Audrey Ma is a photographer and creative director. She is an alum of UCLA and California College of the Arts, San Francisco. We discussed what it takes to be able to quit a corporate job and start making a living from a talent or a passion like she did with photography. Her photos have been published in Conde Nast, New York Times, Los Angeles Magazine, TimeOut, C Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, and others, and she is the person behind the very cool visuals from Alfred Coffee.
Audrey: “Humor is the shortest distance between two people.”
I’ve always had a vision of working for myself. After my grad school thesis turned into a real business, I had enough motivation to quit and pursue entrepreneurship. Though that business venture ultimately failed, it gave me the confidence to focus on Photography as a career.
I owe a lot of my work ethic, accountability, and professionalism to my time at Disney. So much of business management is actually people management.
My background is in graphic design and creative direction, so I had a small side hustle leveraging those skills but photography was still very much a hobby. It took a few years to really build out a network of photography clients.
I have experienced exponentially more growth as an entrepreneur than working for a large cooperation.
Travel is a huge source of inspiration and helps me recharge in between busy seasons of work. When possible, I jump on every opportunity to leave LA.
I revisit this quote often because I still find it to be very relevant to my professional journey :
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple of years, you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.
Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”― Ira Glass
The diversity: clients, collaborators, creative problems, and seeking the best solution. I love applying past learnings to new projects…I have experienced exponentially more growth as an entrepreneur than working for large cooperation.
Fortunately and unfortunately, no two days repeats itself. When I’m not on set, I’m usually editing or sending out bids for new projects.
My mother, if I could guarantee we couldn’t kill each other. She is my ultimate inspiration for creativity and entrepreneurship.
Responsiveness and follow-through. They make the world go round.
Because your question specifically asks about “making a living,” I think it’s important for freelance creatives to have a baseline understanding of finances and business modeling. Whether funding comes from grants or paying clients, sustaining a creative career goes hand in hand with being able to support oneself financially.
Workout and SWEAT…Physical exertion usually puts me back on the right track
The dawn of a new decade…it’s both overwhelming and incredibly hopeful at the same time
Photo cover by Grant Legan [/mepr-show]