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99. How to travel the world as a freelance food stylist with Julianna Vezza

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This week I speak with Julianna Vezza who is a creative freelance food stylist and founder of Bon Vivants Creative. An agency that provides food styling, recipe creation, photography and videography for brands. 

Julianna grew up with creative parents and knew from a young age that she wanted to start a business that allowed her to express her love for food and travel.

So, she followed her passions and combined the two to create an agency that allows her to work with brands and products that she truly believes in.

Today she is able to travel the world creating content for hotels, restaurants, and other lifestyle brands.

Listen on to find out how to travel the world and create branded content.

Listen Below:

Show Notes:
Debbie: Hi Juliana. Julianna:    How are you Debbie? Debbie: You were kind enough to meet me here today. You have a really packed schedule. You travel a lot. So it was good that we were able to see each other. Before I went away and I’m sure you’re going to be going away soon too. You and I met a few years ago through Instagram and this is actually the first time that we’re meeting each other in person, which is hilarious. Julianna:    So crazy. I love how this Instagram community brings people together. It’s like one of my favorite parts about it. RELATED EPISODES:  Debbie:            Can you tell us a little bit more about you and why you lead an offbeat life? Julianna:          My name is Juliana. I am a food stylist and content creator. I’m based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I travel and work everywhere. I’m an entrepreneur, I work for myself and I’ve just been building a brand for about two years now, which has been super exciting. I just love how my business can take me all around the world and can bring me to such incredible places and I can be doing what I love to do, which is food styling and creating photos and videos for a variety of different brands and hotels. freelance food stylist Debbie:            You are doing something really unique because we don’t meet a lot of people who are  freelance food stylist. How did you get into this type of industry? What was the first thing that you did in order to actually get into this? Julianna:          Believe it or not, my mom actually is a professional food stylist. She’s been in the industry for years now and she’s just the most incredible food stylists I know. She’s the one who introduced me to what food styling is and got me into it. She said I think you’d be really good at this. You love to cook and you really have an eye. I was just really inspired by that and I’ve been cooking my whole life. Cooking has been a part of who I am and what I do. I went to school for new media and graphic design and I didn’t know what to do with it. So when I thought about combining it with food, I was like, wow, this is kind of perfect. So like it’s meant to be, to combine two things I really love, which is creating photographing and taking videos and morphing that with food and food styling. That’s kind of the background and how I got into it. I’m super blessed that I did.

Creating a career from food and travel. 

Debbie:            From the time you and I spoke to now, there have been so many different changes in your life specifically with what you were doing. So first you were just doing food styling and now you incorporated travel into it. How did you make that transition? Julianna:          I think it was honestly a little difficult for me because I know I love food and I’ve always been cooking as I said, but I was feeling a little bit uninspired by just the food on my feet. I knew something was missing and I wasn’t feeling fulfilled. I felt like something was lacking. I actually went to a food styling and photography workshop in San Francisco and it was like a three-day course with one of my really good friends now Bella, she’s incredible. She was the one who inspired me to put more of what I wanted on my feed which was travel and incorporate the two. I definitely remember there was a point where I made that transition and it was actually in the summer. I think it was about two years now when I was about to take on my first branded partnership in Hawaii with two resorts there. I was kind of changing my feed then and there. I’m really happy that I went into the food and travel direction because that’s what I really wanted my account to be and that’s what I was inspired by the most. I definitely took that leap. I’m really happy that I did because it was a successful outcome.

Pitching to different lifestyle brands. 

Debbie:     For somebody who is looking at your feed and who’s looking at what you’re doing as a food stylist and also as a traveler, how are you able to actually pitch to these companies? Especially if you’re just starting out and you don’t know what’s happening yet? Julianna:  When I first started pitching brands, I remember sitting on my bed and just reaching out to about 150 hotels all around the world. No shame in the game at all. I thought I’m just going to reach out, I’m probably going to get denied. And I did by a lot of hotels and that was kind of a bummer. But then I got a couple of responses who said we really love your work. And I think to like hear those words of affirmation, knowing that someone really thinks your work is worthy, I think that kind of stands for itself. And I got to two of my first partnerships ever in Hawaii. Evan and I did. And we were thrilled. We were blown away, but it was just kind of putting ourselves out there and letting your work be seen and not caring about what the outcome’s going to be, I think is the biggest first step. Just creating content, making content and then putting it out there and hoping for the best ultimately. Debbie: And we’re also going to talk about creating the right type of content on your extended interview so you can get those types of companies to work for you. So that’s gonna be really exciting! You’ve been doing this for two years and you transitioned into it. How hard was it to actually get a client and to be successful in this industry? Julianna:     It’s extremely hard to get clients. I feel like I had a little bit of an advantage because of my mom. I think some of my first clients were working with my mom directly. She got me into the field and get experience with clients and got my name out there that helped initially. But I think it is hard to get clients that will stick around and who will be really secure clients. I think that’s the hardest part in this industry. Clients will come and go. It’s just finding who’s going to be a loyal and dependable client for your business. Someone you’re going to want to work for you every month. I have a couple of clients that give me a few videos to do every month that’s locked in. So,I think it is hard initially, but really building that relationship and show that you are worth it and that your work is worth it. Debbie:  Pitching to travel companies like hotels, is it completely different from pitching to other companies? Especially for food and styling? Julianna:       I think it’s similar but different. I mean on the hotel pitch it’s more of “Hey, I can offer food styling but I can also offer, you food videos, food recipe videos, spa videos, lifestyle videos, travel videos, and opens up a whole new door. So it is slightly a different pitch in the wording and what you’re giving. And then the food styling is very specific. For example, clients will want to know if you can style ice cream, hamburgers, chicken, or whatever it is that they need. I think it’s more of a specific thing. Whereas with hotels, there’s a wide variety of services. freelance food stylist Debbie:           Having been in this industry for a few years now, what has been the biggest setback that you’ve encountered and how did you get around it? Julianna:      I think the biggest setback is starting. It’s super scary and I think that’s the side of this whole thing that people don’t talk about is being an entrepreneur and having to pay for your taxes and deal with that whole side of the business and you seeing where your money’s going and, and looking at it at a different perspective versus the beautiful Instagram feed. There’s definitely another side to the whole thing that I wish people looked at and pay attention to more because it does look like a dream situation on the Instagram. But there’s a lot of work and a lot of time put in. I just, I owe a lot to my parents for just being my rocks and for being so supportive and helpful as entrepreneurs themselves. They’ve been crushing it. So to have their help and support has been huge throughout all of this transition. Debbie:           That’s really great that you are part of a family who are really creative. Your mom is a food stylist and your dad is a pianist. Julianna:   It’s pretty crazy. I feel like I was almost meant to be in my own business and do this my whole life. I owe a lot to them and they showed me everything they know. So it’s very cool to come from an entrepreneurial background definitely.

Staying on top of the Instagram Game.

Debbie:    You talked a little bit about Instagram. How have you been able to keep that going? Especially now? There’s a lot of people that are burned out from it and I know you use it a lot for your business and also when you’re traveling. How have you been able to continuously grow and use Instagram for your business? Julianna:      It’s a struggle, honestly. It’s work. I think that a lot of time and thought goes into it and I do find it, especially time-consuming when I’m not on these traveling trips from going to these crazy beautiful destinations. When I’m in New York City and I have to make something of it. I think that’s when it’s the hardest. I feel like there’s a lot of pressure to always be creating and always be curating. But lately I’ve stepped back and started to evaluate, what do I want to put out there? What do I want to show? And try to make something that I am proud of. Some of it is branded work on my Instagram. Some of it is just me curating contents. Definitely a mix. But either way, there’s work involved. But, I love it. Debbie:           I think another misconception that people don’t understand is that you just come out with these beautiful photos and then that’s it. It takes a lot of work to actually do this. Julianna:     It can be overwhelming. But I still wouldn’t trade it. I still love creating. I feel like if I’m not creating something’s off, you know?

Creating income as a content creator.

Debbie:            How have you been able to create income when you first started and how do you continue to create income today? Julianna:          When I first started a lot of my income was from my mom and from assisting her as a food stylist. I would just go on all sorts of jobs with her. We would even do some traveling for work as well. But that’s where I first started. That’s how I first made my income. And then it slowly started that I acquired my own clients and had my own work every month or two months and it just built up from there. So, I started off working with her, which was incredible. I got the best experience and just slowly started having my own clients and building my own brand. Debbie:     What has been the most surprising thing that you have found when you started your business? freelance food stylist Julianna:          The most surprising thing may be for me is learning how to stand my ground and realizing that if you think that you’re worth more then you really are. It goes a long way. I think standing up for yourself and what you’re worth and what you can offer. I think that surprised me the most because sometimes you’re insecure. I think it’s something that you’ll learn along the way. I was not confident at day one. I remember just being insecure. There are so many other people out there, but then you have to say hey, I’m really good at what I do. And when you master that skill, I think it shows and it goes a long way. Which is pretty interesting because you would think that a lot of people in this industry would have a lot of confidence because of all the photos that you see. Julianna:          Right? Yeah. It’s misleading. Instagram’s misleading. You never know how people really feel. Debbie:            What has been the worst advice that you have ever received? Julianna:          Maybe someone telling me, you can’t do this or you’re not good enough. I remember people will look at you and say, what are you doing? If you’re doing anything different or out of the norm, people are going to look at you and wont understand. The more you grow, the more you’re going to get a lot of different feedback. Debbie:            And it may be because they don’t understand what you’re doing because not many people do this type of work. Juliana, if you look into the future, about 50 years from now, what legacy would you like to leave and what do you want to be remembered for? Julianna:    I want to be known as just someone who just inspired people to be creative and do what they love. I want people to be inspired by my work, but I also want to inspire people and help people and share my expertise. Debbie:            What has been the biggest takeaway for you since you started this whole thing? Julianna:          The biggest takeaway for me is realizing that I can do what I love. I just never thought that it would be a possibility to create a life for myself where I can cook delicious food and travel the world and do it with my boyfriend Evan, and do it with my family and friends. And be able to continuously wake up in the morning and just be so excited to do what I love as my job. freelance food stylist Debbie:            And I think that’s the thing that really gets all of us, even the people who are struggling. They still continue to do it, because you have freedom in your life to do whatever it is that you want to do. And even if you’re struggling, it’s still worth it because of what you can do with your life. Julianna:   I agree. I think it’s worth the initial struggle. I think that’s the biggest thing I tell people. In the beginning, it’s not easy. You don’t have a lot of money. I still don’t have a lot. Let’s be honest. There’s so much to learn, I have so much more to grow. It’s a struggle in the beginning, but it’s seriously worth it to stick around. Debbie:            And I think that’s the difference between the people that actually succeed and the people who fizzle out is just being persistent because you are not going to know what’s going to happen to you. Julianna:          I agree. It’s aggressive. It’s competitive for sure. But sticking it out is so worth it.

How to stay motivated as an entrepreneur.

Debbie:            What has helped you continue to be motivated to keep doing this? Aside from the freedom? Julianna:        What motivates me in the morning is traveling so much. I’ll wake up actually think about where I’m going next, what I’m going to be seeing. That there’s something so incredible around the corner, no matter what. That’s what motivates me. That’s what gets me going. Debbie:            Some people like myself, I nerd out on interviewing inspiring people like you and hiking. What about you Julianna what do you nerd out on? What do I nerd out on? I love to snowboarding and I feel that’s one of my favorite things to do in the winter that I don’t get to do. I love to play tennis and hike too. I’m super outdoorsy. I went to school in Maine, so for me, the outdoors is everything. I’d be hiking every weekend and exploring. So yeah, being outdoors, sports, all that good stuff. Debbie:            What has been the most memorable moment in your trip that has ever happened to you? Julianna:         My most memorable moment was in, in Bora Bora and French Polynesia with Evan. There’s something about that trip that just made us take a step back and be like, what is happening? What are we doing? How is this our job? Just a moment of like pure bliss and appreciation. Just a wow moment I think just to step back and be like, wait, where are we? Debbie:            It’s really interesting when you find yourself at a point in your life that everything that you’re working for, you’re actually starting to achieve and you have that pinch yourself moment that it’s actually happening and you can’t believe that you’re there. And it’s actually all coming true, or at least it’s starting to come true. How good is that feeling? Julianna:    It’s crazy. It’s just the most surreal feeling in the world. I’m creating this life that I’ve always dreamed of. It’s incredible. It really is, it’s a pinch-me moment for real. Debbie:           Even a few months ago or even a year ago or a few years ago that you were just thinking about this and then all of a sudden it’s right in front of you and it’s happening. Julianna: I remember Google Bora Bora, French and thinking it will be an incredible honeymoon destination. But I didn’t think we will go there. When your dreams become reality, it’s like wow! Debbie:            If our listeners want to know more about you, where can they find you? Julianna: They can find me at my Instagram, which is at Julianna Vezza, or which is our creative agency. We just launched our LLC, so we are officially a creative agency so you can find all of our work there including our branded partnerships and a little more about us and our work. And my recipes are on there as well. Debbie:  Thank you Julianna.

Listen to Julianna’s extended interview where she shares how to stand out as a content creator on social media.

Listen Below:

What you’ll find:

How can you stand out as a content creator on social media?

  • Find and create a unique niche for your brand.

How do you create beautiful content that will be noticed by brands?

  • Create a style for your work- using presets for your images.

Why is styling so important to create unique content?

  • Details can make or break your work.
  • Lighting is crucial to your images.
  • Establish a setting and work on a composition.

How do you start pitching to brands?

  • Make sure you are familiar with the brands before you pitch.
  • Show sample work, and don’t be afraid to reach out.




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