Liz Kuball

This week we are excited to talk with Liz Kuball, a photographer based in Los Angeles with roots along the shores of Lake Michigan. Her work has been exhibited across the United States and editioned through 20x200. Liz's clients include the Ace Hotel, Condé Nast TravelerThe New York Times, Refinery29, and The Wall Street Journal. AND we are so lucky to have her as a member of our Creative Lady Directory!

Thank you Liz for sharing your captivating photos and empowering insights. 

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance photographer.

I majored in English, worked in house for a publishing company as a copyeditor for a couple years, and then went freelance. Editing was never a job I wanted. As a freelancer, I stuck with editing a lot longer than I would have if I'd stayed in house, because I enjoyed a lot of the perks of freelancing (mainly, the freedom to live where I want and set my own hours). For a while, I thought I wanted to be a writer, and I went to grad school for writing in my late 20s, but I wasn't feeling it and I was floundering a bit. I took an independent study course toward the end of my time in grad school, and at the beginning of the semester, the professor told me he wanted to put together a reading list for me, to try to give the semester some focus. He asked what I was interested in. I said, "I've always been interested in photography," and that changed everything. He had me reading Susan Sontag and Janet Malcolm and thinking and writing about photography, and by the end of the semester, I knew I wanted to be a photographer, not a writer.
After I got out of grad school, while continuing to work as an editor, I started teaching myself how to use a camera and also studied the history of photography. I took a couple classes at a local community college, but really just started taking lots and lots of pictures and looking at the work of other photographers. I started a blog in 2007 and fell into the fine art photoblog community. I started showing my work in group shows and editioned a couple prints through 20x200. But something still wasn't right. I didn't like the split between my day job and the thing I loved to do. For years, I had worried that if I made photography my job, I would hate it because I had hated my day job for so many years. But finally, in 2014, I decided I would start going after photo assignments.
© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?

I started by making a list of all the publications I wanted to shoot for. Most of the publications were places I had in mind already, but I also looked at the client lists of photographers whose work I admired and felt some connection to or thought shared a similar aesthetic. I did test shoots (basically, self-assigned stories along the lines of what I hoped to be assigned someday), and I shared those images with the photo editors I wanted to work with. I put together a print portfolio, and I went to San Francisco with it, and then to New York. Slowly, I started getting assignments. I started sending out postcards once a month, with handwritten notes on the back. I went to New York again, this time with a much better book, and took more meetings.
© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

Can you tell us a bit about what your photography process looks like?

For my personal work, it's largely about heading out the door with my camera, usually on foot, but sometimes behind the wheel of my car, and just looking for photos. If I'm doing it right, I'm not in my head too much. Thinking is my greatest roadblock. Being in my head too much, second-guessing myself and what I'm doing, can be debilitating if I let it.
© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

What has been your greatest struggle as a freelance photographer so far?

Having confidence in myself, not allowing self-doubt to creep in, focusing on my own work, not getting distracted by what other photographers are doing.

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

The freedom.

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

It's really more of the same: making good work and getting it out there. If I feel like I'm not getting the clients or assignments I want, I never forget that it's because my work just isn't there yet, and that means I need to work harder and shoot more. Never losing sight of that means I'm solely responsible for my failures. I think some people have trouble with that, but I find it comforting, because it means it's within my control. If I make great work, the clients will follow.
© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

Liz Kuball | Freelance Wisdom
© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

Do you have advice regarding choosing the clients with which you work?

For editorial photography, I think it's really about knowing your work, and knowing the magazines and newspapers that would be a good fit for you. I don't think it hurts to go after clients who might not at first glance seem like a good fit for your work, but then you should be able to talk to those editors about why you're approaching them.

Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?

Because I've been a freelancer since I was in my mid-20s, I feel like these details are second nature to me. I don't have an accountant. I do all my own taxes (using TurboTax). I keep a spreadsheet of all my assignments, how much I invoiced for, and when I invoiced. I keep another spreadsheet of all my expenses and scan all my receipts. I save a percentage of every check I get for estimated taxes. (The first year I freelanced, I didn't know I was supposed to pay estimated taxes, and I've never made that mistake again!) The past few years, I've used YNAB for my budgeting, and that's made a huge difference just in terms of not stressing about money and making sure that I always have enough to cover the kinds of expenses that crop up unexpectedly.
© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?

I often hear from friends that they wouldn't be able to work from home. They think they'd never get any work done. For me, that's never been an issue. In terms of making sure I don't work too much, when I was editing, that wasn't hard because I didn't love the job, so I just did as much as I needed to do to pay my bills. As a photographer, I actually don't even want a work-life balance. I want photography to be my life, so I never feel like I'm working too much. I love it! I just want more!

What do you do to stay creatively inspired?

Usually, it has nothing to do with looking at photographs. I'll see a movie or read a book or take a trip, and that gives me new ideas. 
© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are: 

Confidence, discipline, and an open mind.
© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

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Kelsey Hutchinson

We are excited to be taking the conversation international again this week, this time with Creative Lady Directory member Kelsey Hutchinson from Australia. 

Kelsey is a designer & illustrator who creates handcrafted identities, printed matter, illustration and lettering for kind people. She brings together a perfectly imperfect design sensibility and a personal transparent environment — one that results in thoughtful design and sustainable outcomes. Thank you so much, Kelsey, for sharing your wisdom with us!

Kelsey Hutchinson | Freelance Wisdom

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance designer and illustrator?

Shortly after graduating from a design degree in my homeland of Australia, I set off to travel for a few months and found myself residing in London. I was invited to intern at a couple of fancy design studios where I was contributing to concept ideas for pharmaceutical companies and banks. I instantly felt this wasn’t the road for me. That being said, I soaked up the experience and felt it was a good place to start before I decided what was next. Shortly after, I landed a full-time position as an in-house designer at a high-end lifestyle brand. My role here was incredibly broad and included styling, assisting in photo shoots, marketing media, textile print design as well as producing creative graphics required for an international brand. The experience I gained here was overwhelming and I will be forever grateful for what the position taught me. Towards the end of my time in London I went freelance for the very same company and worked on a retainer. I began to source my own clients for the days I had available. When I wasn’t working, I was taking short trips to Europe and spending my time exploring the city and generally making the most of being a twenty-something. It was an eventful time in my life and not how I imagined transitioning into full time freelance. I’m now back home, living and working from a little Beach Shack studio smack bang by the sea on the Sunshine Coast, Australia.
Kelsey Hutchinson | Freelance Wisdom

In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?

EMAIL. Whether I was cold-emailing someone that I admired to casually meet for a coffee or reaching out to a friend of a friend or even a previous work colleague. I also asked friends to introduce me to people within their circle via email, this encouraged a more natural conversation! Sure some came back with ‘sorry we are not interested’ or ‘we don’t think you're the right fit’ and of course some didn’t reply at all. However many people did get back to me and provided me with the opportunity to produce some of the work I am most proud of and relationships that have been invaluable.
Kelsey Hutchinson | Freelance Wisdom

We love how you call your design sensibility perfectly imperfect. Tell us a little bit more about your style.

I’ve always been naturally pulled towards objects and things that are a little off. I grew up with my mum collecting beautiful trinkets and ceramics so I have a feeling this may have something to do with it! I like the asperity and asymmetry in design and have always been drawn to the overtly handmade. With the current makers movement this may be in my favour, but it will always be my personal taste and I feel overjoyed when clients reach out seeking this.
Kelsey Hutchinson | Freelance Wisdom

What has been your greatest struggle as a freelance creative so far?

It would have to be comparing opportunities I would have living in a bustling city versus a surf town (thank you internet!). Also, not knowing when enough is enough is something else I struggle with, there is always something else to work on after you have crossed off all your to do’s for the day.

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

1. Direct contact with clients and the satisfaction of seeing a job through from start to finish.
2.  For a short trip this month I can simply plan to work evenings for a week so I can explore Tasmania by day.
3. Days at home with my Aussie Shepherd pup Birdie!
Kelsey Hutchinson | Freelance Wisdom

What do you do to stay creatively inspired?

Without a doubt, travel! Last year I went backpacking with my partner for three months. We made it through Morocco, Spain, Sicily and Portugal, always aiming for places considered off the beaten track (places like Azores and Tafedna). I love seeking out the unexpected. I also live by the ocean and hinterland, so getting away from the mac and going for a drive through the mountains or swimming in the sea over the Aussie summer cures just about anything.

What advice would you give to a fellow designer who is thinking about going out on her own?

When I was completing my design degree I would envy designers blogging about the freelance lifestyle. Back then I didn’t realise the resilience, persistence, careful email wording, tears, the guilt of missing a deadline and the general highs and lows of the job. Don’t get distracted by the beautiful social media outlets and remember that anything worth doing takes a lot of hard work.
Kelsey Hutchinson | Freelance Wisdom
Kelsey Hutchinson | Freelance Wisdom

The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:

Be persistent, stay humble & don’t take yourself too seriously.
Kelsey Hutchinson | Freelance Wisdom

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Brunna Mancuso

This week we are traveling to São Paulo, Brazil to speak with Brunna Mancuso, an illustrator & editorial designer. Her work is loose, feminine, and emotive and has been commissioned by Nivea, Bebe.com, and Cosmopolitan Brazil.

Need a little support and reassurance? This interview will certainly put a spring in your step. 

Brunna Mancuso | Freelance Wisdom

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance illustrator and editorial designer.

I've been a designer for 12 years now and I swear it doesn't feel that long. When I was working in a publishing and design studio, in 2012, my bosses asked me to do some illustrations for a publication, even though I had never done such work before. They totally trusted me, and it was awesome. Some months after that, I went to college to study Visual Arts and my interest in painting / illustration grew even more... I was learning and working at the same time, it was a really special time for me, a whole new world.

In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?

Actually, I've only started to get big clients for a year, now... As I worked in the field already — and still work — I kind of have contacts (and friends) in several publishers and studios, so they remember me when they have a job that suits me. Also, I participate in some art fairs and meet really nice people at those events. I love it. Some of them become clients.

Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

I love to draw and to paint and I'm always thinking about what can I do next... I have so many ideas! But if I'm stuck I usually run through my old sketchbooks. Often there are some good ideas lost in there. Also I really feel the lack of creativeness when I'm really tired.. so I try my best to respect my body (which is really hard when you do what you love). I'm a workaholic, you know...
Brunna Mancuso | Freelance Wisdom
Brunna Mancuso | Freelance Wisdom

What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?

As I said before, respecting my body, resting and not thinking about work is the most difficult for me. When I'm not creating I feel I'm losing time, and it's horrible! So, getting my mind away from work is, for sure, the most difficult for me.

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

I love the freedom. It can be really tricky and you can work for several days with no rest, or the opposite, you can work only 4 hours a day and think it's ok (and if it really is you are a lucky person, congrats! haha). But work for myself, running my business (even the boring part or it), feels like I'm doing these things for myself... it's a good feeling.
Brunna Mancuso | Freelance Wisdom

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

Sharing my work on social media, for sure. It's the best thing an illustrator can do for him/herself. Especially my personal work, because this is the work that comes from my soul. I do the paintings because I love to, not because someone paid me to do it. Of course I love the commission too, and I share those as well, but I think it's really important to keep the personal work always.

Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?

OMG It's always a nightmare! haha When I struggle with paperwork I hire an accountant to help me. But usually I don't have to spend much time on it. I just try to be careful and keep the income/outcome under control, and breathe. haha
Brunna Mancuso | Freelance Wisdom

How do you stay creatively inspired?

The usual... music, good art/books/movies, travel, my cats... Even though I don't have a really calm life right now, I enjoy peaceful moments like discovering a new coffee shop or meeting my friends... A simple, yet meaningful life.

What advice would you give to a fellow illustrator who is thinking about going out on her own?

Save some money for a while, before jumping in, and keep meeting new people (and make friends...life is not only about contacts). Socialize! Being an illustrator can be lonely.

Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?

Oh, no, I haven't. haha I can only say that there will be moments that you won't have any commission, so I suggest that you focus on your personal work. I try to develop some new skills too.
Brunna Mancuso | Freelance Wisdom

If you could design for anyone who would it be?

Penguin Books and Google! :)

The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:

Flexible, open minded, confident.
Brunna Mancuso | Freelance Wisdom

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