Work has been so random lately for Knol Aust.
“I don’t know how they found me or what drove them to me,” he says of two jobs he picked up last week. “I didn’t put it out there. But it’s like ‘Say it to the universe, and it’ll come back’…which is very exciting.”
For Aust, freelancing is the new norm. After five years with C Spire Wireless, the 38 year-old Jackson native is following his creative passion to help clients with branding, web and logo design and consulting, full time.
Drawing, sketching and painting began for Aust before kindergarten. “My mom still has a painting I did when I was four of a red robin with a blue scarf,” he says. “My dad was a drawer and sketcher, so I kind of picked it up, going through his sketch pad.”
On a path to follow creative pursuits into college, Aust got sidetracked, just trying to pay the rent. He took jobs in retail and says he fell in love with it. From sales to store management, “way back in the Metrocenter days,” Aust eventually became a regional merchandiser for JNCO. He traveled often, meeting new people and creating displays for stores around the area.
When Aust was laid off around Christmas in the late 90’s, he found Skytel, a paging and messaging company, was hiring. What he also found were problems he felt he could solve. Aust devised a solution to help departments communicate internally and would later manage the company’s knowledge base for their training department. That, he says, began to look like something he could pursue long-term. “I started studying (the technology) and realized it could become a living,” he remembers. “I saw that it would be the future.” A similar job with Saks followed.
After building up a portfolio, Aust saw the position with C Spire and applied. “It’s the first time I had had the job description of ‘designer,’ he says. “For me, that felt like a big step.”
Today, Aust works from his North Fondren home. “The money I save on gas and laundry is unbelievable,” he laughs, delighting in the perks of the freelance life. He also finds happiness in his client base, one he’s built over the last several years. “Working with other creative people, doing something creative for them gives you both a mutual appreciation,” he says. “They kind of get what you do.”
One such client is Australian stylist, author and reality star of Bravo’s ‘Tabatha Takes Over,’ Tabatha Coffey. Aust’s relationship with her began as a fluke. “She tweeted something to the effect ofÂ ‘Check out my new blog,’” he remembers. “I did and responded, ‘You can do way better and I can help you. My name is Knol and I’m taking over.’” Turning her own words back on her, Aust says he was kind of being a “snarky ass,” but the tactic won Coffey’s attention. “It went from a blog redo to a website overhaul. Three versions later, I keep wanting to do another one.”
A more recent project came courtesy of a New York City connection, looking for a 3D designer for a remix album. “That was for Yoko Ono,” Aust says. “She wanted to bring her classics to a new generation.” It’s Aust’s work you see as the cover of the number one Billboard dance album, ‘Walking on Thin Ice 2013.’ “Yoko Ono? I couldn’t say no to that!”
Another job, programming trade show kiosks for Eaton Aerospace, was a career game changer. “People in China are looking at and interfacing with your work,” he says. “It’s one of those moments where I felt really proud and realized, ‘This is what I want to do.’ It really flipped a switch for me.”
Aust’s client list these days mirrors his personal interests. Building sites for liveRIGHTnow (running) to Find It In Fondrenâ„¢ and Fondren Renaissance (“my neighborhood”) and work-in-progress, GLO Design Studio (“I still want to open a furniture store one day,” he says), the connections are not lost on him.
Neither is his decision to leave the corporate world for a creative destiny he can control. “If you don’t put it out there, you’ll never know. It’s kind of the metaphor for going freelance. If I don’t take the opportunity, it may never happen again.”
Visit KnolAust.com to learn more about Knol, his services and see his portfolio.