How This Texas-Based Photographer Turned Her Career Frustration Into a Small Business
According to a survey conducted by The Conference Board in 2014, more than 50% of Americans are, at some point, dissatisfied with their careers. When it comes to our work, we want meaning, we want security and we want a path. So, what does that look like when it comes to a creative career?
For freelance-photographer-turned-small-business-owner Riley Blanks, the answer to that question wasn't always so easy. A few years ago, she found herself straddled with a portfolio she wasn't proud of and a client list that didn't match her interests. She wanted work that was more fulfilling, societally useful and financially sustainable—so she sat down and decided to pivot her skills toward something new.
Jane Claire Hervey: Who are you and how would you describe what you do?
Riley Blanks: I am a visual artist, activist and the owner of Woke Beauty. The mission of Woke Beauty is to provide an uplifting photography experience that liberates and empowers women. The brand also brings together a powerful, like minded community in the form of gatherings and events, providing a space for encouragement and inspiration.
Hervey: Before Woke Beauty, you were freelancing as a photographer and actor. How did you arrive at turning your freelance career as a photographer into a small business and brand that exists outside of you?
Blanks: In the Fall of 2017, I hit an existential career crisis. I was fed up with allowing inquiries to dictate my work. My portfolio didn’t have an identity nor a heartbeat. I was working odd jobs, shooting weddings—and corporate events and families and head shots—all in the name of a dream I hadn’t quite yet defined. It was hard to say ‘no’ when ‘yes’ paid the bills. I reached a point where I felt like my artistic voice was getting drowned in what felt like meaningless imagery. I wasn’t truly creating if everything I did was driven by inquiry. I gave myself an ultimatum: If I didn’t have a clear, social-impact-driven, photographic niche by January 2018, I’d move on.