Generation Y Expat Q and A with Rhys Cooper

Tell us about yourself…

What can I say… I left Australia about a year ago to see where the wind would take me. And so far it’s brought me to London. I’m a photographer so I’m travelling the world to see what I can capture through my lens.

I sold/gave away everything before I left so I have no proper home and thats exactly how I want things to be.

Setting up a business and working overseas – away from home, friends and family – has its ups and downs. What is the best experience? Worst?

I personally don’t look at things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ experiences. I look at most situations as a learning experience, and the harder you push yourself the bigger the lesson you will learn from that experience.

I feel as an entrepreneur it’s always good to have some projects that don’t work out the way you’d planned. This forces you to adapt and try to do things better next time.

Entrepreneurs and creatives have very unique challenges in terms of working and living globally. What are these main challenges and how can one overcome these?

One of my more recent goals has been to become location independent. So when I look at a project or a business, I take into consideration whether or not It will tie me down or take up too much of my time. This is one of the reasons I work as a photographer, it’s a role that I can adapt to any place I am in. And there are many different types of jobs that can be found in this field.

What tips and advice do you have to build up a network of international contacts in a niche industry?

You have to get out there. When I first arrived in London, I wanted to get a foot in the door as a photographer. So i started searching online and applied for anything I could find. My first client was a company that was hiring ‘fake paparazzi’ for hens nights and boat cruises. The pay and hours were rubbish, but I had a chance to meet other photographers and get links in to other projects.

Eventually I got signed up as an official photographer for a real estate website which started to improve my cash flow and allow me to buy more tools of the trade.

But, by far the best decision I made was to take a slightly different direction and accept a job with the Travel Photographer of The Year exhibition. I’m currently working in the gallery along with a few other photographers and although it’s not taking photos, I am getting paid to expand my network. Even having the chance to talk about the creative aspects of photography has really changed my perspective on why it is that people take photos in the first place.

What transferable skills or attributes does one need to work on to be mobile and global?

The best advice I was ever given was back when I was 19 and studying sound engineering. My teacher, who was a very successful engineer, said “If you want to get plenty of work, all you need to do is not be an asshole, nobody wants to work with an asshole.”

Assuming you have the skills to provide the service your offering. Having great people skills is the absolute No1 thing that will benefit you in any situation.

For someone who has just started looking into moving away to set up a business overseas, what tips and advice do you have?

Go for it! Get out there and travel, try new things and test the water. And expect to fail 10 times before you succeed, but when you do fail, make sure to learn from your mistakes.

Don’t be shy of hard work or long hours. Occasionally you’ll have to do a job you hate to get the cash to live the dream you want to live.

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