TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BUSINESS. WHAT ARE YOU DOING EXACTLY?
Flor: As three friends with complementing skills, a designer, a copywriter and a photographer we created Friendzone.Studio – a creative studio focused on communication strategies for projects that have a social or cultural impact. Together we develop strategies, give workshops on branding and social media, create websites, and we overall support organisations and businesses to get their message out to the people they want to reach.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR BUSINESS IDEA?
Marie: Actually Flor and I had been working together in an advertising agency for over two years and decided to do our own thing. Her as a designer and me as a copywriter/concepter. Because working in advertising can become pretty dull and superficial while your work actually has quite some impact on making people believe certain things and eventually consume them.
Flor: We really do love the creativity of our jobs and the possibility to create an impact. So we decided we want to use our skills for projects that really have an important message and need to be more visible – projects we can believe in. In summer last year we then decided to create something together. And as we were planning what kind of business we wanted to be we also considered who to work with or what was missing. And then Charlotte, our photographer, came into the picture.
Charlotte: Yess, I knew Marie from Istanbul and had worked with her before, so I was directly intrigued to join them. Especially after meeting Flor, too.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE THIS, AND IS THIS YOUR FIRST BUSINESS?
Charlotte: I have been freelancing as a photographer quite a few years already, whereas Flor and Marie are pretty new to being self-employed. Friendzone.Studio is our first business in this constellation, and we teach and learn from each other. I’m newer to advertising, so they help me out here while I give them advice on how to put yourself and your ideas out there in a bold way and how to stand on your own feet with your own business.
WHAT SPECIFIC ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG WOMEN WHO WOULD LIKE TO BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUR?
Flor: First of all: Don’t shy away! If you are persistent and hardworking you will be able to succeed. Especially in Germany, I feel you get discouraged a lot in terms of wanting to start your own business. People and institutions tell you that it’s too much paperwork, that things can get out of hand quickly, that you’ll work super hard while not making much money and that you’ll be overwhelmed by caring for your insurance and retirement money by yourself. Of course, being self-employed is a challenge – but so is every job, and being in charge of your work and your time is so rewarding! If you are excited about it, then go for it!
Marie: Also, look for great partners and a good network; people that you respect and trust. Meet with them, share your ideas, never miss a chance to ask for advice and connect. This helps you to receive needed information and to keep on learning and professionalizing yourself.
Charlotte: But also don’t undersell yourself. Be proud and strong about the work you do and the skills you have. Most of us women are missing confidence, and we are sometimes even pushing ourselves down rather than up. Be forward and confident with what you have to offer, believe in yourself.
MY GREATEST OBSTACLE AND HOW DID YOU DEALT WITH IT:
Flor: I think I have never challenged myself as much as in the past half-year. From writing a business plan and understanding the tax system to actually meeting the first client and then even having the meeting in German. Those were certainly obstacles I had to overcome. But afterwards, it feels amazing to know that you can do it, you grow incredibly much personally and professionally.
MY PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT:
Marie: Well, after only half a year we have already been invited to talk about our business on stage, we have organized our first Friendzone.Studio event including an artist talk and we have completed some really nice projects together with clients that do incredibly impressive work. That certainly makes us feel very proud. And overall we have succeeded in running our own business and completely supporting ourselves moneywise.
HOW I BLEND LIFE AND WORK TO CREATE THE LIFE I WANT:
Flor: We all have different work rhythms so we had to construct a business that fits the needs of all of us. Charlotte, for instance, travels a lot. I need proper consistency and Marie even has another NGO she works for part-time that she co-founded. So we constantly work on creating a reliable structure that works for everyone. And we take great importance in having clear communication. We talk about everything, especially the uncomfortable parts. That way we reflect constantly on how we want our lives and our work to be. We envision that and find creative ways through tools and methods to work towards that goal.
I AM INSPIRED BY:
Flor: Well there’s one woman we have to mention: Esther Perel. She’s an awesome psychologist and she has a podcast on Spotify that is called “How’s Work?”. She inspires as a strong and fierce career woman while at the same time being very playful and sensitive. We all listen to her and apply what we learn to our business.
WHY I CHOSE THIS CAREER:
Charlotte: Working in communication gives the three of us the ability to tell strong stories and challenge perceptions through photography, design and text. Since we are self-employed we can choose who to work with to a certain extent. So we have the possibility to give voice to issues we find important, like gender, diversity, migration. Personally, I’d also choose no other way to work than creating my workflow the way I want. I can’t see myself in an office, because I need to travel, meet people and have the freedom to decide how and where I want to work. This way I can really develop creative projects.
Flor: It’s similar to me. I feel like the more creative you are the less you fit in a regular 9 to 5 office job – therefore it has been a very natural process for me to end up self-employed.
HOW I PREPARE FOR SUCCESS:
Charlotte: In the end success takes courage and persistence, and it may take some time, but from experience, I know that honesty and hard work pay off. Meeting and exchanging with other progressive and inspiring entrepreneurs, and working in collaborations, is very essential too.
DID YOU WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN? WAS IT AN EFFECTIVE TOOL FOR YOU?
Marie: Yes, we did write a business plan and it actually helps as an orientation for your start. You ask yourself questions thoroughly that you wouldn’t otherwise. Like: What really is your target group? What does the market look like? And how can you position yourself within this market? So it helps you to set up your starting point and think ahead. And you can always look back later and see what has changed from your initial plans and expectations.
ARE THERE SPECIFIC ADVANTAGES, DISADVANTAGES TO BEING A WOMEN BUSINESS OWNER?
Flor: It is definitely tougher – not only as business owners but in my overall career I’ve felt that men are taken more seriously by default, this is sadly still a man’s world. However, becoming an entrepreneur has made me able to choose for myself who to work with and to set the conditions on how to work with clients. This has had a surprisingly positive impact.
MY FAVOURITE BUSINESS TOOL IS…
Charlotte: Figma! It’s a collaborative online design tool. It is so simple to use for all of us, we can visualize our ideas and work on projects together, as well as with our clients.
THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE I HAVE EVER BEEN GIVEN IS…
Flor: Being self-employed means entering a very competitive business world. Often people might worry about sharing tips and advice because of that. But opening up, sharing insights and giving advice is actually the way to go. It will come back to you one way or the other.