Quoth: A Creative’s Manifesto

A lot of people assume I chose to be a freelancer. The truth isn’t quite as glamorous, and I’ve had to make ends meet by working hard and keeping the hustle alive. When I graduated with my precious double major I was met with a world that had zero jobs. Nothing. The sad irony is I had graduated a semester early just so I could start working. I was excited to land that first job, to start creating, and to find a place I felt I belonged.

After I graduated, I moved to Italy to decompress from the extra 70 credits I had jammed into my schedule. I settled into language school for three months, and then from there moved to LA for a month, the city where my freelance career began. I worked as a photo assistant on the Apple iPad billboard campaigns, and I also worked as a photographer’s assistant, completing graphic design work for Billboard Magazine and The Hollywood Reporter.

I moved back to Boston since I’m really not a West Coast/Best Coast type. I thought I’d find some kind of entry level creative position, but the reality was I worked as a concierge for a year while sending out applications. For over a year I sent out applications every week — I never had a single interview. Most (if not all) of my emails weren’t even acknowledged.

This clearly wasn’t a viable way of life, so I decided to move to New York City. I had a few interviews, over the course of a few months, with some taking up literally weeks of my life. But nothing. No job offers — in fact, one place said I didn’t get the job because, if anything, I was too good, and they feared I would fast track to a higher position in a short amount of time.

So I learned to network. To multitask. To work hard. To negotiate with clients, to deal with clients, to find clients, to keep in touch with clients. To chase after paychecks. To be on my own. I learned not only how to do my job, but also every job that running a business requires.

It’s one of my theories that when people give you advice, they’re really just talking to themselves in the past.
-Mark Epstein

As I said, this wasn’t something I chose. Along the way I began collecting quotes, words of wisdom, and personal anecdotes I wish I’d known earlier. Sources of inspiration. I was building a manifesto of sorts, my own guide to a career that was evolving in real time. When I was starting out I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, and since I didn’t come from or really know anyone in this freelance world, I felt like I needed to find some guidance.

They say you should become the person you needed when you were younger. So that’s my goal with this project: to share what I’ve learned so nobody feels like they’re starting out with nothing. I want this to be the resource I wish I’d had all along.

Photo by Kristin Booker for Giafrese
Jeff Smith

Jeff started in photography and short format video, and he's been at the forefront of the web tv movement. He’s worked on haute couture shoots in Paris, shot street style in Milan, and is currently developing a steady roster of beauty, fashion, and digital clients in NYC.

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