My story so far

"If you see a job you want, don't ask for it, just start doing it." - Wil Gibson

 

When I was 11, my Dad bought me a copy of Photoshop Elements for my birthday.  Learning every aspect of the software immediately consumed all of my free time.  It combined my interests in drawing and photography and sparked a new interest: design.  After 4 years of learning and practicing, I somehow managed to convince my Grandmother that I had the skills to be a Graphic Designer!  Luckily, she believed in my enthusiasm and helped me along my path by getting me the new version of Photoshop and a copy of Illustrator for Christmas that year.  Thrilled, I dove back into my Adobe fixation, and pretty quickly realized how far I was from being ready to have my dream title of "Graphic Designer".  
 
I set about building a website for my first ever business, Digital Centuries.  After more draft websites than I care to talk about, I had something I felt good about showing to the world.  Armed with my new website, I started making Craigslist ads and giving my business card out to anyone who seemed the remotest bit in need of a Graphic Designer or Web Developer.  In retrospect, I knew very little about what I was doing.  I felt like a lot of my early freelance work was dreadful.  In fact, I have since offered free redesigns to some of my early clients.  Thanks to those first jobs, I was able to get valuable on-the-job practice. I learned how to translate a customer's vague ideas into usable designs.  I learned to take critique without getting my feelings hurt, and how to offer advice without hurting feelings. Finally, and probably most importantly, I learned how to sell my services through teaching.
 
In 2013, I started working for a large historical reenactment event, running and maintaining the venue.  I had the opportunity to sit in on the planning meetings and learn how much they spend on advertising each year. The annual budget was appalling when compared to actual event attendance numbers.  Using my now well-honed skill of jumping into jobs before really knowing how to accomplish the results I was selling, I offered to set up online advertising and manage the venue's social media platforms.  
 
I started learning all I could from books, countless blog posts, and Youtube videos.  With a little bit of knowledge and a lot of ambition, I dove headlong into the world of PPC advertising using Facebook and Google.  In three weeks, I grew the events Facebook Following from 0 to over 1500.  By the end of my ad campaign, I was getting a 7% weekly engagement rate, which is much
higher than average.  The next year, following my initial success the event managers made my efforts the sole advertising for the year.  Exciting!  They also cut the ad budget from over 10k to 1k.  Scary!  More than a little freaked out by the amount of perceived pressure I was under I continued the previous year's PPC ads and started trying to find ways to get local magazines and blogs to publish stories about us for little or no money.  By the day of the event, I had built the Facebook page up to over 2500 users, designed and printed new signage, and gotten 6 different local publications to run stories about us, all while staying under my $1000.00 budget.  Unfortunately, the weekend of the event ended up being one of the coldest and wettest in a long time. Despite the bad weather, and resulting lower turnout, the event was still able to equal the total profit numbers of the previous two years despite lower advertising costs.  
 
The lessons about managing social media communities, and advertising through local publications have stuck with me!  Building my own business and learning about social media advertising have both built upon my love of design, but they've also taught me how much I love building business strategies and interacting with customers.
 
Now, I'm working with my entrepreneurial parents on their holistic small farm.  There I act as farm manager, working with the animals, teaching visitors, managing our social media pages, talking at organic Ag Conventions, and using my design skills to help illustrate all of our efforts!
 
So, what's the moral of my story?  Don't be too afraid to make the leap.  There will always be a gap between what you can learn by reading, and how much you learn by just doing it.  Many people spend all their energy focusing on the potential rocks in between study and action.  One of my earliest mentors once told me, "If you see a job you want, don't ask for it, just start doing it". That quote has been one of my guiding lights for many years.

 

 

This is a mockup. Publish to view how it will appear live.

Andrew Epps