I am SO excited about this post today, you guys. Before I started this blog up again I had messaged this lovely lady to ask her if I could interview her for it. She almost immediately replied, “Yes!” and now here we are!
I met Ashley the same way that I met a lot of my wonderful friends: at an Ingram Hill concert, which I believe was at least 5 years ago. Upon meeting her I couldn’t help but to be drawn to her upbeat and positive demeanor. She seems so full of life and just a good-for-the-soul person to be around. After getting to see her a little bit more while I stayed with her in Nashville, I wanted to know the secret to her limitless energy and how she does all of the many and wonderful things that she does.
Ashley and I:
Ashley is a go-getter and someone who has several things going on at once. She runs a boutique design & media agency based in Nashville TN specializing in artist development (logos, branding, photography, graphic design (posters, albums, promotional materials). But that’s not all she does, folks. She runs nights of original music downtown Nashville, gives time and collects donations for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, runs, sails, creates some bomb diggity recipes, and for the fourth time she’s grown out her gorgeous hair and chopped it all to donate to a charity that makes wigs for children with cancer. This is just the short list! Ashley has a big heart and I just know after getting to read about her, you’ll love her as much as I do!! I think we all could learn from a female entrepreneur like her. <3
1. Tell us all a little bit about yourself. <3
Haha, it’s so hard to sum up in a quick little thing. I guess people usually creative describe themselves by their jobs. I mostly do graphic design and I’m always making things: art, food, crafts… and supporting live, original music. Which brings me to my other job – as a manager and agent for a few artists in Nashville, TN. I started sailing a couple of years ago and bought my first sailboat this past summer, and have been asked to be both the Social Chair at the yacht club as well as on the board for the Vanguard 15 racing fleet that I participate in. If you can’t tell, I like to keep busy – that is what stimulates my creativity!
2. What led you to your current job and made you want to work for yourself?
I always wanted to be freelance. When I was in high school, I took all the art classes, not because I wanted to have blow-off electives, but I loved learning the early stages of Adobe (Photoshop and Illustrator) and was president of both the Photography Club and Art Club, and was also two years editor-in-chief of the Year Book – I thrived in also having the tangible art I could hold in my hands. In college, I wanted to be a photographer but everyone said I already had the eye, and to spend my money learning the design programs. From there, I picked up a few design projects for friends starting their own little businesses. Six months before graduating from the Art Institute, I took on a job with a photographer with a Major League Baseball license and got to sit front row at baseball games taking photos. I worked with him for almost 5 years, and created postcards and prints that were in all 30 MLB stadiums. One winter/off-season I started working with country artist Lee Brice – taking photos & selling merch on tour. After a year, he introduced me to his brother Lewis Brice, who encouraged me to move to Nashville for the winter, to try it out… needless to say 7 years later, I’m still here. From there, I have had various roles at management companies as an agent, to Taylor Swift’s first in-house graphic designer (as my only salary job to date), and have designed probably over 100 albums and more merch than I can count.
3. You wear so many different hats in all of your roles; do you have a favorite?
I really love designing albums. I love to listen to the music before anyone else. Closing myself off in a room, listening to the songs – seeing what they make me feel and how I can represent that, visually. Taking the time to create a package, an image, a branding that stands that project out from all the other content available on iTunes, as well as a package that helps the artist make fans go up to the merch table, and want to purchase that new little package of music. And of course, develop that into a full line – merch and other trinkets. And of course, going to the live show, seeing your stuff for sale and PEOPLE BUYING IT! (And it’s so cool, I’ve actually seen totally random strangers wearing things I have drawn!)
4. What does a typical day look like for you? (I always imagine you have to be so self-disciplined to work for yourself and I wanna know the key! I would love to work for myself one day.)
Normally I get up at 7am, coffee first, make my bed, then relax in my sun-room, catching up on emails and making the day’s to-do list. I used to be a late night owl – that is when I work best on creative projects. So, back to the morning, I like to crank out as many emails or design proofs that I can from 7am-10am. I feel like I can send out a lot of work, and have the least amount of distractions coming back in (while artists are still asleep). The mid-day I run errands – in the winter, I love to get out and see sunshine. I feel like it’s important to kinda “get ready for work”… while I do admit – most days are yoga pants and no makeup, and I’m so thankful for no commute. Sometimes I do have lunch meetings. Otherwise I get home, send some revisions, and when it’s warm I like to go for a run before sunset to kinda wind down my day. Then, artists are usually up – being creative, have input, have had a moment to collect their thoughts on the work that I have done… and usually I work from 8pm to midnight. I’m working on trying to get done a little earlier some nights. And if I have a show, usually a few nights a month I host events or promote shows that I book as an agent. AND don’t forget 1-2 days a week to be your own accountant – sending invoices, following up on unpaid ones, etc. And organizing your taxes!
5. What the most rewarding thing(s) about working for yourself?
Really just being able to say yes to the projects you want, and no to the ones you don’t want to do (at a normal job you do what you’re assigned). I truly can say I am so thankful for the artists I get to work with. Not to lessen the glimmer of the industry – but I get to hang with my friends, and at the end of the day it’s like, “Wait, you paid me to hang out with you, and oh yea – here is some crazy shit I doodled!” and it’s really cool to see how my art supports their art.
6. What would you say would be the hardest thing that people might not see about being a female entrepreneur?
Working ALONE! Haha, but no, I totally talk to myself all day. That really is just any entrepreneur who faces that. BUT you do miss a sense of the work community – the team to have a pow-wow around a project. Thankfully I have a sense of community with many other entrepreneurs – chatting with friends, seeing how they would handle a problem with a situation or outside company you’re working with to meet a deadline, or sometimes even just a sound-board that doesn’t judge how you run your little business or the madness you’ve taken on and gotten yourself into! One other thing, that is specifically hard with my job – when people don’t have their music done and want you to design the album. It’s like “wait, but what does it sound like – what am I supposed to make this look like and what should it represent!” So sometimes I have to make it on the fly and figure out a design that feels… comfortable, matching with their current branding vs. giving the new music a new branding that fits it.
7. When I hear people talk about empowering others I always think of you and your ability to be so kind. You always go above and beyond. You always seem to have a really positive mindset; what’s your secret?
I think that circles back to keeping good company. I know when I first moved here I was worried about not having enough work since I really didn’t know anyone. I said yes to everything, every job – every project, which so much of it introduced me to so many really talented people. I am really thankful to be able to be a little more selective in not taking on every project (ones that might not be my design style or have a stressful deadline) just to make a paycheck, and be able to give myself creative time to deliver a client or friend a really amazing piece of art, which represents them.
8. What’s a good piece of advice you’d give to others looking to build a business or a brand?
Haha. Don’t. Run…unless you have a good accountant. While you do usually end up working way more than 40 hours a week, so much of it never feels like work. When you are doing work that you enjoy, it’s so much more rewarding. Also, it’s ok to say no, and it’s also okay to hire out. I’ve learned, with my shows, I used to love being the agent, the poster maker, the day of the show tour manager, the event photographer, and I didn’t ever get a few moments to be the FAN. I have so many talented entrepreneur friends, take some stress off yourself, support them with extra work, and take a couple moments to stop, look around, and ENJOY what you do – don’t just rush onto the next show.
Anything else you like to add:
Just be organized. Have goals, short term and long term ones. And it is OKAY if you don’t make them right away, life gets in the way… divert, try new things, meet new people, evolve with technology and locations. Trust me, I’ve been having some fears lately with less artists printing albums, doing only digital releases, but I know that I will always have a job – someone will always need a tour poster, and merch created, and there are so many other aspects that a musician artist needs a graphic design artist in their life for… so the technology we have these days doesn’t fully eliminate my career, just forces me to evolve with it. And I am happy to have some changes, it keeps things exciting.
Ahh!! I really think Ashley is just the coolest <3 I hope you enjoyed as I hope to interview others that help draw out inspiration and creativity!! <3
Wanna see more of Ashley L. Evans?! Please check out the links below: