Link to article: From Law School to Lobbying: The Other Legal Advocate
Published in the December 2013 issue of the Journal of the Kansas Bar Association.
Co-authored with classmate Moji Fanimokun, Government Affairs Director at Wichita Area Association of REALTORS.
The Journal is published 10 times a years and is read by more than 7,000 members. The Journal features legal articles, hot legal news, summaries of recent Kansas Supreme Court and Kansas Court of Appeals opinions, and upcoming information about available continuing legal education.
Pursuing your passion and turning it into a career is the American dream. In this interview, Zach Nellian, tattoo artist and businessman, shares his life and what drives him.
Could you fill readers in on your background?
My name is Zach Nelligan. I’m 26 years old and a life-long resident of Austin, TX. I’m a tattooer and I work at Triple Crown Tattoo Parlour. I have a BFA in Studio Art from the University of Texas at Austin. Note of interest for people that might care: AJ and I have been friends since the 3rd grade, and he’s always been a top notch dude. Thank you so much for taking me into consideration for this.
It was at some point later in college. I had been getting tattooed since I was 18, and they steadily got bigger and better. I began researching the art and profession more and more.
Austin has a huge tattoo scene. Just about everybody here is tattooed and we have one of the highest per capita counts of shops. Some of the world’s finest tattooers work here and there are more and more everyday. It’s very tough and competitive, but unlike other cities, there isn’t too much drama between shops. As far as breaking in and making a name for myself, I’ve just done what I always do: be as nice and genuine of a person as I can be, while working as hard as I can and constantly keeping up with my clients as far as communication and updates of my online and physical portfolios.
I prefer to do primarily old school, traditional designs or subjects that evoke a vintage nostalgia. I do bright, clean, bold tattoos that will hold up over time instead of super delicate, rendered, soft tattoos that will blur and fade quickly.
If that’s what you really want, I will gladly do it!
Bring ’em on! I’m also here to get paid, haha.
I do a lot of weird tattoos. It’s a niche I’ve broken into. See the answer above, and I also did a skull eating a @#$%&# in this dude’s armpit. That was an interesting challenge.
Anything vintage or nostalgic, and also my clients’ ideas. Old clip art, ads, tattoo designs, objects, etc. I have a lot of reference material.
What’s your approach to attracting customers? Any networking involved?
My business is primarily word of mouth. If I’m kind and attentive to my customers and give them a nice tattoo worthy of being proud of, then they will pass my information along. Besides that, the internet is huge. I have a web site, Myspace, and Facebook for that.
It’s a huge part of it. I’d say half of my business comes from the internet, especially with Myspace, Facebook, and Yelp. That’s where everybody turns to for everything now, so you have to participate and take advantage of its possibilities. I try to keep all my stuff online as up to date as possible.
I’ve had my site and profiles since I was an apprentice. I guess about five years now.
There’s no place to stop advancing. It’s a natural thing to just want to get better at your craft, and it happens exponentially. Especially now that tattooers and artists are getting better and better at younger and younger ages, it’s really important to always be on your toes.
Personal growth primarily. I don’t want to short change my potential or my customers with work that isn’t striving to be the best I can possibly strive to produce.
This man (Lloyd, assistant with a Stanford MBA) can quote from the entire stack [of movie scripts], that is what he is willing to put in for his own success. He’s paying his dues. When have you paid yours?- Ari Gold, Entourage
I don’t think often we are aware of when we are “paying our dues.” When people make the claim that they’ve paid their dues, it smacks of self-entitlement.
As if something is owed to them because they did something they felt warranted whatever reward/promotion they sought.
No one owes you anything.
True, one should be aware of the value and contributions you bring to an organization, and not be afraid, tactfully to bring those to the attention of the powers that be, but generally, if your good, if you’ve got “it”, you will be recognized and elevated.
But not before someone believes you are.
Get that. You present through actions, someone else decides that you have paid your dues (though you could decide to quit, I guess).
I like analogies, so here’s one. You want to make varsity on your ______ team/squad, so you train, hard. You miss out on dates, you miss out on family time, you have only one thing on your mind. And when the time comes, you don’t make varsity. You may think “But I did everything I was supposed to, I paid my dues!”
It doesn’t matter. The coach, for whatever reason, didn’t believe you were ready. You don’t decide when enough is enough (if you are choosing to work in an organization or firm). You do evaluate your past moves, adjust where necessary, and persist towards your goal (this is fundamental in life, and in your career).
At 26 years old, I’m still in that “verge zone.” And I enjoy it. Along the way I’ve accumulated some great (at least learning) experiences. Have I paid my dues? I don’t know. I do know I have made hard decisions concerning my career goals. Where they the right ones? Only time will tell.
Remember this: It’s not a matter of dues being paid, but of you becoming someone who is worthy of that next step.
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“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” -Calvin Coolidge
Five Points on Persistence:
- Persistence requires action. You don’t think about being persistent, you ARE persistent. So you go knocking on doors. You make the phone calls and emails. You cultivate a network. DO something.
2. Create wins
- We all get down when set backs occur. What helps is to re-frame your goal from all or nothing and into parts. Imagine it broken down into pieces of a puzzle. Each piece you gather and lock into place is a small victory. A victory could be getting a five minute phone call with a potential mentor, or it can come by way of a “defeat”, like not getting THE job. But say you made it to the second or final round. And that had never happened before. That’s a win.
3. Be realistic
- Don’t be lofty. OK, be lofty, but reasonable. Being realistic can prevent you from burning out, or becoming disheartened when things are not going the way you imagined they would. While one should “go big” in achieving their goal, it is easy to get caught up in the emotion of the idea of the goal. For example, I can be as persistent as I want, but I will most likely not NEVER ever, play in the NBA and NFL. Just out of the realm of possibility. Conversely, completing a triathlon would not be. However, I’m not going to be able to complete one tomorrow.
4. Have enablers
- There’s the saying that you are the company you keep. The collective traits of your friends and associates can rub off on you for good or bad. In the context of persistence, having peers with this trait can be helpful for days when you aren’t feeling as motivated or just plain down about the whole process in achieving your goal.
- Persistence means taking 1,000 steps if necessary, not just one or two.
Hope these help!
Greetings! To say I’m glad and relieved to be through (hopefully) with the Texas bar *knock on wood* is an understatement. Controlled fugue state comes mind. The two and half days of testing intense flashed so fast. In any event, it’s out of my life for the time being.
So what now?
Filling the void left by the export of so much (alleged) legal knowledge from my mind is a high task. But a few goals surfaced this weekend that had been shelved for bar preparations. A major one, and an endeavor that has been on going since coming back to Austin is community involvement. There’s still so much about my town (since the 3rd grade) that I’ve yet to take part in. Which brings me to RISE.
RISE is a week long series of “free conference[s] for entrepreneurs of all types, providing a forum where you can connect and exchange ideas that inspire the entrepreneurial spirit.” I heard about this coincidentally at my first post-bar event at Goodwill of Central Texas’s Hall of Honor.
While not an entrepreneur, yet, there is still a lot to be gleamed from attending a conference or two. First, you expose yourself to new ideas. Second, you have the opportunity to NETWORK with like minded individuals (or not-so-likeminded individuals). And lastly, because the cost of attending any of the RISE conferences FREE.
You will have to put down on $20 deposit when you register, but you only lose it if you fail to attend. A fair deal. Conferences are hosted all over Austin, and you can view them by numerous categories but key are location (mine are all downtown) and time (all of mine are first thing in the morning, 8 am).
I’ll be attending three, “Gaining Momentum Through Public Relations,” “Design Your Value Proposition To Separate Yourself From Competitors,” and “Bootstrap 101.”
I believe in these uncertain times, for everyone, but especially for Gen-Y, knowledge, along with your networks, is the most powerful tools in your employment arsenal. But not just a certain knowledge and specific networks, but those that are cross-blended among many fields; better suited to optimally receive opportunities presented, and contribute value to others in your networks (along with yourself).
So, check out RISE, find something your interested in, and check it out. For FREE!
Glad to be a part of the world again.
Hello all! If you’ve noticed a slight break in my somewhat reliable posting frequency, it’s because I’m stuffing my brain studying for the very important Texas bar exam. In the midst of this I’m also attempting to follow through on another high priority goal.
Between these, trying to stay in decent shape at Life Time Fitness, and a quick nap here and there; I have little time to contemplate new posts, let alone draft them. That being said, I will be posting infrequently (hopefully twice weekly).
Thankfully, this will all be over at the end of next month.
In conclusion, thanks to you all for visiting my blog, reading and leaving comments. Please continue to do so. I will be back to normalcy soon!
Prayers for my success on the bar, and most importantly donations to my post-bar fund (non-deductible) are welcome!
“Being in the mindset of a freelancer, you have to hustle constantly, and being around others becomes infectious.”
The other day I spoke with a friend from high school (Go Jags), Jonathan Allen. A freelance photographer, Jonathan is steadily increasing his body of work on the local and national level. In this first interview of 2010, Jonathan talks about the joys of freelancing, Craigslist ads, networking, skill-building, career uncertainty and staying focused.
Bio: Jonathan Allen
I was born and raised here in Austin. I’ve actually never left. I guess I’m part of a rare breed now, as people constantly point out to me. After graduating high school here in 2001, I went to UT for a couple years studying various things, and ended up taking photography courses at ACC. I studied there for almost four years before breaking off into the field in 2006.
When did you first know you were interested in photography as a profession?
When I took my first photography class at UT, it really was just a minor interest for me, and my primary motivation for taking the class was to use my camera and compare the quality of my work against others. I did pretty well in the class and really enjoyed the act of using my camera. I was also really bored with my other studies and kind of fed up with the big university mentality. That style of learning just wasn’t for me.
I learned that ACC had a great photography program, and I had been tinkering with the idea of leaving UT; so I quit and enrolled in classes at ACC, which I thought at the time would be temporary. I spent the next three and a half years immersed in classes in the photography department. I took every class I could sign up for, and worked on every area of my technical skills that I could. It was through my many great teachers that I learned exactly what could be achieved with photography as a profession. By the time I was done with school there, I had a really good idea of what steps I would need to take to achieve my goals.
What was the process you took to arrive where you are today?
The first step was the academic part. Again, I took every class I could and tried to make the absolute most out of the education I was provided. After that, I decided I wanted to assist other photographers in the field, which is generally one of the steps to becoming a photographer. It pays pretty well, and you learn a ton of skills not provided in a formal education. It’s very much a trade, and a lot of the craft is learned from someone who is a working professional. In order to start assisting, I emailed every photographer I could in Austin to see if they had any work available. I got a few hits and worked some one off jobs.
I had two good friends who were working assistants at the time, and they referred lots of work to me. One of those referrals landed me as a regular assisting with someone I still work with today. I also responded to one Craigslist ad I saw with my resume, which turned out to be an absolutely lucky find, because it’s turned into friendships with two great people who’ve helped me out in many ways and taught me a lot. That ad eventually turned into an extremely profitable client which allows me to this day to travel to Chicago and a few other great cities regularly. For the record, I generally loathe craigslist for jobs postings because people offer way too little compensation, and it’s also very clogged up with people responding. But, I did get very lucky with that one find, so I guess it’s not all bad.
Did you have any mentors along the way?
Several of them. A couple of my friends, Brandon Barron and Lance Holt, who I went to school with, and who helped me become a good assistant. Casey Dunn, an architectural photographer who’s become a good friend and the person I still work with regularly. He’s taught me a lot about technique and attention to detail, loaned me his equipment when I needed it, and helped with the retouching and business side of the field.
He’s also hooked me up with some local clients that I still shoot with on occasion. Angie West, who was one of the girls I met through the Craigslist connection. I worked with her briefly in Austin, and then she moved to Chicago to take over as marketing director for an upscale furniture company. I helped her with retouching a giant catalogue for them, which transitioned into me helping her with photo shoots, which turned into me taking over as photographer for a portion of them when she moved into another department. We still work together regularly, and help each other out.
How did you arrive at Public School?
At the end of 2007, Casey was sharing a studio with a friend who was running an art gallery out of it. His friend decided to leave, so Casey wanted to find others to move into the studio with him to share rent. I was doing a ton of retouching at the time, and I loathed working from home. So I moved in along with a couple others. Eventually we expanded, others came in and left, we consolidated, it finally got to the correct number of people who were all interested in working together in a kind of shared space. We tinkered with the idea of being a co-op, and eventually the name Public School was thrown out earlier this year.
The branding came shortly after, we setup a blog, and it really took off. Now it’s a pretty well known collective, and we get thousands of hits on the web site each month. We moved into a new studio space last June, which has become a really great work environment.
Y’all are located on Austin’s Eastside, right? That seems to be the creative hub in town.
It’s a great place to be — I love working out of a studio in such a great location. I’m able to walk to lunch or to pick up coffee. And it’s a great place to have clients over. We throw networking parties fairly regularly at our place, and the turn out is always really great.
Can you describe how the collective is set up? (Ex. Formalized agreement)
We really have no formal agreements. It’s just a space where a bunch of friends can work together, collaborate on occasion, and help each other out with their work. Bounce ideas around. It’s also a really cheap way to have office space. We are trying to become more formal with the way we work, and we’re starting to have regular meetings to come up with ideas for ways to push and promote our collective better.
What kind of support and expectations does Public School have?
We really want everyone to be working on their own projects regularly and be working a freelance career. Being in the mindset of a freelancer, you have to hustle constantly, and being around others becomes infectious. When other people I’m working side by side with are doing things like networking, promoting themselves, updating their web site with new work, blogging, etc., it makes me want to do all that stuff as well as I don’t want to get left behind.
What’s been one of the most rewarding experiences you’ve had as a photographer?
I’ve love being able to travel for work. I get to go to Chicago pretty regularly to shoot, and have met some great friends up there and experienced one of the most amazing cities. At times it feels like I’ve lived there. I’ve also been to Miami, New York, Aspen, Ruidoso, Omaha, and some smaller places close by. It can be really hard work and stressful at times, but it’s still the best! I was also really excited the first time I saw photographs I shot printed in a magazine. And the first cover I got… what a rush! Lastly, hanging my work on a wall. So much of my work is viewed on a screen these days, that when I actually get a chance to print it, frame it and hang it, it’s really amazing.
Can you describe a moment of uncertainty in the path you had chosen?
Right after school, I got a job as a retoucher in a local photographer’s studio. I became extremely bored with it and quit after six months, deciding I wanted to start assisting. It was really slow at first, and I was really broke for awhile. I was having a hard time getting by living at my parents house, so I was worried about how things were going to pan out. But, things picked up slowly and I started making money regularly and it was starting to work out. Nevertheless, to this day I still become uncertain about my future every once in awhile. Working a freelance career is always uncertain, especially in a field that is so competitive, and sometimes you worry about where your next check will come from. Still, I got over it, as there is no way I could go back to having a regular job!
Alternatively what about a moment when you felt you were moving in the right direction?
When I started doing my first gigs as a photographer. I often got really bored on photo shoots as an assistant, but when I’m the working photographer, time races by, and I get in the zone and work really, really hard. It’s such a great feeling. Plus the paycheck are much larger, so it’s much more of a confidence booster. It’s really nice not to have scrape by.
How important has networking been for you?
Easily the most important part of the work, in my experience. Unfortunately, I’m not the best at it, but I’m trying more and more each day, and becoming much better. Every job I’ve done that I can think of has been through some connection, at least the first opportunity to work with someone. The repeat work comes with being good and delivering according to their expectations. I’m currently in the midst of trying to retool myself and tie up loose ends to, hopefully, hit the pavement hard in the coming months. I’m simultaneously terrified and excited at the possibilities.
Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, and 20 years?
I’d like to be at the top of the Austin market in the next five years. I’m really banking on the fact that Austin’s growth will provide a much better photo market over time. Right now, it’s not the greatest city to be in to be shooting great work. But I love living here, and would be happy enough shooting smaller jobs if I could live comfortably. Within the next 10 years, I want to be shooting on a national level, higher profile stuff — possibly be living in a larger city. Twenty years is pretty far off, but I’d love to have a well established name. Have my work carried throughout various galleries. And to still be making money off photography.
What keeps you hungry?
The thought of being the best. That’s my ultimate goal, I believe. I want to produce work of the same caliber as the great photographers of our time! Also the thought of failing and having to get a real job. I just don’t see myself as being able to work on a regular schedule that I don’t make. I love having my time be my time, and the ability to use it for whatever I want.
Definitely. Thanks for sharing. Best of luck in 2010!