Interview With Thalassa van Beek

Interview Female Entrepreneurs l Paperbeau

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BUSINESS. WHAT ARE YOU DOING EXACTLY?

I work as a freelance online marketer, mostly focussing on social media and content marketing. I work for various clients across the globe, making sure that all my work can be done online. This way, I can travel whenever and wherever I want, and it allowed me to easily move my home base from The Netherlands to Spain, which was a 5-year long dream of mine! In addition, I recently started helping aspiring remote freelancers to kickstart their career. I run a free Facebook group called Freelance Kickstarter where I share experiences and give advise. Earlier this year, I also launched an online course about client acquisition for freelancers who know they have the skills, for example from a corporate job, but who are struggling to find those first few good clients to get started.

 

HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR BUSINESS IDEA?

When I left my job at a communications agency, I decided quite quickly that I wanted to freelance. Social media and writing, in general, were the things I enjoyed most about my previous jobs, so I decided to focus on that. With the dream of one day moving to Spain, I decided that I wanted all my work to be online so that I could just take my laptop with me and keep working. This was before I ever heard about ‘digital nomads’. Once that all worked out for me, more and more people started asking me how I did it. That’s what led to the Freelance Kickstarter group and later the online course.

 

WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE THIS, AND IS THIS YOUR FIRST BUSINESS?

My previous job was at a communications agency were our biggest client was a big motorcycle brand. We worked with the brand itself, as well as their racing teams. It got me to attend various races at world championship level across Europe. This was actually my first and only job as an employee after university. Before that, I worked as a freelance model and hostess, which also allowed me to travel a lot. I did ‘traditional’ modelling like commercials, photo shoots and fashion shows, but I also worked as an umbrella girl at motorbike & car races, like the Formula 1 and MotoGP. I’ve been passionate about motorsports since I was 17, so that was a great way to be part of the scene. Although the type of work was, of course, different, the freelance experience did help me make more confident when I started freelancing as an online marketer: I already knew how to manage my administration, how to market myself to potential clients, and how to deal with a fluctuating income.

 

WHAT SPECIFIC ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG WOMEN WHO WOULD LIKE TO BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUR?

Be confident! If you believe you have the skills, it’s ok to show that! In fact, I believe it’s essential, because if you’re not confident you can get the job done, why would someone else pay you?

 

MY GREATEST OBSTACLE AND HOW I DEALT WITH IT:

My biggest concern before starting was the fact that I didn’t have any savings, so I started from scratch with zero money and zero clients. I took a job as a waitress and started working 30 hours per week at the cafe, and then another 30 hours working on my freelance business. As my client base grew, I took fewer hours at the cafe, until after 6 months, I was confident I could cover all my bills with my freelance income. This is an approach I can recommend to everyone. If you have a regular 9-5 job with lots of responsibilities and challenges, is exhausting having to work another full-time ‘job’ with building up your client base. However, if you have a relatively simple, not so challenging job just to cover your bills for a while, you still have the energy left to build your freelance career.

 

Interview Female Entrepreneurs l Paperbeau

 

MY PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT:

There were a few milestone moments: as mentioned before, after 6 months I could leave the waitress job and just live off my freelance work. Another 6 months later, exactly one year after I started, I was making more money than I did at the agency job. All my work was location independent, so I started travelling a lot. However, the biggest moment of joy was when I finally realized my dream and moved to Spain. This would have never been possible if it wasn’t for the freelance work. I’m making a very, very decent income while the hours I work now are far from full-time, so life is comfortable with lots of time to enjoy it to the fullest. Every day I wake up both proud and grateful for what I have accomplished in such a short time.

 

HOW I BLEND LIFE AND WORK TO CREATE THE LIFE I WANT:

As you saw before, I spend about 6 months working like crazy, easily making 60 hours a week in total. After those first six months, I focussed on becoming more efficient as well as raising my prices to new clients, leading to working fewer hours while making more money. It’s a process, sometimes focussing on increasing my income, others months focussing on working less while maintaining the income. Now I’ve made the conscious decision that I don’t want to work more hours than I do now, because now I serve my clients well, while I also have time to work on projects like the Freelance Kickstarter, and I have time to enjoy other activities, like horse riding, travelling, going out with friends and simply enjoying life. That’s more important than making even more money.

 

I AM INSPIRED BY:

There is not a single person that I closely follow or look up to, but instead, I get inspired by so many different moments by so many different people and especially different circumstances. For example, I love working from a coworking space or when travelling staying at co-living spaces. It’s a great way to meet and learn from ambitious people all with different stories and backgrounds. Some of my favourite spaces include OneCowork here in Barcelona, because of the great location and the mix of really ambitious, successful young people who are all very eager to learn from and help each other, Coworking Bansko in Bulgaria because they organize great events where they attract digital nomads from all across the world, and Sun and Co. in Javea, Spain, because not only do they offer coworking, but also co-living, which makes that the inspiration goes on 24/7 and you can really immerse yourself in the positive vibes.

 

WHY I CHOSE THIS CAREER:

I think it’s been a natural flow through all the decision-making moments. When I was a teenager, I wanted to become a children’s oncologist. However, when I was sixteen or seventeen, all of a sudden I realized that would mean I would work inside a hospital for the next 50 years. I changed all my courses in high school and decided on ‘business’ since I had no idea what I wanted now, and that seemed the option that would leave me the most options.

The marketing and ‘human-side’ of business (vs. The financial and ‘numbers-side’) always attracted me more, so I chose marketing as my major and followed courses like crisis communications. In addition, since I was working as a freelance model and promoting myself as well as my blog via social media, it made sense for me to focus on online marketing and communications after university.

My job at the communications agency was very broad, but I still liked social media and writing content the most, so when I decided to go freelance, those became my specialities. And then, of course, everything had to be online, so I could travel and move to Spain.

It was far from a well thought-through plan and instead, it was just a matter of following my heart and doing what suited me best at those moments.

 

Interview Female Entrepreneurs l Paperbeau

 

HOW I PREPARE FOR SUCCESS:

I don’t know if this is something I purposely prepare for. I believe that when I have a goal in mind, I know I’ll be able to achieve it, and I think the journey of achieving it is at the same time the preparation for it. It doesn’t come as a surprise anymore. Don’t get me wrong: I am VERY grateful for the fact that I was able to realize my dream, but it didn’t come as a surprise. I knew that if I worked smart and hard, it would be possible. I think a lot of people, especially women, should just believe more in themselves 🙂

What is more tricky is the fact that once I’ve achieved a certain goal, I will enjoy it for a while, but at some point, I will want a new challenge. I’m still in the ‘honeymoon phase’ of living this dream, but what will be next? I don’t know yet, but I have no doubt that a new challenge will come my way, either on a personal or professional level, I don’t know yet, but surely it will encourage me to bring out the best of my abilities to also achieve that.

 

DID YOU WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN? WAS IT AN EFFECTIVE TOOL FOR YOU?

Nope, I did not. This journey so far has been a mix of following my intuition and making practical decisions. It literally went like this:

Me: I want to move to Spain.

Friends: You’ll never find a good job there.

Me: Then my work needs to be online, so I can just bring my laptop. I googled ‘online freelance jobs’ and that’s how it all kicked off. Only later and still now I take the time once in a while rethink my strategies a bit, but it’s more a matter of sitting down and thinking ‘What do I want?’ and answering with ‘What do I need to do to get there?’ but I wouldn’t call it a business plan, more a bit of reflection and goal-setting.

 

ARE THERE SPECIFIC ADVANTAGES, DISADVANTAGES TO BEING A WOMEN BUSINESS OWNER?

To be honest, I never felt any advantages or disadvantages to being a woman. Yes, I have different strengths and weaknesses than other people, but I always attribute that to just being a different person, not a different gender. For example, I know it would benefit my business to show off a bit more of my success, but that really goes against my nature, since I quickly get the idea that I’m bragging. I guess this is something more women than men struggle with, but I’d rather see it as something that’s linked to my character, not my gender. And yes, it’s something I’m working on. I push myself to share my story more often, hence this interview. 🙂

 

MY FAVOURITE BUSINESS TOOL IS…

I use a lot of tools that are specific to my business, like Buffer for social media and Slack for client communications. However, what I think could benefit everyone is having a to-do list in Trello. Trello is actually a project management tool, but I put all my tasks, both personal and business, in there. It’s a bit hard to explain how I do it exactly without actually showing it, but if you’re interested, I’d be happy to share my Trello calendar with you so you can have a look. Just send me a message.

 

 

Interview Female Entrepreneurs l Paperbeau

 

THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE I HAVE EVER BEEN GIVEN IS…

This isn’t something that has been said to me by one single person, but by talking to so many different people over time, what I learned is that it’s SO important to follow your heart and trust on your gut feeling. I think deep down inside you know if something is the right decision or not. If you have an idea for a business but you don’t have that gut feeling yet, keep redefining the idea, until it just ‘clicks’ within you and you know that’s what you should be doing. It also goes for letting go of certain clients, as well as in your personal life. For example, as a little kid I already knew I was going to live abroad one day, but I never knew were, until I visited Spain quite a lot in a short time, and all of a sudden, I just knew that that was going the be the right place. I know following your intuition can be scary if you’re a person who likes facts and figures. However, it’s also important to realize that you can change your mind when something isn’t working out. Have you ever heard an entrepreneur say they regret starting a company? Even if it’s not working out and they return to a corporate job, they rarely regret that they tried. So have some faith, listen closely to what your gut tells you, and then come up with a practical plan to put that feeling into action.

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