I like to call Kelly the living embodiment of the exclamation point. This lady? She is joy. She will be the first to compliment you, the first to ‘like’ your baby pics and favorite your exciting business news. She says yes before you can finish a “Can you help me….” This kickass friend is also a kickass photographer and a kickass mama. Kelly founded Kelly Allison Photography, where her context-driven work captures energy, emotion, and the essence of the world around us. She balances two photography passions by working on commercial clients during the week and then weddings and events on weekends.
A typical week is atypical. Mondays are a half day on back of the house work managing accounting, marketing, organization, client development while Tuesdays and Thursdays and Saturdays are spent behind the lens. So, half the week shooting, half in post production. Kelly mentioned that weddings and larger commercial shoots skew the balance of whatever a week might look like. Oh, she sounds busy? Kelly is also a co-founder of Forth Chicago AND in a band, White Oak and goodness knows what else (I can say she’s a divine cook.) And we haven’t even gotten to her as a mom! Her two lovelies, a boy and a girl, get extra TLC and PB&Js from an incredible nanny when Kelly and her husband, Seth, are working.
- I am so eager to share her wisdom and warmth with you. It’s rare, I think, for a mama to speak from a place of such open honesty. Get ready to nod along y’all. Here’s what Kelly had to say about being a SpitfireMom.
How does being a mom influence your work?
Being a mom helps me retain a bit of balance when it comes to self-criticism (of which I’m an expert) and seeing the forest for the trees. I say ‘helps’ because I still regularly fall prey to self-doubt, and the anxiety that (for me) is part & parcel to running my own business. However, when I’m in a better state of mind, I can look at my kids & remind myself that I’m a hero to them, and that’s pretty darn important.
The most challenging thing about being a parent & a business owner is having the wherewithal to turn off my business brain & remain present to the kids when I’m physically with them. That’s more about how my work influences my parenting, but it’s a giant theme right now. The influence of my kids on my work is primarily a time issue. I love my life, and I love having kids, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I sometimes wish I could pursue my career unfettered. I look at the success of peers that have chosen a different life path, and watch the speed with which they’re able to create a solid brand identity, throwing themselves headlong into their passions & creativity. I suppose I just wish I could have it both ways.
Do you talk about your kids with clients or potential clients?
I am not open on the topic of my kids, and it makes me a little sad. I don’t bring it up, primarily because I’m worried about how clients’ opinions will change if they know that I’m a mom. Since the increased accessibility of photography via the digital age, there has been a huge flux of moms who pick up their cameras as a cottage industry. It’s probably mostly my own negative associations that keep me from celebrating my motherhood. I wish I could let it go. Maybe someday.
We know a SpitfireMom like Kelly has tips to share, so we asked for her best time saving trick:
If I could actually do it, the best time saving trick I can come up with is delegation. I’ve been working on building a team that can take care of the stuff that doesn’t require my hand, but honestly it’s hard to give anything up. At the beginning of training someone new, it’s always going to take longer to teach than it would if I just did it myself. But if I can keep at it, having others take care of the details would enable me to spend more time doing what I love.
What’s one thing you haven’t figured out?
How to delegate! Seriously. It remains my biggest challenge, to pass work on to someone else so I can breathe for a minute. I’m also terrible at maintaining a schedule—thus the need for someone else to take care of the details. I’m embarrassed by the number of times I’ve scheduled myself to be in two places at once. It’s a bit of a joke . . . but it’s really not funny. (I can tell you, she somehow manages to defy the laws of physics and seemingly be in two places at once. Kelly’s mantra is “I strive for calm, but thrive on crazy” and, lemme tell ya, it works!)
And, if you’re a mom entrepreneur and just found out your expecting, Kelly says:
I’ll offer whatever she needs. If it’s celebrating together, I’ll pour the champagne (or sparkling cider). If it’s acknowledging the upcoming struggle of juggling two very different lives, I’m there. Being a mom & a business person is a challenge. It’s a difficult balance, and we need each other for support, encouragement, and just as a reminder that we’re not going crazy.
What I love about Kelly is her ability to give voice to so much of what I’m thinking. Authenticity, truth, and humanity are her hallmarks. The working mom debates would be far less debate-y if she got on the mic. Kel, welcome to the SpitfireMom Society!
Julie & Heidi
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Kelly Allison Photography