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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

Terrence Porter for xoNecole

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

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Featured image by Terrence Porter.

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