Boy Hulsteijn – “I enjoy working for companies that make the world a better place”
Boy Hulsteijn is a textbook example of the fact that schooling doesn’t have to determine your further career. Without any relevant education or work experience, Boy started working as a copywriting intern at a small influencer agency.
Seven years later, his CV is overflowing with copywriting jobs for clients such as Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, HEMA, Fastned and Zalando. “If you can build a small portfolio, you’re as good as that portfolio. And then your education no longer matters.”
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
“One thing I’ve learned is that you just have to start writing. Even if your ideas aren’t the best, put them on paper so they’re out of your system. Something interesting that you can build on will always come along eventually. I’ve learned to trust that things will always work out. Which is very nice.”
When did you realize you like to write?
“A friend of mine is a designer and ran a blog. He knew I was good at English and asked if I would like to provide content. I noticed that I really enjoyed writing, in combination with thinking along about images and design. I had no idea that copywriting existed as a paid job. I think I was googling something like ‘writing for the internet’ when I came across the term copywriting. And I thought: Yes, that’s what I’m going to do!”
And did that work for you right away?
“I‘ve taken an atypical route in that regard. Usually, you’ll first gain experience at a company before starting freelancing. My Event Management study provided no relevant education and I had no relevant work experience. It was very difficult to get hired somewhere. So I did a three-month unpaid internship at a small influencer agency. They gave me a lot of freedom and I rewrote all the copy on the website, made newsletters, organised workshops, that sort of stuff. At the end of the internship I was left with three assignments. I registered with the Chamber of Commerce, took a part-time job and just started. That was 7 years ago. It wasn’t the easiest route, but it turned out all right.”
You say you had no experience when you started. What impact did that have on the entrepreneurial aspect of freelancing for you personally?
“First, I’ve definitely asked way too little for my work for years. A big lesson I learned is that if a job is never rejected based on your rate, you’re structurally asking too little. And that never happened to me, haha. So I gradually started to increase my rate until a job was rejected because of the rate. That wasn’t a bad thing though, because it meant that I was finally at ‘the top’ of my worth.”
What type of texts do you love writing the most?
“I do brand copy and texts for advertisements, mainly short copy (short, concise texts, ed.). Advertising jobs often involve a concept for a campaign or a script for an animation or video. Sometimes I spend a day working on just one sentence: a slogan or a pay-off. The best thing about this is that I can really provide input about a product or service. I help the client zoom out and find a new angle.”
You have many international clients showcased on your website. Is there a difference for you between writing Dutch and English texts?
“I’ve lived in Berlin for two years. There, I had the opportunity to work with many international clients. But the Dutch market is also quite used to English. Often both Dutch and English copy is needed. I think my assignments are 50% Dutch and 50% English. The big difference is that texts sound sexier in English than in Dutch. In addition, I often find English texts to coincide better with the design, because the language is more compact.”
Do you only write on commission or do you also like to write creatively for yourself?
“Actually, I don’t do the latter. I do write down snippets of private stuff every now and then. But more because it’s therapeutic. Music is an important outlet for me. I love making playlists. I first started doing that for just friends and family, until I came across a startup called Kollekt.fm. They compose playlists for commercial spaces. I contacted them and we clicked so well that they asked me to become a curator. Now I make a playlist for Mr. Marvis every two months. So that’s something that brings me joy both privately and professionally.”
What job are you most proud of?
“Last year, I got the opportunity to create the tone of voice for Fastned. Fastned is a company in charging stations for electric cars. They’re growing mega fast in Europe. I enjoy working for companies that make the world a better place.”
Finally, as a freelancer, how do you ensure you’ll get a next assignment?
“Nowadays, work is coming my way. Initially it came through friends and acquaintances, but now it’s more and more through my professional network. Like agencies that I’ve been working with for a long time or through clients who have referred me, but also through LinkedIn. I think it’s a combination of your qualities and customer goodwill. People should also enjoy working with you.”
Photography: Nol Cobben