My Origin Story: How I ended up in my branding career

Watch This Episode Of Mwah Tv About Branding Career

It’s about time I tell you about where I have come from to get to this stage of my branding career. I’m a big believer in working hard in life, and I think by the time we are through with this episode, you will get a clear idea of how much I believe in this. I also want this to help anyone who is at an earlier stage of their career to show you that there is no traditional route into a branding career DESPITE what you may have been led to believe by your teachers or lecturers.

Let’s go!

Branding Career

If you have always wondered how to get into a similar field with your branding career, or you want to get a more in-depth understanding of my career then by the end of this episode you will know about my less than traditional route into the creative industries.

39 Different Jobs!

I’ve done the workings out and I want to begin this episode by telling you that at the age of 39 years old, I have had 39 different jobs in my life so far. Yup that’s right THIRTY-NINE! I decided to enter the world of work for money at age 13. I really wanted to earn my own money and felt like I wanted to “be in the game” even though it’s not technically legal at this age. Both of my grandmothers left school at this age and went into the world of work – I think this has something to do with where I got this idea from.


Avon Calling - Age 13

My first job was franchising my own business. After doing a sales proposal pitch to my Mammy in our living room, she agreed to get an Avon round in her name that I would be fully responsible for running after homework. I had a couple of streets in my village as my official territory but extended this to school where I would do my thing to the teachers at the staff room door in lunch breaks. From then on, I always made sure I had at least one part-time job on the go. I took a break from this in my last year at uni for my finals and dissertation.

Part-Time Jobs Throughout School

During this time, I was a post lady, worked in a factory, was a professional pancake maker, worked in clothing shops, and was a barmaid. There was always an element that I hated in each of these jobs, and that was listening to half-wit managers telling me to do something in a way I didn’t think made sense “because that’s the way it has always been done”. I was mostly able to rub along with colleagues but could never fully understand people who had worked in a job for over ten years hating it. Spending a lunch break wearing a polyester uniform and chatting to someone incredibly disenchanted by their career is a really motivating experience when you are young.

And The Lesson Learned Here

So, I think the biggest lesson I learned was that it is really easy to fall into a job you don’t like, and that respect is always a two-way street even though people who are older than you will always tell you that you should respect them. Then the art of smiling in the face of adversity. That might include being polite to horrible customers, or having throbbing feet after long manual shifts, or simply learning about risk and danger first hand. It is these life skills that I think really round out going to school and spending your time around kids your own age all the time.

Why Experience Is More Important Than Grades - For Me

This is one of the key reasons why I will always recruit someone who has work experience and lower grades over someone who has top grades and no idea about the working world.

Yup - With a Noughties Brow

The Great BIG Disappointment

My next big lesson learned was after graduating with my first degree. This was what I like to call the Great Big Disappointment. I think every graduate will experience this time in different increments of disappointment.

What I mean by this is from being a small child almost all the adults around you parrot that “if you work hard and get qualified, you will get a good job”. I can remember going to so many grad scheme events and being made to feel that because I hadn’t gone to a top university or come from a wealthy family, I didn’t have a chance on getting to the next stage on their scheme.

This was really upsetting to me; I’d done everything right and felt duped and now burdened with student debt. My upset turned to anger and that fuelled my saving up to go off backpacking instead of trying to fight the system or accept an entry-level job I didn’t want to get stuck in. I think sadly so many kids are lulled into this unrealistic pretence that if you work hard, you will get the job you want.

If This Is You Right Now

If you are at this age or point in your life and you are feeling intense disappointment that your teachers and parent have led you up the garden path, please know that there is still a way to progress in life. It’s just not going to be as straightforward as you originally thought.

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Rebel Experience Years

The next phase of my branding career is where things go a little bit wild. Let’s call this period “the rebel experience years”. In this time whilst being out on the road I threw myself into so many different jobs that really helped me learn a wide range of skills. Jobs like door-to-door sales, telesales, working in promotions, experiencing small business for the first time. In these roles, I learned a lot about pushing my own limitations. Doing things I found really hard and doing work where I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. When I look back on these experiences now, I can see that I learned a lot about resilience. Figuring out problems on my feet has helped me in running a business enormously.

Feeding Ducks in New Zealand from a Van I lived in for 3 months

At the time it felt like free-falling sometimes. That can be a bit scary – but now with hindsight, I see it as a real gift.

Art Of Compressing Years

Around about this time I had begun figuring out that I wanted to go back into education and explore a more creative career path. Sure, I felt some level of regret that I hadn’t done this instead of my Marketing & PR degree.

Had I wasted my time?

But what I quickly learned was the experiences before I studied my photography degree really helped me succeed. This period of my career is where I pushed my natural inclination to work hard up a couple of notches. So, I’m calling this phase the Art of Compressing Years.

I found my studies came to me much more naturally than in my previous degree. It didn’t feel like I was forcing things and it paid off in my marks. Because of this and the fact that I felt the time was ticking, I pushed myself to get the most dazzling photography CV there ever was whilst doing a full-time course.

Chasing Down Experience

I hounded all of my lecturers on a weekly basis to hook me up with assistant work and was able to get first dibs on placements and paid opportunities as a result of that. This meant that by the time I graduated I had a job offer at a photography studio ready to go. They too felt that my CV of practical experience warranted the job offer.

Then Pushing Further

I carried on pushing this. At one point I had 4 different part-time jobs on the go. This gave me a mix of earning money to live on and build up my creative professional experiences. This is not something I recommend anyone do for a long period of time. Instead, my advice would be to explore something like this for an intense 6 month to one year period with a clear view of what is going to change at the end of that timeframe. This paid off for me. I was headhunted into a full-time studio job that I thought was the answer to all my problems.

More Creative Careers Tips

You can re-visit this episode with special guest Col Gray, where we compressed our 35 years of combined experience into an episode jam-packed with creative career advice and know-how here.

Feel The Fear

Sadly, that full-time job was a total disaster.

I lasted there about 6 months before things got so bad I walked out. The company I was working for was incredibly disorganised and failing fast. This meant I wasn’t paid on time if at all, it was a disaster on wheels.

I can remember thinking to myself I’ve seen how this photography game is done right, and I have seen now exactly how not to do it, so I think I probably know enough to give this a try for myself. So that’s what I did, I walked out, wrote a business plan and set it up a few months later.

Burnout & Failure

Becoming an entrepreneur is so tough. The odds are stacked against you succeeding. If it wasn’t for my previous years getting the first taste of resilience, I would have quit within the first year of running my business for sure.

I made every single mistake imaginable at this time:

  • Spent money in all the wrong places,
  • Tried marketing methods that totally failed,
  • I got into huge amounts of debt,
  • and I avoided niching down.

Unsurprisingly this took its toll on my body. I experienced burnout from always having a cold, to developing serious chest infections – where I still went into work like a fool. Then because I ignored the signs my body was giving me, I got very sick and ended up in hospital. In a period of 6 months, I developed 2 long term health conditions that I will have to manage for the rest of my life. I can remember my family telling me it was time to quit running my business when I was in the hospital.

But I refused to give in.

I Speak About This Y'Know

If you're on the hunt for a sassy speaker or guest for your content creation, I am open and happy to talk about this in further detail. 

Niching & Niching Again

After recovering and getting back into work I decided to start with a clean slate and do everything differently. I made things a lot simpler and more niched my photography business offering over 7 different photography services down to 3. I then tested all three out by running campaigns for them.

All these test campaigns failed.

Next, I decided to try just one type of photography in my business. This was headshots photography. And thankfully it really took off for me.

A Big Hairy Goal

Finally, 3 years into my business and finally on a path that seemed to be working for me I decided to think of a big goal to get my business working quicker for me. At this time, I felt like those first years of failure after failure was time wasted. I now see this as time in testing, I now see this failure as a really positive thing for me because it forced me to grow.

The biggest goal I could dream up at this time was to be able to officially call myself an International Photographer. In order to truly earn this title, I would need to travel overseas, shoot overseas and make money as a result of that.

Social Media Marketing World

I picked out Social Media Marketing World as a really good conference to try this out. This conference would be full of people who wanted to document their time in a beautiful part of the world.

For 6 months I sold my services in a really organised way to the speakers at the conference of that year. This was a time filled with self-doubt for me. Despite that, in 4 months I had sold enough services to cover the expenses of my trip and ticket. The week before I left for this trip I was able to sell a couple more shoots which meant the trip was a profitable one.

The Online "Thing"

For the next couple of years, I met so many different people who had made huge amounts of money doing “the online thing” people who had set up a traditional business model and then had added on consistent content creation that built an audience that could then be monetised into a more passive income based online. I was hugely inspired by this and tried out different iterations of adding this mysterious online element to my photography business but with little success.

I felt doubtful that this would work for me quickly, so instead decided to settle for creating consistent content until my email list and the audience was of a big enough size to bring anything new out that wasn’t high-end headshots and brand photography.

In this time I got more and more serious about Mwah TV – this YouTube Channel and continued to increase my photography prices.

Resilience X100

I was on track with this rough plan of action up until the world was turned upside down with the COVID pandemic. In response to my photography work becoming a lot more unpredictable, I decided to return to my marketing roots and develop my years in consulting with my clients’ brands before photoshoots into something that could work in a remote way.

I completed an intense brand strategy course and have officially added this as a service as well as a creative direction service to my business. I now consider myself more of a fledgling boutique creative agency. 

Documenting COVID For Photographers

I’ve documented exactly how this time felt for me, as well as how other photographers responded to this time here on the channel and I’ve been open about beginning these newly packaged up services here too. This has been an intense period of unplanned change that has further built my resilience skills beyond what I thought was possible.

Documenting the impact of COVID on The Worlds Photographers

What's In Store Next?

Next for me in my business and branding career is going to be a time where I feel I’m going to rely on all the lessons and skills I have picked up so far. If you have any recommendations about this please do feel free to suggest them to me below in the comments.

One thing I really want to change about myself is how much I work. I'm doing a lot of exploration of this by looking closely at people who are more successful than I am who have put themselves into a strong leadership position in their careers. I’m not quite at the point where I want to sit back and advise. But, I want to be able to pick what I work hard on knowing from my experience when that will pay off the best and when it’s better to delegate.

I really hope that this has been an interesting more unusual potted history of my branding career so far. I have already planned to re-visit this episode in 3 to 5 years’ time to see if what I just predicted will happen, actually happens.

I’ll see you next time!

00:00 - Episode Starts

02:07 - My First Business at Age 13

05:34 - The Great BIG Disappointment

07:53 - The Rebel Experience Years

10:23 - The Art of Compressing Years

13:15 - Feel The Fear

16:10 - Niching & Niching Again

17:12 - A Big Hairy Goal

19:48 - The Online Thing

22:22 - Resilience X100

24:31 - What's Next?

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