Freshly-minted 31 year-old. Passionate in visual direction and leadership. Now working in the production and entertainment world.
I started my side hustle in late 2013 as a photographer in the Castleberry HIll neighborhood of downtown Atlanta. Every Sunday, I would go to 255 Tapas Lounge to take pictures of the party crowd there for a promoter I know. In hindsight, the impetus was out of a desire to connect to a bigger social circle. I was able to negotiate a weekly payment with some perks (free drinks and a lot of attention).
During the weekdays I was working for a small division of LexisNexis Risk Solutions, as a health care fraud, waste, and abuse investigator. The small software company I had worked for since February 2010 had been acquired by this behemoth (Reed Elsevier is the UK-parent of LexisNexis). The ownership of the company was awesome but my then-supervisor – who was never in the office – was absolutely abysmal. I became really unhappy. Never responsive to my requests for training or exploration, I felt like my growth was being stunted and I wouldn’t learn more inside the company.
When 5pm would roll around I would be out of that office so quick. Many weeknights I would travel from Alpharetta (northern suburb) to events in midtown or downtown Atlanta to expand my potential client base. Heard anything about the evening commute in Atlanta? What I was undertaking was a significant commitment of time and resources, and I did it frequently. Several times a week I would hit different lounges and follow up with new contacts. Passion.
It started paying off throughout 2014 and it felt liberating. I was getting a taste of what I felt really good at and more recognition as a photographer in Peters Street/ Castleberry Hills area. The compliments I received from my pictures made me consider, “How can I capitalize more from this?”
I began renting better cameras here or there to test my skills as a videographer. Sometimes people would ask me if I shot videos before. I had business cards and invested in my college roommates to build up a dope website. I needed to keep my creativity alive and my job was stifling my spirit. Soon enough, I was making more side money and gaining confidence in my skill set and my network. I traveled to the BET Hip Hop Awards in June 2014 and saw another side of the lifestyle I wanted.
The ironic thing is, I was applying myself more at my day job during that span, because I was a happier person. Despite turning in good reports and meeting work deadlines before my LA trip, I returned to a bad review from my supervisor. It lit a fire that will not be extinguished. After that blessing in disguise, I was determined to leave the day job as fast as possible. That was when I knew I had to take the risk and make it on my own. My work ethic would never be questioned from that day forward, by anyone.
I was able to honorably remove myself out of LexisNexis by the end of 2014. I traveled over the ensuing months, writing and formulating the next year. I picked up part time jobs to supplement a negligible side income. My hustle wasn’t exactly bustling, but it wasn’t dead either. I was driving food delivery through the summer, barely making it from bill to bill. I told myself I was a step closer to my dream through it all. I saw what I needed to do. I needed to buy a DSLR camera and keep networking. Keep pushing.
The delivering food thing wasn’t cutting it. I reluctantly became a waiter at a local restaurant in Alpharetta. It was a matter of cash flow. This was now the summer of 2015. I told myself over and over, only one year here. Only one year. I would go out to network late at night after long shifts on my feet. I had to cultivate my fire to succeed; Sharpening what I called the boulder on my shoulder. Like Atlas. I finally was able to acquire a Canon 7D in March 2016.
By July 2016, my video skills were improving and I was teaching myself basic editing. I caught my break through one of my friends, Paul Friedopfer. He happened to know a guy, Ryan Gillette, in Las Vegas who needed a videographer. I had a previously scheduled trip west and I agreed to meet his friend. The rest I could say is history that hasn’t been written yet.
I am now full-time for myself as a videographic marketing agent and I still do shoot photography. Dabbling in social media management. I’ve developed long lasting relationships and I’m very much aligned with the company I am now an independent contractor at youwillchangetheworld.com/
My best advice for anyone attempting to strike out into their own business is continuous positive talk. Outwardly and inward. Do not listen to anyone who tells you it isn’t possible. Physically avoid them if necessary. This is achievable in any industry, with a brain geared toward growth and understanding greatness takes time. With some patience, a lot of effort, and the right strategy, it is yours already.