“Creatives during the pandemic” is a personal project to give creators a space to fully show their experience and struggles during the Covid pandemic. It consists of a series of interviews from Berlins creative scene.
Beazy is a community of creatives making content production easy via a B2B marketplace. Today we are talking with Jonas, the co-founder of Beazy, about his experiences during the Covid-19 lockdown and what those changes meant for him as a creator and business owner.
Hello, thank you for being here. Can you tell me more about yourself and your journey?
Yes, my name is Jonas and I’m from Lausanne, Switzerland. I am 21. I dropped out of high school and was spending my time as a free runner. This led me to take a lot of pictures, especially running pictures. Most of my day was outside training – doing flips, climbing on stuff and taking pictures with my friends, that was most of my day. And then I met my co-founder and girlfriend, Julia. We started talking about business. Being broke in general and lacking the founding for new equipment, I started thinking about different business ideas. We worked some business, got the founding and launched Beazy in Berlin.
From then on we focused mainly on photographers and community building. In order to meet our first users we launched a series of photography events here in Berlin. That worked super well – we had maybe 80 people at our first ever event. So we just kept on doing that. In 2018 we hosted over 65 events. And it was amazing. It was a lot of community building. We talked with not only photographers, but all types of artists.
Right now we are doing less events, especially because of COVID. With Beazy we have to focus a little bit more on the B2B side of things, so I guess our main clients are other businesses. And that is cool as well. It pays the bills, but its not as creative (laughs). Most of my day is spend more handling the business than actually shooting. And unfortunately it got to the point were I almost don’t want to shoot anymore, unless it is part of the business or I get paid for it. And that is really frustrating, almost. I talked to some other photographers as well. They’re also working really hard with other companies and it is quite sad, that a lot of people… They had this passion once, but after they got really professional with it, they lost that passion and it became just business to them. If you get paid for it you can invest in a better camera, but privately you almost never touch the camera at all. And on the other side some of my colleagues are like: “Nope, not at all! I shoot even more!”
I actually heard of this misconception a lot. You do what you are passionate about, but once the money flows in, you’re just so done and do not want to do it anymore.
Yeah, if you want to make a living out of your passion, its amazing. But sometimes it becomes so much that its not your passion anymore. Its not a big deal. In the end you find other things to do, but it is kind of sad for me.
You said, that as an artist you are not so much in the creative field for now, because of the current situation. Can you tell me as an artist/entrepreneur starting in Berlin, what were your biggest struggles?
I guess we were lucky as we managed to cumulate a huge network through our events really fast. In the first 2 months being in Berlin. But overall I think having a network – it is hard to do. When arriving to a new city there is a lot to do like learning a new language, making new friends, also meeting other creators, that you can go out with and shoot or paint or whatever it is you do, but meeting people in the same space.. I guess it’s quite hard to do. And then, especially in Berlin, balancing your personal life, business side and creative output as well. Because if you live in a city like Berlin, you can go so hard in each of these directions and become the type of person that just works day and night. You can go ahead and work weeks on end, but you kinda forget that you are indeed working, so you have to find balance. There are always so many things happening – events, meet ups with other people and very quickly it becomes too much to handle.
We are currently in a pandemic. Do you think that COVID helped you in a way with the problem you just mentioned? So you can concentrate more on your business or flourish your personal relationships with people?
I would say yes, actually. Maybe not with the personal relationships, but surely the rest. I think especially on the creative side for me, Julia as well and all the others that I spoke to. The pandemic… financially it is a huge mess. But its great for personal development, because you have all this time when you can actually focus on creating new cool stuff and try new things. It is pretty cool. You have all this time, you can focus more on developing your business and new skills, whatever it may be. The time to be able to do that is the great thing. But longterm you have to be careful to not develop depression (laughs).
I would like to ask more about Beazy as you said you are currently more involved with that. Did Beazy developed more during the lockdown or was it more of a constant grow?
No, I would not say that. Some businesses had actually grown more, but others were just crushed completely. As for us – we are actually in a weird space, where it did not help, but it did not hurt either. It went down a little bit of course, especially the first few weeks after the 1st lockdown, where there was a lot of panic. Lots of projects and shoots got cancelled, so of course, as we were mainly focused on rentals it went down quite a lot. Just from the visitors on the website, you could see it go down more than 50%. So that hurt a little bit, but after the drop it rose again. In the last month actually, from September to October, we had a 700% growth in the revenue. So that was a pretty big jump. Our investors are really happy (laughs).
But I don’t think it was due to the pandemic itself, we just had the time to adapt and improve some things. And once we did that, we could see the actual growth, you know. I heard a lot from freelancers and other businesses that, maybe it takes a little bit of time, but they had been able to adapt and also offer new things. For example I know of filmmakers, that try to focus more on producing livestreams or podcasts now. For the usual business, the regular activities kinda went away, but if you can adapt you’ll find new opportunities. There are always opportunities in a crisis. Gotta be positive.
So we talked about the artists and their businesses. But there is actually a lot of controversies about the pandemic, especially online. Some people say its all fake, some say it is real, but heavy criticize the governments regulations. They don’t make sense for some people. What do you think about these changes?
So the German governments response regards to Covid in general? Well I am not that focused on it, I guess I am not up-to-date with everything. I am not the kind of person to do that, so I am possibly not the best person to answer this. Overall I would say, that they are very good. I don’t think there were many problems compared to other countries. I think here the situation was more controlled where as in France, for example it was almost like an improvisation. Like wake up one morning, make a plan and have no idea what you’re doing. But in Germany I feel, that there is actually a plan. They seem to know what they’re doing to a certain level.
As this interview is intended towards people, that want to step foot in the industry right now and monetize their craft: If you did not have your business as developed as it is now, what would you do with the knowledge that you have? Do you have any advise that you can share with us?
Usually you need a lot less that you think you do. People often overthink a lot of things. You don’t need to have an established legal structure in order to have your first clients. You don’t need to set yourself up and your creative business legally and go through all the paper work before you even know, that anybody is going to buy from you. You don’t need to drop out of school, it is a lot easier than you think. Just try to go, set up a website like in 30 minutes, offer your things. If somebody buys it, then you can worry about taxes and all that stuff.
A lot of people kinda go the wrong way about it and then you see them worrying about taxes for 3 months, when nobody is buying even one thing. You’re just wasting time. You can actually get a lot of financial support as a freelancer for launching your business. There are a lot of places where you can get free money – a lot more than people think. From the city, from the state, you can get incubators, excelerators etc. I am not saying that its easy to get it, but a lot of people don’t even know that you can get it. And if you have a nice project, all you have to do is sell it and you can get the money.
Secondly, a lot of people think that they can just become freelancers and clients are going to come to you. That most of your day is just going to be shooting. That is probably not true. It is mostly 10% of your working time. Everything else is you trying to get more clients. And the marketing side of things is something that creatives in general have a really hard time understanding. Or rather valuing and claiming it as something important.
I talked to so many people, that start as a freelancer and then 3 months in they realize „Damn it! I need some marketing! But I don’t know how to do sales or even price negotiation with my clients.“ And maybe you have a great portfolio, get approached by Nike, Adidas and then you get completely screwed over with the pricing, because you have no idea what you’re doing.
So it is really important to see yourself as a business. From the moment on that you see yourself as a business, you can also use business tactics. For example doing giveaways or a free project and then build your portfolio, as you are going to get your money back at some point. Any other marketing tactic you see major corporations do – you can do that yourself for your own services. Because you are not only a photographer – you are a photography business at this point. From the perspective of a businessman it seems very obvious, but coming strictly from the creative side it is sometimes really hard to understand. You need to have social media presence, you need to do SEO optimization for your website, you have to spend time on instagram, you need to actually target your clients.
So you are saying that its important to have the business mindset first, get your clients and then you can figure out the rest?
Startups always have this image, especially in Silicone Valley, of like four people in the garage building the future, that will become the next Apple. Thats probably not true (laughs). Its not gonna happen. But this mindset of: do it first, prove the business to yourself and then begin to worry about paper work is important. Especially in Germany that takes a lot time, so don’t waste it, get your first clients and go from there.
Disclaimer: This post is in no way sponsored by Beazy. The opinions shared in the interview are those of the guest and do not necessarily reflect the position of the author. All images belong to Jonas.