In this Career Advice from the Pros interview, we are catching up with Ellen Massaro, a Certified Professional Photo Manager in The Netherlands. We are happy to see our profession growing worldwide!
Ellen has a varied professional background with jobs and education in editorial work, graphic design, traveling, and public relations. Her work in many fields often involved some form of organizing. She also attended university for economics but was looking for something more. Ellen decided to take a sabbatical and, around the year 2000, she found a newspaper ad that put a name to everything she had been doing – professional organizer. At the time, she was pioneering the field of professional organizing in The Netherlands. In 2016 she met the founder of The Photo Managers, Cathi Nelson, and began to transition her focus to photo organizing.
What inspired you to choose to focus on photos as a professional organizer?
All my life I have loved photos. It’s a thread through my life. As a small child, I was already making little photobooks of my father. I’ve always been doing something with photos, like making scrapbooks or making presents. And even in all my jobs, I was attracted by the photos. I always wanted to do something with the photo collection or with the archive or so. Within my residential jobs of being a professional organizer, I also had some photo organizing jobs because well, everyone has photos. Because of my love of photos, and I got to know Cathi an The Photo Mangers at their annual conference. It was there that the light really went on. So I’m a photo organizer too. That’s really going to be the icing on the cake of my career because I’m not that young anymore. I really want to continue working but I want to do things that I love and that I’m good at.
The other part to choosing to be a Photo Manager is that I love to make people happy with it. You see they are already starting to get to be happy when they make the first appointment with you or make the call and finally something’s going to happen over the phone. They don’t even want to know what but something’s going to happen. So that’s what I love very much. I also love the research involved with the photos and figuring out what to do and how to do it.
How do you explain what you do and what has been the response in The Netherlands?
I already had an established business as a residential organizer, and lots of people know me. So when I started telling about photo organizing, it was easy to get new clients because the existing clients know you well, and they talk about you. At that time I also made a new website and make photo organizing separate. Then, together with five colleagues, we started The Photo Organizers Netherlands. It’s a collaboration, we’re not a company. We all own our own businesses, but we’re collaborating because together you’re stronger. We have been writing a lot of blogs and sharing tips from The Photo Managers, which saves us time.
Because photo organizing is new, it gets a lot of attention. You may get a headline in the newspaper because it is new, and take advantage of that publicity.
Our target market was the 50+ demographic but, to my surprise, my first clients were young women and women with their phones and old laptops full of photos. In Holland, many people want to learn and do it themselves. I help people start by writing a plan for them or having zoom calls where we work together.
Is there anything about what you do that you don’t enjoy?
Well, that’s a very hard question. Maybe I don’t like all the updates of programs and computers, because it always means changes. So the tech part, probably. It’s a challenge to keep up with everything as it changes so fast. But I’m confident. I just take the jobs and at that moment, I’ll dive into learning something if necessary. It’s not that I don’t like it, but it’s a challenge. Pricing is also difficult as the prices that work in other lands do not always work in The Netherlands. Again, it’s not that I dislike these things but I find it a bit difficult because it takes time. I see these things as learning opportunities for myself.
What benefits have you experienced from being a member of The Photo Managers?
It gives me a lot of knowledge and possibilities to learn, to share, and to be inspired. It has given be a safe feeling that I will manage because I have support. I couldn’t have started, or possibly even thought about this business without The Photo Managers. Being a member allows you to start right away because you have all the basic information you need. If you have a question, you can post in the members-only Facebook group. It gives you the feeling that you have a community that’s got your back. I’m proud to tell my clients that I have a very large community in the USA that I can ask if I need any help. Besides that, I’ve made new contacts, and new friends, and gained new knowledge. It feels like home.
Do you do all your work yourself or do you outsource to other photo managers?
Up to this point, I have done everything by myself. But when there’s a large scanning project, there’s a company in the Netherlands that we are partnered with. They are a large scanning firm, and they digitize everything that’s that exists. So, if I have a client with a lot of things to be scanned, I will bring the project to them or tell the client about them. Other than that, I do everything by myself, because I want to do everything by myself! I’m Dutch, I want to learn! I may work on large projects with colleagues because there are some things we can do better together, but I don’t want to have employees. Then, I’ll have time for my own projects, too.
Watch the full interview to learn more from Ellen Massaro as she answers questions from our live audience.