Disclaimer: this post is full of song jokes and pictures of dogs. No, Alex is not a dog. Alex just doesn't like being photographed, and happens to have a really photogenic puppy.
As freelancers, it’s often easy to see our struggles as the end of our story. Failures affect our confidence, financial lows impact our businesses, and it can be hard to find the strength to carry on.
Alex, the founder and CEO of findr, has gone through all those ups and downs himself, and knows how easy it is to feel discouraged by them. Four years ago, growing frustrated with the issues he faced in the photography business as a freelancer, he decided to create a platform that would unite photographers and customers.
So was born findr, a website where booking a photographer is made easier and where freelance photographers can find more work more easily. But the birth of findr, Alex insists, is a story of highs and lows, of sacrifices and of learning to appreciate the small successes life sends our way, and to learn and grow from every failure.
This story, which he shares with anyone with as much openness as honesty, helps us take a different look at the work we do: sometimes, it takes a good few struggles to become successful.
Let’s get it started
In April 2013, Alex took voluntary redundancy from his job at the Scotsman, a national newspaper, where he’d been working as a picture editor for 13 years. A registered professional photographer, he went from a salaried office position to a full-time job as a freelance photographer.
While all of this was a big and scary change, Alex welcomed his newfound freedom with excitement. “Everything is a choice” when you work freelance, he says. “You’re in complete control of your destiny.”
He also got to focus more on his other company, Writer Pictures, a specialist picture library dedicated to literary portraiture. This gave him enough time and space to start thinking more seriously about the photography platform he was hoping to build.
In December 2013, findr was officially registered.
Money, money, money
This was a very exciting time for findr. Alex approached a strategic digital agency to create a prototype for findr, and the project was completed in May 2014, funded primarily by Alex’s redundancy money—much to the horror of his wife…
But Alex was already aware of some of the risks he was taking. Over the next two years, while developing findr and working with the small team at Writer Pictures, he still had to take on jobs as a freelance photographer to provide for his family. The financial uncertainty “has an impact on your emotional state and your family,” he says. “It’s not all about the money, but the money definitely plays a big part.”
Over this period of time, however, Alex managed to build a stronger and larger network of photographers and eventually started generating work for them. The next natural step to take, then, was to seek investors to turn findr from a prototype into a working platform.
Never gonna give (you) up
Here again, the battle was far from won. It took Alex 2 years, an unimaginable number of applications, and hundreds of cups of coffee to finally secure a seed investment in August 2016. Around the same time, findr also won an Innovate UK competition for Digital Technology in Creative Media.
This both helped secure findr’s future, thanks to the long-awaited ability to develop the prototype into the platform it is today, but also helped assure Alex that he was on the right track. “Those struggles make you question your choices a lot,” he explains. “You wonder if you’ve made the right decisions all along.”
Findr was thus officially launched in March 2017. But with only three months of money left in the business, Alex had to work even harder to keep his business and his family afloat. He continued to work as a freelance photographer and pushed all his bookings through findr to develop the platform further.
Eventually, the relationships built through his hard work paid off, as he now had the tools to scale up his one-to-one relationships and offer a reliable photography service that could grow on an international scale.
Started from the bottom, now we’re… closer to the top
Today, findr is doing better than ever. Findr’s contract with Deliveroo, started in April 2017, has grown from a few shoots around Edinburgh to over 1,000 shoots a month and generated work for over 500 photographers—in 12 different countries!
Findr’s core team has expanded, too. When findr was first created, Alex was the only employee—and working alone didn’t do him any good, considering the fact that he started writing rambling blog posts full of Star Wars references (we’ll keep those private, but trust us, they’re something else). Today, findr is made up of five employees, a lot of biscuits, and even more tea bags.
And findr’s client base in the UK has grown to include PR agencies, events, news agencies, property companies, hotel chains, and a whole lot more. This makes for a long list of satisfied companies who benefit from an efficient process to book and manage photographers.
Don’t stop me now
Despite this incredible growth, Alex doesn’t let findr’s successes fool him: the pressure is still on, and there is today a lot more at stake than before. “With a larger team, everything findr goes through no longer affects just me,” Alex explains. “It affects everyone.”
But findr’s future is looking bright, and if Alex has learnt anything from his experiences, both as a freelancer and an entrepreneur, it’s that struggles are only just the steps toward success.