Welcome to the thrilling conclusion to this tepid saga! This is just one chapter in the story of my own business, going from part-time Williams-Sonoma chef to colorist and beyond. Thanks for following along.
I have this theory that Oklahoma is actually like a fly trap for creative people. Seriously, when the only thing to do as a teenager is drive around and stare at flat land, it’s pretty good motivation to make something more interesting. I have a distinct memory of being sixteen, spending an entire spring break driving around Southern Oklahoma aimlessly and feeling like every inch of those plains was filled with possibility. The Flaming Lips, The Starlight Mints, Will Rogers: there are a boatload of talented people who have called Oklahoma home. Oklahomies, you know.
In Oklahoma, I had a shoot with Braid Creative to look forward to. I was delighted when earlier in the fall I got an email from Kathleen about my small business video essays. I had connected with her earlier because she’s awesome, the internet makes the world a smaller place, and funny enough - she lives in my old ‘hood. She thought a small business essay was a kick-ass idea and she and Tara were a kick-ass fit for one. Meanwhile their approach to small business coaching was something my tiny, sputtering enterprise could really do well with. I showed up to Braid Creative and was there for maybe five minutes before I knew we were all going to get gold.
My video essay illustrated what made their growing company appealing in an irreverent, researched way. It was pretty magic to hand in a project that rocked not because of the gear, but because I finally found a client that wanted my perspective and liked the product I most wanted to make. At the same time, the creative roadmap I got from Tara and Kathleen kind of changed my life. They gave me words for what I have to offer: a simple loud statement to replace the staggering silence I’d previously stumbled over when describing my business.
Now, the roadmap sits on my desktop. I kind of think of it as a treasure map though, because my spirit animal is an angry pirate.
The best part of the roadmap was seeing my own words echoed back to me, but confirmed and made stronger by a second and third party. The sisters Braid are more like a second, third, fourth and fifth party. Their relationship to creative vision is exponential.
I could see I wasn’t just grasping at straws. I looked at our findings and I did have a product people wanted. I just had to find the right market. Which was maybe not primarily brides: it was other business owners.
This was a huge challenge for me to accept, because so many of the photographers I admire are indeed wedding photographers. And A Practical Wedding practically launched my business, so I felt extremely torn about no longer pursuing wedding photography.
Don’t get me wrong, I have my classic favorite shooters too, but the thing about these wedding industry rogue-agents? They have such genuine content on their blogs and websites, both their photos and words attract customers as kick-ass as they are. I wanted some of that constantly unfolding narrative. I could see it developing in front of me day after day, thanks to the webernets.
As a young creative professional I am constantly consuming other media, trying to find a balance between looking for inspiration and making something that’s distinctly my own. The greatest asset the roadmap from Braid provided me was that: a clear picture of what I’m great at.
Because I saw what my niche was, I could find inspiration from anywhere, from anything, at any time, and keep a grip on my different perspective. Anytime I get a little jealous, it pays in scores to have what I really want written down. I look at the map again and decide if I’m actually envious of something that would help my path. Usually the answer is no.
I came home from Oklahoma feeling calmer and cleaner, ready to put my business back together in a way that made sense. Ready to invest in the right channels.
We whipped through the plains again, rolled down the windows when we could, filled up when it was cheapest, and were sent off with a lot of snacks packed with love and blue cheese dip. It was much better than the dollar-menu-induced intestinal distress endured on the previous trip.
James got three calls for jobs while we were gone, and when we came back, I was working at the Dailies lab more than ever. I chose to go in and train with color correction software, even when there wasn’t money attached. I went from developing my business as Rory Gordon Photo: A Lady That Shoots Businesses and Weddings and Please Hire Me Please…
to Rory Gordon Photo: Portraits of Businesses.
The story gets less dramatic after this point. I continued to go work at Williams-Sonoma, the lab, and run my business for a while. But most of all, I made a choice. I’m a professional videographer and colorist, and that’s where I should choose to concentrate my efforts. I chose to be more concerned with being an imaging professional than paying bills, and it happened. Slowly, and with hesitation, but it happened. I worked really hard at the lab, and one day I was so tired I just knew I couldn’t do everything anymore. I put in my notice at Williams-Sonoma and that was that.
We didn’t miraculously have more money. I didn’t have any more connections. I just rerouted my energy. I brought back some of that magic from the plains. Feeling like I had choice and options again made me the brokest rich woman in the world.
Outside my office, 2012
If I could tell anyone who was in my shoes from 2011 anything, it’s this: if you find the right path to focus your energy, things will get easier. And when it happens, please give yourself a treat because finding a path is a huge accomplishment, in and of itself. Go out for lunch, develop a light soda addiction, start a soft pretzel slush fund. Even if you discover you’ve got three months left at a day-job, just the knowledge that each step is finite will give you something to go on.
So I leapt. I began to realize my future might actually include professional imaging science. And that brings me up pretty much to where I am today.
I remember when I got hired in my first production office I said to my good friend MJ, “This job is going to change everything.” She laughed and said, “This is your first job. Any job would change everything.”
View from inside my first production office, 2010.
That’s still true. Any job I take is important, because now I choose to take it with conviction and clarity of mind. Any job I take gives me another choice, which makes me a little richer.
And anything could change with the next choice.
Thanks for listening.