Intentional Traveler Interview: Intrepid Freelancer - Intentional Travelers

07 Apr Intentional Traveler Interview: Intrepid Freelancer

Our latest installment of Intentional Traveler interviews features Suzi Pratt, at Intrepid Freelancer. We met Suzi in person just last month, thanks to the Find A Nomad project (a site that shows you other digital nomads in your area at a given time). We crossed paths while visiting our respective families on Oahu, and had a great meet-up at Liliha Bakery. We’re really impressed with how Suzi has pulled together a freelance career for herself so that she can make time for travel.


Taking work a little too seriously. Covering the last day of Sasquatch Music Festival 6 hours after an appendectomy. Obviously not what the doctor ordered…

Taking work a little too seriously. Covering the last day of Sasquatch Music Festival 6 hours after an appendectomy. Obviously not what the doctor ordered…

In a paragraph (or two), who are you and what do you do? 
Aloha! My name is Suzi Pratt and I…do a lot of things! More than I can keep track of. The short story I tell most people is that I am a freelance photographer based in Seattle, specializing in entertainment, corporate, and restaurant photography. I’m also a photography blogger for Digital Photography School, and a one-person online creative agency working with small businesses on web design, content management and social media marketing.
By traditional definitions, I’m not exactly a full-time digital nomad since photography does keep me rooted to one location. I have a great photo client base in Seattle, not to mention I get paid to attend music festivals and concerts, and photograph celebrities like Oprah, Paul McCartney, George Takei, etc. It actually makes for a really fun and active lifestyle. But as a travel addict who’s been to 26 countries and counting, I can also travel just about any time that I want as long as I plan it ahead of time and sometimes bring my work with me. Typically, I spend a total of 2-3 months a year traveling outside of Seattle, although usually in smaller chunks of 1-3 weeks at a time.
How did you get started in working for yourself and traveling?
My background is pretty typical of most digital nomads. After I graduated from college in 2008, I immediately went to work full-time as a financial analyst at Boeing. I was working 60-80 hour weeks, extremely unhappy before discovering the blogs of Chris Guillebeau and Nomadic Matt, enchanted by their lifestyles. I eventually signed up for Sean Ogle’s Location Rebel program and started reading Tim Ferriss’ The Four Hour Work Week, and those resources made me realize that the digital nomad lifestyle was indeed possible.


Casablanca, Morocco

Casablanca, Morocco

However, I had no skill or way of making money. My first attempt at a business venture was an online dating profile writing service, and around that time I got introduced to the prolific Seattle music scene. While still at a full-time corporate job, I became an editor and photographer at a local music blog and literally fell into the world of photography. I spent a couple years doing concert photography and photojournalism for local news and culture blogs. While I certainly didn’t make a ton of money working for those blogs, I benefitted in that I was building a huge list of contacts who eventually turned into valuable clients. I took the leap to the full-time self employed lifestyle in October 2012 when I realized I was making more money off of side jobs than I was at my full-time job at the time. I haven’t looked back since!


What over-arching goals or values drive your life choices?
 1. Wanting constant exposure to a variety of skills and industries.
When I started my university education, I had my heart set on a career in sports medicine. A variety of factors made me change my major multiple times, and finally my career counselor advised that I major in business. “As a business major, you can always work in some facet of sports medicine,” she told me, and I’ve taken that to heart over the years. No matter what your skill is, take the opportunity to work in other roles related to it. For example, in addition to being a photographer, I’ve also worked as a photo editor, publicist, and marketing manager, giving me more exposure to the overall photography business and helping me be a better photographer in the process.
2. The desire for a more flexible lifestyle and working on my own terms.
I’m not a fan of bureaucracy and am most motivated to work when it’s on my own terms. A night owl, my best work is churned out late at night between the hours of 10pm-2am when I’m in my own space. Traditional 9 to 5 jobs with tons of unnecessary managers, open office layouts, and a meager 2 weeks a year’s worth of vacation are environments that make me a depressed, inefficient employee. I prefer the ability to control when and where I work, and not having to choose between spending 2 weeks with my family or 2 weeks adventuring to a new-to-me part of the world every year. For all of the headaches and insecurities of self employment, the benefits are priceless and make it worth the pursuit.Seattle
What are the different “revenue streams” that you use to support yourself?
Right now my main income is freelance photography. My rates and reputation are such that usually just 1 or 2 big photography gigs a month will bring in enough income to cover my monthly expenses. However, I tend to do anywhere from 15-30 paid freelance photography gigs a month, in addition to working with 3-7 consulting (marketing, web design, etc) clients a month. My real bread and butter, though, comes in the form of steady social media and blogging clients that I’ve had for years. I have a base of them that pay me regular paychecks every month that ensures I cover my bare bones expenses.
If you could give one piece advice to others interested in your lifestyle, what would it be?
This is a tricky piece of advice: consider alternative forms of payment besides straight up cash or a check. Bartering or service trades can work to your advantage, especially if these are things you’d be spending that cash on anyway. Having a willingness to consider alternative payment forms can lead to more beneficial and trusting business partnerships, especially if you’re working with international clients or small businesses. I understand the importance of knowing your worth as an entrepreneur or service provider, but on the flip side, you should also seek to understand the worth of your client. I won’t barter with a big corporation, for instance but I definitely will (and have in the past) for small family-run businesses based in other countries. Basically, do your research before you name your price and make sure what you’re asking is fair and reasonable for both yourself and the client.
Anything else you would like to add?
One more piece of advice: Pay attention to trends and technology and never stop learning. If it looks like your skill or service is being threatened, gain new skills or advantages that will make your business more attractive than your competitors. This is largely why I’ve been slowly transitioning out of photography and into a creative agency role; I know that photographers are a dime a dozen these days, so I need to have more skills than simply taking a pretty picture. Having a wide variety of skills and the ability to adapt along with constantly changing environments will give you peace of mind and ensure you won’t go bust.


Are you a fellow Intentional Traveler? You don’t need to be a blogger. Share your story with us to be featured in an upcoming blog post (and potential book project). Help inspire others to pursue more meaningful, transformational travel!

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