Hey guys, I have a blogiversary!!!

A year ago (yes, indeed, on the 1st of April) I went to the Chamber of Commerce in Amsterdam and registered my own company – Culturetourist.com! I quit my job and felt like a true #girlboss!

Except, I was terrified!

And not only because I opened my company on the April’s Fools Day, but because I was afraid of that vast confusing freelance world I just entered. I never worked for myself. I never pitched for a job collaboration or sent an invoice to someone before.

But, I felt like I had nothing to lose and that only thing I could lose is another year staying on a job I didn’t like while dreaming of working for myself.

How I decided to finally go freelance?

It wasn’t really a rushed decision. I was dreaming about it already for some time. And during that time I’ve already organised some cultural workshops, art tours and published a few blog posts.

#- Pay

But, the trigger was when I started to receive regular requests for the private tours in a museums. It was then when I felt confident enough there will actually be someone who would like to work with me. The minimum income I was looking for to start was to cover the cost of my son’s kindergarten, so when I felt I could earn it, I’ve quit my job.

#- My old job

A huge reason for making the decision was also my old job. It was the first job I’ve got when I moved to the Netherlands. It was in a large international company, pay was good enough, bonuses were nice and it wasn’t stressful. But it wasn’t challenging either. It wasn’t the place I felt I could grow in. I loved my colleagues in the office, but I felt I could do so much more.

#- I wanted to live my dreams

I was always a dreamer. And a rebel a bit when it comes to life.

At one point I started to feel like I was trapped on the job I’m not enjoying, didn’t had enough time to spend with my son, to see my friends, visit my family back in Croatia or to TRAVEL as much as I wanted.

I started to wonder is it really the life I wanted to live? Am I supposed to be in the office every day from 9 – 5:30, then run to pick up my kid, spend two hours in a public transport and come home all stressed out, quickly preparing dinner and working my way through the piles of laundry?

I felt something is not right here. And I decided to change it.

I wanted to show the world I can have it all and live a happy fulfilled life! And that was a real trigger to me. Defience.

A year of blogging and freelancing

So here I am, a year after I started. There were ups and downs, there were some things I could do better. But, I wouldn’t change much.

What am I doing?

#- Museum and art tours

I am an art historian and before I moved to Amsterdam I mostly worked as a museum educator. I love teaching others about art and history and I wanted to continue doing this. So, now I am mostly organizing private museum tours in Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, but am also providing art tours around Amsterdam and cultural workshops for companies mostly hiring expats. This is where I am earning most of the money.

#- Blogging

Blogging is my passion from the days I was an art history student. Then I was running a blog about the art of Middle Ages (here is the link to it). I started to monetize my travel blog only a couple of months ago when I started to work with some travel brands and experiment with affiliate marketing. It started to pick up but it’s still hard to tell how much I’ll be earning from it in a few months.

#- Reviewing tours in the Netherlands and Belgium

This is actually a fun one. I am doing some tour reviews for the company that offers tours around the Netherlands and Belgium. I’m always getting extra tickets for them as well, so I’m usually bringing my family or friends to the tours with me. It’s also a great source of info for the new blog posts, so definitely a win-win situation for me!

#- Copywriting for travel brands

I just started to do this and although I was a bit sceptical about it, I’m actually finding it to be very nice. Writing in a different formats, which are still allowing me a lot of freedom and mostly writing about my previous trips is something I truly love, so I hope I’ll be having more opportunities for it in the future.

Let’s talk about good and bad now

Good things

#- Work-life balance

That’s something that really changed for me during the last year. I don’t have to choose if I should be a mum or have a professional career. I can have both! And a social life as a bonus. Wednesdays are my ‘Mum Day’, I’m not working then and am spending the whole day with my son. And the rest of the week I can dress up and go to the museum or the office.

#- Freedom

The best thing about freelancing for me is the freedom it’s giving me. I can travel much more, I can visit all the new exhibitions in a town (although I’m not doing this often enough) and I can meet with my friends much more then before.

#- I can be workaholic if I want to

I tend to be super enthusiastic when it comes to a new business ideas. And since I’m working for myself I’m suddenly an employee of the month every single time. And am actually financially benefiting from it.

#- Having a dream job

I read somewhere a quote that say:

If you can’t find a perfect job, create it!

 

And well, for the first time in my life I really have a feeling like I have a dream job. I’m doing what I truly love and (mostly) don’t have to do things I don’t want to.

Bad things

# Working from home

Although I was looking forward to working from home, soon I realized it’s not something for me. I couldn’t concentrate and was easily distracted with everything (looking to you Netflix). I actually started to work from a co-working office two months ago and am much more productive since. So, that’s something I would definitely advise any freelancer to do.

# You don’t have colleagues anymore

Similar to the previous one, I’m just missing having a colleagues. Someone to chat about your weekend during the Monday lunch or talk about some things you’re struggling with on your work. It’s especially hard when I had to brainstorm a new business ideas or make a hard decision. It would be really useful to have someone to talk with then (two heads are always smarter).

# You’re responsible for everything

When you’re a one man band, you are not only doing a nice things like writing a new blog posts or giving a tour in Van Gogh Museum to that lovely elderly couple. You also have to deal with admin part (invoices, tax reports), loads of emails you’re receiving every day, social media updates (something I really don’t like). Sometimes it’s really an art to motivate yourself to finish all those tasks on time.

# People can be hard when it comes to paying

That’s something new I learned during the last year. People tend to forget to pay you, you need to remind them a few times, then they ignore you a bit and then after some time you finally get your invoice paid. Luckily, it’s more of exception still, but it’s definitely annoying. The other thing I really love (please, feel the irony here) is when I receive invoice much larger then we initially agreed on. Why, oh why?

# Sometimes it’s hard to unplug

In a first few months (and still sometimes now-days) I had a feeling like I was working all the time. My phone was constantly ringing and since some of my clients were based in the other time zones I could forget about working inside the office hours. However, when I started to work from the office outside my house, turn off my phone during the night and stopped checking emails and my phone in the afternoon, things definitely improved.

Highlights from my first year

#- I’ve travelled more than ever

I was traveling solo, with my friends, with my son and even with my husband alone. I had a first press trip and a couple of business trips as well. It was definitely one of the things that made me go freelance and it really paid off.

#- Having a speech on the Croatian Museum Educators Conference

I talked about the private museum tours and their benefits for the cultural tourism. It was great being surrounded with some of my former colleagues and talk about something I’m doing now.

#- World Travel Market, London

It was my first blogging conference ever, so I was really excited about it! It was great to meet so many brand representatives in person and  some of the fellow travel bloggers, as well.

#- Being contacted by the brand which told me they are genuinely in love with my blog

They offered me all of their tours in Rome for free and didn’t expect anything in return. They just want to support what I’m doing. It’s amazing to see that there are some travel brands out there that are still in love in what they are doing and that want to support the other ones as well. Ok, I admit, I cried a bit after that phone call.

#- Creating a community of international bloggers in Amsterdam

This is still a pretty new one, but I teamed up with Nada from My2to4 to create a place for international bloggers in Amsterdam to meet, get to know each other and discuss possible collaborations. We just created a Facebook group a few weeks ago, but it already looks like a really positive and encouraging place.

And how are the finances?

Finances are always a tricky one, because it’s important to know how much can you expect to earn when planning to start with freelancing, but people tend to be very private when it comes to their finances.

Remember how I said it was important for me before starting to know I can earn for my son’s kinderten? Well, a year after it I’m earning a bit more then what I was making on my previous job (by working four days per week, so a day less then before).

And with a work I already have scheduled, the following months looks even better! So, hurray! If I new this when I was still thinking of going freelance, making the decision would be much easier.

Plans for the year ahead

Since I started to be a full time blogger and a freelancer I traveled more and blogged more. I had more time to spend with my husband and son. And I was genuinely happier!

Although at the beginning I thought my plan for the second year would be to double my income, somewhere on the way I changed my mind. And decided I want to find even better work-life balance. I would like to be even more productive during my working time and learn how to relax better during weekends.

I hope this post would be useful for some of you thinking of finally taking the leap and go freelance. And that encouraged you at least a little bit!

And now, it’s time for celebration!

What kind of anniversary it would be without some presents?

And let’s be honest non of this could happened if I didn’t had all of you who were supporting my blog and what I do here. That’s why I wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to all you lovely people out there.

I’ve teamed up with LUMA Bags who created a special backpack for Culture Tourist’s first birthday! You can read more about the giveaway here and hurry up because you have only wo more days to enter it!