Our Kin, Kayla Malss, shares her story about balancing full time work with a side business. The allure of being a box ticker while also building a business that is sustainable.
Tell us a little bit about Align Studio - how did you start out?
I was working in marketing and was at a point where I felt my job had plateaued. I was bored and not passionate about the work I was creating. If you work in marketing, you understand the struggle of standing out amongst 150 applicants, so I started a blog called align to act as a digital portfolio.
My blog was an opportunity for me to use my skills in digital to create something for myself, and serve as a creative outlet to write about and photograph things I care about. It was a passion project! From there my writing and photography gained interest and suddenly I had a freelance business. It’s funny to reflect on now, as I would joke about align becoming a business, not having any idea how that would happen or that it would actually come to fruition one day.
You currently balance Align Studio with full time work, what’s that like?
Look, it’s a lot haha. I’m a morning person (ex barista, you can’t unlearn the 5am wake up times) so I have a little bit of time in the morning to write, or do admin stuff. As a matter of fact, I’m writing this now before I head to work!
I’m really lucky to have one day a week where I work from home, which gives me extra time to shoot photos on my lunch break, and of course weekends. It often feels like I’m working two full time jobs, but I try to be as efficient as possible and plan ahead so I don’t get overwhelmed.
How do you balance the different aspects of your life?
This is only something I’m now realising the importance of. I’m such a ‘yes’ person and a box ticker… I reach one milestone and then I’m hungry for the next. At the beginning, the excitement of building a business was quite addictive and I was taking on as much work as I could.
I had piles of products to shoot in my bedroom and to-do lists miles long, it got really overwhelming and my creativity plummeted. From there, I made the decision that Align Studio was going to last the long game, therefore I had to think that way too.
Now, I only take on as much work as I can realistically handle with a full time job and have systems in place to keep my mind clear and creative. I also have non-negotiables like Pilates and yoga twice a week, which has made the BIGGEST difference. No matter how much I have to do, I always go to yoga/Pilates because my mind, body and everyone who has to deal with me on a daily basis need it.
Do you have any practices or rituals that allow you to be more creative in your photography?
Music is a big one. Whenever I shoot I put my airpods in and play my Align Studio playlist which is just the best collection of “sometimes chill, sometimes upbeat” groovy songs which get me in a creative flow.
I find it relaxes me and stops me from overthinking concepts. I can experiment freely and have a dance as well which is always good for the soul.
You’re a big believer in sustainability. What does that look like in your business?
I look at everything in my business through a lens of sustainability and ethics. Call me stubborn, but I want to prove that almost anything can be done ethically and with minimal waste. Majority of my gear is second hand, and I try to support small businesses when sourcing my backdrops and props.
While it takes me a little longer to get things done sometimes, I feel it’s worth it and there’s a story behind every component of my images which I love. My clients appreciate this as well and I feel really lucky to work with brands who appreciate and support this approach in business.
My prints are also something I’m really proud of in terms of sustainability. They’re printed on cotton rag paper which is made as a by-product of the textile industry, and delivered in recycled cardboard with a 100% carbon neutral carrier. Like I said, I’m out to prove anything can be done ethically and sustainably!
What’s inspiring you lately?
Creators: Jasmine Dowling is a constant inspiration for me, everything she does is magic and you can probably see a lot of her aesthetic in my work.
Books: Eggshell Skull (Bri Lee), Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely (Gail Honeyman) and I’m about 10 pages into The Body Keeps the Score (Bessel Van Der Kolk). It’s good so far!
Podcasts: After Work Drinks, StartUp Creative, Where Should We Begin? With Esther Perel (editors note: this podcast is incredible, but then so is anything Esther does)
What are your favourite daily rituals?
It sounds odd, but cleansing my face in the morning. I can’t reach for my phone, or do anything other than cleanse my face! I love the smell of the products I use and it’s just a really pleasant way to start my morning.
When I work from home, I start my workday with a coffee and lighting some incense which grounds me and makes me feel ready to get shit done (mindfully and intentionally of course!).