Digital Art

The Life of AIVAX

How Being Self-Motivated Steers Me to Become a Photoshop Supernova.

Full-Time Creator
July 7, 2020
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Who are you and what kind of content do you create?

My name is Vanessa and I am a content creator from California. I began my content creator journey while I was attending University as an English major about 3 years ago. Half a year later, I began to try something different with my content with the help of Photoshop.  I immediately fell in love with it, and completely immersed myself into learning how to composite. In 2 years, I was able to get a handle of how to use Photoshop and grow my Instagram account. Then, as of 1 year ago, my family and I became full time travelers on a mission to create art around the world. 


2 years ago I convinced my husband to quit his full time job as a web developer and help me work on this new family business. We are now a husband and wife team and  I couldn’t do this without him. But as our family business grew, so did the need for additional help. A few months ago, we brought on Anthony’s nephew and girlfriend to help us with vlogging and tutoring for our daughter. 


We came up with our AIVAX name by combining all the first letters of our names. We came up with the name over a few days of brainstorming names and running through a few random words using the 5 letters. 


Let's go down memory lane, tell us your backstory! 

During my first few months of learning photoshop I went through a lot of trial and error which resulted in tons of archives but I think they’re really a part of the learning process. Now, I like looking back and seeing how I’ve improved. 


It all started as a hobby. I honestly didn’t think I’d ever get here, but it’s been a dream and a complete life changing experience for us. Supposedly, I was going to be a High School English teacher. Even when I started to make an income off of content creation, I didn’t think it would last forever. However, now that I love it so much, I’m trying to make sure I adapt to any changes in the industry and diversify myself as much as possible to keep the train going for as long as it lasts. 


At first I was just on Instagram, but now I’ve diversified myself to all the platforms. 


There are many creators that inspire me! Some of my top favorites are Erik Johansson, Joel Robison, Erik Almas, Georgia Rose Hardy, Marcel Van Huit. They were some of the first artists that I discovered in the art community. Their ideas, the color tones, their storytelling is always so inspiring. 


Of course, it’s motivating to keep a roof over our heads and to keep our dream of traveling alive. But honestly, I get so much motivation when I get messages telling me how happy our artwork makes people and how we brighten people’s days. It makes us so happy and thankful to have such a supportive audience and it keeps me going when I feel overwhelmed.   


How do you brainstorm ideas for your content and your advice in getting the creative juice flowing.

I get my inspo from my kids, Dr. Suess, Shel Silverstein, children books, movies, etc. I’m always thinking of ideas. However, when it comes to brainstorming concepts for sponsored projects, we typically sit and throw out ideas until 1 catches. Then, we think of what the story of the concept is. We are all about storytelling and details so we put a lot of thought into the background-- the subjects, the props and how they are all connected. Then, we move onto the sketch where we draw up different variations of the concept till we find the one we love. However, (and this happens usually), even when we move on to editing, the original concept still changes a lot.  

We experience mental blocks all the time, and to me that means I need a break-- whether it’s for a few hours or even days. Trying to force creativity is never good, as it won’t come from the heart. 


Sometimes, I like going on Pinterest too, especially if I’m looking for ideas for a specific concept that I’m not really sure how to translate into an image. Be careful though-- it’s important to not copy others,  and if you do draw inspiration, always remember to credit the original artist! :) 


What are the tools and platform you use to help with your brand?

I use Photoshop for editing my images, Lightroom for color grading on the go, Premiere Pro for videos, and occasionally, if I’m in a hurry, I’ll use apps like vsco to quickly add a preset to an image on my phone. 


We are on Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, TikTok, Spotify, Facebook, and Behance


What were your fears starting out? How did you handle it? 

Of course it's scary putting yourself out there to the public because it makes you vulnerable to criticism, but, it's also important to not let that hold you back-- most of the time it’s just in your head. 


Thankfully I've only had a small handful of negative comments and honestly, I just ignored them because you just have to. People will always have an opinion about something and you can’t please everyone no matter how hard you try, so stop trying and just create what makes you happy.

One of my biggest fears about content creation is getting in front of the camera and that is solely due to my own personal insecurities about my physical appearance. Honestly, I haven’t overcome it yet and it takes a lot, and I mean a lot of will power to get me in front of the camera and it's very overwhelming for me. But every now and then, I get the motivation to do it. So it's still a work in progress.

 


How did you build your brand to where it is now, take us through your process.

Honestly, I don’t post very often and it does hurt my brand a lot because people forget about us. But our photos take so long to create that I just can’t post very often so what I try to do is post other types of content daily just to stay relevant and present for my audience. 


For me, it didn’t cost much to get started other than a subscription to photoshop and my old android camera phone. Obviously, I eventually did outgrow that as I had to improve my quality. And getting camera gear is definitely not cheap, so I’d say it did cost us a lot to get the quality we are at currently. Even now, we still have a long way to go with getting all the gears we need to produce the type of content we want. 


I couldn’t have done this without my family. As a parent and business owner, it is very difficult. I have definitely needed help with the kids, many times, while I complete work. Now, as our business is growing and we are trying to expand into other platforms, we have recently brought on our nephew and his girlfriend who are helping us with our vlog and tutoring the kids. 


One challenge was all the trial and error of learning how to build a business. I’ve been taken advantage of many times by brands by being underpaid for the work I’ve done or limiting my creative freedom. Having to take losses has been a difficult lesson to learn several times. But I think the hardest part is how social media affects your mental health as a content creator and individual. It’s discouraging when you put so much love into something and algorithms make it impossible to show your work. So dealing with the numbers game has been very challenging and it is very easy to get caught up in it. 


Another challenge is copying. Our style, concepts and content had been copied so many times without credit by many people, brands and even creative peers. After a while, you get used to it and learn to accept it, but to me it’s been difficult to see my own peers do it and glorify other peers doing it.  


It was super difficult to grow my first 6 months on Instagram because I was just doing what everyone else was doing and I wasn’t standing out enough to grow. It took me 6 months to grow to 5k followers, but after I changed my style, I went from 5k to 100k in about 8 months. Growing on Tik-tok is my new challenge as I’m trying to figure out a way to create content that I both enjoy and will perform well. I still haven’t figured it out but I’m trying! 

I have been a content creator for about 2 ½ years now. 

For someone who wants to get into content creation, what is your advice?

If I could do things differently, I would have begun diversifying my socials much sooner to other platforms when we started having heavy traffic on our account. I think I’ve waited too long, and now it is very difficult to grow on most channels if you are just beginning. 


I would also have started creating products or services sooner like presets or tutorials to monetize sooner. 


I think my biggest mistake has been being afraid of giving out my editing secrets for fear that I would be copied. I quickly learned that people will copy you regardless, so if you are a business, 

it’s better to monetize it so you at least get something out of it.

 

I would suggest improving by bringing value to your audience. People don’t want to just consume an interesting piece of content, they also want to learn something new and valuable from people they follow. 

How did you finally commit to X platform rather than your regular day job?

Although I did graduate from University as an English major, I didn’t pursue my teaching credentials because my family business took front priority. 


At first, the income was not enough to make a dent in our finances, so my husband continued his full time job. It wasn’t until I saw I was consistently getting brand projects several times a month, that I decided it was time to make this a full time job  for our family. However I will say that it is significantly more stressful working for yourself because of the lack of financial consistency you get from a 9-5.


Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

In 2018, we had 3 images go viral which really made our account grow. 


These 3 images really propelled us into the influencer and content creator industry, as many brands started to want to work with us, which then opened the door to turning this hobby into a full time family business. With these images, we also established a unique style that we were known for throughout the instagram community and also inspired many other mothers to replicate this family whimsy photoshop style. 


Then in 2019, our Vienna mermaid image became the photoshop 2020 splash screen cover which has been our biggest dream come true! 


What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

Our account grew by being different. Originality is key and many people acknowledge it. We knew brands liked lifestyle images that showed parenthood and products, but we also wanted to stand out so we took what was trending and added our own photoshop spin to it, and that is what really made us grow.


No, although I know the algorithm and numbers game can be pretty frustrating, I think it is important to stay honest and let your brand grow organically. 


No, we are very hands on with our brand. We did recently hire a manager to help with contracts but we are still very involved. We think it is important to know what is going on with your business and make your own relationships with brands as opposed to letting someone else completely run the show.


Yes! We have been incredibly lucky to have many people support our work by sharing our artwork and page with their audiences. 

We have only done one collab with one creator and we loved it! We felt it was a mutually beneficial collaboration for both parties and enjoyed the outcome. 


I used to post my poetry on my website but haven’t had a chance to continue recently. As for blogging, it is something I am currently working on starting as we have so much to share about all the places we have visited so stay tuned for that in the coming weeks!  

How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships? 

Occasionally, we will reach out to brands we really want to work with. Usually, we just introduce ourselves, quickly list our top credentials and then ask if they collaborate with content creators. 


We are pretty open minded, but always only choose brands we actually use or believe in. 


My first 2 years, I was taken advantage of by many brands, including really big brands, such as underpaying me, over using my images, etc. It wasn’t until I got a manager that I understood my worth in the industry. Now my manager works very closely with me to help with contracts, rates, etc. 


I don’t want to name any brands, but I will say that the biggest brands in the world are often the ones that have treated us content creators most unfairly. We’ve had 2 major incidents but have learned to just take it as a learning experience. 


I would recommend getting a manager if you don’t have one yet. Even if it is only temporary, just to learn your worth with rates, how contracts work etc. 


I have negotiated the rate several times. Usually, when I am asked what our rate is, I always try to confirm what exactly the job is like so I can estimate how long it will take, and then I establish a rate. For some brands, I will negotiate lower if they are smaller or the workload is less. For others, I will quote higher if I know the work will be challenging. For example I typically say something along the lines of “Our rate is $x per hour and I am estimating this project to take around x to x amount of hours.


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