Do you have a creative passion you never imagined could pay the bills? Helena Price found a way to make it work by rekindling a lifelong love for photography. In the last 2 years her work has skyrocketed and she was named Silicon Valley’s Most Wanted Photographer. Learn what it takes to make the leap into becoming a full-time creative; Helena shares some surprising ingredients for success and her advice on how to get more creative expression in your life.
Majo: Do you have any thoughts for any of the women listening, who may be working full-time in tech, design, arts, or business, thinking, I want more creative expression in my life, I want to give that expression, but I’m feeling held back… ?
Helena: What worked best for me was to stop overthinking things. And to stop worrying about the constraints you have that aren’t really constraints. Things like time, or having a full-time job, or resources, and just focus on getting into the habit of being generative when you’re not working.
So maybe you have a full-time job, keep doing it. Think of your job now as the funding for your other work and then you’ll have a better relationship with that job. Just focus on the positives, learn as much as you can. Ideally, you’re efficient at your job and don’t have to put too much of your soul into if it’s not something you plan to do forever. Make your money, put it towards your other work, and spend your weekends being generative. Whether it’s writing or taking pictures… whatever your niche project is.
You just have to get in the habit of making stuff, and not being so scared about getting started, or overthinking what your final product is gonna look like or what your creative identity is gonna be, because you have no idea. You just have to spew out thousands of prototypes and then at that point you can start picking and choosing which from those you like.
And you can spend just as much time researching the work of others and informing your style that way. Spending time on Tumblr, Instagram, blogs, or Pinterest, and picking apart other people’s work, just from a guttural level. That resonates with me. That doesn’t. And you’ll be amazed at how much that ends up informing your own style.
Majo: What’s exciting you right now? What are you working on?
Helena: I’m working on a project. It’s my first real personal project. I’ve finally reached a place in my life where I have optimized for time. I finally have a savings account. I have learned how to work really efficiently so that I have days off during the month.
So, New Year’s Resolution style, at the beginning of January I was just sitting in my living room, and it was like, Okay, it’s time. I’m gonna do a personal project. I’m gonna make it three months long, I’m gonna sprint, barely work on commercial stuff, and do something kind of insanely aggressive, something important to me. I chose to do a project that profiles 100 people in tech, people who are not your typical idea of a “techie.” I’m focused on underrepresented folks like women, people of color, LGBT, disabled, over 50, parents, that sort of thing. I’m doing 100 interviews and 100 portraits, and my goal is to show the world a side of tech that they haven’t seen before.
Helena’s project, Techies, launched in April, 2016 and has since been featured in Newsweek, The Guardian, Refinery29, TechCrunch, Cool Hunting, and more.
Listen to the full episode here.
- Young Helena: Her background, being perceived as the “smart kid”, and dealing with feelings of isolation. [1:23]
- Helena talks about her first exposure to photography and what it was like growing up in a creatively-stifled hometown culture. [6:45]
- On college (and skipping class), falling in love with the tech scene, and touring with music bands. [10:57]
- Some of the challenges Helena faced and how she survived on her own. [15:58]
- What it took to be taken seriously and become a success early in her career. [21:49]
- How photography came back into the picture (to stay). [25:59]
- From getting her first job to drowning in work offers, plus Helena’s theory on how to make sure everything works out. [30:22]
- Grit. Can women learn to have more of it? [34:00]
- What she’s working on now: Her first, personal project that’s showing people a side of tech they haven’t seen before. [39:12]
- Helena’s amazing advice to women wanting more creative expression in their lives. [43:22]
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Techies by Helena Price
by Lucia Lilikoi