We were lucky to catch up with Jessie Strazzeri recently and have shared our conversation below.
Jessie, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Are you able to earn a full-time living from your creative work? If so, can you walk us through your journey and how you made it happen?
It took me a long, long, long time to get to a place where I felt aligned with pushing my photography full-time. I felt trapped in corporate and like most of us was made to believe that making a living on my art wasn’t “realistic”. In fact, during a photography internship in High School the photographer told me, “you’ll always be living hand-to-mouth in this industry.” Blatantly discouragin me from exploring my passion. I’d been in love with photography since middle school and even studied it in college. But for a minute there I totally stopped using my camera. Part of that hiatus was due to a really important secondary season of my life where I was wellness coaching. (Serial Entrepreneur, much?!). Through that I was able to build a little bit of an understanding of what it would really take to run a business, how to maintain a leadership headspace and what kind of sacrifice is necessary if you really want to be an entrepreneur of any kind. I actually tried leaving corporate in 2018 to live off of my wellness coaching “and” photography and bombed. Failed MISERABLY. At the time I was really hard on myself and had no intention of trying to be self-employed again. But looking back I know that experience needed to happen for me to really learn what to do if and when I tried to live as a full-time entrepreneur again. Anyway, in January 2021 I decided I’d just try to get back into photography as a hobby to bring creativity back into my life. Corporate was taking its toll on my feelings of freedom and independence. I offered $60 photoshoots locally and was blown away at how many people wanted to snag a spot. I was even more blown away that I wasn’t rusty at all – photography has just remained something I have an innate talent for. That was kind of a wake up call! A realization there was demand for my style. I had also invested in a self-development course online with one of my favorite spiritual mentors, Kathrin Zenkina. Through a lot of inner work on my belief systems and exploration of my Human Design in that course I finally realized I was the only person that didn’t believe I was capable of making a name for myself in photography. My family, friends, even strangers were always encouraging me to pursue it and the doubt in my own head never let me see that. Alongside that, I also started to think all the right things, “if ever there was a time to do this, it’s now” and “what would life look like if I just followed things that felt good and brought me joy?” and “don’t think. just do”. After five years in digital marketing in corporate start-ups and about nine months of feeling”done” at my current position, I took the leap and left my job in April 2021. I didn’t really feel it was impulsive. I knew in my gut that if I ever needed to go back, getting a 9 to 5 wouldn’t be hard. But with my emergency savings and a huge push in my photography brand awareness thanks to my history in Digital Marketing I was able to cover all my bills and expenses without looking back. We had lift-off! Advice I’d give to myself at the start would be to bolster up a good savings account to live off of while you’re establishing, be mindful about setting money aside and tracking expenses for taxes and above all else recognize the need for both “following your joy” and “getting out of your comfort zone”. You’re always going to have to do the boring stuff, the hard stuff, the uncomfortable stuff alongside creating a business that gives you the freedom to do what you love. Eventually that balance becomes more second nature but it’s clumsy at first!
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
My name is Jessie Strazzeri but people always end up calling me Jess. I stumbled into photography in middle school when a friend had me enroll in our yearbook class with her – after that I always had a camera nearby! I started doing senior photos for my friends in high school and that carried over into college. I went to Northern Arizona University to study Psychology with a minor in Photography (juuuust in case I ever got ballsy enough to make a career out of it!). My mission with my photography is to show people their own happiness and how beautiful it makes them. I want it to be an experience rather than a crappy, posed, stale photoshoot. We laugh, we play, we work together to make memories – not just art. “Photos you can feel” is how I like to describe it. What I’m most proud of and what sets me apart are the same thing, I just want to have fun. It’s easy to get caught up in comparing your work and your style to what’s popular and how other people are doing it or who’s up and coming and that eats away at the fun of it all. My brand has quickly become a place where the emphasis is on being yourself. I want to be unapologetically me, goofing around, telling bad jokes, swearing a little bit– and I want my clients to feel they can be unapologetically themselves, too. That comfort around one another is my sweet spot and what makes my work feel like I’m creating my own kind of family.
What do you think is the goal or mission that drives your creative journey?
I think it’s not necessarily what I’m driving toward as much as what I’m driving away from. My mission driving my creative journey is the pain in staying in the uncomfortable place I was. For years I was giving 150% of my time, energy, creativity to other people’s dreams. To other people’s start ups. And it wasn’t good enough. It was never good enough and that was brutal. To be asked, “why are you so exhausted?” by my boss who just rejected a project I had perfected after months of giving it my all. My mission is to give 150% of my time, energy, creativity to my own dreams. It is still work, but it’s work that gives me freedom to choose the tasks that feel most aligned day-to-day. The freedom to hit the gas when I can handle it and hit the breaks when I need it. Of course I have goals in how I want my clients to feel and the quality of work I want to put into the world. But the mission that keeps me showing up and working with the right people and elevating my quality of work is the recognition that I cannot go back to the kind of work environment and the traditional expectations I used to settle for.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of being a creative in your experience?
The connections I make with my clients is the most rewarding aspect of being a photographer. Holy crap. To hear that the photos I took are the first ones people have ever liked of themselves or that they cried while reviewing the final album – that’s priceless. I don’t think my clients or I expect that going into our work together. We know we’ll get family photos or wedding portraits or whatever it may be so that they just have it, right? But when they are impacted that deeply and positively by it, that’s the most rewarding feeling I’ve ever experienced. I literally help people see how beautiful they are. Or how beautiful and powerful their relationship is. Everyone freaking deserves that level of self adoration.
- Website: www.nettikphotography.com
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/nettikphoto
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/nettikphoto
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jessie-strazzeri-75873643/