Together nothing can stop women. Together we are passionate and fearless. Starting out in the professional working world, in a city as big as London, can be daunting for anyone, so Eyedea Women’s Organisation aims to bring together young female professionals in our city. They host networking events, organise high-profile guest speakers, plan workshops – all with the aim of inspiring young women in the city, whether in your career or to help you start your own business. When I was asked to be involved in the organisation as their in-house photographer, I couldn’t wait to get stuck in, as I appreciate first-hand how important it is to have a strong, inspiring network around you. It’s been a truly special experience meeting women from all walks of life and some the most amazing business people around. Last week I was interviewed by the committee to talk about how my personal passion of photography has now turned into my full-time career….
Victoria Metaxas is half-English, half-Greek and grew up in Dubai. She completed a degree in Economics at Royal Holloway University and, following the course completion, embarked on a career in digital media. As most graduates find, she wasn’t sure where her career path would lead. The experience of being immersed in the digital media industry from both an agency and client-side perspective was invaluable, however she knew that her true passion lay in photography and fashion. With this in mind, she decided to steer her career down a different route and take part in a Fashion Photography course in Milan. There she spent some of the best six months, studying photography and learning Italian in a city where they live and breathe fashion.
Following the course Victoria returned to London to work for Net-A-Porter at their Photo Studio in a bid to jump right into the heart of the fashion world. As amazing an experience as it was, she began some research and realised there was an opportunity for her to work for herself, which had always been the goal. Victoria had been following fashion and beauty blogs for a while and wondered who helped them create such beautiful image content – it came to mind then that this niche area of photography was her chance to go freelance.
Victoria began to contact bloggers on the weekend while working at Net-A-Porter and slowly the requests began to grow and grow (she advises starting slowly as a side-job if you’re hoping to work for yourself, this way you can test the market and see if there really are opportunities for you). The requests coming in gave her the golden ticket to take the jump. She quit her job and booked up two full weeks of shoots (business) so she wouldn’t have a panic attack (it is so weird when you start working independently after having a 9-5 schedule and a boss!) Booking herself up kept her sane and allowed her enough time to get in touch with new prospective clients to keep business flowing.
Victoria gave herself six months to see how everything was going and so far so good. She’s been very busy, her contact lists have grown, she’s jumped at every opportunity possible to network and meet new people, and has never stopped reaching out to new potential clients. Victoria’s advice to anyone thinking about doing their own thing is, of course, take the risk, but also never sit on your laurels. People only see the success of those who have achieved, not all the hard work that has gone on to get there.
You’ve travelled the world with your photography, what have been some of the highlights for you, in being able to capture the beauty of different destinations and cultures through the lense? Is there a place that’s on your hit list that you’d love to visit?
Having grown up with a father who is a pilot, travel was always a huge part of our lives. I’ve been lucky enough to see some of the most amazing places, and yet I know how much more of the world there is left to discover! In terms of photography, it’s great travelling to the freer places such as the Far East, Thailand, Bali or India where you really find yourself immersed in a raw culture. These places have been less globalized and, I find, are still quite pure. We are all tourists ourselves, but I am not a fan of tourist-packed places. I recently visit Bologna in Italy, one of my favourite countries. I loved it particularly because I could see it was real Italy, far from the tourist-mobbed streets of Florence or other popular places in the country. For my hit list, I would love to do a feature on Iceland. It’s a place that I’ve had in my mind for a while now, but I always seem to find a sunnier place to visit first :P. I suppose I am going to have to bite the bullet and get my winter coats on as apparently the landscape there is unreal. I would also love to travel and write about Japan during the cherry blossom. I’ve heard only incredible things about Tokyo, so next year that’s high up on my to do list.
What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced in creating your blog and business?
There are a few different challenges that I face on a weekly basis in running a fashion/travel blog alongside my services as a fashion photographer:
Time management – This is probably the biggest challenge I currently face. I constantly feel like I have a battle against time. I understand that is something everyone comes up against, especially in a city like London, but the issue with my business being partly social-media based is that working alone rarely leaves enough time in the day to get everything done. From shooting, to editing, to personal finance accounts, to updating my blog and social media accounts – the list is endless! The beauty of working for yourself is that you don’t have anyone telling you what to do, but the down side is that you have to manage your time very efficiently, which is not always the easiest, especially when you work in social media. At some point I will need to find a way to get support or some kind of delegation for my work, but at present it’s a one-man-band!
Persistency, consistency – As we all know, life goes on and the documentation of our life, or social media never, ever stops. This is something quite challenging in the digital world, as there is never an “off” button. The endless journey I have is to ensure that I’m not only continuously posting, sharing, blogging, but that all the content I do post, share or blog about is of the same standard and quality. It’s about being both consistent and persistent. Switching off when you work for yourself is something very important (and difficult) and it’s even more challenging when the work you do requires you to be socially active all the time. In fact, switching off in the social media/blogging world doesn’t really exist! And the honest truth is that it’s something all entrepreneurs will need to factor into their marketing/PR work-load if they really want to propel their business forward…
Managing relationships – A lot of my work involves repeat business with people. For example when I shoot with fashion bloggers, we usually meet up on a weekly basis to photograph their latest piece. Or if I work with a hotel, fashion brand and so on, our relationship builds and develops. What I find difficult is finding the happy medium between the professional side of the relationship, when the shoot is taking place, and the more relaxed side of things when the project is over. I think it’s important to outline expectations before you work together, especially in writing, so each party knows exactly what is expected and what the outcome of the project will be. This means that your “friendly” relationship outside of the project will not be jeopardized, which is especially important if you run a business that involves repeat customers.
How would you describe the importance of social media to drive a successful blog like Aurora Stories?
Absolutely imperative. Bloggers are now a form of press, a form of communication for those who want to know what the latest fashion trends are, where the coolest restaurants are, or where they should go on holiday this year. It’s important that we keep our content fresh and new, and consequently social media accounts such as Twitter and Instagram help support this. A blog is not ‘real-time’, it’s more of a long-winded summary of a project that has taken place, a more formal account of what the collaboration was about. Instead, social media accounts are snippets of what is going on and more importantly, what’s to come. They are a great way to drum up excitement, especially if you are building up to a big blog post/project reveal. They are crucial to communicate short, sweet bites of information for people to nibble on. It’s a like the blog post is the main course and the social media snippets are the grazing dishes; they leave you wanting more, wanting the whole story.
Where do you get your inspiration for your next shoot or story?
My inspiration can come from just about anything, but a lot of it for me is driven by people and what’s on their mind. When spring is approaching, I start to come up with floral inspired shoots, start to research new restaurants opening in spring and so on. One thing I’ve definitely learned in my time working in the fashion/press industry and being a blogger is that you always need to be a few months ahead of everyone else (which makes you forget what it’s like to celebrate things on the actual day, as you’re already thinking about the next thing coming around!). When summer is approaching, you must already have your summer ideas coming together, because your job is to inspire people to start thinking about things before they’ve had chance to. Planning my shoots/stories in advance is something I’m hoping to get better at in the next few months, that way I can have some really great pieces to share and hopefully inspire my readers!
If you could photograph anyone or anything that you haven’ already done, who or what would it be? And why?
In terms of my fashion posts, my dream is to be commissioned to create and shoot content for some of the biggest fashion designers around. I’ve heard Dior is going to be showing in London It would be an absolute dream to shoot their fashion show for them. I would love to develop my beauty photography and hopefully collaborate with the likes of L’Oréal, Estée Lauder and Charlotte Tilbury and….. finally, I’m hoping to get a lavender field shoot in some time this season, it’s just too beautiful to miss out on.
Here at Eyedea have been honored to host some of the world’s leading women in business across different sectors. Who would you say are the women who inspire you?
I am a huge fan of Natalie Massanet. I find her success story so inspiring, because it’s something people can relate to. She really did start selling products online from her house when no one else believed in what she did, with shoes piled up in her spare bathroom. People only see the tip of the iceberg, e.g. the point of success but don’t realise all the hard slog that has gone on to get there. And more importantly, all of the no’s that they’ve had to ignore in the process to getting where they wanted to be. It’s something that I try and remind myself every day when I become impatient why things aren’t moving quicker; Patience and hard-work go hand in hand and both equate in success in the long run. So, keep pushing forward, one day you’ll get the break you were looking for.
What would be your top 3 words of advice for anyone thinking of branching out in this direction?
It’s hard to put them into words but if I had to give three pieces of advice they would be:
Believe in yourself. It’s cliché but is something I’ve learned is very important, predominantly because it defines how people perceive you. I’m aware that I personally need to work harder at my self-belief and I now know that if you give off an aura of self-confidence, people around will buy into you and your work. Walk with your head high and say, yes, I can do this.
Value what you do. When you work for yourself it’s easy to become modest with your work and not really know how much you are worth. Set a price-point, whether for your product or service and stick by it. Don’t be afraid of how many no’s you get, there will be plenty of yes’s out there who truly value what you do.
Fake it to make it. It’s something I’ve experienced a number of times where I think, “how the heck did I get into this situation? Can I do this?: Well yes, you can. Rise to the challenge, once you’ve completed the project or gotten through the scenario, you’ll realise it wasn’t all that bad and that you can do more and achieve more than you thought you could. It’s all about perceptions; just make sure people have the right ones of you!
Your blog, Aurora Stories, has gone from strength to strength, where do you see yourself in the next few years?
I often ask myself this, but with the blogging and digital world being so new and unknown, I’m not entirely sure. I would personally like to have created strong relationships with brands and names that I really respect. I would love to be more experienced in shooting beautiful fashion content for inspiring brands through challenging projects, which would allow my photography style and skills to grow and develop. On the travel side, high on my list is to be commissioned to shoot pieces for respected travel publications as I’m hugely passionate about discovering new places and cultures, and especially hunting out hot-spots off the beaten track.