All posts by Allison

When Life Gives You Lemons

…you shoot with artificial light. This is the first year that I started shooting with studio lights. I started incorporating them into product photography to get the sharp look I was trying to achieve. Then November hit and the temps in Ohio dropped to 8 degrees and I realized that if I want to push myself while continuing to shoot portraits then I needed to jump into studio lighting for people. Our warehouse has garage doors that I can open for natural light but damn that’s cold. We have talked about investing in glass doors sometime in the future but since we don’t have a definite timeline on that, strobes it was! This weekend was my first run at studio lighting and I’m excited to keep experimenting, learning + growing.

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And then of course, I had to turn on the self-timer…

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My next steps will be to invest in a few more pieces of lighting equipment, purchase a few more backdrop colors and then attempt to paint my own (more texture, less drab white/dark)! We will see what this winter will yield. This is totally different for me. I’ve been in the same groove and not getting out of my comfort zone. It feels great to be playing again.

Winter is my guilty pleasure

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True story. When we set our clocks back in November, I’m always a little thrown off. It’s been happening all my life. I remember being a kid and going to piano lessons at 5:30pm one day when it’s light out and the next week it was pitch black. It didn’t really blow my mind as much as it does now as an adult. It’s funny how much you don’t notice as a kid.

Now it seems like the sun starts to set around 3:30pm. When I’m at our studio, I was switch on the light next to my desk and wrap a scarf around my neck (like that fends off the dark). Sure, I’ll participate in the small talk. “Oh my gosh! It’s like the sun starts setting at 3:30! I feel like it’s time for bed at 7pm!”

But let’s get real. I love it.

Maybe it’s an introvert thing. People get a little less social. Everyone stop working a little earlier. Robes/slippers/blankets are staples. Waking up early to spend time by myself isn’t so depressingly dark. Restaurants are a bit more quiet at 8pm. Football season means grocery shopping on the weekends is pleasant. Yes, I sound like a grumpy old lady. But it’s true. And actually…I don’t feel guilty about it. Plus, Christmas is everything.

Which season is your guilty pleasure?

 

A Habit Loop

I’m currently on day 22 of the Whole30 diet/detox/elimination diet. I feel like a goddess, I’m at my college weight and I have the energy of a toddler. Besides realizing that REAL food makes you feel like a rockstar, I’ve also discovered a lot about my habits (good and bad).

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The habit loop, in my situation, looked like this:

cue (overworking) > routine (neglecting self-care) > reward (eating out + shopping)

For so long I would try fixing the wrong thing. I would try to change the reward. Did you know that you can still spend way too much money on drugstore makeup and coffee? Then I would try to change the routine. I tried to wake up early but still work until the wee hours of the morning. Then I realized that I was just working way too much. So we made 10 changes that drastically changed my life and, in turn, saves us $3,000+ a month in shopping sprees and going out to eat. .

  1. We cut our client list in half. We had 22 clients in February. Now we have 7. Yes, we fired some.
  2. Adam and I meet every morning. No matter what. And we talk about money. Every. Day.
  3. You can’t schedule a meeting with me on Mondays or Thursdays. We use Calendly.
  4. We hired a business coach.
  5. Then I hired that business coach as my life coach. More on how amazing Trent is…later.
  6. Then we hired an assistant/project manager part-time.
  7. I decided to stop working after 6pm.
  8. We’re shifting our business model to accommodate small, intense bursts of work vs working with a client on a project that drags out for weeks or months.
  9. I stopped eating takeout and started eating real food.
  10. Gilmore Girls became available on Netflix on October 1 so obviously…I’ve been watching a lot of that. Just because I’m done working at 6pm doesn’t mean I’ve become a social butterfly.

Do you habits like this? Things that are consequences of poor self-care? What about awesome habits that have formed in your adult years?

3rd Annual Christmas City Swap

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The winter cold has finally decided to stay here in Ohio (it’s supposed to snow on Sunday!!!! Hurray!) and if you know me at all, you know I try to celebrate Christmas for as long as humanly possible. I’m starting TODAY. And to celebrate, I’m opening up my 3rd Annual Christmas City Swap to the masses! You can read about the last two years here.

For those who didn’t participate the last two years, here’s the concept:

  • If you want to participate – you’ll be required to come up with a gift or card to send to someone else in another city. All the contents of your basket/package must be local products from YOUR city. For example; I might send someone a Luciana tee, a special something from HOMAGE, or a Candle Lab candle with a few trinkets and a Brim Papery card!
  • You sign up to participate in the swap by filling out the form below. It will require you to give me your full name, mailing address, email, dietary restrictions and spending budget.
  • I will then match up the participants to the best of my ability and email you all with the person that you’ll be gifting! I will do my best to make sure your spending budgets are the same.
  • Last year I had about 10 people who never received a gift. I felt really awful about it and will try my best to make sure this doesn’t happen again this year. I will be sending reminder emails but if you aren’t sure you want to participate – then don’t! This year I just might publicly shame anyone who doesn’t send a gift after signing up. Bah humbug. In the end, I can’t control the outcome so I hope that (no matter what happens), you just enjoy the act of giving.

The entire point of this concept is to GIVE (while sharing a bit of our town/city). We all hold so tightly to our stuff and stress about money so much that we forget what it’s like to just do something special for someone else. Don’t feel like you need to give your recipient something “perfect.” Let the gift share a little bit about who YOU are instead. I hope we all make a friend!

Here are a few guidelines, however, to ensure this all works out smoothly:

  1. You must sign up by Wednesday, November 26th!
  2. You will receive your gift recipient’s information by Sunday, November 30th. Feel free to start shopping or planning before you get this information!
  3. Due to the many dietary restrictions these days, please refrain from sending perishable food. Candies or spices are fine.
  4. You must mail your package by Friday, December 19th AT THE LATEST! The USPS usually gets super jammed so try to send earlier if possible.
  5. Unfortunately – this swap is really only intended for those located in the US since most of my readers are from here. I didn’t want to burden anyone with the cost of shipping. If you DO live in another country, feel free to sign up and if someone else in your area signs up too – I’ll match you! If there’s not a match, I’ll notify you via email.
  6. Lastly, if you bail and just flake out – you’re kind of a meanie. Don’t sign up for this if you don’t think you won’t be able to follow through.

Well? What are you waiting for? SIGN UP! AND SPREAD HOLIDAY CHEER!

Your Full Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Blog or Site Link (optional):

What is your swap budget (required)?

 Card only, please $10 $20 $50 $100

Mailing Address (required):

Any Additional Info? (ie: dietary restrictions)

Job Description

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I was considered an artist and a painter most of my childhood (into my teens). In college and up until this year, I was called a designer. The other day Adam called me a photographer and I kind of freaked out. I’m not sure if any of you can relate but it’s been a transition this year. Over half of our income has come from photography and it sometimes it’s just weird. Am I weird?

I haven’t been able to design as much as I used to and so this month I’ve focused on blocking out long chunks of time in my calendar so that I do things like take design-related Skillshare classes, draw and design. Do you have to protect the things you love to do (personally or professionally)?

*Photos: recent work by me!

Roll Call!

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Ohhhhh right! I have a blog! Damn. I forgot. But I’m back because I remembered and then I realized I miss you all! I usually call these “Let’s Get Coffee” but I’ve already had three cups. You know the drill. I’m asking 5 questions. Answer them in the comments so I can “meet” you and see who’s still here. I’m secretly asking five things that I just want to share.

  1. What’s one album that you can’t stop listening to? 
  2. What’s one thing you’re doing lately to make yourself better?
  3. Where does your best friend live? And how did you meet him/her?
  4. What have you been wanting to do but just…haven’t?
  5. Do you think I should host another Christmas City Swap (it would be the 3rd annual!)?

My answers:

  1. Taylor Swift’s 1989. No shame.
  2. I’m currently doing Whole 30. I’m on day 8! Feeling GREAT! Yes, that rhymes.
  3. Huntsville, Alabama. I met her on the internet. I have a few other soulmates but we don’t talk as often.
  4. Take a whole week off working. I’m honestly thinking about taking a whole Christmas break off work. !!!!
  5. I’m on the fence…should I do it??

LET’S HEAR IT!

 

Typical Autumn

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I live in Ohio and we (generally) have four solid seasons throughout the year. I grew up in Illinois and so the landscape tends to be quite the same but just a bit more flat. For the last 27 years of my life, I’ve been romanced by each season and it never gets old. Isn’t that funny? I never tire of the humid summers, the spring rain, the crisp autumn air or the dark, bleak winter. Never.

Things like sweater weather, pumpkin spiced lattes, boots and bonfires become “typical” and worthy of an eye roll.

But guess what? We should all do what makes us smile. A little siesta during the day to get a flavored coffee doesn’t make you typical. You know what makes us typical? Needing a little siesta at a Starbucks because we’re working 24/7 or denying ourselves self-care.

So figure out what makes you smile during the day and DO THAT. It will become a habit. And those habits are the best.

 

On making yourself better

“Oh my gosh! You’re so busy! I don’t know how you do it!”

I hear this phrase almost weekly. And I hate it. Busy shouldn’t be glorified. 80-100 hour work weeks is embarrassing. Being unorganized + chaotic steps from a deeper issue. I listened to Kathleen’s Circles talk a few days ago and really resonated with it (listen to it!). She talks about how changing her perspective really shaped the way her day-to-day work life felt. I decided to try this yesterday and I’m pleased to say…it works!

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Some other things I’ve been doing to make myself better:

  • Choosing positivity (sounds lame but when my mental state is positive…life is sweet)
  • Hiring a business coach
  • Working with the right clients
  • Turning off all iPhone notifications

For the past 6 months, I’ve been really attentive to myself and self-care. While I haven’t mastered it (and most weeks, utterly fail), I do see a difference when I’m aware and when I prioritize myself. While chatting with my friend Blaine last month, he shared that he was launching a really amazing online experience called Make Better. The concept: when YOU are better, you MAKE better. I’m excited to dive into the class, meet others who are dealing with the same issues but also who are proactive. Those that are tired of this being the “norm.”

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I asked Blaine if I could share with my readers + he graciously offered the first week free. Instead of $197, you’ll pay $172! You can click here to sign up. Then comment below so I know we’ll be going through it together.

 

I wrote an eBook and I’m going to Vegas

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I’m off to Vegas (first time I won’t work during a vacation since 2012!) but I wanted to share two things:

  1. It’s my husband Adam’s birthday. To celebrate, you can donate.
  2. And if you’re still in the giving mood, I just launched my eBook today! I co-authored the book with Claire and we are so excited to share it! It’s called Charge Up and it’s all about being an introvert, building a business and managing your energy. I can’t wait to hear what you think! Comment below and let me know! You can read more about it + purchase it here.

*Photo was a double exposure in my Canon 5D Mark III that Adam took. SO FUN!

 

You Can Get Ahold Of Me…

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At any point of the day I’ll look down at my notebook and when I glance back at my computer (or my phone), I’ll see:

  • 7 new emails from clients, one from Refinery29, and a shipping notification from Amazon.
  • 3 texts from another client.
  • A missed call. Oh it’s an 800 number. Also, I have 66 unread voicemails because some guy who used to have my number is wanted by the police.
  • A flashing gchat message from our developer.
  • And a Skype chat from my good friend in Australia (who I’m also co-publishing a book with).
  • Not to mention FB and Twitter private messages that I tend to always miss.

“Oh wow, I’m so popular,” I’ll think to myself. But seriously I’ll pause whatever I was sketching or writing to tend to these messages. After fifteen minutes, I’ll have handled everything. I look back up and they’ve all replenished (because, go figure, people respond) and I’ll cry a little on the inside. Because I’m so distracted, I’ll get on Twitter or start online shipping.

SIDENOTE: THIS IS THE MOST UNPRODUCTIVE SEQUENCE OF EVENTS, EVER

So this week I’m putting my foot down and taking control of all these forms of communication. Here’s my approach. I’d love to hear your thoughts or if you have any better ideas.

  1. EMAIL: As I have been doing (but sometimes slack on), I’m only checking email 3 times a day. I check it in depth at 9am once I’m in our studio. I respond to emails, get clients files/feedback, write guests posts or respond to interviews from fellow bloggers and archive. At 2pm, I check it again. The third time takes place at 6-6:30pm before I shut down for the day. Truthfully, I check my email WAY more than those 3 times but since putting this in my footer, I at least know that most people don’t expect an instant response. There’s a part of me that loves to be organized and messy inbox is troubling. This week I’m implementing a more customized auto-responder while I’m working for certain chunks of time. I was inspired by Lisa’s post.
  2. TEXTS: I turned iMessages on on my computer and I can’t decide if it was a good decision or not. Most of my texts that come through are from friends and I love being able to talk to them all day. Having the messages come through on my computer makes it easier to reply and a bit less distracting than picking up my phone every time. I also have one client that texts me consistently but I know I could transition them into Skype. I know fellow designers/entrepreneurs who don’t text back because…they’re at work! Still debating how I should handle this.
  3. PHONE CALLS: I’m changing my voicemail to: “Hi this is Allie’s phone. Thanks for calling. I probably didn’t answer because your number is not stored in my phone as a contact. Please feel free to text or email me at allie@thewonderjam.com if you need anything. I don’t listen to voicemails.” <- obviously this will annoy a lot of people but I can’t be on top of every form of communication.
  4. GCHAT OR SKYPE? I’m going to make myself invisible on Google chat. Most people don’t message me there except Adam and our developer. I also talk to both of them via Skype randomly. I think Skype will be an easier place to consolidate chats because it’s also how I take calls from clients virtually and where I talk to Claire (almost daily).
  5. FB/TWITTER MESSAGES: I wish I could automate a message when someone DMs me on either social network. I tend to read them and immediately forget about them. I haven’t installed the FB messenger app on my iPhone and don’t get notifications from Twitter on my phone. Anyone else have this problem?

This might seem like such an insignificant problem but I noticed how it was negatively impacting my productivity. When it comes down to it, I don’t owe anyone my availability in 7 different ways. Gosh, I miss letters in the mail. Hopefully my thoughts helped any of you running into the same issues but secretly I hope you share some of your own tips with me!