styling

Mandy Lancia

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. 

Mandy Lancia | Freelance Wisdom

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.
Mandy Lancia | Freelance Wisdom

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.
Mandy Lancia | Freelance Wisdom

"If you want to work in styling photographs, remember to create a moment, rather than just an image."


Mandy Lancia | Freelance Wisdom

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.
Mandy Lancia | Freelance Wisdom

"Believe in yourself. In freelancing, you are your brand, your work, your vision."


Mandy Lancia | Freelance Wisdom

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.
Mandy Lancia | Freelance Wisdom

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.
Mandy Lancia | Freelance Wisdom

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

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Amanda Nolan Booker

We are excited to turn our attention behind the camera and connect with Amanda Nolan Booker, a photographer and prop stylist based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her photography celebrates the simple, yet spellbinding beauty of a single moment, whichever form it may take. We love her use of natural light and her ability to create nostalgic, serene settings. If only we could live in one of her photos! Thank you Amanda for sharing your words and photos with us. 

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance photographer and stylist.

It all happened completely by chance, as these things tend to do. In 2010, I opened an Etsy shop to sell the vintage clothing and bric-a-brac I had a tendency for hoarding. I joined Instagram to promote my shop and I soon realized I enjoyed the process of styling and photographing the inventory and sharing images with others more than owning the shop. When I was chosen as one of Instagram’s ‘Suggested Users' and began to garner thousands of new followers, I made the decision that I would direct that attention towards my styling and photography work, and closed up shop. I threw all of my energy into creating a portfolio after that.

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

Many of my first clients found my work through Instagram. I used the time I would later dedicate to commissioned work to create a pretty large body of personal work which I used to fill my Instagram feed and fill a portfolio.

What advice would you give to somebody starting out in photography/styling?

Just go for it! Work as often as you are able. I know it can be difficult to find the time when you are first starting out, but it is important that you do. No one will hire you without having seen examples of your work. Get in touch with other creatives in your area and set up test shoots; they are the best way to build a portfolio (and relationships!) when you are just starting out.

"Work as often as you are able. I know it can be difficult to find the time when you are first starting out, but it is important that you do. No one will hire you without having seen examples of your work. Get in touch with other creatives in your area and set up test shoots; they are the best way to build a portfolio (and relationships!) when you are just starting out."


Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

I must admit that I am absolute garbage at sticking to a precise schedule, but what has helped me remain productive are to-do lists. And lots of them. Every time I am able to check something off my list I am eager to move on to the next item.

Can you tell us about your prop styling process?

It’s really just organized chaos- there is always a great mess involved when I style a scene. I’m always a bit nervous when someone sees me work for the first time, because they will invariably witness a deranged person move props around on a surface, talk/yell at inanimate objects, and fall off chairs.

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

My greatest struggle with freelance work so far has been to preserve a positive attitude when there are no new clients coming in. I try to schedule test shoots during these dry spells and keep myself busy with maintaining my online presence.

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

There are many things to love about freelance work, but I have to say that working from home is at the top of my list. I experience severe anxiety on a daily basis, so it is such a relief to be able to work from a familiar, safe place.

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

By creating the work I want to be hired to create. I have been approached by clients mainly because they saw my work through Instagram and wanted to work with me based on my aesthetic.

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

I am notoriously bad at bookkeeping, so I feel like any of my advice would only do harm. Haha. I’ll tell you what I’ve been told by friends and colleagues: stay organized. That I can handle.

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

Oddly enough my husband maintains my work-life balance for me. Haha. He always tells me when I’ve worked enough for the day, when I need to take a break. Without him I fear I would run coffee through a IV into my blood stream and work straight through life. Obviously I don't recommend this. Take a break often, folks.

Take a break often, folks.


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

bravery, patience, self-discipline
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Saturday Studio

This week we are excited to chat with our next design team duo, Kathryn Whyte and Brittany Davis of Saturday Studio. These two graphic designers joined forces in Charleston, SC, just a year ago. In that year they have built a beautiful, fresh, and modern body of work that we can't get enough of. We are especially in love with their motto: "Do what you love and every day will feel like a Saturday." 

Tell me about your paths to becoming designers. How did you decide to join forces and start a design firm together?

We were both graphic design majors in college (Brittany at CCAD in Columbus, Kathryn at Tyler School of Art in Philly), and met in Charleston in 2013. In getting to know each other we realized we have similar design histories. We both did a lot of freelancing after college, had both worked as in-house designers for different food & bev businesses, and were working full-time at the same design firm when we met. The next step seemed obvious—let’s team up and do things our own way!

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

Word of mouth and referrals from friends were helpful when we started (and still are)—people were really supportive of our new venture. Getting our work out on social media was key, as well—especially Instagram and Pinterest.
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Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

Stay organized! It's much easier to focus on a task (design deadline, preparing a proposal, etc), when we plan, schedule, and delegate. It limits distractions and second-guessing.

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

We're still a pretty new studio (we've been Saturday for a little over a year), so being patient with ourselves and the process of getting our name out there can be a struggle. We have a lot of skills and experience under our belts, but you have to start at the beginning with a new business—we're always working toward realizing the potential we see for Saturday Studio.

What is your favorite thing about working as a team?

We always push each other to be better. We have a lot in common, but we have different strengths—both creatively and in business. That balance keeps things from getting stale, and helps us look beyond just settling for the first idea we come up with. 

"We always push each other to be better. We have a lot in common, but we have different strengths—both creatively and in business. That balance keeps things from getting stale, and helps us look beyond just settling for the first idea we come up with."


Do you have any advice for handling communication as a partnership?

Be honest, but be constructive. We're sure a lot of partnerships start out as friendships, and it can be a challenging transition. We both have our stubborn moments, and both like to be right (who doesn't?), but knowing when to compromise is important. It comes down to respecting each other's opinions and feelings.

"Knowing when to compromise is important. It comes down to respecting each other's opinions and feelings."


How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

Keep working! We keep our website as up-to-date as possible, and stay active on social media. Maintaining good relationships with our current clients goes a long way toward attracting new ones—happy clients are the best way to gauge if we're doing things right!
In addition to client work, we try to make time for self-authored projects. One of our favorites is Talihina Cold Brew. We wanted to brand and design packaging for cold brew coffee, but we didn't have a coffee client, so we made one up! It was an opportunity for us to explore branding, typography, printing, and photography, and in the end was another project that could attract potential clients.

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

The business aspect of our job is probably the least interesting to us! It's a huge component, though, so we make it a priority. Again, organization is key. And knowing when to ask for or hire help.

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

When you work for someone else you can go home at the end of the day and not think about work again until the next morning. That definitely changes when you own your own business, and it wasn't something we took lightly when we started. We're almost always thinking about projects or ideas on some level, but we're ok with that—the important thing for us is to take a break from the desk, and from executing the ideas. Making our own schedule is a big perk, and works to our advantage when we need a break, whether it's a whole day or just an hour to get some doughnuts.         

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

confidence, patience, sense of humor

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