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Laure Joliet is a longtime friend and colleague—in fact, she’s one of the first people I met in my creative journey many moons ago. She never ceases to inspire me in her ability to be reflective in the midst of a growing and demanding career. And while her professional body of work is truly outstanding, what moves me the most is Laure’s personal work. It feels like a peek into her soul in the truest sense. Below, Laure describes her creative path and experiences in her own words.
About 12 years ago, I left an office job to pursue a more creative life. I didn’t really have a plan other than knowing that I needed something more fulfilling. I have artistic parents and grandparents and I went to art school and everyone around me questioned the status quo so it wasn’t that crazy that I was setting out on a kind of hunch.
I followed my skill sets and my instincts and I did three things: I freelanced as a writer and blogger (mostly design and home stuff), I started shooting homes with an eye towards design (instead of pure fine art) and I worked with an interior designer. I wore a lot of hats for a couple of years before photography (what I was most trained in and most comfortable with) won out.
I have learned that no effort is wasted. All of the connections and relationships I formed in the early years of figuring out my path continue to serve me personally and professionally. All of the skills I used in my office job I use to keep myself organized as a small business owner.
If you had asked me 5 years ago I would say it was the first time I shot for the New York Times or the first time I got a substantial check. But things are shifting for me now and I think it’s the realization that I can really do whatever I want. I’ve spent a lot of my life being worried about doing things the ‘right way’ and whether people will be upset with me. I’ve worried about going on vacation, or saying no to jobs, or whether I was saying yes to too many jobs (I was). My biggest lesson learned in this moment is that this career is mine.
Every day is different and I travel often enough that habits and routine are a real luxury. When I am home and don’t have an early shoot, I like to get up early and stay in pajamas and have tea or hot chocolate by myself before looking at my phone/email. I putter around the house, feed the cat, maybe wander out and water the garden. I move slowly before jumping into work.
If I’m working from home for the day I really like to get as much as I can done by 2pm. I have so much more energy in the morning that I like to capitalize on it. Then if time permits the afternoon is when I stay human: go to a museum, have late lunch with someone, run errands that are annoying but feel great to cross off the list. And then I can finish up any emails or details in the evening.
I am intimately aware of pushing myself too far. I don’t even want to say the word balance because it’s a cliché at this point. But what I do is when I’ve been on a crazy run of travel and shooting, I make sure when I get home to take time for myself. My work is physical, so I will go get a massage. I will really make sure to drink enough water to make up for dehydration, I’ll put myself to bed early, I’ll give myself permission to turn down social things if I just need an evening to myself. I just try to check in with myself and see what I need. That being said, I easily swing in a direction of overworking, stress and deadlines, sometimes for months before I come up for air. So when there is a lull, I don’t freak out, I just use the downtime to recharge or go on a fun trip. You can’t hustle 24 hours a day for your whole life.
I feel like having a creative life means that everything everyday feels like a big risk! There is always something new and scary. That’s the fun part!
Prioritizing everything that connects you back to being a human being. Get enough sleep, drink water, eat food, eat food you’re excited to eat with people you love. Put your phone down and read a good book before bed or when you first wake up. Go for a walk and don’t take your phone with you. Spend time underneath big trees.
But if you’re running your own business, anxiety and overwhelm are par for the course and can be helpful for meeting deadlines, sending a scary email, taking a risk. Sometimes leaning in to the feelings can be as useful as trying to manage them away. Try sitting quietly in the midst of anxiety and locate where it is in your body and breathe into it; describe it to yourself—does it have a color, a volume, a density, where exactly is it, is it moving around? Make friends with those feelings because if you’re moving forward they will always show up.
It means I have purpose and a connection through my craft to the outside world without abandoning my responsibilities to myself. The pendulum will always be swinging one way or another, no one day is a perfect balance, but when you look at the month or the year, there is room for everything.
I used to feel like I really needed to be constantly building my brand and my business: by getting a separate office space, hiring office assistants, taking on different projects, wearing different hats, etc. But I found myself saddled with even more responsibility. I realized that if I was going to shoot for 12 hour days many days in a row, I didn’t want to go into an office after that. I wanted to go home and eat breakfast tacos in pajamas and start on emails at 10:30 and maybe go to a movie at 4. I wanted time to be alive, not just time to keep pouring into work. So now I work primarily as a freelance photographer—I scale up and hire a team for shoots, but when I’m not shooting I have freedom to work at my own pace in my own space. It satisfies the introverted side of me so that I’m all recharged for going back out into the world.
Simple rediscovered pleasures:
I loved what Laure had to say about building a career that is truly yours. What wisdom did you take away from this Q&A with Laure? Let us know in the comments.