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Meet Colleen Goldhorn

Today we’d like to introduce you to Colleen Goldhorn.

Hi Colleen, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I guess looking back, I have always wanted to be an artist in some capacity. I remember spending hours creating business cards with markers and crayons for my lemonade stands and fake businesses when I was a kid and hand drawing comics that I tried to sell at recess in school.

Things took a turn when I first started getting into photography at 16. Admittedly I wasn’t very good back then – but I absolutely loved photographing anything and everything and just learning the in’s and out’s of the craft. I took some photo classes in high school but decided to keep photography as a hobby for the time being and go to college for graphic design, which ended up becoming another creative passion that I added to the toolbox.

It was around this same time that I started discovering both my love for the outdoors and my dream of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT). Many of my college design projects ended up being based on either the AT or the outdoors in general, and upon graduation as my friends were going out to work at design agencies, I was getting ready to set out on my thru-hike while vowing to work as a designer for an outdoor industry brand when I returned home.

Long story short, I had to stop my hike early due to some health issues, but spending four years in college completely consumed by thru-hiking culture – and then 2 months and 1000 miles on the trail experiencing it for myself – really made me realize that I could shape a life for myself that was different than the path most people take. I didn’t have to work a 9-5 and could truly build a life around this love of the outdoors if I chose to.

I had absolutely no idea where to start though and began working at a company as an in-house designer in the Philadelphia area for a few years. I spent every weekend hiking and photographing my adventures, and it was also around this time that I started taking writing more seriously and was regularly contributing to a few online publications that catered towards outdoor enthusiasts.

After three years, my boyfriend and I decided to move to Denver – and this is what really started getting the ball rolling for me. I got a job as a graphic designer and photographer at a smaller outdoor brand and was able to start dipping my toes into the industry. I was able to attend outdoor industry trade shows, make connections in the field, and actually work with outdoor gear like winter snowshoes, trekking poles, and water sports products. I was able to attend a few multi-day photoshoots while working at this company – some were spent photographing towable tubes on lakes in Arizona, some were spent shooting snowshoes in a remote yurt high in the Colorado mountains. This job allowed me the chance to see what it would be like to combine all my creative passions into one. My week would be divided into time spent designing marketing campaigns and product graphics, planning, attending, and editing work from photoshoots, and copywriting multiple catalogs all in the same position.

At around the 1-year mark of working at this company, I was assigned to head out on a 10-day photoshoot centered around a van-life road trip to snowshoe in some of the most beautiful winter landscapes in the country. It was on this trip – while standing in the pitch black with frozen fingers shooting astrophotography over the Tetons – that I realized this was the exact work I wanted to spend my life doing. The work was hard and exhausting – yet brought me so much joy, and I wanted to experience that feeling for years to come.

Eventually, it became clear that although I loved the work I was doing, the culture of this company wasn’t a great fit for me long term. I decided to hand in my 2-weeks notice and head out on my own about a week before the pandemic hit in March 2020. I’ve been full-time with freelance creative work since!

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Starting a business is the hardest thing I have ever done – add in going full-time freelance at the beginning of COVID and that added a whole new level to the game.

I will be the first to admit that I am much more of an artist and did not have a natural business mindset when I set out on this journey, but I have learned an unbelievable amount in the past two years and truly continue to develop my business skills more with workshops, coaching, and through each new project I take on.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Currently, I own a freelance studio that works with primarily outdoor brands on a number of creative projects. I specialize in the design, commercial photography, and copywriting and have worked with some really amazing people in the industry over the past two years.

Can you talk to us a bit about happiness and what makes you happy?
The outdoors is what brings me the most happiness and is truly the “why” behind my business. I began freelancing as a way to give my life freedom to be able to explore every trail that crosses our country and to hopefully inspire others to do the same through my work.

Contact information:

  • Instagram: @colleengoldhorncreative
  • Email: colleengoldhorn@gmail.com

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