Meet Evan Andrew. Also known as @sweetlifeofevan on Instagram and TikTok. He’s a college student, photographer, content creator, and real estate investor. We sat down with this driven 20-year-old to learn more about him, the financial moves he’s made in 2020, and how he firmly believes that college students need to be aware of what’s in their bank account … even if it’s only a little bit.
Porte: Hi, Evan! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Evan: I’m Midwest born and raised. I grew up in a small town in North Dakota. The nearest “big city” was Fargo, and even that was a 45-minute drive from home. My parents ran a soybean and corn farm. The corn wasn’t sweet corn, it was used for ethanol production. I have two sisters who are both in the medical industry. One is working towards becoming a dentist, and the other is working towards becoming a physical therapist.
I’m a Sophomore in college studying entrepreneurship. I’m currently taking a gap semester to work on building up my passive income through real estate investments and doing contract content creation and photography work. I also have a boyfriend named James. We’ve been dating for three years and are just happy in love, ya know?
Porte: We’d love to know more about James. How did you two meet?
Evan: We met in high school, but we didn’t go to the same high school. Remember how I grew up in a small town? There were only 15 kids in my high school graduating class. James and I were both really involved in the student councils at our high schools.
Three years ago we were both running for state student council offices. It was during that event that we met for the first time. A few months after the event we started hanging out as friends. Three weeks after that, our friendship turned into a relationship. You could say everything just fell into place.
We lived 45-minutes away from each other, so we would only be able to see each other sporadically, especially since we were so dedicated to being good students.
Porte: We love how consistent James was. Yay for taking chances! What was it like coming out in a small town?
Evan: Growing up in a conservative small town has its pros and cons. I didn’t have the best experience coming out. No one else in the community was gay, or if they were they weren’t out, so being the first person to come out was tough.
Once I came out everything was easier. The jokes stopped, and while it took a little time, people became super supportive. In high school, I was on the track team, was basketball captain, student council president, and class president. Being that connected to a large group of people was really helpful during that time.
Overall, I’m really glad things went the way they did, with me coming out, and especially with James.
Porte: What’s been your favorite part about being in a relationship with James?
Evan: He’s taught me how to slow down. I like to run through life, and running through life in the middle of a pandemic wasn’t possible. When the pandemic first hit it really threw me for a loop. It made me question what I was working towards and forced me to slow down.
Going through the pandemic with James, and even being with him before the pandemic, he’s taught me how to take a breath and be present. He’s taught me the importance of taking time to just be around friends and family. And, how to enjoy the simple things! He’s taught me that I can still dream about the future and be present. For example, a lot of our dates in 2020 were spent wandering around Home Depot and Menards planning our future home. It’s also been really fun to go on road trips with him.
This shift in my perspective helped me get to a place where I’m doing what I’m passionate about. For me, that’s social media and photography. It’s cool to see how the money and the friendship seem to follow when you’re in this space.
Porte: How did you discover your love of photography?
Evan: I started being drawn to photography when I was 7. It definitely helps when your mom is a hobby photographer. Also, have you heard of 4-H? It’s a youth program that teaches kids and teens leadership and life skills. Part of this program helps kids and teens explore different hobbies and career paths. For the 4-H County Achievement Days at the North Dakota State Fair, I would always submit my photography. Luckily enough, I ended up taking home 4 state photography titles.
My love for photography exponentially grew when I was a sophomore in high school. That was when I decided to quit football to study photography after school.
I feel really lucky to say that photography has turned from a hobby into a job I’m passionate about. I love connecting with clients. My job behind the camera is to make them feel their best. To give them a self-confidence boost! My skills behind the camera have also helped me a ton with my real estate ventures.
Porte: Tell us more about your real estate experiences.
Evan: I got into real estate a little over one year ago. Remember how COVID turned all of our worlds upside down? For me, that meant scrolling Zillow became my favorite hobby to pass time. Around that same time, my sister was in the process of trying to find a rental property, so I partnered with her. Now I own three Airbnb properties and two long-term rental properties.
The whole process has been a journey. We did a lot of research to find out which location was landlord-friendly and ended up settling on properties in Nebraska. We put tons of offers on different properties, and in the end landed in a spot that we were excited about, although it was very different than where we thought we would land.
It’s been helpful to have my social media marketing and photography skills as we’ve been trying to grow our real estate business. A good picture can definitely help to sell the property to short-term and long-term tenants.
The best thing about the real estate venture is that it provides steady passive income over a long period of time. With contract work, it can be very unsteady and unpredictable. Having these investment properties helps to supplement the income I generate from my contract work.
Porte: How would you say growing up on a farm impacted your career choices?
Evan: The farm I grew up on was started by my grandpa. It was assumed that I would be taking over the farm until when I was 15 I told my parents I wasn’t going to. I wasn’t a kid who loved everything about the farm. I didn’t love running around the fields or running the tractors all over. This meant a lot of the time growing up I felt really bored. This boredom helped fuel my passion for photography. Wherever I was, I was able to turn to photography and use it to express my creativity.
Watching my dad run the farm has had the biggest impact on how I navigate my career. My dad is an entrepreneur. He was very transparent with the entire family about what was happening with the farm. The farm was a family business, so it made sense for him to keep us in the loop. Depending on the year, my dad would have to make decisions on what crops to produce, what equipment to invest in, and what treatments would help us yield a bigger crop. Everyone was involved and knew what was happening.
His transparency helped me to see what skills I needed to develop as an entrepreneur. While I chose to move to a bigger city and pursue a more creative career path, the skills he taught me have been invaluable: everything from being creative with the resources I have, to finding new opportunities to expand and grow. I’m really grateful that I was able to grow up on the farm.
Porte: One final question to round the discussion. What’s one piece of financial advice you would give to a fellow college student?
Evan: I’ve seen a lot of my peers make the assumption that because they don’t have a ton of money, managing their money isn’t important in this phase of their life. But the opposite is true! It’s really surprising to me that a lot of college students have no idea how much money they have in their bank account at any given time. Why don’t they? It’s as simple as checking an app these days.
My advice is don’t get caught in this trap. College is probably the most important stage of your life to manage your money. Learn how to do it now, and you’ll be in a much better position once you graduate. Check your bank account. Read that finance book. Make it a priority!