A Freelance Collective Tackles A Brutal Challenge For Urban Creatives: Pricey Studio Space by Forbes – Entrepreneurs

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Freelance photographer Daryl Oh used to come face to face with the tough financial realities of practicing her craft every time she rented space for a shoot.

On a 10-hour day working for a new clothing line, she might clear $100 after renting a studio and the camera she needed and hired a production assistant and a stylist. “I was used to being broke,” she says.

Realizing that other visual artists faced the same situation, she founded Holyrad Studio in Brooklyn, NY. The social venture charges members $30 a month to use the space at 20 Grand Avenue, which operates as both a production studio and creative agency for those who are part of its community. A 10-hour rental would be $300 on top of that, far less than the prices typically available in Brooklyn and Manhattan. “The average studio is $500 to $3,000 a day,” says Oh.

Oh runs Holyrad Studios with two partners, Saskia De Borchgrave, who leads content and operations, and attorney Elena Franco, who oversees research and development.

Holyrad Studios is self-funded. Today is the last day of a $50,000 Kickstarter campaign the founders have been running since Nov. 20 to continue to build it. It had received a little over $47,000 in pledges at posting time, with 11 hours to go.

The effort is the latest example I have come across by freelancers to solve pressing, problems to the creative community that get ignored when cities focus on economic development. It could be an interesting model for others in the same situation to study.

Cities like New York command high real estate prices partly because of the vibrant arts community, but many artists and creative professionals struggle to make a living here because workspace is can be brutally expensive. Like retailers who can’t contend with rising rents, they get driven out to lower-cost communities. While writers can easily operate from a coworking space or coffee shop, creative who need more room for shoots have to spend a lot of their energy simply securing space at a price they can afford.

The now 1,300-square-foot Holyrad Studio was founded in January, 2015. Oh knew the risks of taking on a lease in a city with unforgiving rents and a notoriously high cost of doing business. “In New York, there is not a lot of wiggle room,” Oh says. 

During the grace period on the lease, she posted images of the space on Craig’s list for a week to gauge interest in the freelance community. When she saw she was onto something from the responses, she forged ahead. “It made me feel a little more comfortable,” she says.

To set their prices low enough for creative professionals to clear a profit on the work they do there, the partners rent it out for events at night.  Many clients like securing space from a nonprofit, says Oh. “Not only do they get great service, but they get a tax receipt,” says Oh.

In the meantime, the studio has filled up with creative professionals during the day. To help members achieve better profit margins, the studio has secured discounts for members from provides that creative freelancers use frequently, such as a camera rental company.

Holyrad’s founders have so far managed to grow the community because of volunteering and bartering by supporters. “So much of the reason we have gotten this far is people come to me and say they want to work for me,” says Oh. “I say, ‘I have absolutely no money.’ I keep saying, ‘No.’ The people that are here right now are the people that refused to take ‘No,’ from me,” she says. “We hit on something people needed, so people want to do it even if money isn’t the reason.”

December 20, 2018 at 11:02AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs