District Boss: Alicia of Love Knot Photo
Alicia is one of the most quirky, authentic women you will ever meet. This Virginia-based photographer loves sparkles, meteorology and just accomplished a cycle of Whole30!
1// What lead you to where you are today? Oh, a lot of things. I think it was my dissatisfaction with my desk job as a meteorologist after college. I'd worked so hard to get my degree in a field that I loved, and then it's like the magic ran out. The actual career was much less fulfilling than the journey, and so I turned to photography as a creative outlet. It was the one thing I could do on my own time, thanks to my random rotating schedule. When my husband Jon got a new job that was going to move us from Massachusetts to Virginia, that's when I decided my meteorology career needed to end so I could follow a more creative path towards overall happiness.
2// What is your business? I'm a photographer, and while I had been shooting primarily weddings, lately I've branched out to work with brands and small businesses for headshots, blog photos, and product images. For fun, travel photography is how I like to keep my work fresh without it actually being work related.
3// What brings you the most joy when you’re working on your business? It sounds so cliche, but when I get feedback from clients and family members about the importance of the photos I took, that means the world to me. Earlier this spring, one of my dear couples wrote to say that the groom lost his mother, and they were so grateful that they had the beautiful family portraits and the candid images from the wedding to remember her on one of the happiest days. It was literally at that point that I realized as much as shooting family formals is a drag from a photography standpoint, they are so, so important to the people in them. It changed my whole perspective on how I look at the wedding day. Styled details are nowhere near as important as the moments and the smiles and the joy that's being felt by the couple and their loved ones.
4// What’s the most difficult part of being an entrepreneur? I think it's been letting go of the guilt of having a "dream job". I put that in quotes because, from the outside, people think we are living the ideal dream. We're our own boss, we set our hours and have flexbility to participate in fun events that 9-5ers might miss out on. I feel like I always have to prove that I am actually working, and that just because I Instagrammed a Wednesday lunch date with another vendor/friend, it doesn't mean my entire day or week is like that. In fact, I often talk about how most days I am at my desk in pajamas, completely unshowered, answering emails and editing photos, my FitBit thrown across the room because I'm embarrassed that I've made fewer than 1,000 steps that day. I do this mainly because I feel like I need to show people that being an entrepreneur isn't as glamorous or free as most people think it is. Sure, I can take weekend trips to visit my parents, but I always have my laptop with me because I work on Saturdays. Yeah, I'll take a day trip into DC once and awhile, but it's only when I have a really good reason to because I know that means I'm going to be up until midnight or 1am working as a result.
Am I complaining? No way! I enjoy the work that I do. But for whatever reason, I feel like I need to clarify that just because creative entrepreneurs get to put "fun" work out there, it doesn't mean that all or even most of our work is fun. As an INFJ, my very personality is not suited to work for someone else. Alternatively, my husband could never in a million years do what I do - he much prefers his job working for government agencies and having specific tasks his boss has assigned to him. Stuff that makes my eyes glaze over, but it fits him like a glove. We both work equally as hard, just in different ways. And funny enough, people might not even assume any of this. For all I know, I'm projecting my own guilt onto other people's thoughts. I should probably work on letting go of the guilt and just keep on keeping on.
5// What’s your nighttime routine? Ideally, it would involved shutting down at 6pm, eating dinner, and then going for a quick walk before snuggling into the couch for Nexflix and with my husband. That's not usually the case, though. Typically I end up working until Jon finishes working around 6pm. We make dinner together, and if it has a longer cook time I'll come back upstairs to continue working. We'll eat dinner and clean up together, and I'll come back to my office to continue working. It's usually editing I'm working on, but if it's emails or other browser-related work, I'll come downstairs and work on the laptop so at least Jon and I are in the same room. I tend to finish around 9pm, so we'll have an hour of catching up on a show (right now it's Bloodline) before heading upstairs to read in bed. Sometimes it's the only chance I have to get some reading in, so I look forward to this time of the night!
6// What’s one piece of advice you would give to other business owners? You've got to really focus on keeping that work/life balance in check. It can be tough, because all the tasks that need doing have to be done by me, and I don't have a large enough budget to outsource. You know when you have that after school retail job and one afternoon things are pretty slow so your boss says 'if you don't have something to do, I'll find you something to do' and then you're stuck cleaning the bathroom? That's what being an entrepreneur is like. There's ALWAYS something that can be done, from writing a blog post, to returning follow-up emails, to reaching out to other vendors about collaborating, to updating the website, to filing taxes, et cetera et cetera.
The thing is, when you love what you do and care about the success of your business, it just comes naturally to do all the work, all the time. But for your own sake (and the sake of your loved ones) scheduling fun time or downtime is key. Whether it's a 2pm nap, an afternoon walk, a lunch date with a friend, or an hour of doing something totally unrelated like painting or coloring or vegging out while watching The Office - actually scheduling this downtime makes it certain that I will do it. It helps prevent feeling burnt out, which is something that happens several times a year for most of my entrepreneur friends and myself. One of the most helpful resources I've come across regarding types of business time is a podcast episode by my business coach, Kristen Kalp. You can find it here if you're interested. Bonus: she uses Harry Potter metaphors!
One final note about work/life balance: set boundaries. Yet another topic brought to my attention by my business coach, I've learned to set and keep boundaries in my business. Yes, you can email me me 24/7 when a thought comes to your mind, but no, I will not return your email at 10pm on a Saturday. No, I will not respond to your phone call when I am away on vacation, but if you leave me a message I'll get back to you when I've returned home. No, I will not photograph your 40th birthday party from 2-11pm on my one day off for $500. It's very possible to keep your boundaries without being a jerk, but it's so important to figure out what your boundaries are. Once you come up with them, enforce them - your boundaries are educating people on how you expect them to treat you. Respect your time, and other people will respect you as well.