Things I’ve learned, the hard way.

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Capitol Hill | Seattle, Washington – 2018

While I’ve been on this personal journey it has transformed itself from a mission to seek out one thing each day to be grateful for, into my passion & career.

Over the last seven years, I went from trying to attend school for a degree in commercial photography to running and maintaining a bootstrap business while learning on-the-fly.

Working as an artist in one of the most expensive cities in America was no easy feat.

As someone that is mostly self-taught, I’ve had to learn a lot of truths the hard way. Along the way, some amazing people have provided invaluable advice and guidance.

Today, I’d like to speak about the lessons I’ve learned from overcoming challenges, that have become tried and true maxims for myself during this transformative process.

Staying true to yourself means you are going to lose a lot of people in your life. But they probably shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Capitol Hill | Seattle, Washington – 2015

Honor that little voice inside of you.

It’s the thing that got you here in the first place.

While it may sound silly, my whole life there was something inside of me that was screaming. I had spent so long ignoring the voice it was muted to a whisper.

Taking the time to look deep inside of myself and acknowledge the person inside speaking was the first truly life-changing part of my journey.

There will be so many times where you will doubt yourself. That little voice is so much quieter than the voice of trepidation.

But if you know what it sounds like and can cut through all of the chatter, listening is the first step in assuaging fear.

Doing so has allowed me to stay true to myself, and give truth to power with my platform.

It’s going to get dark for a minute.

In my experience the bad influences fall off, it’s lonely, dark, and scary for a while, and then out of nowhere people that are much better suited for your new path arrive.

Set out on your journey, it’s normal/okay to be freaked out when you feel like you are on your own. Remember to trust in yourself and carry on. If you do, you won’t be alone for long.

Some of the best people I have encountered in my entire life I was able to meet because I was following my path, no regrets here.

Sculpture Park | Seattle, Washington – 2015

People will lie, A LOT.

 Friends, potential clients, clients, gallery owners, etc. It’s mostly good-natured, and it is important to take it in stride.

A lot of well-meaning/well-intentioned people will tell you things that are simply just not true and/or will not keep their word.

Enough of these experiences can leave you feeling disappointed with people in general. Learning how to best cope with these types of situations will help you in the long run.

It’s all part of the game. You can’t always control the situation, but you can always control how you react to it.

Be present & stay curious. 

You can learn SOMETHING from EVERYONE you meet. It’s your job, so act like it.

If you are only receiving inspiration from the people in your field/craft, you’re doing it wrong.

Early on I realized that I’d learned more about photography by watching the chefs I captured than I had from most of the photographers I shot with.

If there is care and intention put into any craft or skill you can observe and utilize this information in meaningful ways for yourself.

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Beltown | Seattle, Washington – 2019

Where ever you go, there you are.

Ten years of sitting in a cubicle had me so fucked up.

Often I’d be on assignment or in the field and feel like I wasn’t working because I wasn’t chained to a desk.

It took me a while to realize that if I had my camera I was ready to work and where I was supposed to be.

As long as you have the tools of your trade & you are present and curious, you are ready to work.

Sketching & journaling are extremely helpful ways to foster growth. 

Even though I know journaling is a common trait among successful people, I avoided this practice for a long time because it conjured images of sitting in a hipster coffee shop writing in a Moleskin notebook. (Dumb reason, I know.)

Journaling can be done on a napkin or writing down the germ of an idea in the notes app on your phone.

The process of preserving a thought in a tangible way is its first step towards becoming reality.

Work Flow

corduroy | seattle, washington – 2014

When it’s your name on the business, everything is your responsibility. Workflow can become a DRAG.

Two truths that were immensely useful to me :

  • In any workflow, If a step cannot be improved it is redundant, and therefore can be eliminated.

Remembering this helped me constantly revise internal practices from writing client contracts to processing photos. Consistently saving me time and money in the process.

  • If you fall in love with every part of the job, it doesn’t have to feel like work.

I was able to spend 12-18 hours a day for 4 years working on my craft because I learned to love all of it.

Guess what? I still screamed and threw in the towel a couple of times. But it was over my frustration as a whole and not due to any particular issue with the process.

I cannot remember where I first heard this, but I took it to heart and it has served me well.

Time Management

If you’re not 10 minutes early to meet a client, you might as well be 15 minutes late.

People might remember a great photo you took of them, but they are much more likely to remember if you made them wait.

Being early, prepared, and enthusiastic helped me win over a lot of clients that may have been initially apprehensive.

I’ve also found that when I arrive early it provides me with an opportunity to follow up with another client or even journal for a few minutes since you have limited distractions while sitting in a parking lot alone.

Marketing.

 Online marketing is great, but there is something to be said for tangible advertising.

The nice thing about being an artist, when you are carrying your equipment you are a walking billboard. For the first two years, I made sure to have both my camera and business cards on me at all times.

Often, I would be out running a small errand like buying groceries with my camera dangling off of me, and someone would say “Are you a photographer? I need…” and then I would hand them a business card.

(Additional bonus, a lot of local independent businesses still have Community Boards/Job Boards where you can place business cards.)

Once I realized how successful this strategy was, I put up flyers all over Western Washington, they were not as successful but landed me some pretty big clients that I was happy to add to my resume.

Driving back and forth to these new clients I realized that my car was my billboard when I was on the road.

So, I also put magnets with my website and business name on my car. It looked super fucking dorky, but it worked and was incredibly cheap to do.

Summary

If you’re looking for the TL;DR version:

Stay true to yourself. Remember you can always control how you react to a situation. Stay curious. Keep your tools handy and ready.

Write your down ideas, so you can find the good ones. If you can’t improve it, you don’t need it. Fall in love with every step. Show up early and always have business cards on you.

I’d like to think that these items would be useful to anyone trying to turn a skill into a trade or a passion into a business as they have served me well.

Downtown Seattle | Seattle, Washington – 2017