Last weekend I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to both halves of The Frugality: Chris and Alex.
Alex founded The Frugality in 2012 and her husband Chris now works full time with her on the website. I was really excited to talk to a couple that both work and live together, because to anyone that doesn’t do this, it seems almost unimaginable.
Alex and Chris spoke really openly about the ups and downs of running a business that essentially never stops. I found it really refreshing to hear Alex discuss honestly her struggles with always being ‘on’ all also whilst noting how privileged she is be in this position…
So to get straight to the point, how do you do it? I think the average person would find it hard to even think about working with their partner all whilst living with them, maintaining a relationship and having a young baby?
Alex: I actually love still spending time with Chris. I know it’s really weird…! There’s work and then there’s just hanging out and its different.
Chris: Yes I agree. When we are at work, we are at work and helping each other on that. So in that sense when we are just hanging out as a family it’s really different.
Alex: Also my parents have always worked together, and my sister runs the family business now – it has been something I’ve grown up with and isn’t unusual to me.
Do you have to make sure that you have an end time to your working days?
Alex: We are trying to since having Peggy but I’m a bit of a workaholoic and being online, your day is never really done. You could just keep going. You can always write something else or Instagram story into the evening.
I slowed down my content to 1 or 2 posts a week – as opposed to 3 or 4 – and don’t work weekends now. When I started, I worked full-time and then blogged and created content on my weekends. That was hard.
It’s difficult to give ourselves an end of the day cut off point but in the last 6 months we’ve definitely made a shift and I really need that time to just sit on the sofa and relax.
So can I backtrack a little, when did The Frugality start and how did it start? What were you both doing at the time?
Alex: The Frugality started in 2012 and we had been together 3 years at this point. Blogs were pretty new and all the blogs that were around at the time felt very different to my reality. Whilst amazing, they didn’t really speak to me, as it just wasn’t the life I was living.
Chris was working at a production company as a director’s assistant and I was a fashion assistant at Red magazine.
Working in the fashion industry everyone has such an opinion of what we do. And it was crazy, I’d be going to Paris with Chanel on a press trip but my life just didn’t reflect this, we were having pot noodles for dinner, it was a struggle. I felt that nobody was really representing that side of things.
So how long did The Frugality exist for before Chris got involved?
Chris: I’ve been involved from the start really; I’ve always taken Alex’s pictures. But we probably didn’t think of it properly until last year when we became a company that we officially thought: right, we are working together. I decided to go freelance and being able to work with Alex really allowed me to do this. I even started to get other photography jobs off the back of taking Alex’s pictures.
Alex: There was a definite change a couple of years ago when I started to have a few projects where I could pay Chris to take my pictures. Basically, when I started getting projects with a budget, no matter who I worked with I would always pay that person. It was a real chance to give something back to Chris as he had been taking my picture for so many years.
There can be bit of a stigma behind an ‘Instagram Husband’ but actually, Chris taking my picture everyday has been such a support to me, it allowed me to quit my job and we’ve been able to spend more time together. He has always supported me and understood that it’s for something that I care about, regardless of whether we were being paid for it or not.
So do you feel like you organically grew together?
Chris: Yes, I’m not a trained photographer or filmmaker. I got left a small amount of money from my nan that afforded me to be able to buy a professional camera and a few mates had got married and we just played around and did some videos for them. I now direct my own short films as well as edit and shoot for the blog.
It really helps massively that Alex, being a stylist, has the knowledge of what looks good photography wise in terms of lighting etc. We did a photography course together and learnt loads but it also really gave us confidence on what were already doing.
Chris shoots most of the imagery for The Frugality.
Has having a baby changed working together at all?
Alex: Yes, before Peggy started nursery we actually didn’t work together as much because one of us would have to be with the baby whilst the other one would work. So Chris may shoot something for a house tour and I’d be with Peggy. Or I’d shoot with another photographer and Chris would have the baby. Our working dynamic definitely changed.
Chris: Since having Peggy we shoot a lot quicker. Less time to think about it, which is probably a good thing.
Alex: Now that Peggy is in nursery we work together one day a week at home and then a day each for appointments or admin. It has helped hugely with having a work routine in fact, I would just try and fit in everything before but knowing we have to be back by 6pm to pick up our daughter helps keep a more rigid timeframe.
Chris, what’s your job title at The Frugality?
Chris: Ha! A bit of everything from handy man to, IT department to admin.
Alex: No, I’d say more, ‘Operations Manager’!
Chris: I shoot the photos and videos and edit them all. I also liaise with people on the website and design. It alleviates some of that pressure off Alex.
So, you both have also been freelance in other creative fields – are you still doing these or are you at the point where you can just work on The Frugality?
Chris: Well this year I’ve actually said no to producing video content for anyone else. Mainly because if I do have a bit of spare time I’d like to hang out with Peggy or put my energy into doing work for us (The Frugality) that will benefit the company and our family.
Alex: We have always had three jobs and side hustles and actually I think I’m finally over that. It’s really nice to be able to concentrate on one thing. But Chris is also a filmmaker, and shoots his own films.
Chris: It doesn’t feel like work. Honestly, I never wake up and dread a day; it’s a really nice feeling. I get to work on my own projects, too.
What are the downsides of what you do? Whether that’s working together or just the capacity of your job that never stops.
Alex: I think as much as it’s our business, it still feels very personal; if someone’s says a negative thing it can really get me down and I know that can affect my mood. That can sometimes create tension; I also know that I find it really hard to switch off.
Chris: You carry the burden of it. You get so many emails a day and I actually get hardly any! We do sometimes shout, but it blows over quickly.
Can it feel quite all encompassing?
Alex: Life online can feel draining at times. Because it’s our life, even our house has become part of it.
Chris: I can’t remember the last time we went on holiday and didn’t have a project. Last year we were lucky enough to go away for a month but we still had city guides and stuff to do. We were talking about work everyday.
Alex: But we had an amazing holiday we get to go away for a month and the only reason we were able to do that is because we took some work with us. I always imagine if I couldn’t work with Chris I’d still do city guides but would have to shoot with someone else. It would change the whole dynamic.
Are there things you’ve put in place to make the balance easier?
Alex: Yes – I’ve definitely developed more confidence in our content. We don’t have to shoot every day or every outfit. In the early days we would always be worrying that everything needed to be shot but we don’t put that pressure on ourselves now, and it’s really liberating.
Also I think the key to working with you partner is: respect. Even though I started The Frugality, I never feel like ‘the boss.’ I totally respect what Chris does for the company, and realise I don’t have his skill set or even the capacity to do what he does.
Chris: It also helps that previously we never got to see each other as we were both so busy working in our previous jobs – we’d both get home so late and work weekends, Alex would travel a lot – and now I really appreciate the time this job gives us to be together.