May 19, 2022
Have you ever had to give up something you love? Throughout my life, I had to give up a lot of things I loved because I loved something else more. I gave up photography because it was causing me to miss important moments with my wife and daughter. Photography is one of many arts that I fell in love with and one of many that I no longer pursue as a career. But I spend time designing websites for photographers. Why not just be a photographer?
Every artist and businessperson has a unique story of how they got started. And each story is valuable in inspiring the next artist or entrepreneur. This is my story of starting Wild Eyed Creative Company to be a better husband, father, and community member.
In 2006, my friend Ryan Stark and I went to a Christian music festival called Cornerstone. Ryan was into photography and had a couple of cameras with him. He had an idea: pretend to be photographers so we can get backstage with our favorite bands. We tried it. And it worked!
Well, it kind of worked; we got to take pictures in the front row. Suddenly I was a photographer and I fell in love with the craft.
Later, I went to Greenville College and got a degree in digital media. I studied photography, videography, graphic design, web design—an umbrella degree. But my main focus was audio engineering.
Before I got into photography I was already in love with music. My goal was to learn everything I could about the music world. I was playing in bands and wanted to learn audio engineering so I could record my own band and make money recording other bands as well. Music was my life and I needed to have it all around me.
But then I got a little older and got married. I found out it’s not easy to be married and live the rock-star life. That’s where photography filled the void. It was hard to give up on my dream of music, but photography was a way for me to be creative and not have to be on the road all the time.
I got a job making commercials for a local news station, then I worked for a church doing marketing and content creation. But that didn’t last. So I decided to give photography a real shot.
The move changed everything. In Illinois, I could charge $2,000 for a wedding, even when I was just starting out. But in Utah, the photography business is much more competitive. It was really tough to make a living.
I tried getting back into music…played some gigs, did some recording, but then, once again, my marriage was suffering because of it. I was putting too much time into one thing and not enough in the other, and ultimately, nothing was working. I felt like the biggest failure.
Depression and anxiety hit me hard. I didn’t get out of bed for days. It took a lot of suffering before I got help (I was very against getting help). I started taking different combinations of meds (Vivance, Lexapro, Adderall), but that stuff really messed me up. What worked was counseling.
Counseling helped me get back on my feet. During that time I worked several different jobs: answered phone calls for a college; ran the check-in desk at a hospital; helped a photographer and some realtors who had a studio. Finally, I settled with a marketing job for a local company, and at the same time got my photography business going.
With my marketing job, we would do these trade shows in Las Vegas. If I wasn’t away from home for the trade show then I was busy all weekend shooting a wedding. I gave up music so I wouldn’t have to be away from my family, yet somehow life was still keeping me from them. I knew I was going to have to give something up again.
I chose photography. It felt like the responsible thing to do. Even though I’m not the nine-to-five type, I felt I should keep my steady job with its solid hours and benefits. That’s what a good man does, right? I was ready to give my days to my marketing job, and my nights and weekends to my family. Then four weeks later, I got let go.
Why does life happen this way? As soon as I make the right decision—everything backfires. I was devastated. A house, a wife, and a new baby…but no income. I didn’t know what to do. So I talked to my buddy, Pastor Dan.
I thought he was going to give the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” speech, like a lot of people from my hometown would do. But instead, he told me to take my severance and do nothing…for a month.
Nothing? I couldn’t just sit around and do nothing. That’s not what a father and a husband does when he isn’t making money, he gets off his ass and does something. But Pastor Dan felt that I would get stuck in a bad cycle if I just went out and grabbed some random position at Home Depot. He said, “Take a month and get your head on straight”.
So for a month I hung around the house, spent time with my family, went to church. Then at the end of the month, I had to make a decision. Should I try photography again? Find another job? Apply at Home Depot?
I started making a list of all my skills. One of those was web design. It was something I did in college and I built my photography website on Squarespace. So I thought, maybe I could do this. I reached out to all of my photography contacts to find out if there was a need for web designers in the photography industry. And it turned out there was! I was able to get some insight on what photographers wanted in a designer, qualities they couldn’t find.
I took it four weeks at a time. If things improved at the end of the four weeks, I’d keep going. For the first four, I built free websites so that I could get a decent portfolio. After that, I got some paid gigs, and things just kept on growing. It was a dream come true. I started making more money than I did at my marketing job, and I had time, time to take my daughter to daycare, to go to the gym, to get healthy. Finally, people needed my skills. I didn’t have to sacrifice all my time to make ends meet. I was thriving.
Wild Eyed Creative Company was born and it was born for more than just making good websites. I was considered a weird kid growing up in a small Midwestern town. The things I wanted to do and the way I wanted to do them were just…different. I couldn’t fit the mold for some reason. There are a lot of photographers out there like me. We have these wild dreams that we can’t stop looking at no matter how much the world tells us they aren’t possible.
So Wild Eyed is for photographers who need websites. But it’s so much more than that. My goal with this business is to help photographers reach goals that everyone says are impossible. I believe that starts with a good, well-branded website that is made to convert the clients you really want to work with.
I hope my story inspires you to keep pushing no matter what life throws at you.
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