Freedom and freelancing with Mariah Althoff

Mariah Althoff knows a thing or two about doing it yourself. Looking to merge her artistic skills with a commercial practice, she applied and was rejected from the graphic design program at her university. “My portfolio kind of sucked,” she admits, speaking from the home she shares in St. Louis with her husband and infant daughter. She majored in drawing and painting instead, at the behest of a professor, and then taught herself graphic design anyway. After working for someone else for about a year, she went freelance. Freedom seems to be her north star, the thing that has carried her through, rather than falling in line with a prescribed path.

“I think it’s this underlying drive to break out of what society has told me I’m supposed to do with my life and make it into something I want my life to look like,” she muses when asked about her insistence on going it alone. “Growing up, I spent a lot of time around people who really hated their jobs, and I didn't want that for myself.”

Althoff admits that pursuing her goals was largely a product of blind faith and a willingness to fail, as well as having supportive loved ones around her.

“I’m really grateful that I was able to develop a skill that then allowed me to build my own career even when I kind of had no business doing any of that,” she laughs. “I think that having the sheer audacity that I could is the only reason that I’m here today.”

That audacity merged with trust in herself and a willingness to figure it out. Eventually her journey would take her to coaching and freelance mentorship. Now it is her business to teach others how to build a career for themselves based on bypassing traditional routes and choosing their actual desires.

“I've kind of made it my personal mission to really inspire and show people that there are other ways to make a living, whether it's graphic design or something else,” she says. “Just do what you want,” Althoff adds, trailing off and laughing at the seemingly obvious suggestion. It’s a refreshing perspective in a world that seems profoundly impacted by the self-consciousness and people-pleasing of the omnipresent merging of life and content.

What has been wrought from her persistence is success in the form of flexibility and freedom. Her baby, just short of a year old, can be heard off camera and is a testament to this.

“I’m not really a baby person, but I’m having so much fun,” Althoff jokes. “It’s my favorite thing I’ve done in my whole life.”

She speaks with gratitude about the fact that she has been able to find a balance that gives her time to be a mother and that she can teach her daughter that she can do whatever she wants.

Althoff's daughter isn’t the only member of her brood, which she seems intent on expanding. “I have like 8 trillion animals,” she jests. Her goal is to eventually have land and an animal sanctuary. “I've sort of accidentally started the animal sanctuary without the land, so we have five cats and a dog. So when I’m not being a mom, I’m being a zookeeper.”

This sense of humor can be found throughout her online footprint. Much of her internet presence comes with an authenticity that is absent from typical professional content creation. A recent video acknowledges a disinterest in posting that day, serving as a reminder against perfectionism and toward being real. Do it anyway, she insists, and do it as yourself.

One TikTok video from 2021 sees her comparing authentic business building to a collection of geodes she inherited from her mother-in-law. One side looks like any other rock (uniformity), while the other is jagged and crystalline (unique personality). Althoff’s natural charisma meets an off-the-cuff nerdiness to brilliant effect that is both entertaining and instructive. The message is clear: being yourself will not only serve you personally, but also professionally — her experience being a prime example that urges others to consider action and authenticity simultaneously.

“I spent a lot of time feeling like I wasn't, like, smart enough or talented enough or good enough or whatever,” Althoff admits. “Every opportunity that I've gotten has been a small step to be like, okay, maybe I am.” With persistence and personal integrity, Althoff has harnessed each of these steps to build a successful business and a life of abundance.

Are you ready to start learning? Click here to explore Mariah’s course on designing effective graphics and start creating with her templates made in partnership with Adobe Express!

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