Craft Your Image: A New Year, A New Course

For approximately 14 weeks, I’m going to collaborate with my students to “Craft their Image”. Some of the major topics of discussion will include:

  • Creating a business road map
  • Identifying your people
  • Nesting in your perfect place and position
  • Keeping your eye on your cash
  • Taking the scary out of marketing

It’s been 11 months since my last post and admittedly that ridiculous in-my-head-you’re-so-lame self-defeating voice has kept me from writing.

But really, this first year teaching seriously whipped my ass.

It’s been a scary, intimidating, anxiety-filled, stress-inducing, exhausting year and it has been a thrilling, satisfying and incredibly enlightening year.

And so with the new year begins year two. But, this isn’t any new year of teaching. This new year starts with a new course I’ve designed (experimental at this point) called, “Craft Your Image”.

Photo by superdeluxesam
Photo by superdeluxesam

The Course Creatives Need and Never Got in School

Once I started marketing this course this year’s photography graduate students signed up immediately and several undergraduate students were on the waiting list.

I was thrilled.

So for approximately 14 weeks, I’m going to collaborate with my students to “Craft their Image”. Some of the major topics of discussion will include:

  • Creating a business road map
  • Identifying your people
  • Nesting in your perfect place and position
  • Keeping your eye on your cash
  • Taking the scary out of marketing

Some of the nitty gritty must-cover topics:

  • Copyright
  • Contracts
  • Pricing

Why a Business Course?

I get it. I’ve been there. I’m still there but in a different way. (I may not be running my business full-time but you can’t take the mindset of entrepreneurship out of me.)

The idea came from experiences with my clients and from talking with so many creative people: beginners, seasoned professionals, photographers, designers, consultants, etc.

In my first semester I gave two three-hour overview workshops about preparing a portfolio, the importance of personal branding, marketing and more. It was geared for students about to graduate. The students share many feelings professionals have: fear, uncertainty on next steps and how to take action.

My goal was and is to distill the information and present it in a non-threatening, accessible way ripe with no bs, a few curse words and admitting to not having all the answers.

Visual Communication Programs Need to Get with the Program 

Visual communication programs need to step up to the plate and design a curriculum that includes a course that covers the basics of business. The classic, generic business-school course won’t do. It must be a business course tailored to creatives by a creative.

Visual communication professors have a responsibility to prepare students to find work in whatever form that may be: a full-time employee or as a “solopreneur”.

For aspiring photographers this is not optional.

We do a great job teaching students concepts and the latest and greatest software; however, most schools fail at prepping students with the tools, the fundamentals of running a business, the mind shift it takes to think like a business, an entrepreneur.

Newhouse has been cultivating the entrepreneurial mind in students for quite awhile. I’d  like to think we are setting the pace.

Visual communication students are eager to learn and to be successful. We need to get beyond politics and red-tape. You know, get creative and make it happen.

Moving from Self-Employment to a Job?

Not long ago I made the announcement that I’ll be teaching at Syracuse University and that we will be relocating from Portland, Oregon.

Die hard freedom-from-cubicle-culture peeps might think I’m nuts. Still others might think, “You’re so lucky to get a job in this economy.”

The decision wasn’t easy.

Not long ago I made the announcement that I’ll be teaching at Syracuse University and that we will be relocating from Portland, Oregon.

Die hard freedom-from-cubicle-culture peeps might think I’m nuts. Still others might think, “You’re so lucky to get a job in this economy.”

The decision wasn’t easy.

I’ve been a freelancer/solopreneur/business owner off and on for many years for various reasons.

The last 6 years especially have been a wild ride; a period where I’ve experienced the most growth. Uncertainty while scary is also a great motivator. I’ve had opportunities I never would have if I worked for the man.

So when I was presented with an offer, I was scared to take it and scared not to take it.

Wouldn’t it be so much easier to just stay here?

We moved (3 times) last summer! The weather is just starting to be perfect. The food here is so good… We have such a great community of friends, acquaintances, neighbors… Even though we are so busy we haven’t even seen Crater Lake (hello!) we love living in Oregon. We love living in Portland.

Heck. I’m successful! OK, I’m not making millions but it takes guts to run a business. I’ve been challenged in thousands of ways. Running a business isn’t easy peasy but man, I’m doing it!

It would be so much easier to just stay here.

But…

“The Future is Sometimes More Important than the Present”
— My dad

I knew this and hearing it from my dad (one of the wisest people on this planet) brought clarity.

From a young age, my parents made sure we talked and learned about money. There was no way their daughter would be clueless about balancing a checkbook or ignorant about investments.

So reading financial / business blogs, websites, magazines and newspaper sections is part of my daily routine.

I’m also turning 40 later this year (omg). The years of looking ahead and looking back are nearly equal.

My options and decisions as a woman are different from men.

More Women Live in Poverty than Men:

Among single women 65 and older, 28.2% are considered poor or near poor, compared with 22.7% for non-married men and 8.1% for married people in the same age group.

Heath Care Reality:

Some of the biggest health-care costs are incurred in the year prior to death, which reduces financial resources left to surviving family members. Those survivors are most likely to be women, since wives tend to outlive their husbands.

(For more statistics here: Get Rich Slowly, U.S Department of Labor, Fidelity Investments)

Faced with that possible reality, it was time to truly take stock of our financial future.

Of Course It’s About More than Money Honey

If I compare our present to many others, we look golden. I’m not cold-hearted nor ignorant of what is happening in the world around me (domestic and abroad). It breaks my heart.

There are many things to be thankful for in our “present” and there are many people with so much less and so much more hardship.

To say that I decided to go for this (amazing – I’m still kinda giddy about it) opportunity for money is too simple.

I’ve had job offers and requests to apply for jobs where earnings were more. Academe isn’t exactly known for high wages. Plus, just because you are self-employed doesn’t mean you can’t save for the future through a SEP-IRA or Self-Employed 401K.

Security? No guarantee.

Being a professor is totally different from anything else I’ve done. Plus, it just feels right.

Different? Unknown? Scary? Sure.

This change is a challenge. This isn’t a sure thing. Transition? Relocation? Can we say stress?! But really all the “not easies” were periods of growth and have always lead to the next great thing in my life.

Dilbert.com

Thanks Matthew Ginn for leading me to this strip!

Another Chapter in Our Book

No doubt self-employment has a lot of perks and challenges; however, the same holds true for being employed full-time. Unlike some, I don’t believe that one is better than the other.

What I find great about life is that each chapter, each experience builds to create the next. Each choice has lead me (us) to here.

For me, as time passes, the layers become deeper and more complex. The areas of grey seem to be greater and what’s important surfaces faster (or as a friend long ago once said, “the older you get, the faster you smell shit coming ’round the corner.”)

Letting go of the familiar; all that is comfortable is a struggle. It is never easy.

Life is full of compromise and working around systems.

The best part? I don’t have to give up all that I’ve built in the last 6 years and I get to work with some of my favorite peeps on the planet.

I’m hoping to make a difference in a different way.

The decision to relocate; the decision to become a professor; the decision for one of us to bring home a salary is a choice my husband and I made together to look after both of our professional, financial, personal growth and health.

I’m looking forward to that present.

Teaching at Syracuse University

Big news!

I’ve accepted an offer to be Assistant Professor in the Multimedia, Photography and Design Department in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University!

Big news!

I’ve accepted an offer to be Assistant Professor in the Multimedia, Photography and Design Department in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University!

I’m super stoked to be working with Multimedia, Photography and Design faculty such as Tony Golden, Ken Harper, Sherri Taylor, Bruce Strong, Seth Gitner, Tom Kennedy, David Sutherland as well as faculty in the Advertising and Public Relations departments.

This is a big move. I’m guessing you have questions.

Are you closing your business?

I’m still available to work with my current clients and other small businesses (a.k.a partners-in-crime) hoping to work with me to design websites and other marketing solutions.

My workload is slowing down and that’s only because we’re in the process of transition.

As my teaching workload increases and as I adjust to my new environment, I’ll be more selective about the projects I do take on. A great place to start is by taking  the quiz.

We’ll be relocating in October so now’s your chance!

Contact me. I’ll be straight up about whether I have the time to take on your project. Some people say it’s worth the wait.

What about Mike? What is he going to do?

Really, this is the first question because apparently word on the street is my husband is a photo editing ninja.

If you are a photographer seeking his expertise as a picture editor and photographer consultant, our move doesn’t change his availability. It’s business as usual.

But proximity for photography students or pro photographers living near Syracuse is good if you are interested in working with Mike one-on-one.

For students and pros near Portland, Oregon, we’re here through the fall.

Contact him and he can answer all your burning questions 🙂

What will you be teaching?

Design of course! (grin)

The courses I’ll be teaching are to be determined but if you are interested, have a look through the courses offered at S.I. Newhouse.

Standing in front of the Hall of Languages

How did you get the job?

How I got this job is a great example of how relationships are so important.

Keep your relationships with friends, family, former colleagues fresh and close. Whether you are self-employed or looking for full-time work, your relationships can be key to getting a job. 

I thought you loved Portland, Oregon. Why leave?

Hmm…this is a complex question that I’ll answer more in-depth later.

Portland, Oregon is our dream city. It would be wonderful to continue to live here but sometimes life opportunities come knockin’ and life, according to Stephen Colbert in his commencement speech to the 2011 graduating class of Northwestern University is a lot like Improv.

See you on campus!

Web Design Classes: 10 Things Learned, Week 1

This past week was the first real taste of just how much there is to learn and how the decision to stay in Portland was the right one.

I’m going to try and post “10 Things Learned” each week. It may perhaps be too ambitious but what the heck, it’s worth a shot.

1_Online classes are not for everyone. Perhaps I need to be more specific by saying that distance learning is not for me. I’ve taken a few online classes at Lynda.com with success and this first online class (only 2 online classes in the program) isn’t the same. The format requires communication and is slow because the interface for communicating, exchanging files, etc. is not easy and can be frustrating. Plus, interaction between students is close to nil.

2_Learning from working professionals is a major plus.This is my third time returning to a campus so I’ve had some experience being all high and idealistic with theory and having reality hit me like a freight train when trying to practice theory at street level. Perhaps the distinction is not as great with web design? Regardless, I like the fact that they have so far given real answers to real questions. It’s a credibility thing.

3_Humor goes a long way. Learning peppered with humor is just plain fun. There’s a nice vibe and the walls, if any, come down much faster.

4_Hand-coding may not be all that I’ve heard it is cracked up to be. Knowing code is essential to designing for the web. That much I know given that wysiwyg editors are not always true. It’s just that for the first time last week, using Dreamweaver revealed how a wysiwyg editor can be a major time-saver.

5_Don’t assume a deleted web page, site or any posting to the internet disappears. I had no idea and was surprised to learn about it. There’s a site called Internet Archive that somehow manages to keep archives of web sites and pages for a number of years. I have no idea (yet) how long the pages are archived and it could prove to be painful for some and educational for others. In the end, this is one of those must-knows.

6_Becoming more savvy of copyright laws is going to be even more critical. As I spend more time on the web, the issue of copyrights is more on my mind than it ever used to be. Because of this, I have hesitated to use and/or participate in a lot of social sites and more cautious about the content I choose to post. It is interesting at this stage to think about accessibility and protection; how sometimes it contradicts each other. Hmmm.

7_Using a PC may be in my near future. Except for one gig back in 1998 and a few sporadic uses as a telecommuter, I have somehow managed to avoid using a PC through the bulk of my work life. Soon, I may have to invest in an Intel Mac and Parallels. Not sure how I feel about that one and sometimes you just have to bite the bullet.

8_More resources for creating more dynamic pages. I was excited to learn that I could go to Webmonkey or a place called Cross Browser to pick up some API’s to create more dynamic web pages.

9_Being a programmer and a designer is probably not realistic. I’m not sure where I got this idea but I was under the impression that being both a designer and programmer was possible. This may still be true and the variables may be the size of the business and the type of projects. As of right now, it seems impossible to excel at both. This probably means that at some point, I need to work out a relationship with an excellent programmer.

10_Subdomains are a possible key to consistent branding. This one (including a few others mentioned above) comes courtesy of Charlie Levenson. Rather than searching for a new domain (hard to find these days) or adding multiple folders to separate content, the subdomain can allow for separation of content and keeping the content associated with the company’s primary domain/brand. I like this lesson as it makes for tidy urls.

10 things to ponder some more and conclusions yet to be determined.