My Journey as a Solopreneur
The path to becoming a self-employed web creative is not the same for everyone. Solopreneurs are made, not born. They are made through hard work, sacrifice, and lots and lots of failure. The key is in trusting your dreams, and re-calibrating along the way as you learn from your mistakes and successes, your wins and losses.
I’d like to share my journey to becoming a solopreneur with you, my fellow web creative, in the hopes that you can find some inspiration in my words.
I grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico…home to green chile, endless sunsets, and Meow Wolf.
As a child, I loved to paint and draw. My camera has been my constant companion since I was 8 years old. Though I have since moved on to iPhone photography, my approach stays the same: see the world, find the beauty in it, and share it with others.
I spent my teens and early twenties studying with creatives such as artist Ada Medina, fiction writer Daniel Mueller, poet Judith Hill, and photographer James Friedman. Upon graduating from high school, I enrolled at the University of New Mexico, and then the Santa Fe Community College.
At first, I considered pursuing a degree in creative writing with the thought of becoming an author and poet. Yet I knew there needed to be a very visual aspect to my work, so I felt I needed something more.
Without the next great American novel in mind, I switched gears to pursue photography. I threw myself into learning darkroom technique, natural lighting photography, and hand-painted print restoration.
Before I could say f-stop, digital cameras appeared on scene, forever changing the profession of photography. I realized I would need to evolve my plans yet again. I soon gained some experience as a sports photographer using digital cameras, shooting BMX and motocross competitions. My job was to take the action shot right at the peak of a rider’s trick. I loved catching that moment, but the hours were long, constant travel was required, and I was on my feet in the elements the entire time.
I realized I still had further to go in my journey of self-discovery before I would find the right path for me. The only problem was, I still had no idea if the smaller parts of my life would ever add up to something bigger. All I knew was that whatever career path I ended up choosing, it needed to be creative and multi-disciplinary.
Ultimately, I withdrew from college after 2 years-with no degree-and joined the rest of the working world. My early jobs included everything from waiting tables to dog walking, house painting, and trial team preparation at one of the largest corporate law firms in the country.
One of the experiences that shaped me most as a young adult was helping run Santa Fe Kumon with my dear friend and educator, Dana Rodda. Together, we helped students ages 5 to adult improve their writing, math, and study skills. I loved seeing how happy and confident people can become through learning.
When I was 22, I moved out West, and settled in California. I married and started a family. It was while my daughter was still a baby in a sling that I was first introduced to the idea of graphic design. I took a few online classes, and I was instantly hooked.
I also quickly realized that the technology economy was about to explode, so I found one of the few (if not the only) web design and development programs in the country. It was an online certificate program from Cerro Coso Community College in Ridgecrest, CA. I studied project management, HTML, and Flash in this program before-again-dropping out of college for the last time to pursue client work full time.
I spent the next 12 years living all over the Bay Area and Sacramento County. As it turns out, California was a perfect incubator for my career, exposing me to everything from VC startups in Silicon Valley to agency work in San Francisco. During my time in California, I enjoyed visiting places like the De Young Museum, the Google Campus in Mountain View, and Second Saturday in Sacramento.
I built my boutique digital creative studio on a shoe string, with no background in business and very few connections. It was very challenging, and there were many times that I felt like giving up, but I persevered.
Fast forward to 2018, and I’m so glad I stuck with it. All of the smaller parts started to connect in recent years, and I finally realized that I had not been lost…I was just going somewhere that didn’t have a road map. I’m thankful everyday that I followed my creative passion to a career where all of my interests are finally woven together.
There is no magic formula for success as a solopreneur. In the words of Steve Jobs, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
I believe our dreams put into action hold the key to connecting these dots. No matter where you are in your own journey as a web creative, just keep going! The full picture may be just around the corner.