Monday, September 6, 2010

Robin Jerstad: Solopreneur

Meet Robin Jerstad, not my client, but a compadre, a fellow traveler on the same road. Meet Robin Jerstad…‘Solopreneur,’ as the contemporary vernacular would have it.

For more than 20 years, Robin worked as a staff photographer for the Indianapolis Business Journal. In January, the victim of the economy, the newspaper reduced its staff and let Robin go. Like Tom Sawyer, Robin ‘lit out for the West,’ moving to San Antonio to be with his girlfriend. In one day, Robin went from being a ‘Company Man’ with 30 years of experience in photojournalism to becoming a sole proprietor. After making the 18 hour drive cross-country, leaving behind remnants of January snow and 20 years of professional clients, Robin started over.

Indianapolis’s loss has been San Antonio’s gain. Recently, Robin generously shared some of his photographs and the story of establishing his new business:

“I have had to learn how to become a business person,” he said. “The first revelation was that there are a lot of things that I didn’t know. Nothing is ever as easy as it should be or as easy as you think it will be.”

“I didn’t know anything about marketing, and that challenge was made even greater by moving here,” he said. “Don’t take that the wrong way. Moving here was a great thing.”

The greatest challenge has been learning to market a new venture.

“I am not the wedding photographer. I knew where my talent level was, but I didn’t know what to do with it. I just knew I needed to start over. I started this blind for all intents and purposes. It is a whole different thing, promoting yourself.”

His girlfriend helped him get started, introducing him to her family and friends. A San Antonio Express News reporter had worked with him in Indianapolis, years ago. That contact led to work and contacts at Scene in S.A., and more work followed, exponentially.

In the past, Robin has shot lots of celebs: Obama, Palin, the Clintons, Paul Newman, Ted Danzen, Stevie Wonder, the list goes on and on. Lately, Robin has photographed the new Bishop of the Archdiocese in San Antonio, Ambassador Sichan Siv wearing a cowboy hat, Morgan’s Wonderland, and practically every restaurant and chef in town (for the SA Express News's Reader’s Choice Awards).

While much of Robin’s work is commissioned, there have been a few unexpected surprises. On the way to the accountant’s office, he happened upon an armed hostage situation in progress. Of course, he had his camera at the ready, and shortly thereafter he had a photo of the police apprehending the gunman.

“It was a nice buzz to go do some spot news,” he said, laughing. “The kid with the gun. Yeah, it was great. I love pressure like that. Bring it on. I used to photograph race cars at 200 miles per hour. You can’t ask them to do it again. You’ve got to get it right.”

The second challenge has been learning how to be the proverbial C.E.O. and chief bottle washer. Tending to software problems, computer glitches, and the trivialities of running the back-office has been an eye-opener.

“’Who do I call about this? I can’t call the I.T. Department. I am not Mr. Fix-It. I just want things to work. I’m learning how to attack and make the most of all the unforeseen challenges: marketing, I.T., making sure that I remember to buy batteries, figuring out how to make a watermark.

“I think, ‘Oh hell, there’s got to be a better way to do this.’ I’m learning to be humble and not be afraid to ask.”

The third challenge for Robin is growing the business, increasing the number of leads, and generating more work.

Currently, he’s working for the San Antonio Express News, NSIDE magazine, Scene in SA. Plus, there are the commissioned portraits, the marketing photos for local celebs and nonprofits, and the occasional foray into Formula 1 Race Cars.

“Everybody knows the newspaper world is dying. I have to be aware. I’ve got to look for additional markets to contribute my particular skill set to,” he said.

“I’d like to increase the amount of publications that I do. From a revenue standpoint, I’ve got to grow the frequency with publications or expand the number of publications.”

In the meantime, Robin is hanging out at all the local haunts and watering holes, snapping shots, and checking out all things ‘Texas.’

“I’m a boy from the Midwest, and pardon the satire, ‘Y’all do things differently down here,’ he said. “I’m learning about Texas. What it is. What it means to people.”

For more photographs, see or Jerstad Photographics at For more information find Robin Jerstad on Facebook and LinkedIn. Call 210-254-6552 or email


About Lisa C Smith

Attorney Lisa C. Smith believes that many legal problems can be resolved by working out agreements, legal documents, and creative solutions for businesses and families. Her goal is to provide quality legal representation with personal service and respect.

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