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Meet Jon Way

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jon Way.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My creative story starts as a kid drawing things around the house with my dad. He was a teacher but was very artistic and encouraged me when he saw I shared an interest in it. Although drawing ultimately didn’t stick, the creative mindset did, and it evolved into photography for me sometime around middle school. It was something I had kept at through high school, and I was eventually accepted into undergrad as a photo major. Having seen people I know struggle in the photo industry around that time, I opted for something more ‘stable’ in design and switched majors. It wasn’t entirely random since I long had an interest in architecture and an appreciation for design in general, but I was basically starting from scratch without any real experience.

In getting to where I’m at today with my career, I spent most of my time doing interactive design, and almost exclusively at agencies (with a stint in-house at Apple). Agencies provide a lot of opportunity for more junior creatives, but they’re extremely demanding and often require late/all-nighters to adequately deliver on expectations. Under the guidance of some great mentors, I was able to learn a lot quickly and pad my portfolio with some recognizable names. After a while, the slog of long hours in a client-service industry took its toll. To further justify these long hours, I felt I needed to be putting my efforts into something more than a paycheck– more equity-based value. While I helped grow the small agency I was at through a lot of hard work, they declined to offer me equity when I inquired. While initially upsetting, it was the best thing that ever happened to me– it pushed me on a path to be more independent and focus on building my own equity.

At that point, I decided to quit (without a job lined up) and start my own ‘studio’. The main objective was to be sure that all work and after-hours time spent was either billable or contributing to my personal equity. I had always said ‘someday’ I’d go the freelance/independent route, and I finally realized I could say that forever if I was entirely risk adverse and had to just go for it.

My independent path is still very new, but its been wildly satisfying. The flexibility to travel and focus on personal projects between clients has been amazing. I don’t have a firm vision of where it all goes, but I definitely hope to keep growing and evolving as a designer ± photographer and see where it takes me.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Looking at my career from a high-level, its been pretty smooth in terms of there being a consistent progression forward. Diving into the details of how it stayed that way, however, might show more of the pit-falls and sacrifices. I think thats to be expected with most people to a degree, but I’ve been borderline-obsessive about protecting my ability to work/create. It took me a while to realize that my creative work is the center-piece of what makes me happy, but once I did, it made once-difficult decisions a lot more palatable. The struggle is real in finding a healthy balance between my work and everything else – right now, it’s almost all about the work, but it’s a fluid balance that I know will evolve over time.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Jon Way Studio – what should we know?
My business is that of a one-man, multi-disciplinary design and photo ‘studio’. I’ve specialized in web design and interactive marketing most of my career, but I have experience in a wide range of creative output that’s constantly growing. In the last year, I’ve gotten into type design, web development, video (creation + editing), and AR Filters, and I’m currently eyeing 3D and a return to music production.

As a ‘studio’ I think I’m most proud of the range of services that I can offer in collaborations with small to mid-sized businesses and how efficiently I can offer them. There’s a lot of agencies offering services at inflated rates to sustain their operational inefficiencies, but I’m just one guy working out of his apartment. I don’t need to charge nearly as much, and they know who and what you’re getting for their money. I think there’s a lot of opportunity for me to bring businesses to market while retaining consistency and quality across all touch-points. I can work through branding and expand upon it through different applications like web design + development, motion design, packaging, content creation, etc. etc. When the many different components of a brand fall to different agencies, there’s bound to be inconsistencies and inefficiencies that can be avoided with the continuity of my offerings.

Specifically as a photographer, I sell my work as limited edition prints on my site and make it available through various products. I’ve worked with my brother to create a (free) TV app and (free) MacOS screensaver to share my work, and I’ll soon release some mobile wallpaper packs and a book. At the moment, I’m also looking to expand more into portrait/lifestyle work with the hopes to try something new while becoming more commercially viable. Photography is my personal creative outlet at this point, and I’m tip-toeing around how to commercialize it more, without compromising it.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I think tenacity and humility have been the most important characteristics to this point.

Tenacity is key at a project-level in solving tough problems or delivering in spite of adverse conditions (things that will invariably yield results at a career level). At a career-level, it’s about pursuing opportunities you want, and if you’re not yet considered a qualified candidate, being determined to become one.

Humility is also important because it keeps you grounded and aware you have room to grow… and well, nobody likes working with egomaniacs. The caveat to this is acknowledging the balance of remaining humble and understanding your self-worth– they can often feel mutually exclusive. This is a trapping I and many other creatives have fallen into, and something that is very often exploited.

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