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How To Cultivate Your Creative Community

A few months ago, I sent a question into one of my favorite podcasts, Creativ Rise. It’s hosted by two Canadian photographers and educators, Joey and Christy, and each week, they encourage readers to text them (really them!) their questions directly. I asked: “How do you create and cultivate an authentic community?” As a freelance photographer, sometimes it’s tough to find a community that you can collaborate with, lean on, and learn from. What I didn’t realize at the time was that just by listening to this podcast, and by sending in my question, I was already learning how to cultivate a creative community.


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During the past eight months, I’ve spoken a lot about the power of photography education. As I sifted through podcasts, webinars, and courses, I learned that you have to cut through the noise to figure out what works best for you. This helped me set more realistic expectations for how much info to seek out at once, which ultimately helped me concentrate my learning efforts. Creativ Rise is one of the outlets that I’ve continuously sought out, and I was so excited when they hosted their first Instagram Live chat to answer some of the listener questions they’ve received. Not only did they take my question … but they invited me to join them live as their first guest!

 We had such a great conversation, and they had so much advice to share. After kicking off with some questions for me (you can read some of my favs at the end!), we dug into the theme of the question that landed me on the chat.


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Here are Joel and Christy’s tips for how to find a reliable creative community of people who can cheer you on and challenge you.

1. Start by writing down your three internal needs and three external needs.

“Internal needs could be things like support, balance, and accountability. External needs might be a new website, new camera equipment, or a refined social media content calendar plan.”

2. Prepare your mindset to be ready to walk into something new.

“We either walk into a room and say, “Here I am, come help me feel comfortable,” or we walk into a room, turning heads to make people think, “There they are, and they become magnetic, making others feel welcome.” We are constantly evaluating and checking the vibes in the room or are we the people who are creating those vibes.”

3. Be willing to open the door into your process and think about what you have to offer others.

“The creative community is the most individualized community there is in the workplace. People who are artists oftentimes believe it’s all about their one idea and are not willing to let others in.”

4. When it comes to experience level, keep the group diverse.

Christy: “Something that many creatives do incorrectly is form a group of people who are all at their same level; it should be a healthy mix of people who are above you in business, those who are starting off, and then people at your level. When you have people ahead of you, they help to lift you up and bring a different perspective of wisdom. When you have those who are starting off, you help to pull them up … Lastly, you need someone who is going to lead and take initiative so it doesn’t turn into one big pity party talking about all the things that people struggle with.”

5. Take a leap of faith.

Joey: “Have you ever been at the corner of a street, and the light is red for oncoming traffic, but yet, nobody moves because they are waiting for the walk sign to illuminate? They wait and wait, and then one guy finally takes the initiative to step off the curb and start proceeding forward to the other side of the street. Then, all of sudden, everyone else follows. The analogy ties in with the idea of being willing to step off the curb and be the first to do something bold that everyone else is thinking, but just hasn’t acted on yet.”

So, how do you grow your community of creatives? Just start! Identify your needs, both internal and external. Get ready to open up, not just your creative process, but your personality and your business. Match your gifts and abilities to places where you can make a difference and where you can receive support. Who knows? Your community may even start with a podcast or an Instagram live!

If this article resonated with you, I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below or connect with me on Instagram at @sarnoldphoto.


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 Bonus Content: Sarah in the Spotlight

It was such an honor to join the Creativ Rise team on their first Instagram Live chat. As we were introducing ourselves, I shared that while my photography passion started with a lot of figure skating photos in my hometown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I’m now a freelancer based in Colorado Springs and specialize in weddings, couples, and portraits. Then Joey and Christy had some thoughtful questions for me:

Christy: What was a highlight of 2020?

Sarah: I’ve been able to sit back and re-evaluate everything that I think I’ve either been doing right, wrong, or needs some refinement. Having all of this time to take these education courses has been the biggest game changer. I also found success in 2020 because I didn’t niche down to only weddings; I was taking on a variety of clientele which helped provide other streams of income for me.

Christy: What was something you bombed in your business?  

Sarah: The first wedding I ever shot, I didn’t know how to use an external flash, but pretended as though I did. The photos were overexposed, and I delivered them in JPG and not RAW. [For non-photographers, this is a big problem. This allows for very little ability to edit colors, brightness, contrast, and all those tiny little pixels in the photograph that we can usually save, fix, or edit, if there is an issue.] It was a bit of a disaster, but I suppose we all have to learn the hard way when it’s the first for everything.

Joey: What is something that you are excited about for 2021?

Sarah: Being able to understand how to set realistic goals. In the past my thoughts were often “this is just on the side and a freelance job” without a clear direction of a plan. Now, I feel those steps are better defined to make it more than just something on the side.

Want to see more? Check out the full episode!

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