introducing kiki calis and kim trotz from qommunity.
Kim Trotz and Kiki Calis are friends first and foremost. They’re also freelancers, entrepreneurs and co-founders of Qommunity, a quarterly networking event for freelancers that recently blossomed into a platform of resources, support, workshops, memberships and more for those venturing out on their own.
Whilst Kim and Kiki are true champions of the freelance life, Qommunity was started because they knew freelancing is tough, and it’s far from how social media frequently portrays it. For freelancers, vulnerability is around every corner; a lack of support, advice, certainty and things often taken for granted such as colleagues and the social times that come with them. And these vulnerabilities have only been highlighted further amid coronavirus.
We talked to Kim and Kiki about the need for community in difficult and normal times, the stigma of freelancing and what they would do differently if they started Qommunity again.
How did you both meet?
Kim Trotz: Backstage at Diynamic festival in the summer of 2014! Kiki’s ex-boyfriend is a good friend of mine and they were working together at the time.
Kiki Calis: It was love at first sight! We also both studied Media and Entertainment Management at Inholland University, so we had crossed paths briefly before.
What’s the best thing about freelancing?
Kiki: Freedom and insecurities!
Kim: Working with several clients and creative teams in one week – every day is different.
Kiki: Exactly. Freelancing is an opportunity to work with who you want, where you want, when you want.
And what’s the worst thing?
Kim: Agreed. No ‘gezellige vrimibo’ (Friday drinks) and no colleagues. Our vulnerability also. Freelancers don’t have the same security and support and that can be daunting – you only have to look at how coronavirus has affected freelancers.
Do you think freelancing still has a stigma attached to it? And do you think the perception of freelancing is changing for the better?
Kim: Some people still think freelancers are lazy, that they earn a lot of money because of high fees and that they work from Bali all the time. But that’s Instagram, not the real freelance life.
Kiki: Freelancers are real entrepreneurs and I think that most people realise that now. Especially during coronavirus, people are seeing the businesses and ideas that freelancers create struggle, so there’s more visibility to who we are and the connection between real businesses and freelancers.
Why did you start Qommunity?
Kiki: On October 1, 2017, we both started freelancing at the same time. In November we started getting a fear of missing out and we thought: why don’t freelancers have a Christmas dinner or New Year’s drinks? So, in January, 2018 we organized the first Freelance New Year's reception. The feedback? Less music, more time to network.
The next day we launched Qommunity and started organizing four events per year. This year we launched memberships for freelancers where they become a Qolleague and that gives them a community that can help each other. With the memberships we make the life of freelancers more fun, better and easier.
Kim: Yeah, and as we started freelancing, we saw that it can be lonely, insecure and difficult. Lonely because you're always alone, insecure because you don't have anyone to protect you and difficult because you have to do things you don't know about – you're your sales, marketing and finance department. It all started from personal experience and friendship.
Why do you think the support, events and resources you offer are so important for freelancers?
Kim: As I mentioned, it’s a tough journey on your own. Figuring out everything by yourself, not having any colleagues etc. In the end, the answer is connecting people. That’s the starting point to solve all these problems and that’s why it’s such an important part of who we are as Qommunity.
Kiki: The government does provide some support, and they’ve done a good job during coronavirus for freelancers, but there are still some gaps that need to be filled. For example, collective insurance and pensions for freelancers aren’t accessible, but we’re going to change that.
Do you find it hard to balance personal freelance work and running Qommunity? Is there every tension between the two ventures?
Kiki: Yes, and we’re kind of in between the two at the moment – they’re hard to combine.
Kim: This year is a cross-over year in which we have to juggle the two, but we’re quickly evolving into working on Qommunity full time.
Freelancers have been amongst the hardest hit by coronavirus. How do you think it will affect freelancing in the future?
Kiki: I think there will be more freelancers despite it affecting the freelance community deeply. For existing freelancers, the crisis has made us aware of our vulnerabilities and as a result, many have taken this time to improve and expand their skillsets. I think that in itself will only strengthen the community after coronavirus.
Qommunity has become even more important than usual for freelancers during the pandemic. How have you adapted to maintain a sense of community when you can’t physically meet?
Kim: When the pandemic began, we went into full action mode and started to try and make sense of this new reality for Qommunity. And we realized how many different ways we could fulfill our mission to improve the life of freelancers without having to only do what we had been doing.
Kiki: And those realizations quickly became new formats for workshops, events, lunches and vrijmibo’s, mixing digital strategies with physical presence when possible. Finding these new avenues affirmed our belief in the concept even more and that even led to us launching our memberships in the middle of the crisis. It was a recognition of the need for community in times like these.
As freelancers yourselves, coronavirus has affected your own work as well as Qommunity. How has your mindset shifted because of all of this, and have you found anything positive in it?
Kim: It was like a punch in the face, but this is also what it means to be a freelancer. And for Qommunity, we started to ask ourselves: what is truly important?
Kiki: It’s been incredibly hard, but we’ve also received so much energy and help from the people around us. It may sound cheesy, but we feel more connected to those around us than ever before.
Looking back at starting Qommunity, what’s one thing you would do differently now?
Kiki: We’re so happy with how Qommunity grew organically but looking back, I would have accelerated it into an actual business sooner.
Kim: Agreed. It started so easily and light-heartedly that I think we underestimated how much freelancers needed to connect. Now that we know that to be true, we’re going to give it our all.
And looking forward, what’s next for Qommunity?
Kiki: Well for starters, Thursday, July 2 we have Q2: Het Freelance Bedrijsuitje at B. Amsterdam. Everyone should check it out.
Kim: Looking further than that, we’re expanding to other cities in The Netherlands including Utrecht, Den Haag and Rotterdam. We’re also increasing the value and variety of offerings for our members. We already mentioned insurance and pension schemes, but we also think mental health support is missing in the community, so we’re excited to be connecting with partners who can help when you don’t have an HR department looking out for you.
Kiki: And looking even further than that – Qommunity Europe?