When people embark on a new entrepreneurial adventure, no two paths are the same. Each trailblazer goes at their own pace with different circumstances and obstacles to overcome. We talked to a variety of up-and-coming entrepreneurs, each with their own unique story to tell.
Chase Evert is a rising photographer with his personal brand, Chase Chapters. In our discussion, Evert took time to dive into what roped him into the world of photography, some of his biggest inspirations and mentors over the years and much more!
“I do individual home shoots for people proud of the space they curate. I’ve lived in many spaces over the years, and I’ve learned how important it is to remember each chapter of your life before the next one starts. I also believe art should be physical, so with each shoot, regardless of if they buy prints or not, my client is left with a small collection of Polaroids to showcase the space they love.”– Chase Evert
Evert first became interested in photography when he started taking photos on a flip phone as a child. “I started taking photos as a kid with a Motorola Razor flip phone. My mom was a real estate agent, and I can remember laying on the floor during slow open houses, snapping photos of the ceiling and the kitchen decals. Photos were just something I did to pass the time. For years they only ever lived on my phone,” Evert said.
“It wasn’t until my junior year, when my high school offered a digital photography course that I enrolled in to share my work. Our teacher showed us the basics of editing software and allowed us to rent these banged-up Canon Rebels for a full semester. I remember the rush of panic seeing Photoshop for the first time. This was a tool I imagined only Hollywood professionals used for celebrities for magazine and movie posters.”
After the course introduction, Evert couldn’t get enough of his passion project. Soon after, he purchased his own Canon Rebel and carried it with him everywhere he went. He photographed pets, family holidays, downtown Fargo and anything else that caught his attention. Evert would then post content to Instagram, Tumblr, VSCO and other social media platforms for others to see and follow.
Over summer break in 2019, Evert concluded that his future educational and career path wasn’t in line with his passions. “During college, I landed a part-time position in a back-end processing department of a financial institution. After a year of having my mornings filled with client work and my evenings eaten up by this job, they offered me a full-time position. I realized taking this position, for me, would be planning the rest of my life,” Evert said.
“I’d get comfortable. But I liked having this flexibility and the option to work on my own goals instead of just meeting deadlines for a manager. A month before, I had my most successful month in my photography business, making more after taxes than I did in my current position, so knowing I might not get the opportunity again, I decided to turn down the offer and jump head first into photography.”
“Most of my prints for purchase are from my travels! I’ve been to New York, California and Duluth and have a whole series of western work from my summers spent out west in Theodore Roosevelt National Park on and off trail rides.”– Chase Evert
“I decided to open a print store that would dropship my work across the globe. Every couple of weeks, a check, however small, dropped into my bank account. I moved back to Moorhead in the winter of 2021 and entered the photo from my first print sale into an Art Syndicate show. Through that, I found the burgeoning art community here in town. I started selling face-to-face at markets, expanding my collection and entering competitions. I made it into a few physical magazines and even won the cover slot for one,” Evert said.
“I learned, much to my parent’s dismay, I could make this work. I went the reverse route for most photographers. I sold physical prints first and then expanded into client shoots. I went back to my roots and shot real estate as the market opened back up, now equipped with a professional-grade camera, and found a great group of clients who trust me with their photos. Now, in 2022, a year after deciding this was my path, I’ve worked with agents, builders, cabinet makers and interior designers. I’ve expanded my lens collection, bought a drone and even opened my very own limited-edition print store where I get to add my signature to each print before it goes out.”
Evert’s next steps include expanding his physical work into stores, generating more passive-income streams and growing his list of architecture-focused clients. While he has many more obstacles to overcome and goals to achieve, Evert has already collected a wealth of knowledge along his path. Here are some of his biggest tips for readers interested in pursuing their passion as well.
1. Just Start.
It’s tried and true advice. In any field, creative or corporate, if you want it, you’ve got to start. You’ll think that nothing you’re doing is right. That’s alright, and frankly, entirely natural. Failure is a bigger part of the process than success. It’s like the iceberg metaphor, what the world sees is only the product of hours of practice, failed attempts and setbacks. I’ve sold out of certain photo print drops and also failed to sell even one from others. You’ll be stuck without the answer to “What If…” until you try. And if that “What If” ends in failure, cross it off the list and try something new.
2. Grow better together.
Being an entrepreneur feels incredibly isolating. You’re pulling things into the real world from ideas that live only in your head. When you explain lofty goals to people in your life, you’re often met with blank stares or worry. Finding the people who you can ask questions to and who can guide you through rough waters are important to fight burnout. When I first started, I was holding all of my ideas in my head, trying to make sense of what I wanted from my business. It wasn’t until I found the FM art community that I learned how powerful sharing ideas is. Having a support network gives you a foundation in a business where the goalpost is always shifting.
3. Diversify with intention.
COVID showed us that entire markets can shut down. Having multiple income streams not only stabilizes your profits, but it guarantees some form of revenue even in the face of a total market shutdown. It’s not about finding as many income streams as possible, it’s about finding the ones that work best for you and the path you see for your future.
For example, as I expand my client list, I have turned away from seniors, family photos and weddings because I want my future in architectural builds. Expanding from real estate into cabinet makers, interior designers and product shoots furthered me down the commercial path. Alternatively, as I move forward with new products as a form of passive income, I’m not just looking at what sells, I’m tracking the amount of time it takes to produce each piece, store margins and which pieces fit best in each store. This ensures my physical work is as passive as possible so I can still focus my attention on my clients. Don’t diversify for the sake of another check, diversify to fit the future you want for yourself.
4. Profit matters.
This is especially important for those just starting out. Creative or otherwise, funds keep your business going. But the goal isn’t just to keep the business afloat, it’s to make your business profitable. After taxes, make sure to set aside a percentage of each check to pay yourself with. During slow seasons, when all I can think about is what I haven’t done, having a bank account of my income for the quarter is a great way to remind myself that yes, I have made money and I am profitable.
Did You Know?
Evert does custom large-scale prints for interior design! If
people provide Evert with an image of a space, he will do custom mockups for free to help them decide on sizing and pieces that best suit their vision.
5. Don’t be afraid to evaluate.
If things aren’t going well, you’ve tried everything, crossed things off the list and still aren’t seeing the returns you want, it’s okay to step back and hit pause. Momentum is very important to an entrepreneur, but taking yourself out of the equation for a while can help you identify the problem before it worsens. When I first began, I was spending money on every print that I thought would sell at markets. Focusing on getting into markets over selling my work which landed me in a position with very little income and a ton of expenses.
It wasn’t until I skipped a market and really dug into the pieces and themes that sold best that I realized I was spending money on things that didn’t sell just for the sake of having a full table. Reevaluating is a great way to shore up holes in your business that you might not notice otherwise.
Q & A with Chase Evert
What are some of the most impactful challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Artists are perceived differently than most businesses. People expect you to be shrouded in mysticism somewhere in a New York loft, pumping out work from the depths of your soul. People are keen on telling you what you should do, and mostly that you shouldn’t be an artist. One of the first struggles every artist faces is finding out what they like to create and what sells. If you’re a creative getting your feet wet in the business world, don’t start by making what sells, start with what you love to create and see what works best. We’re in this business because we want to do what we love, don’t lose that spark by making strictly for the market. That’s a surefire recipe for burnout.
Deciding on a price list is another hard one. When I started with clients, it was hard to gauge where I fell on the list of other creative entrepreneurs. What if I start too high and can’t get clients? What if I’m too low and can’t make a profit? Plus, because I was so unsure of myself, it was easy to get flustered if a client asked why my prices were where they were. Look at the time spent on each project, ask people in your network what they charge and why and when your list is set, be firm. I have a list of reasons why my prices are the way they are and every year I re-evaluate to see what’s working and what isn’t. Eventually, people will stop asking why because you’ve proven yourself to be an expert in the field.
Did You Know?
In 2021, Evert was featured on the cover of the Praxis Gallery’s “Shadow Exhibition.” “It was my first time breaking into the professional art world and was one of the first times I saw myself as a professional in the field instead of a hobbyist trying to make it work,” Evert said.
How did you go about overcoming those challenges?
Trial and error. I stopped being scared of asking for advice and found it to be the fastest way to get to where I was confident in myself and my work. This is why having a community of like-minded individuals is a must. They can help bounce ideas when it feels like nothing is going well. My friend Hannah has been my biggest supporter in these pursuits. Knowing someone else navigated the same pitfalls of business ownership and helping each other succeed in the ways we knew best is one of the most rewarding feelings in the world.
I learned confidence from my gallery experiences. When I was starting out, there was always a part of me worrying, “What if you’re just not good enough?” and seeing my work recognized in the professional art world made me sure-footed going forward. I also learned the importance of working within a community. I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity for these events without people in my network first knowing I was a photographer, and second asking me to be a part of them.
The same goes for my print shop. When I first started selling prints, my quality was spotty. I was putting out subpar work in an attempt to make money and I paid for that in unsold prints. I learned how important quality is, and this year, I’ve spent countless hours studying other photographers’ prints, asking people for advice and working closely with Su from Legatt Print & Photo on nailing my print quality.
Who are your biggest mentors?
My friend Hannah of Designed by Hannah and Scribble Lady Co.
Hannah is by far my biggest mentor. She is truly a renaissance woman. Her ability to pair her creative work with the business world is remarkable and one of the best sources of information for this line of work. If I have an idea framed out, she has three more to help fill in the gaps. We have been each other’s accountability partners since we both started, meeting a few times a month to brainstorm, talk shop and vent about the trials of running a business. Without her, I don’t think I would have made it this far or been as confident in my abilities.
Paul Weaver and The Freelance Photography Course. Paul Weaver is a photographer and business owner. I took his Freelance Photography course during quarantine and I still reference it to this day. He taught me the importance of finding a niche and diversifying within it as a way to position yourself as an expert. His course was the first time someone told me not only can you make a career out of your creative passion, but you don’t have to scrape by as you do it.
Lastly, the art community in Fargo-Moorhead is a miracle in and of itself.
Organizations like the Art Syndicate and Folkways, as well as businesses like Carmine and Hayworth Vintage, have seen the importance of art and helped grow the community to what it is today. The downtown community as a whole is the way it is from people loving art and I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of the people there.
This year, Evert opened his own print shop selling exclusively limited editions. He worked with a local printer in town, Legatt Print & Photo, to carefully select everything down to the paper and ink quality. Within an hour of launching, Evert sold out of multiple editions of his work and saw overwhelming success.
Evert has an array of plans up his sleeve, including another drop in the coming months. While the photographer has come a long way since his time photographing on his flip phone, he admits that he’s always learning and becoming more knowledgeable of the business landscape surrounding him, as well as picking up useful tips of advice for other hopeful entrepreneurs.
Follow @ChaseEvert for creative prints and @ChaseChapters for architectural and design photography
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