We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Kathryn Ray a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Kathryn, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today Have you been 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? Was it like that from day one? If not, what were some of the major steps and milestones and do you think you could have sped up the process somehow knowing what you know now?
I have been able to earn a full-time living from my work, thankfully! I have lived solely off of my business for the past 6 years. I started my business in early 2015 and went full time in summer of 2016. My income range has always changed and has never been consistent, but generally sloped upward throughout my years of experience. Some of the biggest steps were trusting myself to make it happen and knowing I wanted to give it a try (working for myself I mean). I also saved all the money I made that first year of business so that I would have something to fall back on for a few months as I built the business. I imagine if I knew everything I’ve learned over the past 7 years I would definitely be able to scale my business much quicker! But, I think it was good that I went slowly because I would have been overwhelmed otherwise. I learned myself, my desires, and my talents as things shifted and it was a lovely journey.
Kathryn, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
I’m Kathryn, a redhead with a big smile and a love for the outdoors. I was born and raised in Western NC, a very special place surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. I have always been interested in art and creative expression and had a love of photography from a young age. As I was exploring what I wanted to do in college I ran across a booth where the photography program was taking a trip to Italy (to the exact place one of my favorite movies takes place- “Under the Tuscan Sun”). I was able to go and on that trip I got to know some of the other photo majors and professors who quickly convinced me to switch from a Graphic Design Degree to a Technical Photography Degree. It was a great choice and I loved every bit of that degree program! When I graduated I still wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do in the industry so, after some traveling with a friend, I just started my own business. My services changed every few years but I’ve most recently been serving couples who want to have outdoor adventure elopements. This service has been the most aligned with who I am compared to any of my other work so far. Combining that love for the outdoors and sharing a beautiful piece of the human experience (love) is something I feel quite grateful to do. I capture both photography and videography to capture the story of their day, and help a bit with planning as well. I try to make their elopement experience as easy and enjoyable as possible.
I am incredibly proud of the inclusive and eco-friendly brand I’ve built. I wanted to be an example of a business that I want to buy from and that I want to see in the world. I made it a priority to serve LGBTQIA+ couples and to make it a priority to be genuinely representing all different couples (different ethnicities, body sizes, etc) because I know how important that is in the world for making people feel seen, worthy, and cared for. I also (even when I was making very little money) made it a priority to donate a percentage of my income to local non-profits that support our planet and local communities. As time went by I took my eco-friendly practices even further with countering the carbon footprint of travel for my couple and myself for their event.
I am also definitely proud of just persevering through all the changes and adjustments that my business required (and some that I personally wanted to do). It has NOT been easy to learn how to pay taxes, do bookkeeping, build a social platform, build a website, understand SEO, and so much more. But here I am 7 years later and I’ve done it all in a way that supported me financially through so many years. It didn’t make me rich, but it provided for me and gave me a sense of life freedom. That was my success. What a joyous thing to celebrate!
I particularly look at this journey see endless beauty with how people love each other so deeply. Whether the couple stays together or ends up splitting up down the road, it was always evident that their love in that moment during their wedding/elopement was very real and something special to celebrate. I feel very lucky with the couples I was able to serve.
For you, what’s the most rewarding aspect of being a creative?
I think being able to create work based on other peoples lives is such a gift – I’m able to be, in a way, a mirror for them. I get to capture their experience of their elopement and say “Look at you! Look at how beautiful and unique and amazing you are. I hope you relish in this beautiful life. I hope you enjoy the beauty of nature and the people whom you love that love you back.” I think that’s pretty special.
Any resources you can share with us that might be helpful to other creatives?
I really wish I knew more about Search Engine Optimization and how that all works with blogging and SEO. I think that would have helped my business grow much quicker in the early stages of life! Fuel Your Photos is a great blog and course (I hear, I haven’t taken their course) to learn how to master SEO.
- Website: evergreenerafilms.com
- Instagram: @evergreen.era.films
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIoIqfWlJrdBQZ95FaIIfnQ
Amber of Adventure Instead for images 1&2 The rest of the images are taken by me!