Casper Meets Wendy

New theme alert! My old website was overkill now that I’m no longer developing full-time and teaching workshops on the side. I’ve cut down on a lot of commitments so I wanted to pare back my website too.

I had a clear vision of a simple theme that put my blog front and center – a cross between Casper and Independent Publisher. I wanted to stick with WordPress but everything I found in the themes directory would’ve required lots of tweaking. Eventually, I gave up my search and decided to stop being lazy and write my own theme.

It was a good excuse to play around with _s (which I used as a starting point) and to get my hands dirty again. These days, I don’t write more than a few lines of code at a time so it was nice to break in a new code editor (Atom – which I love) and get back on the horse.

The theme is on GitHub, should you want to use it in your own projects. It’s been tested somewhat thoroughly but I make no promises of updates or support. Use at your own risk!

Renting from Lumoid

Freelance photographer is not a hat I wear often enough to warrant really nice gear. I do wear it enough to have a few nice lenses, but I haven’t splurged on a telephoto lens yet. I rarely need one for the events and lifestyle stuff I shoot and even the cheap ones aren’t all that cheap.

When I was hired to shoot a conference that required some long-distance shooting, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try renting from Lumoid.

Here’s what I found!

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Teach What You Know

The biggest hurdle I run into as the teacher lead for Learnapalooza is overcoming imposter syndrome with potential teachers. I’m constantly approaching awesome, talented people and hearing, “That’s great but I don’t know anything worth teaching!” or “I’m not a teacher! I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

It’s so frustrating.

Not just because we lose out on awesome classes, but because I’m a selfish person who wants to learn ALL OF THE THINGS. And when people when insist that they don’t know anything worth teaching, we all loose out on their expertise.

So, let’s all get on the same page right now: You know valuable things. You do not have to be a teacher to share those things.

Someone, somewhere, is currently thinking, “I really wish I knew how to do [the thing you know ALL about].” And they do not care if you have a Bachelors in Education. They just want you to share what you know! That can mean putting together a talk, writing a blog post, or even hosting a workshop at a festival like Learnapalooza.

And none of those things have to be scary! (A little nerve-wracking, sure. But never scary!)

Self-selected learners—the people who read educational blog posts, show up to Saturday workshops, and take online classes for the fun of it—are the easiest people to teach. They want to be there! They are excited to learn!

The real question for most people isn’t, “Can I teach this?” but “How do I teach this?” and “Where do I start?”

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Stock Photos That Don’t Suck

Let’s talk about stock photos. Specifically, where to find stock photos that don’t suck.

The photos on your website are so important.  It doesn’t matter how good a writer you are—people can take in an image faster than they can read a paragraph and skipping photos altogether isn’t an option. So the photos you pick need to be good.

Not all photos are created equal! There’s a fine line between “fuck it, ship” and “this isn’t doing me any favors.” The ones you choose say a lot about you, the quality of your work or product, and even your ideal audience.

Splurging on a few hours of a freelance photographer’s time is one of the best investments you can make in a new website. But of course this isn’t possible with everyone’s timeline or budget.

Enter stock photos!

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Does this airport have wi-fi?

Last week, a friend and I got together to shoot a video for a Syrup & Waffles project. (Which I’ll tell you allll about in another post.) We got there early so while he was setting up his rig and I was making a crib sheet for the day, we did that kind of aimless catching up you do with co-workers who work in another department.

Even though I’m no longer a full-time freelancer, he still is and we’ve both got a lot of projects on our plates. He updated me on his, I shared the progress I had made on a few of mine, and we both lamented the fact that we don’t create anything without ulterior motives anymore.

As an undergrad, he carried his camera everywhere and shot random footage for the hell of it. My best friend and I used to sit in my kitchen nook, brainstorming crazy ambitious plans that fizzled out after a few weeks of work.

Neither of us do those things anymore.

His camera comes out when it’s time to get paid and most of my creative work has an agenda. It’s for a client and a paycheck, or has a less-tangible but still valid career benefit. (My newsletter and this blog, for example.) As we were talking, I couldn’t remember the last time I made something for no reason other than I wanted it to exist.

I still have plenty of half-baked ideas, they just rarely make it out of my notebook these days. The (very valid) principle of not working for free as a creative professional has been so instilled in me that it’s hard to shirk it even for my own passion projects. A voice in my head is always whispering, “What are you really getting from this?” or “You could be spending this time on client work!”

Now don’t get me wrong: this is not a bad problem to have. I am well paid to do the things I love to do. I realize that makes me incredibly lucky and I am not writing this post to complain about my good fortune. I’m writing it to share my thoughts on why side projects are important to have you in portfolio.

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