For the past year I’ve been working for free as an intern for Brandon Gaston. Brandon is the founder and Creative Director of LifeSTYLest and a professional image consultant. By interning for his company, I’ve been introduced to so many different creative individuals in the Portland and Seattle area, and I want to share with you my experience working for free and the importance of collaboration.
*This post is not sponsored and may contain affiliate links. All content and opinions are my own.*
How it all Started
First and foremost, I want to say Brandon wasn’t the first person I worked with for free. Since September 2016 I’ve been shooting with Rachel Cossette a couple times a month. Rachel reached out to me as she’s also a Portland based blogger and was looking for someone to trade OOTD shoots with. We quickly became close friends, which brings me to my first point about collaboration. Some of the people you will meet become some of the most important in your life! And it was actually through shooting with Rachel that I was able to gain the confidence to reach out to Brandon.
I first met Brandon at FashioNXT in October, 2016. I recognized him from Instagram (of course LOL) and even though it was out of my comfort zone, I went up to him and introduced myself. OMG am I glad I did! It’s so hard to put yourself out there sometimes, but the reward can be huge. I used that first introduction with him as the base for the e-mail I wrote when I reached out asking to intern with him five months later! We met to discuss, and lucky for me, he hired me as his intern!
My Experience as an Intern
This was a true unpaid internship, and I’m actually glad it was. Yes, I was (and still am) doing “basic” stuff, like curating content, scheduling posts, editing articles, etc. But I also benefited! I learned how to actually curate content and use applications, like Buffer, that I hadn’t previously been using. I was also given opportunities to show my other skills, like graphic design. Since Brandon didn’t have any other company employees at the time, he was doing a lot of stuff himself. Anything he couldn’t do, he hired out. I was able to offer to do photo editing and graphic design for free, which made me more of an asset.
Interning for Brandon also gave me the opportunity to attend events and meet people I otherwise wouldn’t have. From FashioNXT, to the Grey Magazine Awards Party, every event I attended brought a new connection. I had to push myself to meet other people, something that’s always been difficult for me. And finally, after nine months, I caught a break. I met an amazing group of creatives in the Portland/Seattle area that I’ve already started working with. This brings me to my next point: why collaboration is so important.
The Importance of Collaboration
When I work with other photographers, bloggers, hair and makeup artists, etc., I not only learn more about the fashion industry, but about myself as well. It’s almost as if I get to see myself and my brand through someone else’s eyes…if that makes any sense? LOL. It gives me the opportunity to recognize my strengths and weaknesses. This is invaluable if you want to succeed in any career! I’ve learned photography is not my strong suit. I’m just not good at it. And you know what? It makes sense, because when I think about how I feel behind the camera, I realize I’m “eh” about it. It’s not a passion of mine, and realizing that gives me the opportunity to change course, and figure out what I need to do strategically to make up in that area.
Collaboration > Competition
If you’re in the creative field, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “collaboration over competition.” It’s spewed pretty frequently and honestly, it used to drive me crazy. I sometimes feel it can be used as a smokescreen for lack of success. I’ve read some blogs where the author will mention how hard it was for them to find others who wanted to work with them, and how they couldn’t understand why. And this is a valid concern, it’s definitely crossed my mind before when I’m feeling low. I think that’s why it’s important to really identify what collaboration and competition mean to you.
For me, collaboration offers the opportunity to learn from people who have skills I lack. To create something together that’s better than anything you could have done on your own. When I think of the word “competition,” I honestly think of life. Everything we do to improve is a competition, whether we’re competing with who we are in order to become who we want to be, or if we’re competing with other bloggers for a certain collab. Whatever the reason, I don’t feel competition is a negative thing, but rather a normal part of life, and of business. If there was no competition, where would our drive come from? Why would we try to do better, be better, or improve at all if there wasn’t some driving competitive force?
The Story Behind this Post
As you may have guessed, the photos used in this post were from a collaboration between myself and two other creatives. #Shocker LOL. I originally wanted to shoot this look as a New Year’s Eve outfit idea, but it turned into so much more than that. A few days before I was scheduled to shoot with the amazing Rachel Cossette, I was contacted by Lux Artistry Collective, a hair and makeup artistry creative team. They wanted to collab on a photoshoot, so I quickly found a beautiful indoor studio (Studio Northwest), booked it, and a few days later co-owner Shawna Cueller was at my house at 6:00am with coffee and a smile. She not only created this beautiful hair and makeup look, but she also met us at the studio and provided creative assistance and hair/makeup touch-ups throughout the ENTIRE shoot!
Working together on this photoshoot also offered a unique opportunity to get to know each other. There’s something about meeting up at 6:00am for hair and makeup that really gets the conversation flowing haha. It was amazing to learn about Shawna as a person, as well as her company and her goals.
As you can probably tell, we had a lot of fun together LOL. It’s pretty amazing to me that most of the opportunities I’ve had have stemmed from my willingness to work for free and collaborate. I really hope this post inspires you reach out to someone you admire, join a creative team, or just get an insight in to the world of blogging 🙂 Leave me a comment below with your thoughts, and I’ll talk to you soon!
Photographer: Rachel Cossette Photo
Hair & Makeup: Shawna Cueller – Lux Artistry Collective
Location: Studio Northwest