Vincent Roazzi Jr. is living the dream of a modern nomad as a photographer that specializes in experiential event marketing and lifestyle travel photography. Over a relatively short period of time, he has built a budding career that allows him to balance regular work with commercial clients on either end of the United States, with assignments that whisk him away to far flung locations like Bhutan, Cuba and Belize.
For creatives that want to see the world and eliminate the responsibilities and challenges of being tied down to a single location, work for travel sounds like a distant dream. What freelance creatives can learn from Roazzi is that the first step is to move out of your comfort zone and sacrifice comforts to reach the end goal. Once you’ve established a set of contacts and built a strong portfolio, transitioning into the nomadic lifestyle of your dreams will be that much more attainable.
Artrepreneur spoke with Roazzi about his quickly developing career trajectory and how he has been able to find the clients that fuel his preferred nomadic lifestyle.
In Conversation with Vincent Roazzi Jr.
KV: How did you get started out as a photographer?
Vincent Roazzi Jr.: I was in between Miami and New York working for a tech company and the Miami chapter of Sofar Sounds, a project I founded with a friend. For Sofar Sounds, I would do event photography. I’d see the concerts for free and work the show as a photographer, but it was all for free. I offered to do the event photography and then they just called me all the time to shoot. Then I moved to Bhutan because my friend had launched a travel company there. It was a free adventure, my friends just paid the expenses. So I helped out with all the content creation, doing travel photography, and hiring photographers for the additional work. I decided then and there that I wanted to be an experiential marketing photographer. It was so outside of my comfort zone. And I decided, okay, this is what I’m going to do. This is it. I had a taste of getting published and I had some more confidence with my work. I was determined to make it work.
KV: Did you study photography?
Vincent Roazzi Jr.: No, it was completely self-taught. I’d say that I learned about 75% online, just watching online tutorials. The rest was from leaning on other photographers. Working for a private members-only club and Sofar Sounds were also big learning experiences. But, I needed free instruction and learned most everything just looking it up online and teaching myself.
KV: How did you transition back in the U.S.?
Vincent Roazzi Jr.: I was determined to make it work. I crashed on couches. I met other people that were living thrifty lifestyles and learned from them. Then, I got an event photography contract with a private members-only club, which was big for me. They really helped me out. They really wanted to help me grow as an experiential marketing photographer because they represent artists. I was freelancing for them, but they hired me very frequently. It was where I really grew to understand what clients want and are looking for in an experiential marketing photographer.
KV: How did you brand yourself as an experiential marketing photographer?
Vincent Roazzi Jr.: I was the resident photographer for a private members-only club. I shot a lot for them. They do a very high-end version of experiential marketing because they’ll do events but they’ll always be sponsored by BMW or Bacardi. It’s a combination of experience, lifestyle photography and marketing photography because you have to get branding in every single shot. Through that, I discovered that there was a market and branded myself as an experiential marketing photographer.
KV: How were you able to leverage that experience?
Vincent Roazzi Jr.: When I started working with some other agencies from those lead regeneration sites. They were hiring me over and over for the same type of work. And then I decided not to limit myself to New York. I went back to the Amazon for three months and shot there. Again, that was way out of my comfort zone. I came back to New York and realized I didn’t have to limit myself to this market. I was working with companies that run projects in Miami and L.A., so I started testing out whether I could do work there.
KV: How were you landing those clients?
Vincent Roazzi Jr.: I reached out to clients I had in New York. I figured out where they were hosting other events. If I saw they were in Miami, I’d tell them I was planning to be there during that date – even if I wasn’t, I was just feeling it out to see if I could get booked. The responses were positive. At first, I wasn’t really making money off it. I was just covering the expenses of being there. But for me, it was more about realizing that I had enough leverage with clients to not be permanent anywhere. I was figuring out if I had to be in one place or if I could move around. Soon I was booking in Miami, L.A. and Austin and moving around on a loop.
KV: How do you work out the operations of your business, like contracts and accounting?
Vincent Roazzi Jr.: More recently, I’ve started an LLC just to be able to legitimize my business and offer myself protection and the ability to make a certain amount of income. Contracts really vary. For travel companies sending me on location, they are investing a lot of money and usually want exclusivity, which I think is completely fair, so we map out usage rights in a contract. Because of the type of work, social media and stuff like that, I’m not really concerned about selling the rights to the photo and it being used as part of a big brand campaign or being sold in a gallery for thousands of dollars where I’m cut out. Pricing is all over the place. It’s difficult to pinpoint my price point. I’ll talk with each company about their budget and work it out. Being a freelancer without agency costs usually works in my favor though.
KV: How so?
Vincent Roazzi Jr.: There are things I can offer that an agency can’t and vice versa. I can cut out the middleman which helps their costs. But an agency can work any date you give them because they have a team of photographers. An agency can deliver no matter what, whereas I might already be booked or not be in town. Recently, I’ve started to hire other people to take my place. Turnaround is also a big thing if you’re an experiential marketing photographer. I always guarantee turnaround same day. A year ago, it might take me an entire day of editing, now I can get it done in three hours.
KV: How do budget out travel costs?
Vincent Roazzi Jr.: When I’m working events around the country, I take care of my own travel expenses and just swallow the cost of a flight and build it into my billing. When the clients are big enough, it’s possible to do that. I’ll travel smartly, too. If I need to fly from New York to L.A., I’ll stop in Austin first where I have a client that always books me. With the travel photography, I’ve worked it out so that those expenses are being paid for.
KV: How is the work you do within travel photography different from event photography?
Vincent Roazzi Jr.: When you are shooting for a travel company, you are shooting for tourists. So the actual photography is different. It’s very much like lifestyle photography. Customers need to be able to envision themselves as the subject of the photo. I’ll do half shoots where we will use guests of the travel company as models, make it feel more lifestyle, and then the other half doing more of a National Geographic style photography. It’s very demanding, there is a start and end time and you have to produce ‘x’ amount of content within that window of time. And since the travel companies are bringing me along on a vacation, there is this pressure to deliver for the client and create that energy. You are shooting 24/7 from the moment you wake up until you go to sleep.
KV: Where do your future in photography?
Vincent Roazzi Jr.: I think in five years, I’ll have my style and everything perfected, but right now I’m having fun developing my style. I’m just discovering what I’m good at, what I like, and what’s unique to me. So I have to develop on that and then once I do, I think I might want to sell my work in galleries.