I've been a huge fan of Alisha (ah-LISH-ah) Johns for quite some time; her beautifully bright and wildly creative photos on Instagram are the stuff dreams are made of. It wasn't until she posted a photo about Pittsburgh that I realized she was a local lady. And then, my fangirl heart swelled to epic proportions.
A few weeks ago, Alisha left her 9-5 (!!) and jumped feet first into full-time entrepreneurship. Y'all know how we feel about women who take the leap into entrepreneurship.
So, I reached out to Alisha, asked her on a lady date, and convinced (okay, asked) her to share her journey with you.
Settle in, because it's a fun one.
When did you leap into the wonderful (and sometimes scary) world of entrepreneurship?
I started as a freelance writer back in 2012; it was something that I always did on the side of my advertising agency jobs. As time went on, I was able to expand my network and service offerings, and I left my 9-5 to work for LISH creative full-time last month!
How did you know it was time to make the jump — to leave your agency job and stepping out on your own?
Building a large community on social media was instrumental in helping me to lay a good foundation. More and more brands were finding me on Instagram and reaching out, and when I had to start turning down projects because of my day job, I knew I had to make a change.
I was also looking for more flexibility so that I could spend more time in Los Angeles, and I was feeling really burnt out. Working 50+ hours per week at my advertising agency job and producing content on the nights and weekends was really wearing me down. I was ready for a fresh start and this felt like the right time for me. It's something that I've always wanted to do.
What fears, if any, are showing up as you navigate being a business owner?
I think burnout is still a fear of mine. I was so used to staying up late and working every weekend, so it is hard to break that habit. I have to make a conscious effort to find a new rhythm and to really pace myself for the long haul - I am young, after all!
How do you balance splitting time between Pittsburgh and L.A., two drastically different cities?
The time difference can be tricky, but I try to stay on one timezone, regardless of where I am, for consistency. I also plan my workflow in advance so that I am shooting all photography in Pittsburgh, in my home studio, and then using my time in Los Angeles for things like editing, writing, and networking. I so appreciate those pockets of sunshine when I’m in LA. Being in a new place every so often helps to refocus and stay energized.
Let's switch gears a bit and talk about Instagram, a platform that has been super powerful in your professional life. Why did you get on there in the first place, and what do you think has been key to your success to date?
I started to get serious about Instagram after college, as a way to differentiate myself when applying to creative jobs in the advertising industry. Employers kept wanting to push me into Account Management roles and I was trying to find ways to break out of that box. Not only did my imagery catch the attention of my former employers, but it also helped me to discover my love for styling and creating visual content.
As my community continued to grow, my work began getting picked up by media outlets and larger accounts like Mashable and The Huffington Post, and brands started asking me to style their products. That’s when it really hit me that there’s a business here. I’m not trying to be dramatic, but Instagram literally changed the course of my career — it has opened so many doors.
The key to my success has been my commitment to content production. Every image that I post is highly styled, strategically planned, and in line with my personal brand. If you scroll back through my feed you can see a transformation over time. I’ve learned so much and am really fine tuning my aesthetic to match that.
What's on the horizon for you?
My primary goal will always be to produce exceptionally creative content for my clients, and for my own blog and Instagram. That’s something that I don’t want to ever lose sight of. I will be blogging more often and covering new topics relating to styling and content creation. I’m also hoping to build out a small team and move into an out-of-home studio space by 2017.
Famous last words... What advice would you give to women who are on the edge of quitting their 9-5 and stepping out on their own?
Start pursuing your business way before you actually leave to work for yourself full time. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, and never underestimate the value of a rocking portfolio coupled with notable press. Developing an online and social presence is essential for networking and for building your credibility — regardless of your industry, really. Without laying that foundation, I would never be where I am today.