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Talent Talks #2: Meet Mehmet, a senior photographer & post-producer

Işınsu Unaran
January 18, 2023

For the second episode of our solo talent interview series Talent Talks, we’ve invited Mehmet Turan; a photographer and post-producer from Turkey, to give his insights on setting up and running a solo business. In this interview, Mehmet talks about how he transitioned from a traditional work setting to self-employment at age 37 and gives valuable tips to beginner freelancers.Read on to find out how Mehmet used his skills and ambition to claim autonomy in his career.

Welcome to Talent Talks, Mehmet. Pleasure to host you on Ruul Blog today. Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself and your work?

My name is Mehmet; I'm almost 50 years old, married, and have a six-year-old son. I studied Economics and worked at a student organization called AIESEC, which helped me travel and work abroad. For 20 years, I worked in different positions at various international ISPs, telecom, and technology companies. Photography was a serious hobby for me back then. After a time, that work became highly repetitive, and I realized I didn't enjoy the job anymore and didn't see a future, so I decided to make the jump. It took a couple of years for me to make a move, as there was a lot to think about, including a family.Although my initial plan was to become an advertising photographer, the market demand made me move to post-production, and most of my work now is retouching and manipulating images. In short, I help businesses by creating images to tell them about themselves and their products, guide potential customers to find connections, and motivate them to buy. I have been shooting photos for over 35 years and somehow retouching and manipulating photographic work for over 20 years.

Where are you based, and how do you find your location in terms of solo work / digital nomadism regulations?

I'm based in Istanbul, Turkey, but 97% of my work is international. The demand used to come from medium to large ad agencies, but in the last two years, I saw my client base change to photographers and corporate. Unfortunately, there aren't special regulations for nomads in Turkey. I'm a Turkish citizen and I set up my sole proprietorship as soon as I left corporate life. I have friends from various parts of the world, for instance from Ukraine & Russia, who relocated here due to the war, and I should say they are a bit under the radar as it's far more challenging to become a tax-paying, legally working person. The advantage of working as a freelancer who makes earnings in a foreign currency is that you don't get affected by the economic turmoils in a country as Turkey is badly affected by the worldwide economic rises added to terrible management by the current government.

Let’s dive deeper in how and why you started doing solo work, shall we?

Like any job, if you don't really "love" what you do, or you don't have the enthusiasm, there comes a point you can't move any further on the corporate ladder nor feel the urge to do so. I thought I got stuck at age 37; I had very few choices; other job opportunities were limited and changing my corporate job probably wouldn't change the final result as I would work from nine to five at something that I didn't enjoy, get orders from younger managers until I get retired if I can manage that at all. I decided to take the plunge, though I had a family and had to consider our family's well-being. Therefore I took the beating for three more years, saved as much as possible, and finally gave my notice.

How were the early stages as you transitioned to solo work?

My initial plan was to go into commercial advertisement photography. As I took all kinds of photos on the weekends and holidays in all those years, I had grown a network of photographers and took one as a partner—we set up Diapolis Images. I was expecting there would be difficulty penetrating the market, though I had planned we should make a living by the end of the first year. I knew little about that market; we visited almost all leading advertising companies and talked with the producers.We were able to take a limited number of jobs. There was a network between producers at agencies and photographers; we couldn't break into that shell. We made some names for ourselves, but what we made wasn't enough to make a living. Though there was one thing, we were cautious about our spending from the start. That made us last long, and the company is still active but more like it's in hibernation. As we delivered a few jobs, I did the post-production work. Interestingly, even some work that didn't include photography but only post-production jobs came in, and I delivered them. Then came international clients from various channels, Upwork, Behance, carefully curated pitch emails, and many others. I had a website where I displayed my hobby photos, replaced the content with post-production work, and 35milimetre Post-Production Services was born.

How did you come across Ruul, and how long have you been using our features?

As a freelancer, you try to be open and search for new startups for "international" freelancers. As such, services can solve a problem or help you find new clients. When you are based in a single country, finding new connections in other countries is challenging. I have been following Ruul from the day it was set up. I love Ruul's blog and regularly follow it.

What do you wish to see in 2023 from Ruul?

Unfortunately, high-end freelancing intermediaries are very scarce; most freelancing websites are to solve the problems of individuals and for low-pay work. There are some solutions for particular lines of work, but at least there isn't one for design. Ruul can fill that gap.

Can you briefly explain your work setting? Where do you work from daily?

My work requires a good setup; therefore, I have an office in my home. Of course, the worst part of freelancing is being "alone" at work. Consequently, I try to meet with friends at lunch. Also, I take my laptop and go to cafes when I need to write emails or do anything other than design work. At least, that's what I used to do before the pandemic; now, going out is much less.

Walk us through your daily work routine please. How do you plan your work days?

On weekdays I wake up at 06:20. We have a son to send to school. Then I start going through emails & messages that were sent while I was asleep. I start my program after that. Usually, I answer emails when everything is quiet. Sales activities are the priority; any quote requests and questions about my services get priority. Then I start working on projects depending on their urgencies or when the project was launched. My principle is first in, first out. Every 2 hours or so, I check daily messages and end the day with marketing work, social media posts, etc. If I don't have much design work, I give more emphasis on sales & marketing. Also, I go out and do some work as usual; after a calm couple of days, rush work may come, and it's good to be energized.I have used various CRM solutions, but I am currently using Notion to follow up on my clients and projects. My son arrives around 4 PM, and my wife's return varies as she works at a university and her schedule changes daily. I usually work until 6 PM, but there may be cases where I work till midnight when there is too much work or some urgent request.

What would be your advice to solo workers who are beginners?

Start small, don't care about the money at the beginning. More important thing is the quality of work and connections. As you feel confident, try to find more challenging, demanding & better-paying projects. In freelancing, you rarely get a second chance. Therefore, don't take a job you don't think you can deliver, especially if the client is large. As you progress, keep adjusting your rates. I used to change my rates every six months, but now it's once a year.And the most important thing is to keep on learning; once you stop learning, you become outdated pretty fast. In this Internet world, there are so many sources to learn.Learning is not only required for your profession but for the business side. Different people take on other challenges when you're at a company, and when you're a solopreneur, you must do it all by yourself. Many freelancers have excellent talent but can hardly make a living because they lack business or people skills. Do invest if you need to pay, but if it's worth it, pay it. It's the same case for investing in software or hardware. If you're going to make money out of the investment, do invest. I see a lot of freelancers hesitating to invest. It's unethical and causes you to lose time and energy to use cracked software or underperforming hardware. Make a good business analysis and check your investment's ROI. Also, outsource anything that is not directly your job (starting with accounting unless you're an accountant). If you're an introvert and hate the business side, then find a team you can work with. This is the number one issue with you. Try to find friends you can depend on so that when you're overloaded, you can ask for their help, and they can ask for your help.

How can Ruulers reach you and review your work?

Feel free to visit my website. I have two other projects, Photo Production work and Sound Post-Production work. I have active profiles on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Behance. I also host a bimonthly podcast in Turkish where we talk about the challenges of freelancer life, named Coffeebreak of the freelancer (Freelancer'in Kahve Molası).

Stronger together

We are deeply thankful to Mehmet for sharing his inspiring journey. Hearing how successful solo talents got to where they are is priceless for all freelancers, and that’s why having a strong community matters.Next up: You! If you want to share the route you took while developing your solo career, we would love to amplify your voice on our blog. You can reach us at and briefly introduce yourself to be featured on our Talent Talks series.


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