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Life Isn’t About Fitting In, It’s About Standing Out. Pioneer Saskia Nelson On Success and The Dating Industry

Through the lens of this top dating photographer on life, love, success and the dating industry.

Credit: Kate Tereshchenko

More and more of our digital dating world keeps coming up with new terms for bad dating behavior. Thought it was just happening to millennials? Think again. My Happiness Hypothesis study found that it is happening across the globe to both men and women for millennials and GenX.

It is creating the paradox effect in dating: it’s giving off the illusion of many choices while making it harder to find viable options.

Is technology driving dating, sex and emotion? Are dating patterns just an extension of how we behave on social networks? I had a chance to explore some of this phenomena with superstar Saskia Nelson, the talent behind the multi award-winning and internationally acclaimed Hey Saturday, the world’s first and coolest dating photography agency. Hey Saturday specializes in creating gorgeous, show-stopping dating profile photos that help single people stand out online and attract more dates.

Your career is so fascinating and inspiring. Tell us about your career trajectory?

Ah thank you. I worked in the field of corporate social responsibility for years but found that I was obsessed with finding out more about people, especially women, who had set up their own small businesses. This was back in 2012/2013 when starting a business was pretty unusual. I was well into my 40s by then and was starting to feel that life was passing me by. I was so ready to do something different and do something for myself. I definitely felt that life was too short not to put myself out there. I think of it as my midlife reinvention (rather than ‘midlife crisis’). I wanted to put more pleasure back into my day to day life (rather than just saving it for holidays or special occasions), so I looked to where my life experiences (8 years of online dating) intersected with my passions (portrait photography) and skillset (strategy, project management, brand, marketing, communications, people management etc) and suddenly I had the makings of a business idea – a dating photography agency. I did some research and realized no one else in the world was offering it, which puzzled me but also really pleased me, so I decided to just go for it. Hey Saturday started in London with just me shooting but gradually expanded to have about 15 photographers and is now in major UK cities as well as NYC and LA in the States.

How did you get started in the dating industry?

I was intimidated by the dating industry when I first launched the business. I was new on the scene and everyone seemed to know each plus they all exude a tonne of confidence. I wasn’t sure how I was going to be received especially as the service I was offering was brand new. But I did my research and started reaching out to people via social media initially. Most of them got what I was doing straightaway and wanted to meet up or connect in some way to discuss how we could collaborate.

This just confirmed my thoughts that I was offering the industry something that was sorely needed.

To have the industry experts validating that, was a great boost for me. I went from strength to strength after that because I knew for sure I had something special. I now partner with most of the major matchmakers in the UK and some in the US and enjoy regular collaborations with many of the best dating experts and dating sites/apps. They’re a lovely group of people and I consider many of them friends now.

What got you interested in the industry?

I was initially drawn to the dating industry because firstly I had a lot of personal experience of it as a customer and I love everything to do with dating. I also recognized that it was a huge growth area with a lot of potential. Finally, having found love online myself, I was passionate about helping others to do that too.

I genuinely believe anyone can find love online, they just need the right tools and the right mindset.

What amazing projects can we expect to see next?

I’m currently learning everything I can about self-love and how people can date with more emotional intelligence for a healthier and happier love life. For me, it’s the key thing to shift people’s online dating experiences from painful and hard to fun and successful.  I’m planning to launch a platform next year that brings my learning together. I’m passionate about helping people enjoy online dating. If you’re not having fun most of the time when you’re online dating, then something is definitely not working.

How do you create work-life balance?

Work-life balance is getting more and more important to me as I get older. For the first three years of setting up and running Hey Saturday, I have to admit that I didn’t have work-life balance at all. It was such an exciting time for me to be focusing solely on something I’d created and growing it, that I was completely happy. By the start of the fourth year, though, I was very tired and found my enthusiasm and motivation starting to wane and realized that it was because my life had totally been consumed by work. Not healthy at all.

I then chose to step back a little bit from the business and restructure my days and weeks for a healthier balance.

  • I start work later in the day now and use the morning for some me-time, which includes going to the gym, reading, catching up on podcasts and blogs, meeting friends for brunch, going to exhibitions etc.
  • Since the business launched, the boyfriend and I try and book lots of trips away – for example this year we’ve made it to Amsterdam, New Orleans, Marrakech, Los Angeles, Zurich, and Prague – to make sure that we enjoy our time together and keep things fresh between us, sharing lots of new, fun moments. Regular date nights is also key.

Can you share some tips on how to cultivate it in our own lives?

I haven’t totally nailed this, it’s about figuring out what’s important to me outside of work – hanging out with close friends, seeing family, shooting for pleasure, exploring my creativity, looking after myself, traveling, exploring ideas that inspire me, challenging myself etc – and building as many of these things as I can into each day, week or month. One of the questions I ask myself a lot is, “am I having fun right now?” followed by “how can I have more fun?”. I’m keen that whatever I’m doing, either in work or in life is bringing me some level of joy and/or satisfaction. I only figured that out by realizing that the people I admire the most are those who are working creatively for themselves but who also look like they’re really loving life.

What in your opinion is the future of dating?

I think the future of dating is exciting and probably a little bit scary for those of us who were born in the pre-Internet age. For the younger generations coming up, tech-innovations are going to have a massive impact on the way they date.  Digital dating experiences will include virtual and augmented reality dating, which will most likely be ‘full sensory’ at some point. I think virtual reality dates will probably kick off sooner than we think. As with anything, they’ll be viewed as weird at first but once the cost of the tech comes down, everyone will be doing it as it will save time and money. Just think, you won’t have to leave your house and go to an expensive bar to meet someone, who – after a few minutes – you’ve sussed is not right for you. You can meet them in the comfort of your own sitting room with a glass of wine or beer.

What advice would you offer to those interested in getting in the industry?

Look for the opportunities that will help people have a better online dating experience.

Anything that will enable them to be able to date cheaper, smarter, more effectively, especially anything using new tech will be very desirable. Also, services that help people move seamlessly from online dating to offline dating will be very much in demand.

What would you tell your younger self?

It’s OK that you’re different to the people around you and that you don’t really fit in. Life isn’t about fitting in, it’s about standing out and using the things that make you different to create something new that others haven’t considered.  

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