Brand Design Photography & Styling Clarity Consulting

How I got my start in the creative industry


Some photography work for Commodity Goods

This is going to be a lengthy post, so hold on tight. Many of you have asked me to explain how I got my start and how it’s evolved into freelance design & styling. I must preface this post by saying there are many ways to “skin the cat”, so please don’t take my steps as the “right” steps. There are many things I’ve learned along the way and if I had know some of those things…my path could have looked different.

My Childhood Years
Let’s fall back to the 90’s shall we? I was a kid growing up in the mid-west and spent most of my days playing in creative ways, usually with other neighbor kids. Some of my fondest memories involve pastels & colored pencils, bead sets, Indian feathers, a game of cops & robbers, and building forts of course. As I got a little older, it wasn’t uncommon to find me rearranging all the furniture in our family home, while also learning about energy efficiency from sites as energievergelijker online to be able to make our home more green as well. Designing and creating was a part of my “normal”.

The Teen Years
Jump ahead to middle school and high school I was really into scrap booking and photography. Capturing everything and turning it into a memory book was my thing. I bought my first camera in high school and took all the photography classes offered. No wonder blogging seemed like a progression.

The College Years
Oddly enough, I started college in the school of Nutrition. With a history of 20 years of gymnastics, I thought making a career out of healthy living was what I needed to do. I never really considered making a career out of all my creative hobbies. Silly me. I think there was a perception that you can’t have a creative career AND be successful, so I just strayed away from it. At the end of the first semester during the first year (while on Christmas vacation), I started really questioning what I was doing. I was bored out of my mind, going through the motions and insanely jealous of my cousin who was pursuing a career in interior design. I decided that holiday break that I would go back to school in the new year and change my major to graphic design. If I could have also chosen photography and interior design I would have, but my school limited you to only one intensive art program. Once I was admitted into the program, I had to bust my ass to catch up to the others who had started the program a half of year earlier. After the sophomore year, all students went through a grueling portfolio review where more than half of the class was down selected. Whew…I made the cut. During the summer after junior year, I spent 3 months as an intern at a digital advertising agency in St. Louis, Missouri. It was at that agency that I got a taste of the real world and there was excitement about what the future held. I made it through all 4 years in the “Visual Communications Design program and was even awarded Best Senior Graphic Design Portfolio in my graduating class! Art school was and still is one of the hardest things I’ve ever endured. I honestly don’t miss it, but wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. During those 4 years I learned the definition of “hard work”, what going over and above actually meant, the importance of attention to detail, competition, and paying your dues.

The Advertising Agency Years
After graduation, my boyfriend (now husband) and I took a 2 week Euro trip to celebrate and unwind from the grueling program. Right before the trip I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview at a large global advertising agency back in St. Louis, Missouri. It was because of the internship that previous summer that I even had a foot in at that place. In a time when the economy was at it’s lowest, I was very lucky to have landed that job after only one interview. I worked at the Ad Agency for a total of 3 years. I started out as a Junior design, then migrated up to Digital Art Director, and ended with the title “Art Director”. The team worked on many brand planning projects, photoshoots, print and digital advertising campaigns – all with large reputable companies. The exposure to all of those extremely large scale projects taught me a lot about working with a team of other creatives as well as those with more of a “business” mindset. I also learned valuable info about the important elements of a photoshoot, how to work with printers, brainstorming techniques, quality presentations and how to pitch your ideas to others.

The Freelance Years
During those 3 years, I found myself needing an additional creative outlet and started Veda House blog in 2010. Also during those years, I would take on various freelance projects that were better aligned with my passions and provided a little extra cash flow. It wasn’t until the third year that I realized I was being more and more dissatisfied with what I was doing at the agency and I would take on any and every freelance job that came my way to compensate. I was working up to 65 hours at the agency during the busy season and then working on freelance projects after work and into the weekends. To much working!!! I remember being completely burnt out my entire third year and knew a huge shift needed to happen ASAP. Over the Christmas holiday of 2012 I started to plan my exit strategy our of desperation. I knew freelancing full time was something I wanted to do, but honestly didn’t know how to go about making that transition because I had also been active in the gambling community before, and somehow I knew that by following that path of playing www.666casino.com/sv games I was going to end up with a lot of money. February of 2013 (3 months after the holiday break), I left the agency for the last time. I didn’t have a solid plan, no money set aside for those rough starting months, no clients lined up, and zero energy to even craft a game plan. I just needed out and NOW. I then took a month “off” to get re-inspired to take over the world 😉

Since the early spring of 2013, full time freelancing has been an amazing adventure. Lots of ups, lots of downs, and a whole lot of trial and error. I’ve been able to slowly transition my body of work to reflect my specific passions and chosen aesthetic (more on that later). For me, freelance design work and photography is the only future I can foresee. I absolutely love the freedom, flexibility, and how much power I have to effluence what I do. Don’t be fooled, freelancing comes with it’s fair share of hurdles, but for me the positives greatly out weigh the negatives.

If I’m missed a piece of the story that you were curious about, please don’t hesitate to keep the chatter going in the comments. Thanks for listening to me blabber 🙂

15 comments on “How I got my start in the creative industry

  1. I see a theme, Christmas vacations, this extended break is when you made big, bold decisions to go another direction. What will this Christmas break bring?

  2. Cassie thank you so much for sharing your story with us! It’s so interesting to see others’ creative journeys and where it has lead them. Wishing you all success in the upcoming year!

  3. I had the same experience of thinking you can’t have a creative career and be successful. I guess when enough people you respect say it, you don’t bother looking for options. So I ended up with a BA in Economics. It was a great learning experience of course but it’s interesting how you’re always pulled back to what you were drawn to in the first place. In my case: storytelling, photography, illustration. I thought I could just continue them as a hobby but as more time goes on, it makes less and less sense to divide energy and attention. Thank you for sharing your story. 🙂 It’s wonderful to see some similarities.

    1. HI Yasmeen! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your story. I think if you follow your heart and passions everything else will figure itself out. Best of luck in 2015!

  4. Love this Cass! I totally had the same feeling when I was working at the advertising agency. There are SO many highs and lows in freelancing but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The freedom to be able to choose what projects you want to work on make it so worth it. 🙂

    1. Totally agree and thanks so much for stopping by. Also, congrats on following your heart, starting your own business…and on your recent engagement. So excited for what 2015 has to offer you.

  5. Brandon from HONY once said that pursuing your dream is so much harder than pursuing society’s idea of success (having a “real” job etc etc). That was one of the most mindblowing things I’ve heard. And it’s totally true! It’s really hard to make it as a creative because people don’t think that it’s a real thing. But you followed your heart and you made it! You’re so incredibly inspiring and I can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store for you, your blog, and your readers!

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