As we dive headfirst into the holiday season that for many of us in this industry is filled with equal parts celebrating with family & friends and working to meet the demands of clients with last remnants of budget dollars to spend, I found it fitting to share the November RAF 20 Minutes & A Beer with copywriter and blogger Matt Smythe (@fishingpoet) and Photographer Grant Taylor (@GTaylorPhotog).
Given that the RAF is committed to serving the Rochester Creative Community and knowing that our freelancers and vendors are the lifeblood of both our membership and this creative community, The RAF asked Matt and Grant to share their own account of entrepreneurship and how freelancing is steering their careers.
Instead of focusing on the perks or pitfalls of operating on the fringe of agency or corporate life, the guys stripped away the typical presentation and told a story that went deep into realms of passion, commitment, and desire that feed the creative soul.
Matt Smythe made a proactive decision awhile back to leave agency life and pursue writing for fly fishing and the broader outdoors category — pursuits that define his life and his own personal happiness. A bold move, especially with a family to support. While he eloquently stated that a driving force behind the move was to chronicle his life for his kids, he also spoke of the hard work necessary for taking this personal journey, “In this business you’ve always got to hustle, may as well hustle for yourself.” Matt made deliberate moves to reach his goal that we can all learn from, no matter which path we’re following – as solo practitioners of our craft, or as staff within agencies, design firms, or marketers. He did his homework. He made opportunities for himself. He attended tradeshows where outdoor marketers gather. And soon the small freelance gigs, the stories he was placing within editorial, his blogging all started to shape into his own brand — and that brand found it’s place in a community of likeminded people.
Like so many stories with great intentions, Photographer and avid outdoorsman Grant Taylor shared his own account of wanting to open his own business for years, but was always held back by a thousand reasons why it’s not the right time or that he wasn’t ready to be in business for himself. Meanwhile he diligently pursued personal work (photo projects heavily influenced by his love for the outdoors) amidst his studio duties. But eventually, the unexpected decision was made for him. Grant found himself quickly trying to navigate the unfamiliar world of unemployment after losing his comfortable job of twelve years.
The unique angle to this story begins with the fact that Matt and Grant had plans to begin a collaboration on a pro bono effort for Trout Unlimited that was to kick off the day after Grant found himself on his own. While Grant was trying to collect himself and figure out plans for his livelihood moving forward, he remarkably stuck with his original commitment to work on the pro bono campaign which eventually resulted in award-winning work that got its deserved attention within the outdoors community (view link).
With the Trout Unlimited experience under their belts and some valuable networking by Matt at a New Orleans fly fishing tradeshow, some video production contacts with shared passions of living and working outdoors invited the duo to Idaho to both fish and see if there’s any opportunities to collaborate with one another. So Grant ponied up his frequent flier miles and postponed his plans to start a NY State funded entrepreneurship class and took a leap of faith that exercising their craft would lead them to rich waters.
To make a long story a bit shorter (this is a blog after all), that trip resulted in a statement of intent and treatment for a film masterfully titled A Deliberate Life (view video) that is not simply about being outdoors, but about having the confidence to be in tune with your creative energies, passions, and a commitment to leading a life that best ensures happiness.
Sure, it’s sounds cliché (we’ve all heard those themes expounded upon in everything from self-help books to leadership seminars), but with those ingredients truly fueling your endeavors, success is guaranteed to follow. It certainly has for Matt & Grant. Just days after releasing their 4 minute trailer, internationally recognized film festivals are booking A Deliberate Life for their rosters and the outdoor community is buzzing about the honest and emotional stories of these diverse outdoor enthusiasts set to gorgeous imagery of pristine Idaho and Kansas wilderness. Reviewing comments and posts in social channels around the film, I noticed that the overwhelming sentiment is that the film is speaking to peoples’ souls. Clearly Matt’s words and the imagery Grant has helped capture, along with their collaborators Matt White and Dustin Lutt, are hitting their intended marks.
At the end of the showing, Matt & Grant expressed their thanks for the unique support they’ve received by RAF Connect and the Rochester Creative Community that helped embolden them to take their journey.
But I say that we should all be thankful to the guys for sharing their real-world reminder that prioritizing passion, confidence in your ideas, and a commitment to craft above bottom-line decision-making can result in success and reawaken the wild-eyed creative that we all possess inside.