Adel Setta’s advice for freelancers: ‘Test things out and do not be afraid to just fail’

Adel Setta is a 29-year-old freelancer. He does not like to put a label on himself but if he had to pick it would be creative photographer or artist. He helps people with concepts, photography and more. Next to that he does creative direction for art institutions, for example, he is working on a project for Belgian theater Het Paleis where they try to reach thousands of young adults to make a piece of art together, connected to the fact that they will have to go vote next year.

‘If it has a social aspect to it, especially with people of color, I feel more compelled to take on that work’

Adel likes to dabble in different fields and projects. A while ago he had to order a light installation for a job, when it got delivered, he had no idea how to work it but after some practice that night he was confident on the job the next day. He loves occasions like that where you need to learn a new skill. He loves the fact that nothing is sure, anything can happen in the creative process.

‘One day I am taking pictures the next I am brainstorming ideas or giving a workshop in front of a class’

His biggest tip to people who want to start freelancing: ‘Test things out and do not be afraid to just fail’

After freelancing for 6 years, Adel Setta does not need to look for jobs anymore, they tend to find him instead.

‘After so many years my network actually works for me’

Sharing your work is another tip: ‘As long as you make really cool art but don’t show anyone, nothing will ever happen’. Adel describes himself as an easy-going person which helps him with networking. Also, he does not like to be put in a box which according to him makes him more approachable for all kinds of different projects.

Adel did not choose freelancing, it just happened to him after he graduated in marketing and worked a job in retail. Photography was always his passion but he never thought that he would make it his work.

‘People always say if you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life, that’s bullshit because you forget what you loved about it in the first place’

His workday never ends but that is a two-sided sword according to him because he can take a day off when he wants but other times he will be working for weeks on end. His tip to combat this issue: ‘just keep going’. He loves his job, and he says that he is his own boss so he can also say no when he wants. That is something to work towards, being able to say no, not everything is worth your time and budget according to Adel.

He started out working via a social agency for artists (SBK), now he works as an independent. So, he has to do everything himself, such as paying taxes.

‘I am a creative person, bookkeeping is kind of my Achilles heel at times’

Adel mentions that it is something they do not prepare you for, the bookkeeping. It is important to have a healthy cashflow for your business, but it is hard to create. You often have to invest before you start to earn.

The taxes in Belgium for being self-employed are steep shares Adel. Especially when you have to give up half of your earnings. Also, there are a lot of other things such as social contribution, living expenses and investing in your own business. It is hard to start as an independent he admits.

Adel would want to make it easier for people to start freelancing, he says it is almost expected of you to have a lot of money in your bank account or have money from home but not everyone is in that position. He started with what he had in his bank account which was not a lot.


Text: Stella Delée
Featured image: ©Thor Salden