How I Became a Brand and Website Designer

Plot twist, I’ve never taken a design course in my life. I’ve spoken a few times on here about how I went to school for photography, not design.

After I graduated from Buffalo State College in 2011 I spent a few months trying to make it as an artist….entering art festivals, shows, and trying to sell prints of the work I had created in college. I had a studio I shared with two other local painters, and was still working a part time job. It was a life I loved. I had always been inspired by Patti Smith and Robert Maplethorpe and I had big dreams of falling in love and being a starving artist in NYC (this never happened, but a girl can dream, right?!) During this time I had to make a lot of flyers and advertisements for the gallery shows I was in, and many of my friends also asked me to make flyers for events and for their bands/performances. I knew how to use photoshop very well, so it was a great fit. Flyers turned into logos, and logos turned into websites. During this time I also had to create my own website. I discovered Showit, and my life was forever changed.

Shortly after that I decided to quit my part time job and start shooting weddings on the side. I followed Jasmine Star (this is how I discovered Showit – more on that below) and thought, “I can do that too!” It was never something I found incredibly enjoyable or inspiring, but it was fun to put a creative twist on it. My website transitioned from one that showed my college portfolio to my wedding portfolio.

In 2014 on an 8 hour car ride home from NYC, I was randomly struck with the idea to create and sell Showit templates. There was only one or two other people doing that sort of thing at the time. For years I created templates but only ever sold two or three of them. It got my foot in the door as a designer and people also started to reach out to me for custom work. From there, things just built and built until I was ready to quit shooting weddings (at this point I was starting to resent it), and work as a designer full time.

Some frequently asked questions:

How did you start working with Showit?

I always disliked shooting weddings…I’m a very quiet and reserved person and I could never see myself telling people what to do, where to stand, shouting over a crowd of wedding guests. I always thought wedding photos were incredibly cheesy and painful to even look at, let alone take. But around this same time I stumbled across Jasmine Star’s website and was shocked by her ability to shoot weddings so candid and real. She used to talk about Showit a lot on her blog – the platform she used to design her website. I realized I needed a website too, and from the moment I landed on Showit’s website my life has been forever changed. I couldn’t afford the $40/month subscription, so I wrote to them and asked them for a discounted rate. They were still a very small company at this time (this was almost 10 years ago), and they agreed to give me a three year subscription for free. I built my first website. Showit was also an incredible resource for me – they used to do a daily video stream from their office, called “Showit Live” where they would talk about business, tools, software, books, anything business related (mostly wedding photography related). I learned more from Showit Live than I learned the entire 4 years I was in college.

Read more about why I love Showit

Is there a platform you find most effective for connecting with potential clients?

Instagram! All day every day. I barely use Facebook, I think it’s terrible for business and creatives. Instagram inspires me in every way, shape, and form. I’m constantly finding new people to follow and new people I’d like to work with.

What type of brands do you work with?

I love handcrafted brands, makers, and artists. I love the thought of products being made from hand, having a story behind them. Most of my clients are wedding photographers, and I particularly love ones who place a large emphasis on selling products and albums rather than just delivering digital files. It’s important to me that there is a physical product, something with soul and a story that evokes emotion and can be passed down through generations (theharrisco.com – one of my absolute favorites! I did their brand but not their current website)

If you could choose your favorite branding project you have done so far, what would it be, any why?

As I mentioned above, The Harris Company project will always hold a special place in my heart. They’re located near Albany, but Makayla and Dave both went to school in Buffalo (UB) so I automatically felt a connection with them. They were one of the first clients to put complete trust in me – never questioned my design choices one bit. They so wedding photo/video, but they preach the importance of family heirlooms, and that really hits home for me. Like I said, I love any brand that creates a product that evokes emotion, a story, and a history. They’ve been my clients for almost 4 years now, they keep coming back to me every time they pursue a new project, and they sing my praises to everyone they work with. They have become friends, not just clients.

Do you have any advice for starting freelancers trying to attract those first few clients?

Show the work you want to be doing. A lot of people make the mistake of showing a million different kinds of work so clients can see versatility, but the riches are in the niches. Find your style, own it, and only show work that embodies what you want to work on in the future. Clients that don’t fully appreciate your style (and seek you out for it) are not a good fit and you will be unhappy. 

Don’t have a lot of work like this? Fake it till you make it. Make up imaginary business names and create logos/brands for them, in your style. I did this a few years ago and that’s when things really took off for me.

Did you have it all planned out or did you just take the jump and learn as you went?

I definitely, definitely did not have it all planned out. There were many years where I made little to no money and lived in a constant state of fear of failure and disappointment. But over that period came a lot of necessary growth.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.

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