Expat Entrepreneur: Amanda van Mulligen
The administrative part of setting up a business is easy, says Amanda van Mulligen, but make sure you know the market you are targeting and how you will access it.
Name: Amanda van Mulligen
City of residence: Zoetermeer
Name of company: The Writing Well (www.thewritingwell.eu)
Date of company launch: January 2008
Can you give us a brief description of your business and how it is going?
The Writing Well offers English language writing services, including articles, text for documents or websites, editing and proofreading. The company also helps clients with writing CV’s and preparing press releases.
What do you like about doing business in your country of residence?
I love the network I have been able to build up through running a business as an expat in the Netherlands. Had I set up The Writing Well in my home country, my writing would have taken on a very different angle and the people I work for and with would have been very different. Doing business in an overseas country means that you make more of a global network, and my business has very much taken on an ‘expat’ slant in terms of the articles I write and the people I interview. I wrote an article entitled “A World of Inspiration: A Patchwork Quilt”, which sums up for me my journey of being an expat entrepreneur.
What do you find most frustrating about doing business in your country of residence?
The most frustrating element of running a business in the Netherlands is without a doubt the VAT returns that are required on a quarterly basis. Although in my case it really is little work as most of my clients are international, it is one more admin chore that needs to be regularly done. And of course it is all in Dutch with specialised vocabulary that isn’t necessarily vocabulary you already have under your belt.
What hurdles did you encounter when setting up?
In terms of the administration behind setting up The Writing Well, it was very straightforward. I had to go to the Kamer van Koophandel (Chamber of Commerce) with my completed paperwork and have the company registered. I then had to register The Writing Well with the tax office. From then on it was about creating a website and networking to get my business and name known in the expat community. It is of course difficult when you are writing in a language, which is not the language of the country you live in as the largest writing market is closed to you. Therefore it was vital to create a niche and network effectively. To do this I use social media tools, and link in to expat (entrepreneur) groups and most of my clients have come to me this way. I set up a blog www.letterfromthenetherlands.blogspot.com
How has the economic crisis affected your business?
I have not noticed any decline in demand for writing services. Quite the contrary, as people have found it more important to stand out in the crowd during the economic downturn so they have been keen to have articles written about them, and needed help with press releases.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs setting up business in your country of residence?
Make sure you know the market you are targeting and how you will access it, and communicate with your market. This is important obviously no matter where you set up a business, but if you run a business overseas where you do not speak the language fluently you can quickly run into problems.
On a similar note, learn as much Dutch as you can as it makes all aspects of life easier, particularly if you are doing business here and need to tap into the local market. I would also say that getting help from a professional with any tax issues--especially if your Dutch is not up to scratch--is a wise investment and will save you a lot of time.
How does running a business in your current country of residence compare to running a business in other countries that you have lived in?
I have only run a business in The Netherlands so I cannot comment on this.
Would you like to add anything?
I believe that I would never have started up The Writing Well if I had not become an expat. Moving overseas provides the perfect opportunity to redefine yourself and seize new opportunities. For many, moving abroad means rethinking their career—a decision which will be influence by a variety of factors such as language restrictions, work permit issues or local work opportunities. For me, making a career switch to writing is a dream come true and being an expat entrepreneur has opened up a new world – a path I would recommend anyone take if they have the passion and the means to do so.
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