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  • Writer's pictureCath @MyMarketingToolbox

Where I have been... Last developments of being an entrepreneur in Turkey during Covid times...

When I look at the date of my last post here, I suddenly understand how fast time flies and how long I have been “under the water”, trying to survive and adjust. In my last post, I wrote about my experience of setting up a legal entity as a foreigner in Turkey.

It was two years ago, already…

At that time, I found the process very stressful and energy consuming. Little did I know that 2020 would be the year we know it has been…

Photo by Sarah Cervantes on Unsplash

A hopeful start...

As everybody, I was full of hope for 2020. I had projects, I issued invoices, I paid taxes, I employed people, even if as freelancers. I co-launched two projects:

  • Catana Istanbul, a clothes & accessories swap initiative. We started to organise events to raise awareness around sustainable fashion and that pre loved clothes, second hand clothes could be as beautiful as new ones.

  • Drink & Draw Istanbul, a monthly event gathering people interested in arts and trying new things around a glass of wine. We wanted to “democratise” drawing and painting and break the stereotype according to which if you don’t have talent, you can’t draw. it was also an opportunity to meet new people who would share the same interests.

In a word, I was starting to create an impact where I wanted it to be.

A dystopian reality...

And in March 2020, we went in full lockdown mode. In a week, everything got cancelled: projects, events, classes… Fortunately, the latter took on online and this is what helped me to survive financially. Let’s be honest on that.

During the March lockdown, with the more free time I was having, I concentrated on drawing, reading, developing some personal projects I thought I will have the time to launch by the end of 2020. I was also planning to rethink My Marketing Toolbox, repositioning it to make it closer to what I wanted it to be, to what I wanted to do. I was pretty confident something good out of it would come out, that I would refocus and start again, as a phoenix rises from ashes…

Finally, June was there with a breath of hope. It was summer, sunny, warm. The lockdown was lifted. Cafes and restaurants were reopening, as well as parcs. We all rushed to the few green areas in Istanbul to reconnect with Mother Nature.

With online classes, I had some financial visibility and I still think that, having different directions in my professional activity, enabled me to handle the crisis better.

When you think it can't be worst...

However, with the summer days and the progressive opening of administration offices, my 2019 administration issues came back to me. My Turkish residency permit expired in March, and my renewal application wasn’t reviewed before July 2020. Then, followed months of stress, accentuated by diplomatic tensions, pandemic situation and my renewal being refused.

I don’t count the endless sleepless nights I had, trying to figure out how I could deal with that.

I had a business here, I was paying taxes, I was having my life but I couldn’t legally stay just based on having a legal entity. I thought last year, I found a way to be legal. But, it wasn’t the case.

The cold reality is that, when you open a legal entity in Turkey as a foreigner, even if it’s an individual entity, you still need to have a work permit. Meaning, to hire 5 Turkish citizens.

There is really no freelancer status in Turkey and, when you want to work freelance, there is no way to do it legally. And I think that it is a pity, that Turkey is losing a lot of opportunities by not creating a freelancer status for foreigners and allowing them to work here legally without necessitating a work permit and hiring 5 people. But this is another debate…

The only solution that was given to me was to exit the territory, to come back and to apply for a new residency permit. Something that I would have done without hesitation if there wouldn’t have been a pandemic going on around the world and the threat that borders could close again at any moment…

It took me some months to find a lawyer who wasn’t just waiting to earn easy money doing nothing and just waiting for me to exit and come back. The lawyer I finally found made it possible to apply for a new residency permit without exiting the country. I mean, it’s Covid time, it’s dangerous to travel. Even if some people don’t think so. I didn’t want to be a potential threat to my family by going back with the risk to catch the virus somewhere between airports...

At the date I write this post, I still don’t have any answer regarding my new application. We are in full second wave, everything is slow. We have curfews and weekend lockdowns. Restaurants and bars are closed. Administration is working with a restricted schedule.

The consequence of all these is that I took the decision to close my company in Turkey. I wasn’t seeing the point to pay taxes if I couldn’t stay legally based on that. On December 30 2020, I went to the tax office to sign all the papers and to tear all the invoices I had left.

Everything is for the best... Hopefully...

A new blank page is now starting.

Paradoxically, the last month of 2020, though having seen the end of my entrepreneurial journey in Turkey, gave me also so many ideas. I am currently working on different projects, one I am pretty excited about! Stay tuned! I will announce it soon!

If there are some lessons to learn from 2020, mine would be the followings:

  • don’t take anything for granted,

  • accept to lose control on things and events you can’t control,

  • keep always a door open for new ideas and opportunities,

  • take care of you and your mental health. Even if, at the beginning, I was rather happy having to stay at home, being more the introvert type. But, I miss the social contact, the physical touch you can have. And no online Zoom meeting you can do with your friends will be able to change the chemistry that happens when you see them in real.

  • accept to be weak.

I don’t know what’s in store for us in 2021. I didn’t take any resolutions, didn’t do too crazy plans, tried to stay grounded for my expectations.

I just want to live day by bay, trying not to project myself too much in this future that seems more and more unpredictable…

Take care of yourself and see you soon!

Cath @MyMarketingToolbox

Photo credits: Photo by Sarah Cervantes on Unsplash

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