Expat Entrepreneur: Photographer Megan Alter in the Netherlands
Thank goodness for the KVK, they are such a helpful organisation, says Photographer Megan Alter who also praises the "great network of people" who helped her get her business off the ground.
Name: Megan Alter
City of residence: Amsterdam
Name of company: Megan Alter Photography
Date of company launch: December 2009
Can you give us a brief description of your business and how it is going?
The name of my business is Megan Alter Photography and I offer editorial and event photography, portraits and image post production services for companies and individuals.
I started off doing mostly event photography and retouching of images for web and print. Along the way I have sold some prints of my art photography and people have been asking me if I offer photography courses. There was a lot of interest in a hands-on photography course that combined theory and practical knowledge. Based off this interest and my skills, I decided to start offering courses for beginner and intermediate level photographers. My student's work has proved that the courses are a great success. I intend to expand on this to offer the course to companies who cater to their employees.
What do you like about doing business in your country of residence?
My great network of people! I have found very close friends here, who are not only kind and supportive, but also have amazing business minds. I couldn't have gotten to where I am now without great people standing behind me!
What do you find most frustrating about doing business in your the Netherlands?
The closed fisted approach to money is a huge challenge when trying to sell something in the Netherlands. Sometimes I feel like an idea machine and the hardest part is figuring out what people are willing to pay for and what they don't want to spend money on. What kind of photographic services would people and companies rather do themselves and which require professional quality. Finding that niche is challenging.
What hurdles did you encounter when setting up?
One hurdle was figuring out the Dutch rules, and the financial and legal side of running my own business in the Netherlands. As a creative person, there is nothing worse than rules and paperwork. Thank goodness for the KVK (Dutch Chamber of Commerce), they are such a helpful organisation.
How has the economic crisis affected your business?
The crisis caused a lack of jobs and a flooded market full of creative freelancers. My business was affected because company budgets were cut, resulting in less projects. The decreased demand and many creative freelancers seeking the same projects made winning project proposals that much harder. I'm glad to see that things starting to pick up again.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs setting up business in your the Netherlands?
Do your market research! Find out if market is ready to buy your product. It's much better than trial and error.
How does running a business in your current country of residence compare to running a business in other countries that you have lived in?
The biggest difference in running my business here compared to the U.S. is that I'm part of a creative collective here called MixTup. MixTup is a creative collective that offers shared workspace for creative freelancers. Not only do I enjoy sharing a work space with other creative people, but it's a great opportunity to network and be involved in collective projects!
Would you like to add anything?
Having a solid product is the most important thing about running your own business! Marketing that product becomes the challenge. I've found that having a simple website with your product information and business cards will go a long way, especially in networking situations! So make sure to invest a little into these simple tools.
Joining Expat Voices
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Find a job at Expatica’s fourth International Job Fair. Learn how to successfully navigate the Dutch job market and connect with companies and recruiters interested in your skills and expertise. This is your opportunity to talk to employers, seek advice, attend free presentations, network with like-minded internationals and get hired.
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If you're new to the Netherlands, this event will introduce you to more than 100 exhibitors specialising in expat life. Been here for a while? Then come for the fun workshops, useful seminars, live entertainment and networking sessions, or simply to meet thousands of like-minded expats.