How to Be Your Own Boss, From a Young Creative Who’s Doing It
What does Rachel Cabitt do? The real question is, what doesn’t she do? This NYC photographer, graphic designer, web developer, and digital director is a multi-talented mind who has built a career—and a life—around creativity. Here’s how the freelancer, who says she splits “her time between photographing young, like-minded artists and basking in colored lighting,” made her dreams a reality.
What were you like as a teen?
I was super studious and very creative. Never got grounded, very much the goody two-shoes of my friend group. I tried to be athletic and musically oriented...but clearly I found my path.
As an adult, what do you wish you could tell your teenage self now?
I’d tell myself to take more chances and to not be as timid. I’d also tell myself to listen to mom, because hoop earrings and turtlenecks actually look really good on you!
How exactly did you get to where you are now, professionally?
Even though I always knew I wanted to be a photographer, I tried my hand at a lot of different careers within the creative industry. I interned at a creative branding agency, an artist management agency, a fashion house, and an online magazine. Looking back now, I think it also highly influenced my freelance lifestyle, allowing me to diversify and not restrict myself to just one type of career.
But I what really got me to where I am now was all of my self-motivated projects—most importantly, POND magazine. Junior year of college was when I jumped on board with the publication. Our whole team was in college and like any other start-up, none of us were getting paid. We were doing it just for the thrill of meeting and collaborating with other creatives our age around the world. Since then, it’s snowballed into something much bigger than we could’ve imagined. It requires me to use all of my skills, from photography, to web design, to graphic design, to digital outreach, to event planning. It also involves a lot of just going for it, failing, learning from our mistakes, and then trying again. There’s definitely no handbook for being your own boss, but that’s the fun of it.
What's one thing you wish you had known then that you know now about having a career?
There’s no one right way to do what you want to do. I always thought I had to intern or work for the biggest name magazines and fashion designers to get to “the top.” But innovation comes from doing things differently, not what everyone else has already done.
What work advice do you have for teens or for young people just starting out?
To put yourself out there and meet people! Email people who you look up to or want to collaborate with. You never know who is going to respond. And don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back; everyone's super busy. I applied for an internship at an online magazine three times before I finally got it. Polite persistence is the name of the game.
There’s also this stigma that you need to “pay your dues” to get to where you want to be. While I think it’s very important to put time in at these places and learn how the industry works, there’s a difference between passionately working and being an underpaid employee. I have so many friends who work long hours and get paid nothing, only to come home at the end of the day unhappy. Do what you want to do! I didn’t come to New York City to sit in an office all day.
Any last parting bit of advice?
Be confident! The best promoter of your work is yourself. Don’t wait around for someone to discover you.