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This Freelance Photographer Quit Her Job & Manifested The Career Of Her Dreams

The key to success may be waiting for you right outside of your comfort zone.

Workin' Girl

So often, we block our own blessings because we're too afraid to be uncomfortable, but Taylor S. Hunter, freelance photographer to the stars wants you to know that the key to success may be waiting for you right outside of your comfort zone.

Just one year ago, Atlanta-based, Marksville,LA-born business owner, Taylor left both her job and her hometown to invest in her dream of becoming a visual artist and since taking that leap of faith, our good sis has been consistently booked and busy shooting some of the biggest celebrities in the game.

Securing gigs with ESSENCE and Black Girl In Om, as well as having her work featured in Vogue, Taylor has worked hard to design a career that allows her to do what she loves and collect her coin at the same damn time. The 26-year-old full-time freelance photographer told xoNecole although her journey hasn't always gone as planned, her vision has always been clear. "I always had this goal in mind to try living out of the state of Louisiana. I love home. I love my family. I'm an only child so it's really just me and them, you know? But I just had that goal in mind."

Little did she know, stepping outside of her comfort zone and following her inner calling to pursue photography as a career would trigger a series of events that'd help Taylor do exactly that...

Planting Her Seeds

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In 2018, Taylor attended her first ESSENCE Fest. The budding photographer brought her camera around to capture photos throughout the event for fun. While there, she saw a plethora of events being hosted and decided to start signing up to attend them. "I went to the Black Girl In Om brunch in New Orleans and it ended up being a very intimate bunch of maybe about 15 women. So as I was there, I just started networking," Taylor shared.

Although the visionary considers herself an introverted business owner, she learned early-on that closed mouths don't get fed, and shy freelancers rarely get booked. "The thing about being an introvert is that you can learn the right skill sets to help yourself move past that fear, you know? I think we live in a very extrovert-dominant world. And when you don't fit that part, you kind of feel like, where do I flow in all of this?"

Like many creatives, Taylor is a sister in the imposter syndrome struggle, but according to her, the secret to eliminating self-doubt is showing up for yourself… Every. Damn. Time. She continued, "I've learned to really feel confident in telling people what I [do]. I realized that the more confident that I am in my abilities, the more that attracts the right people. And it helps me find the people that I'm looking for."

Terrence Porter for xoNecole

"The more confident that I am in my abilities, the more that attracts the right people. And it helps me find the people that I'm looking for."

"I started talking about my work," she shared. "I had just gone natural and cut my hair. It was just a really big time for me to just step out on faith and just to be really courageous in what I do. So, I mingled with some members of the [Black Girl In Om] team and you know, I just told them about my work as a photographer and kind of planted my seed honestly without realizing it."

For Taylor, networking is a practice rooted in genuine interest and intention. She seeks to establish true bonds and not relationships forged by opportunistic desires, and her time at ESSENCE Fest that summer was no different. Although Taylor and the team would part ways at that time, the stars would eventually align so that it wouldn't be their last encounter. "We followed each other on Instagram and throughout that, I would just continue to share the work and to be a fan, you know, and I just continued to support the whole brand itself."

Managing Her Growth

Terrence Porter for xoNecole

Taylor's business journey started the way most millennial entrepreneurial success stories do: in the DMs.

One year later, Taylor was contacted by ESSENCE to be one of two photographers for their Fashion Editorial Department. She also reconnected with Lauren Ash of Black Girl In Om and photographed her during her weekend there. Talk about a full circle moment. Only a year before, Taylor was taking photographs and attending events for fun at ESSENCE and now she was working the event -- her dreams were literally coming to life. She told xoNecole, "Manifestation is real. When you tap into that magic, it's just really incredible. It's really about visualizing yourself manifesting that dream because as soon as you believe in yourself and believe that it can happen, it really can happen."

"Manifestation is real. When you tap into that magic, it's just really incredible. It's really about visualizing yourself manifesting that dream because as soon as you believe in yourself and believe that it can happen, it really can happen."

In 2019, Taylor ultimately made the decision to leave her job as a non-profit project manager and pursue her freelance career full-time in Atlanta, where she would later develop her brand and continue to link with industry giants like ESSENCE and even shoot the Tyler Perry Studios Red Carpet Premiere, but she didn't pull off this major act of manifestation without getting her business plan all the way in alignment.

Serendipity is real, sis, and Taylor wants you to stay ready so that when the right opportunity arises, you won't have to get ready. For up-and-coming photographers who want to turn their passion into a career, she suggested, "Shoot as much as you can and get as much quality work out there as possible. It's not about posting everything that you do, it's about posting the quality work and making it so that brands and customers see the value of working with you."

Terrence Porter for xoNecole

Freelancing isn't for the faint of heart but for Taylor, an effective morning routine is one of the things that helps her keep her mental in tact. From a 4-5-minute weekday meditation to a devotional by Iyanla Vanzant, feeding her spirit daily is a powerful element in her life. According to Taylor, intention-setting is important for each and every month. When she sets a goal, creating systems that help build the goals into her life is important to her.

When it comes to productivity, Taylor believes time management is an entrepreneur's best friend. During our chat, Taylor also opened up about how having themed days of the week and automated client responses has kept her workload organized AF. Case in point, Money Mondays involve observing projected income for the week and accessing whether or not to look for more work in the week ahead, while Tuesday's theme is marketing and copy.

"I figure out what I'm going to write about on my website and my Instagram," she explained. "I've found that when you're consistent, you can definitely see the results. I used to post sporadically on Instagram, but now that I'm focusing in on a specific audience and reaching a specific group of women, it's been really important for me to take the time to devote to what I put on my Instagram. I'm trying to be a lot more intentional about what I put out."

She dedicates the last day of the workweek to photo design, editing, and learning because every entrepreneur should be a student. "Learning is self-care for me because personal development for me is, really important I feel like as humans we can tap into so much more potential just by learning more and more."

"Learning is self-care for me because personal development for me is, really important I feel like as humans we can tap into so much more potential just by learning more and more."

Reaping Her Coins

Terrence Porter for xoNecole

Now that Taylor has an established career as a freelance photographer in Atlanta making a living strictly from the art, she can confirm that the leap of faith she took to leave her both her hometown and her job was definitely a step in the right direction.

Although Taylor's journey to entrepreneurial freedom hasn't been easy, it has certainly been worth it, and she had this advice for freelancers on the come-up, "One thing that's really important for me, and I feel like for any entrepreneurs, [is] to try to find ways to build more than one stream of income. That's what I'm working on right now is just figuring what other ways can I continue to make income."

Along with creating multiple streams of income, Taylor emphasized that leveling up your negotiation game can give you a major boost when it comes to securing a bag. She explained, "Learning different skill sets, like negotiating contracts, finding a lawyer, finding an accountant, all of that is extremely, extremely important. It's going to help when you do approach these brands and these companies that have all of these rules. It's going to help you understand that you can ask for something different than what they're telling you."

Terrence Porter for xoNecole

"Learning different skillsets, like negotiating contracts, finding a lawyer, finding an accountant, all of that is extremely, extremely important. And then it's going to help when you do approach these brands and these companies that have all of these rules. It's going to help you understand that you can ask for something different than what they're telling you."

"I think when you freelance, you get so caught up in, OK, I'm just trying to grind and make the money that, anything you get, you're so grateful for, but then you look at a contract, and you're like, 'I don't know if this really benefits me.' All of that needs to be so thought-out," Taylor explained. "I think for a lot of creatives, it's hard to think that far—you're like, I just want to take pictures, I just love creating art. But what's really going to help you excel is when you know how to talk that talk on that business side."

For more Taylor, follow her on Instagram @GoldenTimeTay!

Taylor's Freelance Photography Arsenal:

Gear:

Favorite Camera: Canon 5D Mark III

Favorite Lens: 35mm

Essential Lenses: 30mm lens, 50mm lens (great for portraits and photographers starting out), 24-70mm lens (great for shooting events)

Just In Case: An External Flash

Admin:

HoneyBook

Pixieset

Featured image by Terrence Porter.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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