How I Became Self-Employed at 19
I graduated from high school, wrapped up a semester of college in Midwest America & began freelancing full-time from there.
Moving out of the house to launch a business & handle your own expenses when you’re barely 19 is an experience that may not be for everyone — but I’m glad it was for me.
The concept of leaving a small town to do something non-traditional career-wise might be seen as a taboo to your peers, but if you have a plan, you can’t worry about the opinions of others. Easier said than done, I know.
Sometimes I’ll think back on how my mom’s friends were so worried about me & how my friends from high school were shocked that I was foregoing a formal education to “move out West.” I did my best at that age not to let it get to me & prove (mostly to myself) that I’d make it work.
I’d been incredibly invested in photography for all of high school, continually upgrading gear throughout the years & eventually making a fairly sustainable income via bookings in the Northeast Ohio area by the time I reached my senior year.
I knew that this was a career I wanted to pursue seriously & that heading to college for four years would simply put me behind where I already was.
For photography in particular, wading through 4 more years of education to learn skills that I already knew & coming out in debt to an institution that wasn’t going to enhance said photography skills in the way I was looking to didn’t seem necessary. College isn’t for everyone & I’ll leave it at that.
— This was a few years back when photography workshops, presets & resources of all kinds were scarce. That market basically blew up a year after I moved to Oregon — which wasn’t as helpful for me as it was for those entering the industry at that time, haha. If you’re looking to enter a creative field, the best resources are absolutely interactive workshops whether that be online or in-person. One-on-one coaching or mentoring with a favorite photographer are other excellent ways to gain education in the art + industry.
This brings us to the first week of January, 2016, when I stepped onto a plane in Cleveland, Ohio set to land in Portland, Oregon where I planned to build a business & a life doing what I loved.
I launched my photography business & began booking jobs throughout California, Washington & Oregon pretty quickly.
With the travel came a bit of down time in new cities — I’d capture moments at restaurants, coffee shops, at sunset in beautiful locations near the ocean or in the mountains & seperated my Instagram accounts into one for lifestyle imagery & one for photography. This worked out for a number of reasons, right in a time period of unbridled growth on Instagram where I initially found a resonating audience.
I was able to build a client base for portraits & weddings as well as brand imagery & lifestyle photos.
Three & a half years later, I’m able to continue doing both with more of a focus on lifestyle & brand imagery at the moment & work on new endeavors for the years to come.
Some key elements that helped me in initially growing my business were:
Collaboration with other creatives
Personal travels as well as travel bookings
An array of other practices that you can learn more about here.
I’ve created a handful of free downloadable guides & resources that share my best tips for getting started in the photo + social space in addition to several guides in the shop.
If you’re interested in diving in on these topics, I’d recommend downloading my free guide to read on.
My Travel eBook covers how I grew 2 Instagram accounts by 150,000 followers organically in just a year, a shot list of brainstormed photo ideas, how to plan for trips on a budget, favorite airport hacks, efficient items to pack, the importance of collaboration amongst other tips.
I’m always eager to find new ways to share tips on topics like these — would you be interested in a Patreon subscription sharing tips on a monthly basis as opposed to an ebook with all-encompassing info? Let me know by leaving a comment! xx