Starting up and moving on

Since writing my last post, in which I entreated readers to join me for a collaborative project, I’ve let this blog fall largely silent. Here is why: I realized one day shortly after writing that post that the collaborator I’d been looking for was right in front of me, my boyfriend Jackson.

When he and I put our heads together, we came up with a much larger project than I had originally imagined. I wanted to teach creative professionals how to collaborate more effectively; but what if we could help them find the best collaborators to begin with?

That’s a problem I’ve helped hundreds of people solve through endless emails, Facebook posts, and phone calls. Now there is a single platform to help us all keep track of our trusted contacts, ask them for collaborator recommendations, and keep up with the most exciting projects across many industries—we’re calling it Dovetail.

Starting a web company with your significant other struck us as unusual (and difficult) enough to warrant a blog of it’s own, so we created This Starts Now, where Jackson and I write about this whole start-up thing. Between that and actually starting up, I don’t have enough time to keep up with Hey Miki, so I’m taking a hiatus for the foreseeable future.

I hope you’ll join me at This Starts Now, and sign up for updates from Dovetail if it makes sense for you. I’m unbelievably excited about this new endeavor—knowing you’ll be following along and hopefully offering your insights is the icing on the cake.

Will you be my collaborator?

WHAT IS the single most important skill you can develop to ensure success in today’s economy? According to this brilliant Fast Company article (and my own experience), the answer is…adaptability.

“The new reality is multiple gigs, some of them supershort, with constant pressure to learn new things and adapt to new work situations, and no guarantee that you’ll stay in a single industry.”

But what exactly does it mean to be adaptable? Is it really a skill you can learn and hone?

My gut says yes. But it also says: “Learning to be adaptable is not just one skill, it’s lots of complementary skills developed together.” One of the most important of those skills, which I believe encompasses many others, is the ability to collaborate successfully.

Collaboration & Adaptation: One coin, two sides

If you’ve followed this blog or my newsletters, you’ve undoubtedly heard me talk about the importance of collaborative skills, but let’s break it down further. I’ve identified six broad tools you need to excel at collaboration. Here is how each one can also help you adapt to a fluid new world.

1. Know your strengths (and weaknesses): As job titles disappear (or are routinely invented) and bios become more important than resumes, it’s imperative to know exactly what you offer, why your offering is the best, and why people would want you to pay you for what you’re offering.

2. Find & engage influencers: Now that you’re more likely to create your own job than interview for it, your potential clients, co-workers, and customers are everywhere. Identifying and creating an authentic connection with them is the foundation of today’s successful marketing and sales strategies.

3. Ask the right questions: As I like to say, in our present state of flux, no one is an expert—which means everyone is an expert. It’s not enough to take one workshop or hire the “it” consultant; you need to be asking everyone you meet the big questions that relate to your business and passion.

4. Define goals and meet deadlines: When your customer or client is a moving target and your own services are constantly evolving, you have to be able to quickly and clearly establish goals for all stakeholders, strategize action items, and then build trust by meeting agreed upon deadlines.

5. Communicate successfully: The writing on the wall says that soft skills (largely interpersonal ones) are king in today’s economy. In our super-connected world, you must deeply understand your own communication preferences, be aware what other people hear when you talk, and be comfortable with a variety of communication modes.

6. Learn from experience: The barriers to entry for almost every industry have crumbled in recent years—if there’s not a freemium web serviced doing what you need yet, there will be in a year. That means the new model includes lots of experimentation, and potentially lots of failures. Those who succeed will be able to take them in stride, learn everything possible from them, and then carry those lessons forward to the next experiment.

So, collaboration skills are also adaptability skills. But let’s not forget that collaboration skills are also incredibly valuable in and of themselves. I see dynamic professional collaboration as an important way for self-employed creatives (in particular but not exclusively) to create sustainable businesses where they don’t burn themselves out working alone, in front of a computer, doing five people’s jobs while also balancing a family life.

I’m looking for collaborators

I’ve wanted to help people become better collaborators for a while now. This is the year I get intentional about it (and make it into a self-sustaining business).

I’ll be dedicating my blogging to collaboration, refocusing my website around it, and working to develop a curriculum, eBook, and traveling workshop circuit within the year. I’m jumping into a handful of collaborations myself and creating case studies with successful collaborators around the world.

I’m so excited to get started on all this, but I’m missing one big thing. Collaborators!

I truly believe in the importance of collaboration, of dropping the “me against the world” attitude and asking for help when I need it, so it’s only natural—and necessary—that I find one or more people to join me on this adventure. Might it be you?

Some things I’m looking for in a collaborator: Someone with 5 hours a week they could dedicate to an exciting but unpaid opportunity; someone who likes the idea of running their own business, if they’re not already; someone who loves to help people, talk to people, be around people; someone with expertise in curriculum building and teaching, web design and eCommerce, and/or business financials.

If you’re interested, I’d love to hear from you at And if you would have expected me to email you directly and ask you to collaborate, please get in touch anyway. I could email 100 people I think might be interested, but I’ve learned that my network knows more than I do, so I’m letting it do its thing.

{UPDATE: It’s been called to my attention that I seem to be asking people to do work for free. Well, I am, but with the potential to build a business with me that will eventually pay both (all) of us. I am pretty sure this endeavor won’t make me money for the first year (other work pays my bills); I’m looking for someone who can afford to take that risk with me. The distinction between “collaborators” and “employees” is one of the big ideas my curriculum will tackle, for exactly this reason.}

A few important questions

To help us figure out if we’d make good collaborators, I’m including a short questionnaire below, with my answers. Please include your answers in your email. Looking forward to hearing from you 🙂

1. What are the most important qualities you can contribute to a project?
I’m good at taking in large amounts of information from different sources, synthesizing it, contextualizing it, streamlining it, and sharing it in a clear way with a specific audience. I’m good at getting people excited about things and helping them move forward on stated goals. I love talking with people and connecting people and do it constantly.

2. What skills or areas are you hoping to develop and grow into this year?
I want to learn how to create curriculum, how to truly teach (not just talk at), how to take people’s understanding from point “a” to point “b” and give them the tools to change their lives based on that shift in thinking. I also want to truly feel that I “own a business,” instead of “freelancing” or “being self-employed.”

3. What are your three preferred forms of communication?
I love speaking face-to-face, which has recently included a lot of Skype calls. I get so much energy from other people, from their excitement, from seeing the gears turning in their head as we talk. While this is my favorite, it can also be exhausting, so I do it less frequently. I also like brief, direct communication that includes email, IM, and text, depending on how urgent the question/request is and how likely the person I’m communicating with is to be at their computer. Finally, I’m a big Facebook fan. I love being able to seamlessly share great things I find online, as well as pictures of food I cook, events I’m attending, and questions for my network.

4. How would you describe the role you most often take in group projects?
I used to be a leader, but today I’d say a facilitator. This can often mean taking the lead, setting a schedule, and getting people organized, but it’s more in the service of the group’s needs and goals than my own vision of how we should proceed. I’m more interested in harnessing collective intelligence than focusing on my own.

What travel is isn’t what you expect

I met Matt Austin, a talented young documentary-art photographer, this October at the Flash Forward Festival in Toronto. Shortly after, we struck up an email conversation, largely in response to my posts about traveling this summer, which I was flattered to find had resonated with Matt’s own recent travels.

Below are excerpts from our discussion, as well as a series of Matt’s travel images. He will be debuting a book of new work from this trip during his solo show at Johalla Projects in Chicago on March 4. You can see photos from my travels here.

Matt and I would love to know if any of this resonates with you and what you have or haven’t learned from being on the road.


I decided last July that I was going to go on a long trip by myself around the country, leaving straight from an artist residency. I wasn’t content with things in Chicago and wanted to practice the concept of self-respect, acting on the idea that I deserve to do what I want to do with my life.

I was pretty interested in the idea of scaring the shit out of myself as a means of learning. So I decided to camp alone in a tent most of the way, though I’d never camped before. I also decided to act on my whims, buying a guitar from a pawn shop in St. Paul, MN, though never considering myself a musician. And, too, shaved my head with a beard trimmer in a hotel bathroom. Consciously taking action without any commentary is a powerful thing.


I love the idea of learning by “scaring the shit” out of yourself. I wonder if your idea of “scary” changed during your trip. Did you initially think you’d do things that were literally scary (like bungee jumping) but ended up doing things that made you feel kind of vulnerable (like learning guitar)? I ask because one of the scariest things I did during my travels was to take my photography more seriously, and putting that up for the world to see was terrifying at times.


I think the concept of fear originated in the idea of being unfamiliar with most of the situations I was in and having no one but myself to rely on; but you’re absolutely right about that shifting. Before leaving, when I would consider what may scare me about camping or driving long distances in my unreliable car, I was mainly thinking about bears and storms and car accidents. But when I was actually in those situations, it tended to be unpredictable people that scared me the most.

Purchasing the guitar mainly came from dealing with how lonely the trip could get. I started my trip by leaving from the ACRE artist residency, an amazing intellectual community, so it didn’t take long for me to feel lonely by comparison. I’ve also never been interested in the typical tourist experience, so I thought giving myself certain tasks like buying a guitar would allow me to ask locals about where to do that and come up with an unpredictable sequence of interactions. What were some of your methods of dealing with the loneliness of solitary travels? Or did you not find yourself experiencing that kind of loneliness?


It’s interesting that you ask about loneliness, because the fact is I spent very little time alone during my travels. I admire you for pushing yourself to do so many things you weren’t already comfortable or familiar with. Some part of me thought that’s what my “sabbatical” would be like, but as usual my planning/connecting/organizing gene took over and I ended up, as my dad said recently, “the busiest unemployed person” he knows.

I’m glad you brought this up because I haven’t really examined why my trip ended up that way. The easy answer is that, once you suddenly have a large chunk of unstructured time, it seems like everyone has somewhere you absolutely have to stop by. The most obvious answer to me is that I am just one of those people; seeing friends and family face-to-face is something I crave and thrive on, so given lots of free time, that’s automatically where I put my effort.

But I have to admit that it was also the easier thing for me to do, the less scary thing. I am a chronic over-planner, so even waiting until I was in Istanbul to buy my ticket to Berlin was flying by the seat of my pants. I guess maybe this trip was only a first step toward being more comfortable on my own without a road map.

As for things that I did learn (or was reminded) … First off, I’m a pretty good traveler. I know how to pack light, I’m organized, and I’m comfortable on all kinds of public transportation — even if I have to look like a stupid American and ask someone four times in English how to get somewhere.

Second, I LIKE HAVING A HOME. I knew this going in, so this trip was kind of a test. Not only was I leaving a job, but also an apartment and city behind. I slept on couches and in spare rooms or tents for four months straight — and it got really, really old. The idea of being on the road for months has a romantic appeal, but I realized that I enjoy travel more when I have a stable headquarters to strike out from. Does that make sense to you? Did you have trouble letting go of a “plan” and just wandering?

The most important thing I learned was: There is no substitute for seeing people in their natural environment. This was driven home most poignantly by my good friend in Berlin, who went to a relatively remote college (that I never visited) and has lived abroad for the last six years. I literally hadn’t seen her for more than a day or two at a time, not over a holiday, in eight years. Seeing a friend for 10 days straight, living their own life instead of stressed out by travel, holidays, and family, and especially seeing them in the midst of the city and friends they feel best fit them: It’s like getting to know them all over again.


It’s interesting how our approaches to travel are almost completely opposite, yet result in the similar opinion of “I am a pretty good traveler.” You could say that I’m a chronic under-planner or maybe even addicted to the concept of being “unprepared.” I used to print out directions places, but I consciously decided to stop four years ago. I prefer to get directions from local waiters or gas station cashiers. I will never use a GPS, not for experiences like this; you can hold me to that.

As far as dedication to a home, I’m not sure I have much. Over time, I have learned to love Chicago’s centralized location, which provides a good driving position to anywhere in the country. But I’m not so attached to the concept of a permanent home. When I am home, I sleep on a futon mattress on my bedroom floor that was donated to me by a friend. I had a few blankets on the floor before that. I made a dresser in my closet that is actually just a suitcase I drilled to the wall. Unscrewing those screws would be the most work I’d have to do if I decided to move, and I kind of like that. To answer your question more clearly: Letting go of any kind of plan is one of my favorite things to do.

Your writing on your blog about the difficulties of producing something while on the road really stuck with me. For example: “[T]he whole point of this traveling thing was to help me see a bunch of people and get inspired and figure out what makes me really happy and write about it all. But here’s the thing I’ve realized over the last few weeks: Having no home and no routine actually makes it damn hard to do something like writing that requires concerted creative effort. Well, shit.”

I couldn’t agree with this more! I tried writing every day of my trip and I think I lost my consistency around day 12 or 13 in Seattle. First, there was the guilt that came with not completing my goal. But then when I would find time to write again, it felt weird. I felt like I was sacrificing having new and natural experiences to pause and write about ones that had already happened.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like I have a similar outlook to yours in terms of how I would like to affect people: by using myself as an example to pursue what you enjoy doing, even if it’s scary and not going to be easy. I think the candor of your blog really illuminates the growth that comes from creative vulnerability. “This doesn’t have to be one of those blogs where I have all the answers. In fact, it can’t be. I’m not an expert here. I’ve never done this before. But hopefully through my experience people can learn a little about their own,” you wrote.

I find myself expressing similar values in my artwork and in my teaching. I often remind my students of two things in our lives that will never end, ever: 1) I don’t know, and 2) I’m still learning.

Collaborate Creatively ::with:: Taylor Davidson

Blogger and photographer Taylor Davidson at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans.

Blogger and photographer Taylor Davidson at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans.

I spent a long weekend in New Orleans, Louisiana, a few weeks ago for Jazz Fest and to explore the city — my first time for both. Below is a short, rough, “fast and dirty” slideshow I put together with Mr. Taylor Davidson (left) one afternoon, me recording audio clips while he took photos.

As I’ve been thinking about the next few months, when I’ll be traveling full-time, I knew that I would want to connect with photographers and other creatives in the cities I visited and do quick collaborative projects. This helps me explore several things I’m interested in during this little sabbatical I’m on: How photographers are doing their work, how I personally work creatively, and how the collaborative process can be made more efficient and satisfying.

Taylor Davidson was an obvious choice for my first experiment. He recently moved to NOLA, so he knows enough to be my tour guide, but hasn’t lost that sense of wonder with everything the city has to offer. We had met a few times before and I always found him enthusiastic, tuned in, and whip smart. Plus, as someone who is exploring photography but has a background in business and is a talented blogger, I figured his interests would align well with my own — which they did 🙂

We started out with a conversation at Cafe du Monde (honestly kind of a tourist trap in the French Quarter, but I hadn’t gotten my beignet and cafe au lait fix yet). As the powdered sugar blew all over our laps and equipment, we talked about the difficulty of staying focused when you work for yourself, my ideas for my upcoming journey, and all the small details that make NOLA special.

Beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans.

Beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans.

When I brought up the idea of a quick collaboration while Taylor showed me the parts of the city I hadn’t seen yet, he was immediately game (another thing I like about him). One of my concerns was (and still is) that I simply won’t have time while I’m on the move to do the editing required to put together polished multimedia pieces. I love recording sound, and putting it together with photos, but trying to record interviews and edit them down and coordinate with images — that’s just not an option right now.

So, accepting and embracing our limitations, here’s what we came up with: We’d walk around, talk, and Taylor would take photos of interesting things that characterized the areas we were in, while I took 10-second sound clips. I simply put the clips together when I got home, sent the sound file to Taylor with a list of where the sounds came from (I kept track in my iPhone notes while we were walking), and he added an image for each clip. It was his decision to throw it up on SlideShare instead of Vimeo, etc., and I like it, since you can easily go back to a specific image.

Since I’m also interested in exploring the collaborative process, I wanted to have a little debrief session with Taylor to publish with our project. Again in the interest of time and ease, we decided that he would send me a question by email, I would answer it and send him one back. He would answer and respond with a question, etc. The result is below.

Taylor Davidson: I’ve done many collaborations with photographers where we were in the same places, going through the same experiences, looking for the same things: pictures. But collaborating like this was different because, even though we were in the same place, we were looking for (seeing and hearing) different things to capture. And different things struck us, caught our eyes and ears. Are you surprised by what I saw and what you heard?

Miki Johnson: I remembered you taking many of the photos you ended up including, but not all. It was good to see new angles of things I had missed or observed differently. One big difference between the photos and sound is that often there are pictures of a landscape or building but the sound is of people. Do you think this is distracting? I kind of think it works for this, but if we had wanted to coordinate better, would there be an easy way for us to make sure you had a visual of everyone I recorded, and vice versa?

TD: We might see buildings or landscapes first, but we hear people first, right?  I don’t find it distracting; in fact, I like hearing the audio of moments I had forgotten, snippets of conversation I missed, sounds that I hadn’t picked up. Would more coordination make it better? We talked a lot throughout the day about embracing constraints, the joy of the unedited image and experience, the love for finding the unexpected. What would happen if we each tried to catch a sound or an image for what we thought the other person was hearing or seeing? Should the final product reflect the intersection of what moved each of us independently, or a larger set of everything that either of us caught?

MJ: Good point, Taylor. I think that if this were a big, polished final project we were working on, coordination would be more important. But since one of our goals was to cut down on editing time and to allow us to continue to enjoy the experience of seeing the city without overwhelming us with production considerations, having us each focus on our own experience works well. Do you think that initial intent should be made clear to the audience before they view the piece? Is it important they understand how we made it and what our intention was, or should even a simple, quick piece like this speak for itself?

TD: I agree. Setting expectations up-front about making this simple, easy, and largely unedited allowed me to just experience the day without harping about the final result. There is a great power in just being able to see, hear, and experience without larger considerations. I hope you felt the same way, and I hope the final product reflects that; in fact, I hope the intent comes through as one views the piece. I would want anybody viewing this to get that feel just by viewing and listening to the final product, rather than presetting one’s expectations.


Future of Photobooks :: The power of crowds

The month-long, multi-blog Future of Photobooks project we hosted on RESOLVE was the trigger that really got me thinking about the growing potential of collaboration and crowd-sourcing.

Andy Adams, the founder of FlakPhoto, was my co-conspirator and I learned a lot from working with him. His connections are vast and well organized and he will work tirelessly to mobilize them for a project. See for proof the more than 50 bloggers who contributed posts to the Future of Photobooks project.

As RESOLVE editor, I sometimes felt like an army of one, so working with Andy also brought my attention to the logistics of collaboration: recognizing and playing to each other’s strengths, streamlining communication, giving credit often and publicly. I PLAN TO CONTINUE TO EXPLORE THE SUBTLETIES OF CREATIVE COLLABORATION ON THIS BLOG AND SHARE WHAT I FIND WITH YOU.

Probably the most eye-opening aspect of the Future of Photobooks project was seeing the power of group knowledge being harnessed to create a valuable resource.

By asking bloggers to write on their own platforms, we decreased the burden on us as editors and also connected automatically with a wide range of audiences. And instead of one or two cool links and interesting ideas on a couple blogs, we ended up with enough for three link-packed posts, plus three separate discussion topics, which were also moderated by top bloggers.

Finally, rather than asking readers to follow this trail of posts all over the blogosphere, we indexed all the articles in a central post, along with all the related posts on RESOLVE, creating a stockpile of information about new directions in photobook publishing.

While we were helping readers learn about photobooks, I think it’s safe to say that Andy and I were the ones who learned the most. I know that for me, because I had to read every post in order to synthesize the information for the summary posts, I often felt like I was getting a personal class in photobooks.

And once people saw the impact of the Future of Photobooks project, they asked Andy and I to share what we’d learned: I gave a presentation about it at the Apple Store in San Francisco, he just presented at FotoFreo in Australia, and we’re both joining a panel this fall at the Flash Forward Festival in Toronto.

As someone who was trained as a magazine editor in the traditional sense, this new concept of an editor as an organizer, coordinator, and refiner of not only words but also relationships and activities is super exciting. I hope you agree, and will follow along as we explore those ideas here.

A Steady Drip :: This is just a brand

A Steady Drip is a magazine without a print book and without a website. It is just a brand and editorial direction. The content is commissioned and edited, but then published on the contributors’ platforms. So when you visit, you see a very basic table of contents, which links out to individual artists’ sites, be they writers, photographers, singers, or graffiti artists.

Andrew Kornylak, a smart young editorial and commercial photographer who has worked on several projects that did very well as viral videos.

1. Several videos Andrew put together for a non-profit receive 500,000 impressions total.
2. Andrew teaches a seminar on mixed media production at the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar about reaching a large audience through multiple channels.
3. National Geographic Adventure, one of Andrew’s big clients, closes.
4. The preview of Sports Illustrated on a tablet PC comes out.
5. Andrew starts wondering: “What is the future was going to be like for guys like me, who are still trying to work and get paid for it, but who are also exploring this whole alphabet soup of platforms?”

Andrew: In this new landscape, if I were to start a new magazine but I wanted to totally eliminate the overhead, even starting and maintaining a website is not as easy as you think. Maintaining content, art directing it, building your audience are all difficult and expensive.

So what if you could leverage all these independent producers, and by tapping into what people are already doing?

That way you don’t have to start with any subscription base. Even if no one subscribes, if you have 100 contributors, and they have your brand presence on their platform, so your presence in the marketplace is at least the sum total of all of their readerships. Why reinvent the wheel?

And it doesn’t even matter if the contributors are really different. Because they are already doing what they do best, on the platform that works best for them, for an audience that’s already eager for their stuff.

This first version of A Steady Drip is basically just a proof of concept, mostly including Andrew’s friends. Over the next few months he’s hoping for lots of feedback and ideas for how to refine the project.

Andrew: I think in the future, publishing will be about independent content producers like you, me, and our friends. Right now magazines are going broke trying to garner an online audience, and yet the little guys who do it so well still don’t know how to make money off their platforms. But soon, independent content producers will be hired by editorial publications not just for their creative abilities but also for the audience they have worked so hard to cultivate. Creatives that can bring the whole package to the table will be at a premium.

1. Very low overhead
2. Built-in audiences
3. Can easily adapt to new technological developments
4. Low overhead means real money can go to paying contributors

1. Any cost/time burden falls on just one person right now
2. No funding model yet
3. Can be difficult to coordinate independent creatives
4. Need editorial vision/staff to focus content

1. Is this a good way to deliver content? What works and doesn’t about it?

2. Do you think advertising can work on platform? Since ads would be decoupled from the content, how would advertising even work?

3. As the audience, do you like that the art direction is very loose and you never know what you’re going to get?

4. As a content producer, would you be interested in being part of a project like this? Is the extra traffic you’d get as valuable as, say, your photo on the cover of a print magazine?


P.S. One of the reasons I’m so interested in A Steady Drip is because Paul O’Sullivan, Yumi Goto, Jeremy Wade Shockley, and I came up with a similar idea for the IMPACT Online Exhibition. We asked photographers to put up a gallery of images that spoke to the theme of “Outside Looking In” on their own blogs, then we linked out to all of them from a post on RESOLVE. The idea had so much potential, but the webring technology we used was clunky, so Paul has worked hard to build this smooth new interface. It’s still very much a work in progress, but we think it’s heading in the right direction.

Collaborate Creatively ::with:: Andrew Kornylak

My plan for this blog has been long been to explore the idea of creative collaboration. As the old office structures that have reigned in publishing continue to fall away, I put my money on true innovation coming not from the lone artist in front of his/her computer, but from dynamic, efficient, international teams.

It’s my goal to help “content creators” of all kinds figure out how to make that teamwork as fulfilling (financially and creatively) as possible — in part through my own experiments in collaboration.

Once I start traveling, I’m planning to collaborate in person with artists in the cities I visit. But when I can’t be face-to-face with my creative counterparts, I’m asking them to send me an idea for a little project.

Andrew Kornylak, who I talked with about his new magazine, A Steady Drip, sent me the image in the middle of this collage and asked me to find four pictures, one for each side. I decided to find four more to fill in the grid. I rather like what came out.

All the photo’s besides Andrew’s were found on Fjord Photo, which was the first online collection of good art photographs by young photographers I thought of (although there are many more, which I’ll highlight later).

I expect some feedback from Andrew soon in the comments, but first I’d like your help. WHAT TITLE SHOULD I GIVE THIS PIECE? Try to just go with whatever words or phrase pop into your head first. Please leave them in the comments and I’ll choose my favorite soon, probably with Andrew’s help 🙂

Photo credits – Top row, L-R: Gustav Gustafsson, Andrew Laumann, Jessica Williams. Middle: Mark McKnight, Andrew Kornylak, Will Steacy. Bottom: Miranda Lehman, Jessica Williams, Alice Wells.

AFTER STAFF :: Resources for former staffers

The first big collaborative project I organized on RESOLVE was AFTER STAFF, five days of posts drawing together a range of advice and resources for photographers leaving staff positions and moving to self-employment.

An image that ran in AFTER STAFF from David Leeson, whose career provides an incredible example for photographers exploring new mediums and models. (I also like it as a metaphor for throwing yourself into a new paradigm.)

Besides putting up several posts a day interviewing photographers who had moved from staff photojournalism to commercial, fine art, editorial, and more, we also ran “Expert of the Day” posts where an expert would answer real-time questions in the comments of the post.

This is also where I started to really wrap my brain around the concept of crowd-sourcing. Because most people had made the staff-to-freelance transition so recently, no one really wanted to speak up as an expert. So instead, I asked 30+ photographers the same few questions, about how they felt when they left, what they’re doing now, and lessons they’ve learned.

I collected their answers in a series of posts that not only provide useful insights for photographers in similar situations, but also show all photographers making that transition that they’re not alone — something many struggled with as they left the camaraderie of the newsroom.

Unfortunately, organizing and editing that amount of content on my own almost killed me, and I couldn’t possibly have done it without the help of contributing editor Emily Miller. The Future of Photobooks project was a vast improvement because I had a dedicated collaborator (Andy Adams from FlakPhoto) and asked bloggers to publish on their own platforms.