Katch Silva: Redefining success & becoming happier

To celebrate Women’s History Month, we’re launching a series of inspiring interviews with amazing & hardworking entrepreneurial women within our creative space. Get to know their journey, their values, the ups & downs that shaped their personality and business. We hope that each of these 4 women will offer you the needed dose of inspiration, motivation & empowerment (read as kick in the butt) to challenge your limits, try new things and ultimately grow as a person and as a brand.

If you’re too curious to find out who are these 4 amazing women that we’ll be featuring – we’re not keeping the cat in the bag, here’s what to anticipate:

Katch Silva – Redefining success & becoming happier.
India Earl – How to grow your business & the importance of saying No.
Laurken Kendall – Combining parenthood with a successful photography business.
Caryl Lyons – Building a successful Event Planning company & finding work / life balance

Interview #1: Katch Silva

www.katchsilva.com | Custom Design by Flothemes

What you’re about to read now is a beautiful & honest insight into the world of this fun, talented & smiley Colombian woman – Katch Silva. Having followed her story for several years, completely mesmerized by her photography and writing, also a bit jealous of her adventurous van life – we couldn’t restrain ourselves from asking Katch to share her secrets with us. Spoiler alert: after reading this interview you may start reconsidering your lifestyle, your perception of art & happiness.

Katch Silva Photography interview portrait

Katch, how are you able to combine a very active & fun van life with managing a full time photography business?

There’s two things I wanna say about this.

1.First of all, don’t let social media misguide your perception of how much others work, or how happy they are. You might only see the fun/free/travel/ part of life on social, but don’t forget there’s a ton that goes on behind the scenes of all your favorite photographer’s lives that doesn’t get shared. The countless hours spent editing [like you said], the tedious bookkeeping that has to be done for taxes, the hours spent daily on emails and other business background things that have to get done, etc. We all have amazing days (which end up all over social media) as well as horrible days, which are rarely talked about publicly.

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2.The main piece of advice I can give is: PRIORITIZE WISELY. Once I started to prioritize, and really give the most time and effort to the things that truly bring me joy and fulfillment, that’s when life started to take a turn. Some tangible examples of this are:

  • I don’t do my own taxes, I have an accountant I hire to do that. I send her my bookkeeping reports (I do the background stuff, keep transactions, label expenses, deal with categorizing income, etc throughout the entire year) and she takes care of the rest.
  • I’ve cut way back on how many weddings I shoot per year, and increased the rate per wedding. I used to shoot 25-ish weddings per year (which is still way lower than most photographers I talk to), but now I’m capping it around 10-15 per year. Shooting weddings is still a passion of mine, but when passion becomes overwhelming work, it loses it’s ability to inspire. I found that this number of weddings is a great sweet spot for me, allowing me to shoot the work I’m passionate about while not loosing myself in it. This frees up my time so I can pursue my other interests and hobbies, as well as shoot personal work for my own enjoyment.
  • I’ve also cut back on doing in-person mentoring and workshops, and for the past few years have chosen to sell online classes instead. This freed up a ton of time in my calendar. I chose to do that because mentoring just wasn’t among my highest passions, but teaching still is, hence online classes that I don’t have to actively teach every time someone buys them. It’s all about freeing up your time for the things you truly love.

Bonus: Interested in adding that Katch Silva look to your photos? Check out more information about her presets here.

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Those are just a few examples. I’m making a little less money than I was 3 years ago, but I’m truly a much happier person, and have more time to enjoy my hobbies, climbing, traveling, my friends and loved ones, etc. That’s truly what matters the most to me, above how much money I make, how many followers I have, and even how my “business is doing”. My personal happiness is way more important, and it’s highly dependent on who and what I surround myself with. So choose those few things wisely! And we’ve been living in the van for more than TWO years now!

Obviously most of us dream of the freedom that “van life” offers, but very few dare to take the plunge. How did you decide to adopt this lifestyle & why?

The decision to live on the road was huge in bringing us closer to our passions. We’ve actually been living on the road for over 2 years now, and we’ve realized that that decision impacted our lives in ways that we didn’t really anticipate. Aside from the benefits we knew would come (more time spent in nature, more independence and freedom to travel wherever we want, a slower-paced simpler life, less clutter, etc), we’ve been pleasantly surprised with other benefits. For example, we now get to “be neighbors” to our friends who live all over the states for 1-2 months at a time. We park our van near them and experience life all over, from Colorado, to California, Oregon and even Florida. In the past 2 years I’ve realized how important relationships are, and keeping up with friendships is something that can get difficult if you can’t spend enough time together. But living in a van has allowed us this freedom and time, and it’s been great.

Katch Silva Photography interview, joshua tree camping, ben sasso

As far as how or why we did, we all have different reasons, and I could try to list them all (some were listed above), but truly I think the important take-away is this: whatever it is that will bring you more life enjoyment, whether it’s cutting back on work, making a big move, downsizing, traveling, etc — Just do it. Stop waiting for the perfect timing, stop waiting for security, guarantees or signs. If it’s going to give you a more fulfilled life, don’t hesitate. Do it.

What do most of your days look like?

That’s an impossible one to answer given how I don’t really have a “typical” day. Our “daily routine” changes about every month or two, depending where we are and where we’re traveling to. But just to summarize, I’ll try to categorize my days into two very wide and not very uniform categories:

Busy season days: I’m either shooting all day, or waking up, eating breakfast, and editing most of the day. I spend around 9-hours a day in the busy season on my computer. Some days it’s 14 hours, some days it’s 5 hours, but I’d say 9 is the average. We try to make time for daily quality time even when the season is crazy busy, so I try to stick to a work-day that ends around 6-8PM. But admittedly, sometimes I do work till midnight or 2am trying to finish a certain project I’m on a roll with.

Off-season days: Drastically different. I’m still doing work (website, emails, client upkeep, bookkeeping, education, there’s always a long list of things I can do in the off season), but I take more time off to enjoy the people and things around me. Some off-days are spent reading, some climbing & camping, some lounging. We spend a lot of time just talking — about a book we read, an interesting point made in a podcast, philosophy, scientific theories, etc. We enjoy the constant expansion of knowledge, and love reading non-fiction, and having open discussions about it.

Katch Silva Photography interview, joshua tree camping

It’s no secret that you & Ben Sasso are a couple. Do you think it has shaped in any way your art & business, having that support & partner in “creative” crime?

Absolutely. We often talk about how we’ve shaped each other’s creativity, and work each others’ creative muscles constantly. If you could look at both of our journeys (creative, business, personal, spiritual, career, etc), throughout the several years we’ve been together, you’d see a clear pattern of impact and convergence. Both of our shooting styles have changed so much even in just the past 2-3 years, and it’s so clear to both of us how we’ve impacted each other. We help each other constantly, give each other critiques, bounce ideas off each other, brainstorm potentials together, and sometimes assist each other on shoots. We welcome the other’s feedback because it often shows us a new perspective we hadn’t seen before, and then allows us to take it and make it our own. I really am so grateful to have his brain as part of my own process, and I think he is too (for having mine).

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Let’s get to the practical questions. Can you name 3 things that you feel you are strongest at, when it comes to managing a business and pushing it towards growth?

Ha, these are supposed to be the easier questions but these are always harder for me. I’m really terrible at confidently pointing out my strengths. But ok, I’ll try.

  1. Always being willing to experiment when I’m not 100% satisfied with my work – I was going to start this answer by saying that my strength was “never being satisfied 100% with my own work”, because that’s what seemingly pushes me to continue to create new work. But that, in itself, is a weakness. The strength comes in being able to identify our own dissatisfaction and push forward with creating new work to break that mold. Whenever I’m not feeling entirely happy with the kind of work I’m putting out— which admittedly is very often, I tend to be very harsh on myself— I’m able to step away from it, create anew, leave my comfort zone, and push forward. I’m always looking for a new way of doing things, a new quality of light to use and love, a new setting, a new subject, a new location, a new medium, etc. I think this has helped me evolve and move forward a ton.
  2. People tell me I’m good at social media. Most of the time I’m not really sure why, but I guess I’ll believe them! I think I just show my personality well on there, because in real life I’m more of an introvert with strangers but social allows me to come out of my shell to allow thousands of strangers to see what happens behind the scenes.
  3. I’m anal about organization and communication. I don’t have the latest office gadgets, or fancy software, or assistants to help me with the day-to-day. But I do think my organizational skills are strong, and they keep me and my clients on top of everything, and well prepared for shoots and weddings. I try to make sure I communicate well, respond quickly, and make myself available to my clients.
Katch Silva Photography interview portrait 3

What success looks like to you?

This is a great question, and one I’ve actually given a crap-top of thought in the last year or so. It’s also one I’ve considered writing an article about, because it’s a topic that seems to unfortunately confuse and upset many.

Success, to me, used to be defined by very clear accomplishments. Sometimes that came in the form of straight As, academic awards, artistic recognition, or getting published. As my business took off, it came in the form of having more clients, shooting destination weddings, making more money, or being recognized with awards. Sure, those things brought me immediate happiness, in the form of a strong but quick spike in dopamine levels. But now I know that that’s not really lasting happiness, and I’ve started to redefine what I work towards— redefine success.

Katch Silva Photography interview, weddings

Now, success to me means life enjoyment— and that comes in many different flavors, types, categories, and styles. Life enjoyment in the form of being able to make my own schedule, work when I want to, rest when I need to, have solo time when my brain craves it, and take trips when the desire hits. It means being able to take time off when I needed to take Ben to constant hospital visits last year when his health took a down turn. It means being able to loan a friend money when he needs it, and to visit friends we don’t get to see all that often. It means having time to finally make my way through my pleasure-reading list, and still have time to climb and make art I’m passionate about. In essence, its defined by my own measure of happiness, not the industry’s.

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I’m not saying that I’m always constantly feeling the fruits of this type of success. I still experience low moments, and moments that feel like defeat. Like when I wish I had more hours in the day, or when that really rad couple ends up booking someone else. But I have felt way happier on average since I started to re-define the way I saw success.

There’s also one more thing I want to add, because I feel that this answer won’t be my complete answer without it. This something has become a goal of mine: being able to find happiness in any situation, no matter how unpleasant or difficult, is what finding true success and life enjoyment really means to me. If all our happiness comes from outside sources, (not just things like our paychecks and traditional “success” but also things like making art, having time to read, having time to climb, seeing friends, etc, these are all outside sources), then it will always be something we have to work towards. None of those things last forever. But if we’re able to make happiness a state of mind— an ability to feel it even when shit’s entirely out of your control— that’s what lasting happiness truly is. And that’s really what I’ve been abstractly working towards in the last year.

Katch Silva Photography interview, couples

Do you believe in learning through mistakes? Can you share a few mistakes that taught you something valuable or had a great impact on your business? 

I’ve learned a lot through making mistakes, so absolutely.

Mistake 1: Not valuing your own art as much as you should. Don’t price yourself low just because you’re scared you won’t book. If you have confidence in your quality of work, price yourself accordingly. 

Mistake 2: Not showing my personality. I used to be strictly business. My portfolio was used strictly to show my work, my website was used to convey information, and social media was just another portfolio. Now I realize that personality is as important as your product, at least when it comes to the types of clients I want to have.

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If you could go back in time, what would you tell yourself when you were only starting out in photography?

You’ll be fine, just stop worrying and start creating for yourself.

Do you outsource any of your responsibilities? 

Things I outsource:
Tax stuff
Investing
Design & website stuff

Things I refuse to outsource:
Client emailing
Client experience/management
Culling Images
Editing Images
Blogging
Writing

A real, genuine, and personable experience is too important to me and my brand for me to outsource emails to an assistant, or culling to an outsider. I have very strong feelings about this. As photographers we emphasize having a genuine experience, capturing true/raw genuine/moments, yet some of our business processes, if outsourced, make things so impersonal and disingenuous for our client’s experience. I understand that everyone’s business model is drastically different, and that’s okay, but this is just very important to my own business model and brand.

Katch Silva Photography interview, joshua tree camping 1

How do you stay organized? Do you have a set schedule for work time vs play time?

Sort of. It depends where we are. If we’re visiting friends in the off-season, I have a set work schedule— work 9-6ish, play after. Play on the weekends if I’m not shooting. In the busy season, my default tends to be work, and then I have to make intentional time here and there for play.

Who is a woman you admire and why? 

Jane Goodall. She’s freaking rad. I wish we could all see past labels and categories like her. I think it’s really cool how she changed the way we see our primate relatives. She had a passion and she followed it no matter what others thought about her pursuit, and she did it at a time when women weren’t very well represented in science. When I learned about her in school she made me wanna work with chimps, naturally, and though I didn’t end up pursuing that career, my interest in evolutionary biology, I’m sure, has stemmed partially from this interest.

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You’ve recently revamped your website with Flothemes. What was the concept behind designing this awesome new site?

The main idea behind my rebrand was to simplify and get rid of the superfluous. If you go to my site you’ll see it’s very minimal, some might criticize that it’s too minimal. But that’s exactly what I wanted. I just want to say: This is me, this is what I’m like, and here is my work & process. Do you vibe with it? Great, let’s talk. Do you not? That’s okay, thanks for coming.

www.katchsilva.com | Custom Design by Flothemes

***

Success is an elusive idea. So is happiness. Both are very personal and versatile, hence should never be defined by others. As Katch Silva mentioned, they’re a state of mind that one has to adopt to truly believe in.

Though there are SO MANY ideas to consider and take away from this interview, the most important one is – DO IT NOW! Don’t wait for the perfect timing, a higher salary, the right project, man or woman. If there’s something that will give you more fulfillment, happiness and self-worth in live, don’t hesitate, pursue it!

P. S. Next week we’ll be talking to India Earl about business growth, what starts a community and the importance of saying NO to things.

Katch Silva Photography interview, joshua tree camping, ben sasso, 14
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