In 2017, one of the most intense weather systems to ever hit the United States pummeled Texas. Hurricane Harvey lasted 117 hours and caused $125 billion in damages, making it the year’s most costly disaster. Homes and businesses were lost, in no small part due to destroyed equipment and lost data. That’s when Dawn Richardson, who had just pivoted full-time to photography, got the idea for what would become Tech Savvy Creative.
“A lot of my peers in the photography industry lost their homes, their hard drives and their gear,” says Richardson. “We saw in real time what a disaster like Harvey can do to a business.” Richardson, a former software engineer with a background in IT education, realized she could use her training to become a creator educator and use her expertise to help business owners like her protect their data and prepare for disasters. “I obviously can’t help people with the loss of their homes,” she says, “but I can help them knowing their data is safe.”
Richardson launched Tech Savvy Creative in 2020. Today, she sells digital products like ebooks, guides, and workbooks. And she recently launched a new mini-course on data disaster preparedness, which is available for free. She wants as much of her content as possible to be accessible to her audience, which is why she’s looking to partnerships and ads as a way to make money as a creator educator.
We spoke to Richardson about the importance of backing up (a topic near and dear to her heart), product pricing, and why creators need to be experimenting with AI tools.
Software engineer, wedding photographer, business owner, creator — that’s quite the path. How did you get where you are today?
My journey started in IT. I spent a decade working various IT jobs, including at Apple. I got my degree in Information Systems, then I got what I call a “big girl” job as a software engineer for a very large company. And with my “big girl” salary, I bought a camera. I’d always wanted to learn photography. It’s very technical, which appealed to me, and I fell in love with it. But I fell in love with the idea of working for myself even more. That’s what fueled the idea of starting the photography business.
When did you leave your full-time job?
I did both software engineering and photography for a couple years, shooting weddings on the weekends. I started doing photography full-time in 2017 and never looked back. I got married and had two little girls, and I realized pretty quickly — well, sometime after shooting 200 weddings here in Texas hill country — that I did not want to work every weekend. That’s when I started to phase the photography business out, and put more of my attention on the content side of things.
What made you realize there was an eager audience of tech-curious creatives?
Working as a photographer, there were all these amazing entrepreneurs around me who loved and were great at what they did, but they were all terrified of technology. Of putting systems in their business, or automating anything. I realized there was this gap in the industry, and I launched Tech Savvy Creative in 2020 to fill it.
Our goal is to be a safe place online where people can learn new things, ask questions, and stay up to date with relevant news in the world of technology, but in an unintimidating and friendly way. I want to help people improve their business so they can spend more time with their families — which was exactly what I was trying to do in my own life.
When did you realize you had a knack for explaining technical things to people in an unintimidating, friendly way?
I’ve always taught, in some capacity. At Apple, I taught customers how to use their devices. I taught incoming employees how to do the same. At my “big girl” job, I taught people how to use new tools we brought into the company.
I love seeing the moment when someone gets something — seeing that lightbulb go off. A lot people put themselves in a box, thinking they’re just not “tech savvy.” I love to break down that box. You’re not the problem! It’s how it’s presented to you, which is something I can change. It’s empowering, and it’s really motivating to see someone understand a concept they assumed they couldn’t.
Do you remember the first piece of content you created that felt like where you wanted to take Tech Savvy Creative?
Yes. It was in early 2021 when Reels were still new-ish and everyone was trying to figure them out. It was about why photographers should always shoot on two cards at the same time. If one fails, you have a back up.
It was spunky and funny, but it was also a gentle nudge reminding people that, “Hey, this can happen.” It felt like the true personality of Tech Savvy Creative — friendly and approachable, funny and slightly sassy but without putting people down. I didn’t want to make viewers feel bad for not doing something. Rather, just make them think “Oh, I should probably start doing that.”
Is there any through line to your most popular content?
I always try to make things relatable and meet people where they are. One of my most popular posts is about the difference between computer memory, processor, and storage, but I compare it to a car. For instance, your memory is the number of seats in the car. If you have six kids, are you going to be a two-seater? No. So if you use software that requires a lot of space, get a computer with the right amount of memory.
You’ve mentioned Reels and Instagram — what platforms are you prioritizing right now, and how do you think about what content lives where?
Instagram is definitely my primary platform. My audience is mostly creative entrepreneurs, wedding professionals, and other creators, and that’s where they are. And I’m leaning heavily into YouTube now, as of a few weeks ago. YouTube is where people go to learn how to do things, and I teach people how to do things. There are a lot of great YouTubers out there explaining how tech works, and I’m excited to add my voice to the game, especially for people who might not feel comfortable listening to a very technical explanation.
How do you think about the digital products you create?
Downloadable PDFs are great, but I try to create living, breathing resources. Things that are really useful to people. I have an AI Toolkit for Creatives. That gives customers access to a webpage that I update whenever I encounter new information or resources I want to add to it. That way, they get the latest and greatest of what’s happening — and a lot happens in the tech world, especially regarding AI.
I also have a quiz on my site about what kind of Mac computer people should buy. It asks questions like what do you do, what software do you use, how many ports do you need, and makes recommendations based on that. Because if you’re a photographer who needs an SD card slot, you’re not going to buy a Macbook Air.
Any other content pegs?
Recent news is really important to us. Apple Keynote announcements are like my Super Bowl, and I create a lot of content around those, like “Why iOS 17 is really cool for creators” or “Why the new iPhone is a big deal for creators recording in 4K.” It’s news that a creator might have ignored, but it could be a game changer for their business, so I want them to know about it.
You recently launched a mini-course called “Protecting Your Business from Disaster.” What did you want to teach with this particular mini-course?
The idea for Tech Savvy Creative came as a result of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. And since then, as a world, we’ve dealt with more hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and a pandemic. These are not things that people expected to happen. When people are going through the most catastrophic time in their lives, the last thing they should have to worry about is their business or their data.
Safe file storage is super important to me. One of my specialties is back-ups — cloud-based solutions in particular. Having everything backed-up on a hard drive in your desk drawer is great, but what happens if a fire goes through your house? That’s why things like cloud back-ups and online client management systems are so key.
What kinds of tools do you recommend?
Using an online scheduler to ease the pain of rescheduling clients, for instance. I experienced that myself this week when my daughter was in the hospital. I sent clients a link to a calendar of availabilities so they could reschedule themselves instead of having a whole back-and-forth email thread about who’s available when. We didn’t start our businesses to be constantly at their mercy. We started them to be free, and be there for our families when they need us. So let Tech Savvy Creative help from the technical side.
You designed your mini-course using the Leap’s AI-powered digital product builder. What was the process like?
The whole thing took about an hour: 30 minutes to build the course and 30 minutes to record the videos. But what I am really fond of when it comes to The Leap is the simplicity. It forced me to simplify things even more than they already were. The format of the mini-course is kind of like an Instagram Story, and I don’t want my course to be 60 Stories long, right? I want it to fit in 15. So it really challenged me to rethink the content that I’ve been teaching — on podcasts, in guides — for so long. Is this filler? Am I rambling? I turned a 90-minute product into something the audience can get through in 10 minutes. And if I can change your life in 10 minutes, I’m doing my job.
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And then all that excess content can go into other products.
Exactly. I knew my course was going to be on back-ups, online systems, and scheduling. And for anything else, I could point my audience to another resource and The Leap be the top of my marketing funnel. It opened the door for a lot of ideas and opportunities within my business.
You’ve decided to make this mini-course free. Why?
I don’t want to profit off people’s misery. That’s really important to me. I don’t want to profit off you because you’re afraid a hurricane is going to hit your house in the next two days. This information is important to everyone, so this product will always be free. I don’t want your season of fear and chaos to be my win. I want you to win. Because if you win, I win, and then we can build a relationship down the line. And I have other products that aren’t free that I’ll happily sell to you.
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One of my more popular guides is a 40-page ebook called “Organize Your Digital Life.” It talks about how to organize your files and back them up, how to clean up your email inbox, how to get your calendar working really well — all these digital aspects to your business you might not really think about.
That ebook is $39. How do you approach pricing your digital products?
As I’ve said, we’re trying to meet people where they are. A lot of people who end up on my site are fairly new to the game. They’re in their first year or two of business and they’re trying to figure things out, so I tend to focus on financially accessible products.
Even my priciest product — an in-depth file management course for photographers — is under $200. My personal goal is to create as much free content as I can and monetize in different ways, like with ads and partnerships.
Your business is all about streamlining and creating efficiencies through technology. Does that help you maintain a solid work-life balance?
Boundaries are very important to me, and I definitely use the tech I have in my toolbox to enforce them. I use my online scheduler to show you when I’m not available. When I had the photography business, people were always trying to book my time when it was convenient for them, but not at all convenient for me. Now, I just send people a link to my calendar, and it’s a low-key way of making clients respect my boundaries.
Same goes for scheduling emails. I might write it at 2 a.m., but it’s going to go out at 8 a.m. to communicate my boundaries. I’m also a fan of automated emails, but I’m also a fan of stating outright in the email that it’s automated. “This is an automated reminder that your payment is due.” I want clients to know that there’s a system between them and me. It creates a big bubble of protection.
In terms of technology, what’s going to be big for creators in the near future?
We’re fully in the world of AI right now, and there’s a lot of fear around it. But AI is not going to take your job. Somebody who’s using AI will. And it’s so much more than just written content. We’re talking about AI that modifies audio tracks. AI that can make it seem like I’m looking at the camera when I’m really reading a script off to the side. AI for meeting notes and email marketing.
I experimented with a tool last week that took a 12-minute YouTube video and turned it into 12 TikTok-ready clips complete with recommended hashtags. The important thing is to try this stuff out and see if it makes sense for you and your business.
Where do you want to be in the next year as a creator?
I want to reach as many people as possible. I want to be all-in on YouTube and content creation to be able to fully step away from the one-on-one work I do with clients. I love having that connection, but I can only help so many people that way. How can I help more people? Speaking engagements, podcasts, TikTok, Instagram. And how can I monetize that in a way that keeps the content accessible for my audience?
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Photo: Courtesy of Dawn Richardson