How This Creative Director Became Her Own Boss
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How This Creative Director Became Her Own Boss

Romain

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.

[mepr-show rules=”7108″ unauth=”message”]What quote defines you best?

Audrey: “Humor is the shortest distance between two people.” 

What is your best quality?

Curiosity!

What made you decide to leave your 9 to 5 job and work for yourself?

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. 

What are the best lessons you learned working for a big company like Disney?

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.

Did you already have clients before quitting your job?

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.

What do you like to do in your free time?

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.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

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

What do you like the most about your job?

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. 

What your typical day looks like?

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. 

Who would you dream to work with?

My mother, if I could guarantee we couldn’t kill each other. She is my ultimate inspiration for creativity and entrepreneurship. 

What is a form of good manners?

Responsiveness and follow-through. They make the world go round. 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to make a living from a talent or a passion?

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.  

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?

Workout and SWEAT…Physical exertion usually puts me back on the right track 

What inspires you the most at the moment?

The dawn of a new decade…it’s both overwhelming and incredibly hopeful at the same time

Who should be our next guest?

Kyle Hausmann-Stokes

Save as a photo and add it to your takeaways album.

Photo cover by Grant Legan [/mepr-show]

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Romain

Romain Wawrzyniak is our Editor-in-Chief. His enthusiasm and kindness make his guests feel comfortable creating intimate conversations and priceless insights.

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