Go Mighty’s 31 Days of Inspiring Women, #7: Sarah Palmer
Meet Sarah, photographer, maker and creative brain extraordinaire. She was born in 1984 and has been making things daily ever since. In the past few years she’s been a professional blogger, tutorial writer, instagrammer, product photographer, photo-assistant, instructor, book-binder, designer, list-maker, etc. She basically loves any job in which she’s making new things all the time.
You may have seen her work doing tutorials for Photojojo, seen her photos as a featured user on Instagram, or stumbled upon her top-selling star jars on Etsy. As a photographer, despite being fluent in analog photography processes and cameras from 35mm to 4x5”, she currently does most of her paid photographic work with an iPhone camera.
Learn a bit more about Sarah’s story and Life List below.
So, Sarah, what’s your story?
I’m a San Francisco/ Oakland based freelance artist. I support myself with a wild combination of Etsy sales (I make small space-themed night lights), stock photography sales, photo/art-assisting, and Instagramming for varied companies & events.
What do you think inspired all of your work that went into becoming a successful freelance creative?
During my childhood in Minnesota, my mother had a home business running a pottery studio with a handmade walk-in kiln, while my father ran a small software company in the basement (in addition to his full time job as an airline pilot.) So, from a young age, one of my life goals was to support myself as a professional artist/maker. Now, I’ve been self-employed for about 3 years.
I’ve spent many years hearing that “it’s impossible to make a living as an artist”, which I think has helped me to be happy with a very frugal, quiet lifestyle living & working in my home. While this might sound ideal, I think I often don’t push myself to do more because I’m comfortable where I am. In the future, I’d really like to pursue more of my ideas, take on more jobs, and think more critically about my long-term career.
Tell us a bit more about these ten goals from your life list. What’s the inspiration behind the goals you chose?
Apply for a grant/residency: I often go to bed browsing different artist opportunities & call for artist links, daydreaming of the things I could make if I applied. I need to stop dreaming about them and start applying for them!
Print in darkroom more: In high school, my mom & I shared a darkroom in our garage. I would print for hours on end, often until (past) the middle of the night. In college, (at CalArts) I had 24 hour access to both color and black & white darkrooms. Since moving to the Bay Area, I’ve used “can’t afford it” as an excuse not to rent out darkroom time. I need to make this a bigger priority.
Improve business skills: I am an amateur at things like writing contracts, accounting, invoicing and marketing. I need to pay more attention to my stats. I also need to improve my system of handling both my emails and Etsy orders - they overwhelm me at times.
Have a product professionally manufactured: Much of my income comes from selling my space-themed “Starlight Jar” night lights. I make hundreds of night lights each month. Every jar is recycled and each “star” is handmade, so they take up a lot of my time. I have no idea how to go about having a product factory made, but oooooh, wouldn’t it be nice? Even if it’s not this particular product, I’d like to know how to get my products made and hopefully one day be able to actually have it done.
Publish a book of photographs: I have a few photo series that I think are close to being complete, and I’d like to publish at least one of them as a book by the end of the year. I don’t mind if it’s self-published, I just want to make sure it gets finished.
Teach to students of any age: I love teaching alternative photo processes, the science of photography, book binding, and other crafts. It has been one of my goals for several years, but I have never taken the steps necessary to teach professionally.
Work full time for a company I believe in: Even though I enjoy being self-employed, I also like the immersion that comes with being part of a team working on a full-time project. There are so many companies and organizations doing things I really admire; I think it would be awesome to work full-time with one of them, to be able to focus my time on just one job.
Read (almost) every book I own: I own at least 20 books that I want to read, but haven’t read yet. I want to read all these books before I bring in any more new ones.
Meditate for 20-45 minutes a day for at least 7 days: I somehow convince myself that I don’t have time for meditation. I do have time, and want to be more strict about meditating daily, because it makes me happier and more calm when I do.
Pay off student loan & medical debt: Debt scares me! I want to get rid of it.
Any advice for others on how to stay motivated/focused on achieving their goals?
Keep a journal. Don’t forget about the things you wanted to do yesterday, last week, last month, or last year. I have several chalkboards I use for notes about daily/weekly goals, ideas, and lists of what I’ve completed each day. If I’m having a bad day, it’s really motivating to see the list of things I’ve already accomplished.
Follow Sarah’s journey through completing her Life List here.
Want to make a Life List of your own? Easy—join the Go Mighty community here.
(Photo by Matt Nuzzaco)
Thank you GoMighty & Helena Price for this opportunity to think about my life goals! Time to get to work!