Mandy Lancia is a lifestyle photographer, social media manager, consultant, stylist, and content creator based in Chicago. Although she steps into many different roles, her work remains consistent and her aesthetic calming. With her photographs we are reminded to appreciate movement, stillness, and the beauty of the moment.
Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance photographer, stylist, and marketer.
I have always known that I wanted to pursue a career in a creative field. I studied communications and media at Northeastern University, so my courses covered marketing, PR and film production. While in school, I was working for a small plant shop as a social media manager, which allowed me to style, photograph and create content for various media platforms. With a background in event planning and commercial photography, I was able to create a position that allowed for a bit more freedom and creative exploration.
Pretty soon after graduating this past May, I moved to Chicago where I have been pursuing freelance work full time. While my heart still often longs for Boston on occasion, I found more creative realms and markets in Chicago that allow me to find consistent work that I enjoy. I suppose that I never really decided to become a full time freelancer, but the opportunities that I have encountered have put me on this path.
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
I have always been someone who tries to build relationships with people that I admire. With that being said, I truly admire small business owners with unique and inspiring visions. Many of the clients that I have worked with were not sought out; rather, after visiting shops multiple times and conversing with the owners, I was offered freelance work. Honestly, I couldn’t ask for anything better.
I am a strong believer in small businesses. Growing up with a single mother who owned a shop, I understand the dedication that goes into making a business successful and the steps that need to be taken in order to gain visibility and community. There is beauty in the strength of independent businesses, which is why I tend to work exclusively with small shops and brands that I love.
What advice would you give to somebody starting out in photography/styling?
Just create. When I began this venture, I didn’t even really know that I began. I loved capturing images with a thoughtful and minimal aesthetic, which then led to a cohesive set of images that portrayed my style and personality. Always keep your eyes open for inspiration, whether it be a friend, a time of day or the movement of light through the window of the coffee shop you frequent. Just always be looking and learning from your surroundings. I think understanding and appreciating movement is of great help when it comes to styling. Even in a still image, the way that the objects, clothing or setting are placed, create an emotional response with viewers. There is a trend of styling beautiful images, but if you want to work in styling photographs, remember to create a moment, rather than just an image.
"If you want to work in styling photographs, remember to create a moment, rather than just an image."
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
- Make lists and use a calendar. Freelancers can very easily become overloaded, so make sure to keep schedules and agendas to get the most time out of your day, without becoming overwhelmed.
- Be open and curious. Productivity doesn’t necessarily apply to a specific project. When you are meeting someone new, talk about your interests and skills; while at a coffee shop, ask the person next to you if they are enjoying the publication they are reading. The act of reaching out and creating a relationship can lead to so much more than an interesting conversation. Many of the jobs I have taken on have come from conversing at an event or telling a friend that I am interested in showcasing female business owners.
- Believe in yourself. In freelancing, you are your brand, your work, your vision.
"Believe in yourself. In freelancing, you are your brand, your work, your vision."
Can you tell us about your styling process?
When creating styled work for a client, I begin by asking them what they want their images to convey and where the images will be used. This gives me a sense of the backstory behind the scene I need to create. From there, I decide what products will be used in the shoot (this is my favorite part!) Through touching, moving and visualizing the products and the setting, I can then narrow down to the essential needs of shoot. Depending on the story being told, I then source additional objects to be used (i.e. florals, linens, plants). In terms of the actual styling, it is a fairly fluid and natural process. With the images that are in my mind, I am able to begin the creation, but the rest flows from there. As I have said before, movement is important in my process, so I tend to style objects of different heights, shapes and sizes in order to create a realistic environment.
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?
Having a consistent workflow, I would say, has been the greatest struggle. While I have only been freelancing full time for three months, I have seen weeks that are packed full of projects, while others are lacking. Since I am trying to sustain myself and make a living with this work, not having a set schedule can be a blessing and a curse all in one.
What is your favorite thing about freelance?
My favorite aspect is the freedom that it gives me. I am able to work at any given time, while still allowing for personal projects or travel. I am extremely lucky to have created a career path that I wholeheartedly love. From styling a thoughtful, simple breakfast, to photographing a fall clothing line, to baking a cake for content creation, rarely does my work ever feel like work; rather, they are simply projects that I can fully delve into passionately, which I think comes across in the finished project.
How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?
I truly think that showcasing my cohesive style attracts new clients. Whether it be through my Instagram feed, my website, or my personal project WITH/ANOTHER, people or businesses who are interested in working with me can understand the aesthetic, consistency and work ethic that links all of my projects.
Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?
Since I do feel super fortunate to have a career that doesn’t feel like work, I don’t necessarily feel as though my work and personal time are that separate. If I was not styling projects for work, I would be doing it for pleasure on my own time anyway. With that being said, it is difficult to turn my mind off from thinking of new ideas, projects or ways to showcase my work. I try to take some time to myself every morning before I really start my day through either a cup of coffee, yoga or simply listening to an inspiring podcast or album while I am getting ready.
The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:
Dedication, passion, and curiosity