Running a photography business seemed a whole lot simpler at the very beginning. Anyone relate? Becoming busier with more clients is such an exhilarating feeling because it means people like your work and want YOU! It’s such an honor to be included in people’s most important milestones, give them tangible memories, AND get paid for it. But there’s a not-so-pretty side to it all, and that’s when the business starts gobbling up the rest of your life. Here’s where work-life balance can suffer.
Maybe it’s a rite of passage to spend late nights marathon editing, answering client emails from your phone while playing with your kids and working during any spare second you can find. But, I’ve been there, done that and I can assure you, it’s the fastest road to burnout.
I’ve been on this roller-coaster for ten years now, and I’ve finally figured out how to tame the busy season as a pro photographer and be more of the mom and wife my family deserves. Here are my 10 best tips to guide you toward creating a work-life balance that will ultimately fuel your soul.
1. Make quick decisions.
This doesn’t mean you should be hasty or impulsive. First, practice with decisions that aren’t huge, like culling your images. Your clients don’t need 15 versions of the exact same pose with only tiny differences. Give them the best one or two and move on. If you can have someone else make the decisions, even better! It means you’ll waste less time stuck in limbo and can move on to the more important thing.
Work up to more crucial decisions like organizing your tasks for the day by order of importance. A helpful question to ask yourself, especially if you have very limited working time, is “which task is going to make me money right now.”
2. Stop multitasking.
If you’re a mom, then you probably think that this is impossible. Even as photographers, it’s our job to make sure our settings are correct, the sun is in the right spot, all while giving our clients precise direction so they look their best. Photography can be total brain overload, but I promise that you don’t have to be a chicken without a head in your daily business life. By focusing on one task at a time — be it editing, emails or returning phone calls — your time will go so much further.
The only multitasking I fully endorse is listening to podcasts at the gym. A favorite of my is the Goal Digger Podcast by Jenna Kutcher. If you want more recommendations, just ask!
3. Start task batching.
This is a huge time-saver and is also related to the art of doing one thing at a time. This applies to business tasks just as much as house work. Try doing laundry on the same day each week and commit to putting it all away by that evening. When grocery shopping, always have a list and buy everything needed for that week or longer. This saves time in not having to repeat these chores more than once per week and is key to achieving work-life balance.
This principle works for invoicing clients, replying to emails, editing images, and even shooting sessions. I often schedule four back-to-back sessions for one evening rather than leaving my family four separate evenings. Batching is being efficient with your time. And being super focused allows your brain to be more productive. I didn’t make that up, there’s research that proves it (check out this book)!
4. Learn to say no.
This one is huge, especially for women. We want to make everyone happy and then we end up overcommitted and frustrated. I can’t tell you how many years I struggled with saying yes too much (and then regretting it) until I finally decided to start saying no, and meaning it.
There are certain jobs that are not a fit for my business, and there are services I no longer offer. When I get an inquiry for a birthday party shoot, real estate photos, boudoir session or wedding, I politely tell the person that I don’t offer this service and I refer them to someone else. Starting out in the photography business, it may make sense to take on all the jobs that come your way, but my advice is to figure out your niche ASAP. Your skills photographing that niche, referrals, and momentum are all going to soar once you hone in on what you love.
“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” – Warren Buffett
Saying no is a skill that must be used outside of the workplace as well. And we must not feel guilty about it. Men rarely have a problem saying no, so why should we?
If you don’t love doing something or you’re not good at it, don’t do it! When I photographed weddings, I outsourced that editing so that I wasn’t chained to my computer day and night. Virtual assistants are GOLD. I love my girl Tristan of Virtual Bliss. The hardest part is figuring out what to delegate. Even if you offload a couple tedious or time draining items, you are freeing up your life to spend it how you choose, and that time will add up!
I also fully believe in templates and shortcuts. To keep me on track, I use this daily checklist (which is a free printable). I’ve used all kinds of free resources and purchased client magazine templates in the past, like the ones at Bird Design Shop. There are so many time-saving templates out there. I’ll tell you from experience, they’re worth shelling out a little bit for the hours they’ll save you.
6. Stay in your lane.
Do you ever compare yourself to that photographer who shoots ten golden hour sessions every week, makes dinner from scratch every night, always wears a cute outfit and volunteers at every school event? That’s when you need to remind yourself to stay in your lane and do not get sucked into the comparison epidemic. Who knows if those people are actually getting all the things done that they say they are. And, if they ARE doing ALL the things ALL the time, they’re probably utterly exhausted, and who would wish for that?
Being busy around the clock with no down time to recharge leads to burnout and lack of fulfillment. Remember that you are good enough. You are doing your best. Work-life balance is important.
7. Let go of perfectionism.
As women, we tend to be frequently afflicted with the desire to obsess over things until they are perfect. And you know what? This is holding us back! This applies to our kids, our physical appearance, our relationships and our work. Developing the insight to know when you’ve worked on something long enough for it to be great enough is the goal here.
I see you obsessively tweaking and reediting those images. Your clients are going to love them, I promise. Hit send on that gallery and go play Monopoly with your kids. We can waste endless time trying to make something perfect and then never even follow through because it isn’t exactly how we want it. Don’t do this.
There’s a book titled “Start Now, Get Perfect Later.” Do that.
8. Make your health a priority.
This one applies to every human. Your business and family life cannot thrive if you don’t take care of yourself. “But there’s no time to work out and eat healthy!” I completely get it.
Start with one small change. Research shows that if you begin exercising regularly you will automatically begin making other healthier changes in your life unconsciously, including eating better and getting more sleep. Doesn’t that make it so much easier to wrap your head around?
Commit to a 30 min workout 5 days a week and then your subconscious will take over and steer you in the right direction? I’d say it’s worth a try! Plus, being physically fit is going to make those back-to-back sessions so much easier to shoot!
9. Start today.
If you only pick one thing from this list or make one change that points you in the direction of improving your work-life balance, then it’s worth it. Even if that one change only frees up ten minutes a day for you. Changing what you do to free up those ten minutes every day adds up to more than 60 hours over the course of a year. What could you do with that extra time? That’s reading an extra story to your kids everyday. Or it could be a bike ride with your husband or a phone call to an old friend. Those are the moments that matter. Don’t let your clients or your unproductive habits steal that from you.
10. Never forget to say thank you.
Find time every single day to appreciate what you’ve accomplished and say thank you to yourself. If Marie Kondo can get us all thanking our old bras before we throw them away, then we can certainly find it in us to thank ourselves for showing up and doing the hard things.
Your thoughts and mindset are the most powerful tools you have, and what you choose to focus on will become your reality. I hope your dreams are big and your goals scare you.
“If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” —Henry Ford
5 Daily affirmations to try:
Positive self talk is probably the most important indicator of future success. Thank yourself with one of these daily affirmations to keep you motivated and on track for achieving your goals.
- I believe in myself and deserve to accomplish my goals.
- I am making choices each day to change my life for the better.
- My work is important and the effort I put into it matters.
- I envision the future I want and am taking action towards it.
- I am the author of my own life and reality.
Did any of these work-life balance tips resonate with you? Which ones sound like they might be something you’d try? I’d love to hear your thoughts about these ideas and your work-life balance struggles, so don’t hesitate to send me an email with your sincere thoughts! Or, drop me a comment here.
Photos by Helen Don