Designing A Motivational Workspace with Alicia Wiley

On The DMV Wedding Pros Podcast this week, I got to chat with Alicia Wiley from Alicia Wiley Photography.

Alicia Wiley is a wedding and portrait photographer based in Baltimore, Maryland. She also runs a branding and design business for small business owners and entrepreneurs called Boho Disco Studio. On this episode, we got into the nitty gritty on how Alicia organizes her images, camera bag, and workspace. We also talk about how to create an inspirational and motivational workspace, and how networking contributed to Alicia's business growth.

Thank you so much for being on the podcast! Give yourself a little introduction.

I am Alicia Wiley, a wedding and portrait photographer here in Baltimore, MD. I've been doing photography for almost seven years now. In addition to that, I run a little website design and branding business for other small businesses and entrepreneurs.

I'm glad that you mentioned the branding business because that's definitely something I want to get into today. But to get us started, I know that you were in the corporate world for a long time and then transitioned into a full time photo business, so can you tell us a little more about that?

Yeah! I used to be a project manager at an environmental construction company. In college I studied environmental science and I'm still completely into making our environment a better place. I really just wanted to have more flexibility with my schedule, and I ultimately decided that running my own business and switching over to photography full time allowed me to have more time with my family.

What were those steps like, to get from part time to full time photography?

It wasn't graceful. I wrote a couple blogs on it - one was The Leap To Full Time Photography. I had a lot of realizations about what it's like working for someone else and then what it's like working for yourself. I feel that all the years you work for someone else gives you some discipline, so when you work for yourself you're able to have some structure.

One thing I really admire about you is that your branding is so strong. It's a thread through all of your work, pages, and feed. I love your branding so much, but I also am just amazed at the consistency and the recognize-ability that this is Alicia Wiley when you see your colors. Can you tell me about how you developed that branding for yourself, and maybe how to implement that for others?

It actually started with some sweaters. I am super into wearing all black clothing, but I was looking at the other colors I had in my closet - it's not many. Rust, orange, olive green, a deep mustard yellow. I was like, "these are the only other colors I gravitate to." Then I started looking around our house and I was really just into warm, earthy tones if it's not black and white monochromatic. It just grew from there. I wasn't trying to force myself into a brand or branding colors, I just kind of already had it. Everyone has it whether they realize it or not. There are just styles and aesthetics that you gravitate to naturally, and sometimes it just takes piecing it together or having someone else point it out before you realize it's already here and you don't need to work so hard on it.

I love that - just looking around, figuring out what you already like, and infusing that into your brand is a solid and simple piece of advice. I want to also chat about creating organization in your business and your workspace. Like we just talked about, you have this really amazing aesthetic and that's also true in your workspace. We wanted to talk about how to make your space a motivational place as well, so where do you want to start with that?

I guess I'll start with the organizational side of it. Organization isn't always pretty. Personally, I've always been very into keeping everything tidy and neat, I like to know where everything is. I am very focused on being efficient with my time, and I feel like there's no efficiency with time if you're searching for something that you didn't put back where it's supposed to go. I keep my home like that, super organized. I focus on the organization first, and then I try to make it pretty. And that goes for my business as well, my overall online presence, too. I focus on the structure and organization of it and then make it pretty.

Do you have any advice or a tangible tip to give people on how to keep the inside of their business organized?

I would start with every day tasks. As a photographer, most of my job is on a computer. It comes with keeping track of seven years worth of photos, keeping everything organized on multiple hard drives, and dividing everything into folders. A tip would be to break things down a little bit more. Say you had a generic folder that said "Portfolio." Break it down further than that. Divide that Portfolio up into Weddings, Events, Engagements, Family Portraits, Couple's Portraits. Go a little further than that and break it up by year. I feel like once you get to that level of organization, it's so much easier to navigate and you save a lot of time.

I did that maybe a year ago. I started labeling all my footage differently, much more specialized than general. That has truly helped me a lot. It's so much easier to keep track of stuff. How do you feel like keeping things organized contributes to your work flow?

It's just time. Being efficient with time. I feel like I don't have to - every day - put in the amount of time it takes to organize. You can take a solid day or a solid week and just set everything up with a good process and workflow, and moving forward tweak it if you need to, but you can easily navigate and flow through working without having to think too much. It's the ease of flow.

In addition to keeping things organized, I know you've talked about keeping yourself motivated. Can you tell us a little bit about how you do that in your workspace?

For me, I like to surround myself with things that are inspiring. Inspiration equals motivation. Just little things that bring me joy. Anything from a really good color palette to a little knick knack that reminds me of a really great moment in my life. Also photos, of course. I'm a photographer, so I'm big into having happy photos in my workspace. Right above my desk, I only have photos of my daughters. That's a huge motivation. That's part of my "why." When I look up and see them, I'm just like, "I gotta get this work done." Everything I do is for them.

Would you mind sharing the way you organize your projects, whether they're weddings or portraits sessions, and then how you organize your galleries?

This might be long-winded. Let's say I've just gotten home from taking wedding pictures and portrait pictures in one day - which is rare, but hypothetically. The first thing I like to do is upload those memory cards to my desktop computer. On that computer, I have one external hard drive, and then I have my NAS system - the Network Attached System - that lives in my living room. That's like the cloud that bounces between my laptop and desktop. So already, I have three locations with people's RAW images. I feel better that I'll never lose them.

In addition to that, I have a cloud service that is constantly updating every single one of my hard drives that I ever plug into my computers, as well as everything that's on any of my computers, including the one at my studio. Everything is in a cloud that I can access online. That's four locations I have people's images in.

From there, I transfer them to what I call my working hard drive, which is a hard drive that travels with me. And by "travels" I mean it usually just travels to my bedroom so I can work on my laptop. But if I need to go out to a coffee shop or something - maybe next year - it'll come with me. Or when I travel for weddings or personal reasons. That's five locations I have these images on. The working hard drive is where I actually cull the images and get rid of outtakes, and that's what I edit off of. They all get saved to the same hard drives that I had the RAW files on. They are also uploaded to an online gallery so that my clients can have them. So that's about six locations that the images are in.

And then I divide them up how I mentioned earlier, separated out by the type of photography and the year, and then the family or couple's name.

That's so thorough! I know people are probably thrilled to know how secure their images are. That's definitely something that's scary, especially for photo and video people. How are we going to back footage up enough so that if something fails, we don't lose everything?

Even with everything on all those hard drives and in those spaces, technology fails us sometimes. I've had a power outage fry two of my hard drives. While it's not the biggest deal in the world, it just means more work for me. Like, culling those images again and editing again if I have to, or just re-downloading an entire gallery.

And I'll add for my video people, too - when I get home from a wedding, I dump everything into my kind of "travel hard drive" like you mentioned, and then into a bigger hard drive as well. And then when I pull it into my workspace, it's saved in Final Cut. But when I'm organizing that footage, I have a folder for each different camera I use at the wedding, for each recorder or microphone, and it makes so easy to just go in and know exactly where I'm going. The more precise and narrowed down your organization I think the better. It will so help you out in the long run.