do the production of all photoshoots and I just observed everything which I learned a lot from. And photography is also a matter of learning by doing. I’m now on my fourth camera and I take it along wherever I go.
So is your focus now wholly on photography?
Yes and no, interior photography is my passion but so are branding projects. So before I saw myself as a graphic designer, but now I see that as part of my branding expertise. So I’ll do brand design for clients but my time of doing just a logo design or one-off brochures are over. If it’s part of a whole branding project; then yes, I can design it all, but not just the small tasks anymore. But I also do other brand design for clients, like branding videos, Instagram videos, portrait gifs and other custom gifs. I even gave a workshop at the Graphic Lyceum in Utrecht on making gifs for Instagram for the students, to help them learn a new skill to improve their portfolio. It was so much fun to all of a sudden give a workshop to students. That’s the significant part of being a freelancer; it always takes you to exciting places.
My new plan is to also host workshops on photography. My house is entirely Insta-proof, a great spot to use as a canvas for people who take my interior photography workshop. So that’s another thing I’m working on right now. I had also set myself a goal, that I wanted one of my interior shoots featured in an interior magazine. And you know what, I reached that goal in the same month! I shot the interior of a friend and sent all the pictures to VT Wonen, who immediately purchased the images which will be featured in their Spring issue. So now my next goal is Elle Decoration NL, a high-end magazine.
That’s amazing, so cool that you managed to reach that goal so quickly. Are there any things that you’ve learned along the way in making business decisions?
Now, I’m confident that over time, I’ve built a good network which allows me to choose projects and clients that fit me. My gut feeling or instinct is something that I’m much better in listening to when it comes to business decisions. I mean, when your first calls or emails with a new client are not really going smoothly, well, that should give you an idea of how the rest of the project will go. I’ve also learned that I don’t mind working alone. I’m a natural introvert; a full-day shoot really drains me so I enjoy days at home just editing my pictures all by myself. I also love working under pressure with clear deadlines. Every time, your experience with clients is different and, images are also a matter of taste. Before a shoot, I try to get as much info as I can on where the pictures will be used for, like social, web or print. There’s a big difference between horizontal and vertical images in terms of framing the shot. So I need to know beforehand what the ratio needs to be because you can’t make that many changes when editing.
Any words of wisdom for other young aspiring freelancers like yourself who don’t have an extensive business network, just like you when you first started?
Go, do, be proactive. Keep the lines of communication short; companies want to work quickly, so adapt to that and be responsive. Be flexible too. And most of all, don’t see too many hurdles along the way. When you’re starting, you just have to get as much work as possible so push yourself forward, later on, you can think about the ideal client and project. First, you need the experience and network. Also, don’t forget to show the client that you’re worth every penny by offering suggestions to the client. But most of all: know your value and believe in it.