Hi. I'm Siena and I'm new here :)

Meet Siena, a 23-year-old living in a van and the Social Media Coordinator for Popfly. With $5,000, she converted her van and embarked on a solo journey across the U.S. fueled by spontaneity and risk-taking. Starting as a self-taught photographer, she faced rejection but persisted, building a portfolio that caught the attention of small businesses. Taking a leap, Siena reached out to Popfly, securing a role she admired. Her story showcases the transformative power of embracing uncertainty and taking risks, whether climbing mountains or pursuing unconventional career paths.

Written by:
Siena Juhlin

Howdy, I’m Siena. I’m a 23 year-old lady living in a van and I’m the Social Media Coordinator for Popfly. 

Let’s talk about how I got here. 

Recently, I had some crazy life events flip my life around and with only $5,000 I bought a van. I built it out in three weeks in the middle of a Missouri heat wave and left my hometown before I could think twice. I started traveling the US by myself. Spending nights alone in the vast wilderness under the mountains and the stars, and jumping in any body of water I could find.

It’s been three months since I left and I have finally landed in the desert for the winter to save up some money before heading out again.

I am sitting on a couch right now writing this. Oh, the wonders of staying in one place for a bit. It’s a beautiful thing. But, I miss the uncertainty of living on ‘God’s Good Grace.’ I miss waking up not knowing where I would be that evening. I miss looking at a mountain and hoping I could climb it… and trying. I miss swimming in cold rivers and lakes. I miss taking risks everyday. 

My risk-taking looks a little different now. A bit more professional, if you will.

Let’s talk about risk.

Risk is how I got here.

A few years ago I bought my first camera. I saved up all my money when I was 18 and bought a budget-friendly Sony camera. I bought a flight to Peru, hiked Machu Picchu with my best friend, and backpacked around the country. That was incredible to say the least. Since then, I have had that camera in hand on and off throughout the years. 

When I was 20, I barely got accepted into college. I ignored the acceptance letters, never went to orientation, and never looked back. I am so stubborn that I thought I could learn it all on my own. Life had everything to give me and I was there with open arms, open ears and open eyes. God forbid someone sit me down in a classroom and teach me all these things.

I was going to learn by myself… the hard way.

So, I started doing free photography and videography work. I started building my portfolio. Putting hours and hours into learning, asking whoever I could to do work for them… for free. I did photos for the restaurants I worked at, photos for startups and their websites, free promo videos. Anything I could. 

I even applied to some incredible companies with a website I built on my own with all examples of work I had been doing. They rejected me of course, but I kept pushing.

I soon got a paid gig, doing social media for a small business… in a small town… in the middle of nowhere. I started by doing one month free and they liked what I did, so I continued doing it for a year more. Once I gained confidence, I reached out to other small businesses via instagram and email. I started building a clientele and before I knew it, I was managing 5 businesses’ social media. 

If it wasn’t for risk, none of these opportunities would have appeared. I put myself out there. I made embarrassing videos, took average photos, dealt with unhappy clients, sent my goofy website portfolio to top tier companies just to get rejected, all because to me, the risk was worth it. (I am still doing all those things just a bit more refined haha.)

I continued to put myself out there and eventually, it came with some good. 

Surprisingly to my ego, not all of it was embarrassing. 

Once I took off in the van, I started doing UGC work through Popfly. I thought ‘Hey, I love this company so much, why don’t I send them an email to see if I could work for them.’

So that’s what I did. 

I risked looking dumb in front of one of my favorite companies.

But in reality, it wasn't dumb. Because that’s how I got here.

Writing to you! Through a screen… connecting from wherever I am to wherever you are. :)

I reached out to the CEO of Popfly and sent him my credentials. I put ‘School of Life’ on my resume in the spot where college should go. (People told me not to do that because it was unprofessional, but I did anyway.) I sent them my silly little website and sent silly little follow ups.

Eventually, they responded and I was shortly on a call with the incredible people who have made Popfly what it is today.

If you can’t take risks by climbing a mountain, start by taking risks by putting yourself out there. It’s the little risks that lead you to the big ones. I tried summiting Shasta in the middle of November and I also applied for a job that didn’t exist for a company that is breaking ground in online work. Both insanely rewarding in their own ways.

No matter what risk looks like to you, you have to take it. 

I’m Siena. A goofy little 23 year-old, living on sure will, spontaneity, hope and risks, and this is how I became the Social Media Coordinator for Popfly.

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