How Losing My Architecture Job Changed My Life For the Better

“My favorite new saying is: ‘You grow through what you go through.'”

Amanda Ochs Amanda Ochs

Amanda Ochs is an Associate at Presence Design and the Founder an Owner of Above AZ, a photography and film production company specializing in drone footage and aerial photography.

The story starts in May 2019 when I lost my job in architecture. I had often felt anxious and uncomfortable at work. When I would ask my project manager (and immediate boss) questions, I would hear her let out a loud sigh and then start typing. When I was unsure about a task and she wasn’t around, I would do my best at a task, and then send an email letting her know of a certain part I was unsure about and could she please check it. She usually didn’t, and then would get upset with me two weeks later if she saw an error before a deadline.

When I lost my job, I blamed myself, knowing how many mistakes I made and how unproductive I was at times. My anxiety was insanely high.

After a month of no leads and no unemployment money, I started driving food delivery. This was not fun to do in the Arizona heat in July, but I could see the end of my savings approaching if I didn’t do it. Then, I was approached by a brand new architecture firm to do some photography / drone work for them, and when they saw my website, they asked me if I could also make theirs.

Amanda Ochs; image courtesy of the author.

At the time, flying the drone was my hobby and I had made occasional side money from it, but I never felt like I was good enough to be a professional at it so I didn’t pursue it that hard until it became a matter of drone work or post-mates. I got another client that initially wanted some drone photography, but asked for more when they found out I could also do 3D modeling for them. I also started shadowing and assisting two of my friends who have successful photography and video production companies. They weren’t making much money due to Covid, but it gave me something to do and I learned from it.

Come September, I was still unemployed and it felt like nobody in my field was hiring. Every day, I spent some time doing side work for extra cash, and most of my time looking for jobs. Eventually, I decided to stop looking for jobs and focus my time on finding freelance work to make money while I waited for the job market to rebound.

I wasn’t making the same kind of money that I used to but I was finding enough work to stay busy and making enough to get by and I’m proud of myself for that. Each day was different between going to shooting locations and meeting clients, photo/video editing, website work or architectural drafting. Somedays I felt unstoppable, other days I felt crushed and overwhelmed, and would ask myself “why am starting my own company in this photo industry that I have no experience in?”.

Drones (left) can be used to create digital maps and models from an aerial perspective (right); images courtesy of the author.

Nevertheless, I started my LLC for Above AZ, creating a LinkedIn page and a YouTube channel to put myself out there. I told myself that it was okay to lose money and that this was a year of being a student again. I realized that I’m not, in fact, a terrible worker, and that most of my hesitation or procrastination originated from me not knowing what to do. Being on my own, I had had nobody else to solve these problems, but now I had the time to slow down and teach myself.

In late November, my college classmate reached out through LinkedIn and asked if I could come into his company and help them some hours each week. A few days after that happened another contact reached out for drone work and ended up working two days a week for his company. I was now contracting part time at two great companies in my field, opportunities that wouldn’t have come if I wasn’t putting myself out there as a freelancer. On top of that I still had other work on the side. Both companies were healthy and collaborative environments. I wasn’t making the same mistakes I used to at my old job and in fact, I was in a position of more responsibility and doing great.

Both companies gave me offers and another company I had interviewed with over a year ago reached out as well. After 7 months of unemployment, I was able to sign a contract for significantly more than I used to make.

I now have a job I love and my own company on the side. All of my time spent unemployed was actually time spent investing in myself. I gained skill connections, experience and self confidence.
Lessons learned:

  • Sometimes when you’re anxious at work or you feel like you’re doing badly at your job, it’s not your fault. Leadership and guidance makes a huge difference.
  • Follow your passions and hobbies. You’ll open doors for yourself without even knowing it.
  • Be nice to everyone. You never know the value that a random interaction can bring.
  • My favorite new saying is: “You grow through what you go through.”
  • If you’re starting a business, as much as you don’t want to brag or jinx yourself… tell everyone! You never know who knows someone who knows someone, who could help advance you, your career and your company.

Amanda with her drone; image courtesy of the author.

My name is Amanda, I am an employee at Presence Design and the owner of Above AZ LLC.

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