Discovering Life as a Freelance Artist & Stepping Back

Freelancing has been a part of my life since I first became interested in pursuing photography professionally at 16. I began by second-shooting a wedding with a quirky photographer named Joe, who would become a friend and teacher during various times over the next few years. I fell in love with the couple, a beautiful, natural red-head bride with a classic family that looked like they had all just stepped out of the 50’s and a groom who wore Ray Ban’s and a tux, before trends took over and everyone was doing the black rimmed sunglasses or aviators with their guys.

After that, I pursued a few more. Each time, I was paid a little better and became more comfortable with the idea of being paid to take someone’s picture. Joe was always supportive and complimented my natural comfort during each event, even though I only remember going to one wedding before requesting to second-shoot my first.

I had been working part-time at a local cookware company since age 15, where I interned for the Creative Director, a woman who became a close friend and the first person I go to for critiques to this day. I was teaching myself Quirk and Photoshop, step by tedious step, as she would assign me projects - her patience always amazed me as I slowly learned principles of building and refining small print ads and typesetting. After two years, I had seen quite a few graphic artists come and go; this was not an easy place to keep your job... for various reasons. I was working as her sole artist and department administrator, a job I will always think of and love.

The Creative Department: two girls who loved working together and got away with more than we could admit, because, Creatives need music and space and time to let their minds wander over inspiration. Creatives can also be fierce and emotional about their art so we were given an office space with a closing door; it was for the best. We busted our butts though, constantly juggling more than two people could handle. I was blessed with serious flexibility in work hours, partly because Jamie was like a mom when it came to protecting my aspirations and college classes, but she also knew I would be the first to come in after hours to finish projects.

Above: Two images from one of my very first commercial shoots for Jamie's new bakeware line:

This was all laying a foundation for my love of work, especially in design and photography, all jumbled together into a high school girl’s head. After leaving the company at 18, I began picking up a few freelance design clients here and there. Some I loved working with, like Emeril’s Tchoup Chop in Orlando, and some I will just remember for the lessons learned.

I was working more and more in photography, but building a brand and really focusing on my own photography business has always brought an element of intimidation in my mind.  Over time and after finding the best partner in crime a girl could ask for, my friend Kristen and I took the dive into our photography business and had a blast for 2 years working together as Kate + Kris.

At our first Bridal show, Kris & I handmade the booth, top to bottom, with some help from our friends.

These next two images are from one of our last & favorite weddings together before we headed to China...

I have learned so many lessons over the past 7 years in design and photography, but I am the first to admit that I am still just figuring it out. Self-motivation comes pretty easy for me to complete assignments and meet deadlines, but I still am faced with fears when it comes to running my own business and really making it work.

These days, I work with a few really wonderful non-profits and businesses that bring me consistent work and I freelance commercial product photography and occasional cookbook & food photography for Jamie, who I mentioned above. When we return to the US this winter, I am going to take a risk and take a year to put myself through school - not just college - but self-initiated “school” to pursue learning the ins and outs of running a business and exploring new genres in photography with the hopes of discovering and refining creative pursuits.

For artists, hobbyists, and business owners alike, what steps will you take in the next year to better your craft? Taking a step back has always seemed like a non-option to me. But now, it seems like the only option to truly find where my heart and business will lead.

 My sometimes desk here in China.