Interview with Jielt Gregoire

Jielt Gregoire is a freelance interior and product designer who is known for his deliberate choice of materials and well-considered production techniques. In his minimalist designs you see a strongly developed concept with a minimum of parts. He makes use of royalties to run his design agency STUF. He does this together with a few business partners.            

When did you take your first step as a freelancer?       
In the last year of my studies I was allowed to set up my own design agency instead of doing an internship. This sparked my desire to work as a freelancer. My first royalty contract was soon signed, in the first year after my studies. This went surprisingly smoothly. I now combine working as a salaried designer with teaching and freelance assignments on the side. I like variation in my job and I like to do other things besides designing. In practice it is mostly computer work, but I like to use my hands to work as well.  

Why did you choose to work with a royalty fee?
That way I could easily start as a freelancer, I consciously chose not to be an entrepreneur. I work with business partners who can offer STUF the official corporate structure and I get a commission on commercial sale.

How do you experience freelancing in the cultural sector?        
For me it is a challenge because my own professional network is not that big yet. For example, I do not have a permanent customer base or regular partners, which means I have to reach out to companies over and over again. For each concept I have to look for the right partners to put my designs into production. For an introvert like me that is quite a big step to take.

Is that also one of the reasons why you opted for a royalty fee?
Yes, of course! I am not someone who wants to sell every day and as an entrepreneur you really need to invest a lot of time in the process. Above all, I want to design and I used to give little thought to the importance of the social aspect. That is why I burned some bridges with clients in the past.

Photo by Isabel Rottiers

Burned bridges?             
Yes, I did not have enough experience in communicating with clients. You have to cherish your relationships and do everything you can to maintain contact. I do blame myself for being so ignorant back then. Because this is an important aspect of being a freelancer, I am happy to find support with Flanders DC and Ministry Of Makers. These are organisations that provide visibility for creative people and they organise national and international fairs. They also give tips on how to contact companies and they have an online magazine in which your work can be published.       

And besides the commercial aspect, what challenges do you still experience as a freelancer?
My dyslexia also creates a barrier, but I am lucky that my partner helps me with my mails. She also has a master in visual arts and is therefore a very good sounding board for new ideas.

What distinguishes you from other designers?
My greatest assets are my versatility and the level of quality I provide. Because of my perfectionism I really pay attention to all the details. This versatility means that I can think of concepts, design them and take care of the complete technical elaboration as well as the production. I am not that good at sketching, but considering the whole process takes place on the computer – and I am good at creating 3D surface models – this has no effect on the final result. I like the full spectrum of the designing process.        

What is your motivation as a freelancer?
The freedom of designing. Turning my ideas into reality, that really gives me satisfaction! Nothing beats the feeling you get when you see a creation in someone’s living room that you designed all by yourself. (laughs)

What business advice would you give to other freelancers?     
Make sure you check out if you can make use of royalties and know that at Flanders DC people are ready to answer all of your questions. If you do not have time for this, there are organisations like Creative Shelter that take over the administration for you. Of course this is not for free. My advice is to just do your thing and persevere, even when it gets difficult. Do not stop until you achieve something you can be proud of.

Want to see more from Jielt Gregoire?

Want to read the Dutch version of the interview? Download our magazine here.