5/5 Small Business Interview: Doing What You Love

Charlene Winfred

The best part about running a service that is used by freelancers and small businesses is that we get to hear so many different stories from around the world. Charlene’s story, of course, is unlike any other we’ve featured so far. Charlene and her partner Flemming are self proclaimed “photographer gypsies”, who travel around the world, capturing it one frame at a time. Oh, they also run a neat web design agency called Coffee and Magic, and that’s what they use Hiveage for! Read on to find out about this very different (and if we may add, very cool!) way of life.

You describe yourselves as “roving photographer gypsies”! How do you manage to run a web design agency while being on the road so much?

In a lot of ways, making websites is the perfect business for gypsies equipped with laptops, which we both are, being photographers. We carry what we need to run it. The only thing we rely on finding wherever we are, is internet connectivity. In places like Europe, USA and Singapore (where we are at the time of this interview), having access to high speed internet isn’t an issue. But it’s not a given. We once launched a site the day before heading to Kuala Lumpur to visit my sister and her family for a weekend (not something we would normally do!). They have a 1 mbps connection. Luckily there were no issues with the launch, so there was no need to try and deal with development or server issues at that speed. Had there been problems,it would have been quite the struggle.

Coffee and Magic office
Coffee and Magic “office” in Singapore – dining table in Charlene’s mum’s kitchen

How did you end up as nomad photographers? How would someone new get into the field?

I don’t think you can call being a nomad photographer a profession. We both happened to already be photographers before going nomad for our individual reasons. As for “getting into the field”, that’s easy enough – sell everything you own, bring only what you can carry, and go. Somewhere. Anywhere. Do what you love whether or not you succeed in making money out of it.

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I’m being blase, but that is essentially it. We both had day jobs in IT before we were nomads – Flemming in Denmark, me in Australia. Like many people out there, we both had dreams about selling up and shipping out, but there were big push factors involved. Flemming went nomad 5 years ago and I’ve only been one for a year and a half, but we both experienced moments where the point of our individual lives on their trajectories at the time, made absolutely no sense, so why not be crazy and do something we’d always wanted? For Flemming, that meant being Luke Skywalker, and for me, it involved running away with a bundle on a stick like kids did in adventure stories. We started the business when we started travelling together, to make enough money to keep us going and do what we love.

What is the coolest place you have been on your travels? If you were to stop travelling and settle down, where would you choose to live?

Coolest place – we’re both agreed that the Wild West of New Mexico (USA), home of the Very Large Array, Billy the Kid, a crazy little town called Truth or Consequences, the world’s first spaceport, endless stretches of open roads, incredible cloudscapes, UFOs, space museums, a white desert, green chile, and many, many colorful characters, takes the cake.

Charlene and Flemming in New Mexico
Charlene and Flemming, goofing off in New Mexico

I also find Copenhagen, Flemming’s home town, rather magical. It was my first introduction to Europe, after spending all my life convinced I’d never afford to go, and being so different from everywhere I’ve lived (Singapore, and Perth, Western Australia), I was thoroughly charmed. Can’t wait to go back this northern summer.

You are both involved in a number projects at the same time. What advice would you give young freelancers who have their fingers in many pies as well?

Not sure how to answer this one – we both work in a state of chaos (you could call it organized with some imagination), with completely different rhythms and habits.

Because we have clients all over the world in many different time zones, there really isn’t such a thing as a working day. We have working periods that can last a couple of hours or several days at a go depending on how many projects are running and what their delivery dates are, but the same goes for non working periods. Work hard, play hard, sleep a lot. Do whatever works for you, however it works for you.

How did you guys find out about Hiveage, and why did you end up using it in the long run? Who would you recommend it to?

I’d been using Curdbee for many years running my own photography business. I loved it, as it was a great way to stay on top of my invoicing, so Hiveage was a no brainer when it came to managing our joint business’ finances that involved something more helpful/visual than a spreadsheet. Hiveage allows us to invoice our clients in a range of currencies, accepts PayPal payments, allows us to track expenses, and the visual (thumbs up!!) dashboard is incredibly handy for single glance assessment of what’s outstanding and how we’re tracking generally. We build simple WordPress websites and like to run as simple a business as possible, so it is everything we need.

5/5 is your chance to get to know awesome Hiveage users from all around the world. In each issue, expect five questions, five answers, and a load of insight from freelancers and small businesses just like you!

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