Ask an Artist: Interview with Photographer Kate Lemmon

Woot woot! This is our first interview in a series I'm calling "Ask an Artist". I got to meet Kate in person (we both live in Boston) and she's such a talented, delightful person. So excited for you guys to meet her and hear some real world advice!


RWC: What’s your creative title? And how long have you been in this role?

KL: Owner/Photographer at Kate Lemmon Photography. I officially opened business in 2008 while in high school, but I’ve been full time since 2014.

RWCWhat’s your art education background?

KL: I studied 6 years of conservatory (to be a classical flutist) and then went right into doing photography full time. I'm a mostly self-taught photographer though. I went to a communications magnet high school and my senior year I took a mentorship with a photographer. I actually had to reach out 3 times before she answered but she agreed to meet with me on a weekly basis. And she showed me how to set things up legally, and how to organize and really got me thinking about marketing and getting clients. It was such a huge gift to have her insight.

RWC: What makes you excited about your work?

KL: I love helping people see what’s beautiful in their lives. As a portrait photographer my goal is to bring out the best side of people in every session. For engagement sessions having people see what their love actually looks like is really special.  That's why I first got into photography- the idea of creating family history. I love that my work has meaning in people’s lives, and will for generations to come.

RWC: How did you decide what you wanted to do?

KL: When there’s so many people telling you what path they think you should be on it can be really hard to figure out what YOU want. A lot of people wanted me to be a classical musician and it took a lot of courage to say no, that’s not actually what I want. But I’m so grateful that I did!

RWC: What's the best part of working in a creative field? 

KL: My favorite part of this job is that I get to set my own lifestyle. I can set my agenda on a day-to-day basis and have days that vary. If I’m really excited about a project I can just focus on that. Some people think paying self-employment tax is outrageous, but I look at it like I pay to have the lifestyle that I want and it’s the best.

RWC: How do you keep your creative juices flowing? 

KL: This past year I did 140 shoots, so I’m constantly behind my camera, and I can see that I improve with each shoot. I make little tweaks and learn along the way. It’s great to do a year in review, and I can see all the work I’ve done and people I’ve met, which makes me happy. Sometimes we forget that we did really awesome stuff because we’re so busy!  

RWC: How much did you charge for your first client?

KL: Great question! In high school I started doing class photos for my friends and I charged $50/shoot.

RWC: What are your thoughts on doing work for free?

KL: Something that I learned from my mentor was to never charge $0. So because of that from the start people respected what I was doing. A couple times of year I donate time for a session and it’s given through school auctions. I’ve found that people who are actual friends want to pay me, and support what I’m doing. And people who kept asking for discounts are not real friends, and don’t respect my business.

The key is if you’re going to do something for free make sure that it’s for someone who you’d want to work for in the future and that it makes sense for your own marketing purposes.

RWC: What are the challenges of owning an art business?

KL: The biggest challenge for me is setting boundaries. Going home and trying to turn off work was tough, so I now actually leave my computer at the office so I can go home and have family time. When you’re an entrepreneur your to-do list is never ending so you have to find a balance that works for you.

RWC: Any advice for students?

KL: Get your financial act together as soon as possible! Even the most enjoyable art won’t be enjoyable at all if you’re struggling to make a living. If you can’t pay your bills then you won’t have time to make your art in the first place. The more quickly you can eliminate the stress financially, the more you’re going to enjoy creating and working. Having a financial buffer in place was the best thing I did my first year full time, so that if anything came up or I got sick I wouldn’t be stressed.

RWC: What resources have been beneficial for you?

The book I Will Teach You to Be Rich- by Ramit Sethi. I love that book so much I bought copies for my friends! After reading it I put together my whole financial plan. Also YouNeedaBudget.com - is a software and methodology to personal finance and budgeting. You can sign up and they have a ton of educational resources, and I use it on a weekly basis.

Finding a community of people that do what you do is also so important. Online communities are great, because even if you can’t meet in person you can log-in whenever and get support. I talk to photographers in online forums on a daily basis, and we support and help each other.  The key thing is you’re not alone in doing what you’re doing! 

RWC: What about equipment? What's a good place to start for photographers?

KL: Don’t spend too much money on equipment before you understand composition and lighting. I’m grateful I didn’t have top of the line equipment when I started because shooting with a mid-level camera forced me to find and work with the light more because my camera would just not shoot well in low light! 

RWC: How do you set goals?

KL: It’s really interesting what you realize about your business when you take 20 mins to seriously think about it! This year I wrote down all my small and large goals and next week I’m going to put my goals into my calendar so that by the end of the year everything is done. I put everything down and schedule it out day by day, week by week and sometimes minute by minute for the crazy days!

RWC: How do you define & acknowledge your success?

KL: Success for me is making my clients happy because nothing makes me more fulfilled than hearing I’ve made a difference for them. Success is knowing I get to do what I love on a daily basis. I’m a huge fan of setting goals and checking them off so if all my boxes are checked off at the end of the day I’m happy!

RWC: What do you wish you’d learned sooner about living a creative & happy life?

KL: A friend of mine shared an article that totally shaped the way I view being a creative person. I used to feel a lot of pressure to be happy all the time, and it’s stupid because everyone has their ups and downs and you know that, but you feel like you should always be striving to be happy. But the article talked about how creative people have higher ups and lower downs than most people which is normal and that’s why you’re creative- you’re able to experience all facets of life and feel in a wider range of emotions. Seeing that I fit all those qualities they talked about took the pressure off for trying to feel happy all the time, and makes it easier to deal with when I do have a down day.

RWC: Any other words of advice for creative pros?

KL: There’s never going to be a day when everything is done, so just knowing and being comfortable with the idea that as creatives we’re constantly going to be striving to do better and move forward, is helpful.  


Thank you so much, Kate!!

To see her beautiful work click here.

Peace, love & pixels,

Sonya

The #Hustle is Real, the #Struggle is Not.

Hey friends. This idea right here- the hustle is real, the struggle is not- finally got through my head this year. I know it's a popular phrase (#thestruggleisreal) and you might be like uh yeah it is real, Sonya! Let's just look at it in relation to our creative work though, because we all know the struggle to not eat pizza every day is real. (Where my pizza lovers at?!) 

But here's the thing. Hustle is NOT the same as STRUGGLE. Oh...ok that makes sense because entrepreneurs and artists who are really hustling are busy doing AND making money, and people who are busy and NOT making money are just struggling. 

So how do you know if you're hustling in a positive, forward direction? You will be busy, you might even be a bit overwhelmed with your to-do list. But! You're working with people you want to work with, you're doing projects that get your brain and heart pumping, and you're working in areas that, while possibly challenging, are in your area of genius where you can SHINE. Are you tired, even stressed? Sure, it happens. But you're grateful for the work and so happy to be exhausted doing what you've chosen. 

4 Ways to Ensure You're Hustling Not Struggling:

  • Define your financial goals- monthly & yearly so you know exactly what you're working for and know how to price yourself accordingly. Nothing worse than being busy, exhausted and broke.
  • Are you doing work you're proud of and can stand behind? (I have definitely taken on photo projects I didn't really care about or believe in just to get the $ and it usually was not worth it!) Don't be scared to reach for, ask for and wait for the RIGHT projects. (But don't make the mistake of ONLY waiting!)
  • Are you doing self improvement along the way? If you're crazy busy but you're ignoring your health & spirit then you're not creating positive, sustainable momentum. (Even just a few times a day to say am I breathing? Drinking water? And take a stretch!)
  • Are you thinking about the big picture and strategically making everyday decisions based on moving toward that? It's SO easy to get bogged down in the tasks of our normal lives and get caught just winging it day-to-day. But you should have a big, dreamy vision that you're always keeping in mind even when taking small steps. 

So, tell me creative ones are you hustling or struggling? 

Peace, love & pixels,

Sonya

Don't Let "Scared" Hide Your Epic Gift

I just watched this video of an unknown (at the time, 2013) singer, AND HOLY- FRICKIN VOCAL CORDS OF A GODDESS- MOLY! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IChJ6eO3k48

I highly, highly recommend watching the whole video but if you want a summary- this beautiful soul tells the panel of talent judges she's come alone to perform incase she doesn't do well, and then won't have to let anybody down. And then she sings the most EPIC beautiful version of a song. Simon Cowell says her voice is "liquid gold" and we know he is the king of criticism. 

Mind blown. So how is it that she thought she might not absolutely kill it? I'm guessing along her journey someone told her eh, singing isn't a real career choice for you so don't pursue that. Maybe she's always been shy. Maybe no one took a moment to say YOU. ARE. AMAZING! 

We all have a unique voice, something worth sharing with the world. Even if you've been told your gift is not "a real job" or "too weird" or "no one will support you"- there is a whole world out there that begs to differ with those haters. DO NOT KEEP YOUR EPICNESS LOCKED UP!! Don't let the fear hold you back from unleashing what is yours to enjoy and share. I guarantee there will be people that support, love, and pay for your individual talents. Even if you start out alone, how quickly your tribe and fans can follow!

Be bold my friends. Sing your YOUR song. Paint YOUR painting. Cook YOUR dish. Dance YOUR routine. We'll be waiting.

Peace, love, & pixels,

Sonya & The rest of the world

Stop Trying, Start Working!

How & Why to Replace the Word Try

Do you ever hear (again and again) that you should eliminate the word try from your vocabulary? Trying to finish a project, trying to get a job, trying to make great art. Ever wonder what you're supposed to do instead of just continuously screeching,

"But I'm tryingggg!" 

Well I got an idea for ya. While I've been out networking, talking to strangers, proposing ideas and speaking about what it is I do

(freelanceandfineartphotographerandfounderofcareerresourcesplatformforemergingvisualartists - YEAH.) 

I realized that it doesn't sound super professional or confident to keep saying I'm "trying" to do all these things. Saying I'm trying doesn't relay how much effort and heart and hours I'm putting in, or all the connections I've made, or the progress that has been happening slowly but surely over many months. I'm happy to put in the sweat & tears, and somehow the word trying just sounds a little...whiny. I may not have checked off all my goals, or gotten the kind of recognition I'm hoping for yet, but it's definitely on the to-do list. 

So what are you left with to say when things are coming together, still in motion and maybe not quite where you want them to be?

I'm WORKING on finding a job I love.

I'm WORKING on my business plan.

I'm WORKING on being an epic boss lady, cardio-doing, recycling, creative QUEEN! (You too?!)

Working implies you are taking actions, moving forward, putting in time and strategically making your way.  I had a mini revelation when I realized that by describing not only what I do but what I'm working towards, I feel validated and professional in my efforts. It gives others the vibe that I'm confident, motivated, and dedicated to my goals. By using the word trying I felt limited, like I was saying I didn't have much direction or traction. And sometimes I don't know what the next step should be, but I'm working on figuring it out!

So. What are YOU working on? State it, validate it, and WORK IT! 

 

Fear of the Follow Up

Alright, we need to talk. This is one of the most common mistakes I see people make. And not just artists, but it may impact us the most. So what is it?

The follow up!

We've all been in the situation where we've gone to a networking event and collected a bunch of cards, or a friend tells us about a job opportunity, or an ideal client compliments your Instagram post. And you know you should send an email, submit a resume, or give a response. But then those little "What If" gremlins creep in and you hesitate. You think you'll do it later, or that the other person was just being polite and doesn't really want to work with you. What if the opportunity is TOO good for you right now? Or you're not really ready to have your own art show because it's a lot of work and you're already busy. 

STOP THE MADNESS. Break it down. Following up with an opportunity or a potential connection is just a continuation, reminder or beginning of a conversation. Seriously, stop freaking out. It doesn't mean anything will happen.

But!

What if you send a charming little email and the person on the other end reads it and realizes you're the perfect person to do __. Or that they lost your card and forgot your name and are now thrilled you've reached out because they have a client for you. Don't assume people will remember you, but do assume they'll appreciate you reminding them because you're an awesome person to know. And oh yeah they want to buy your biggest painting. ;)

Great follow up example: Dear __, It was so great to meet you at the __ yesterday! I really enjoyed talking to you about _. I'm interested in working on __ kinds of projects with __ kinds of people/companies. I'd love to set up a time to talk further and learn more about you. (Or keep each other in mind for future opportunities.) Here's where you can find me(insert website/portfolio/linkedin). Great connecting with you!  Sincerely, __.

Feel free to use as you need! 

Also, my dear texting only millenials, if someone asks you to *GASP* call them...do that!! I get it, I am no fan of phone calls even with people I know. You should hear me leave voicemails, it's seriously an on-going work in progress. But it's an important skill to practice and I guarantee will benefit you in the work world. (Side note: when people don't end up paying you as promised best believe you will be jumping on the phone!!) 

I can tell you from personal real world experience that I've not only received compliments on my follow up etiquette, but have gotten multiple clients(sometimes months later!) by sending a simple email or giving someone a call.

So stop fearing the follow up and start connecting! 

Peace, love & pixels,

Sonya

Dressing for the (Art) Job

There is some major tension between the idea of being an "artist" and being a "business professional". But why? I'm going to take a stab at it. 

For some reason a big part of the tension I feel when trying to establish whether I'm "artist" or "professional" is the look. For example, when I go to meet a new client, or attend a networking event I'm constantly torn between dressing "professional" (or business-y if you will) and looking like an artist. I want people to know I run my art business with professionalism and business savvy that can actually help their businesses, and I want to look like I have a personal aesthetic and can provide creative services. I assume others struggle with this as well, yes?

It might sound silly thinking how I accessorize makes a difference, but we know how we look to others effects their impression of us. And I think there is a deep rooted feeling that those in suits and shiny heels with briefcases and desk jobs are the real business professionals. In fact, artists almost always have to be business professionals as well when they're negotiating their services and products.

Hold up!  Did you say products?

Yes. Art is a product. Selling it counts as doing business. Fine art is included. No that doesn't mean you're any less passionate, creative or artsy because you call your creative work a product and you want to sell it. A lot of it. Okay? 

When you're studying art you aren't taught things like finance, communications, management, or whatever you actually learn in business school. (Note to self: ask friends what the heck is taught in business school!) We art students get out into the world and have to quickly learn a whole slew of new things so we can start getting down to business. Ah! Yes, we start learning about pricing, profit, cost of materials, charging for our time, expenses, taxes, legal structures, percentages of sales, marketing, contracts, and the list goes on and on. 

And all that business stuff is a lot more enjoyable to learn when it directly benefits your art and creative lifestyle. And when you can do it in jeans. No suit or business degree required to officially be a creative business professional. Don't shy away from learning what you need to know to make your art career successful even when it appears to be boring, tedious, and uncreative. If you're the best artist AND business person you can be, you're ready for some magic. 

So don't be intimidated by the "look" of business. Dress appropriately for your job, and know your shit. That's being a professional. 

Find tips and tools for art&business on our Pinterest boards.

And some books of course :)

 Business and Legal Forms for Fine Artists

Getting Your Shit Together- The Ultimate Business Manual for Every Practicing Artist

Peace, love & pixels,

Sonya

2015 Gift Guide for Creatives

Hey creatives! Whether you're in the midst of Hannukah, gearing up for Christmas, office white elephant parties, or just thinking ahead for birthday gifts... here's a list for you!(Or rather your loved ones who generously gift you things you actually want!) What are your favorite creative gifts to give or receive? List them in the comments! 

1. For the instagram anywhere artist

2. To learn something new try a creative class.

3. To make sure you've got a built in craft project for each month try this starry calendar

4. For the phone photographer to get those crazy close ups! P.s. I want all the gifts on Photojojo!

5. For an instant whiff of inspiration hehehe.(Unicorn fans this is for you!)

6. To de-stress after holiday or finals madness, keep calm and color on

7. To keep track of your adventures and all they inspire.

8. From a pop culture phenom's perspective on creativity from my boy(I wish) Pharrell.

9. A DIY book from artists and designers all over the globe for you to enjoy at home.

10. And finally something for those ready to master their magic digital art skills

Hope your holidays are full of fun, love and non-itchy sweater parties. 

Peace, love & pixels,

Sonya

First Ever Super Awesome Virtual Summit!

I'M SO FREAKIN EXCITED!! This Friday-Nov.20th- I'm hosting our first RWC virtual summit- The Creative Success Summit for Emerging Visual Artists!!! You can sign up here!

I'm pumped not only because I have connected with and will be interviewing two truly accomplished, talented, and super nice art professionals- but because I get to engage with YOU- emerging artists who are looking for some guidance, inspiration, motivation, and reassurance that an awesome art career is waiting for you. (Check out the speakers here and here.)

I picked up a beautiful print recently that said, "It is real. It is possible. It is yours." And heck yeahhhh that is so true and relevant to what we're doing here. 

I started Real World Creatives because I felt there was a void in educating young artists on how to use their creative skills and talents to make a living in the real world. That includes fine art and commercial art and craft art and decorative arts. Everyone has a place, and it's about time we connected and supported emerging artists with a comprehensive set of tools, advice and inspiration for creating a sustainable living from art. 

It's hard to explain how much I love working on this business and being a source of real help and connection for artists. I hope you'll join me at the summit and continue engaging with RWC as you follow your creative path! If there is anything I can provide for you (sorry can't buy everyone puppies) please let me know at any time! 

Peace, love, and pixels,

Sonya 

Creative Confession

Dear Creatives, 

      This is my confession. I fell in love with photography in an old dark room in my high school. I wasn't very good at first, lots of film went to waste. I wasn't sure I would ever be "that" good at it. I mostly took walks around my neighborhood and shot patterns in nature, occasionally trying to incorporate a friend into awkward portraits. Soon it was time to apply to college, to pick a school, a major, a future. Well, photography I decided was what I'd pursue. What would I do with it? No idea. I didn't feel like I could commit to an art-only college; I wasn't "artsy" enough, creative enough, messy enough, or honestly really sure that I wouldn't need a back up field of choice.

And even after graduating with my bachelor's in art(major in photography with a minor in art management) working in photo production, art galleries and archives, freelancing and making a living from my photography... I sometimes still feel like I'm not "artsy" enough. Somedays my work is put to shame (in my mind) by iPhone photos on instagram. It can be a real bitch being a creative these days. But then I remember that my creative is just as meaningful as anyone else's. I love doing photography because I think in photographs and making images gives ME joy. And I get to share those little moments of happiness with clients, friends, and even some strangers on the internet. (I mean I'm not giving up my frenemy instagram.) So no I don't have jeans covered in paint, I like making to-do lists like it's my job, and I probably haven't spent my weekend in museums. But I create, and it's worthwhile, and it will continue to be for as long as I see it that way. 

So if you're not sure where your art will take you, or you're struggling to find your niche, stop looking outward. You decide what your best creative life looks like, and you have the power to shape it to suite your wildest desires. Even if that includes having a beige couch. Even if you can't remember what Monet painted. Even if your creative life looks nothing like the ones you see on the internet. And if you need a boost of inspiration, resources and tools make sure to sign up for the newsletter! Once you do you get your free guide to my Top 25 Websites for Creatives!

“To live a creative life, we must loose the fear of being wrong.” – Joseph Chilton Pearce

So go forth my creatives, there is no "wrong" in art!

Peace, love & pixels,

Sonya

The Timeline of Success

Hi my friends :) I was just doing some yoga to end my night- but got a kick of inspiration and so I'm back at the computer! Almost got away with unplugging, sigh. 

I want to talk about the timeline of success. There's a feeling, especially when you're starting out, that "success" is this magic finish line that you'll someday run through and everything will be capital G-R-E-A-T! The truth is, success is not an end point. There's no "I made it!" medal, no alternate reality where problems all vanish. Your vision of success will vary from other people's, but if it doesn't include on-going learning, improvement, and new goals then you're going to miss out. You'll miss out on finding your complete happiness and highest potential.  

Picturing "success" as an infinite road, and those never ending goals in mind, the question of "But when do I get to stop and celebrate?" may come up. This is up to you, this is your chance to REALLY enjoy the journey! Don't forget that every step is a lesson. And do remember to appreciate and acknowledge the big and small goals you hit along the way. If your whole life becomes the journey, without one final "success" point, suddenly there is a WHOLE lot of room to enjoy yourself. So don't rush, there is only more time to come, bringing more lessons and adventures. 

Make sure you're using the best resources and tools for your art career by signing up for our free bi-monthly newsletter. When you do you not only get access to our great community, but early access and info about all our events and a free guide to my Top 25 Websites for Creatives!

Wishing you never ending success,

Sonya

Keep Calm and Internship On

It is pretty much a given these days that you’ll end up in an internship or two while in school and even after you’ve graduated. Internships can provide eye-opening looks into the possible career of your future. But they can also be really boring, frustrating and not in your best interest. The key is to ask a lot of questions and do your research on all possible internships before you dive into one. I made the mistake a couple of times of not thoroughly finding out what I’d be doing or how it would really be an effective and positive experience for myself. No one wants their time wasted- and even as a student you have the right to use your own time wisely while working for others. One thing I didn’t realize as a student looking for internships, is that not only should I provide value to the employer BUT they should provide value to me. That is true whether you are working for free or payment of any kind.

Things to keep in mind when searching for internships:

1. What kind of business is it and who runs it? Is it a new start up/gallery/company still figuring out workspace and roles, or a well oiled machine with lots of rules set in place? What internet presence do they have and what do others say about them? Are you working with a boss one-on-one, or with other interns/assistants/employees?  I had experiences where I was mostly working alone but really enjoyed the work and had real responsibility, as well as times I was sitting next to the employer and barely learned a thing and was bored as hell. And had to walk her dog…love dogs, but not what I was looking for!

2How much time can you commit? Decide upfront how many hours/weeks/months you’ll be there. Even if things change it is helpful to have expectations voiced at the beginning. If receiving payment make sure you understand how and when you’ll be paid. Also, always ask if payment is available! It may not be, but sometimes even a small stipend is a great motivator and reward for work well done.

3Decide to learn as much as possible and make sure they know what you’re interested in learning. I know from running a business it is easy to forget what wasn’t always general knowledge or that explaining how systems came to be, can be really helpful to those not familiar with the business. Don’t be afraid to ask questions- but do take note of when the appropriate times are to do so. (Like not in front of clients.)

4Reach out to businesses or individuals you’d like to work with. THIS IS HUGE! Some of my best internships came from asking for the opportunity, not because there was any advertisement that they were hiring. Look in your area for places you admire and think you could learn from, let them know you’re interested and available.

Internships can be fantastic opportunities to see the inner workings of various jobs and companies.  They are also great for making connections in the “real world” and beginning to network with those you may one day work with. Always look for relationships that will be symbiotic, stand up for what’s right for you, and if on the off chance it all goes to shit- smile and walk away gracefully!

Peace, love & pixels- Sonya

Hello creative world!

Hello lovely creatives, welcome home. 

So glad you're here, this is going to be your new favorite internet place! A little intro as this is the first RWC blog post- I'm Sonya your Chief Creative here. I'm working hard to bring you as much helpful and inspiring information so you are prepared, confident, and killin' it in your creative career. Here you will find interviews with commercial and fine art artists from across the US, updates on happenings of RWC, webinar invites, amazing resources and tips for enhancing your art/biz/creative lifestyle. We're going to get into the nitty gritty and break down the how-to's to every step of achieving your artist dreams. It's going to be awesome! 

As RWC is just a baby, I'll be figuring out the best layouts, schedules, and approaches to getting you the good stuff in the most effective way over the new few months. Please reach out and give me lots of feedback, suggestions, and requests so this can really be the most amazing possible resource for YOU! 

So looking forward to providing you with crazy valuable content and getting to know you all! Peace,love & pixels - Sonya