1. Flexible Hours
2. More Spare Time
3. You Call the Shots
According to Entrepreneur, those are the top three reasons to start your own business. Note that the list is called “50 Reasons to Start Your Own Business” — not “50 Realities of Starting Your Own Business”.
Working your own hours, spending more time with friends and family, and setting your own rules might be the ultimate goal, but it’s a distant dream for most photographers. At least, I know it was for me when I first started out.
To be perfectly honest, I completely failed finding a healthy work-life balance in my photography business. It was killing my business and my family life. I felt like I was drowning.
Thankfully, that’s not my reality anymore, but after reflecting back on that hectic period and talking to hundreds of other photographers, I found that four huge mistakes are holding us back from creating a healthy photography work-life balance.
Mistake #1: Treating Every Request Like an Emergency
Early on in my photography business, everything felt like an emergency. I’d drop anything I was working on at a moment’s notice to put out “fires”.
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It’s normal to have that feeling in the beginning, but it absolutely kills our productivity.
If a client has a question about an edit we made, we immediately stop everything we’re doing to respond and fix it. If the phone rings, we answer it without thinking, believing the business depends on it. If we receive an email, we read it and reply as fast as we can.
Solution: Let It Wait
First, we have to accept that most things really aren’t an emergency. It can wait till we get back to the computer. It can wait until the kids have fallen asleep. It can wait until the weekend’s over. Notice a theme, here?
It can wait!
Second, we need to delegate. We can’t personally respond to every request the instant we receive it, but we still need coverage. Of course, that could mean hiring a friend to help us respond to people, but it doesn’t have to.
You can also use email autoresponders or links on your website to let clients book a time to talk with you later. This way, when an “emergency” (client call or email) comes in while you’re having dinner with family or you’re on a shoot somewhere, you don’t have to drop everything to handle it.
Mistake #2: Attempting to Multitask
When I, like most photographers, first started my business, I bought into the idea that I could multitask.
We see the happy mom, managing her motherly duties and business simultaneously with no problem. She even has a smile on her face!
Well, I tried to be the happy dad and do it all too, but I failed miserably.
Solution: Accept That Multitasking Is a Myth
Scientists have been saying it for years now. When we try to accomplish two or more separate tasks, our brains can’t process multiple streams of information and encode them into our memory. If we can’t remember something, we can’t use it.
Basically, we can either do a bunch of tasks poorly, or we can do one thing at a time and do it really well. We can be an engaged parent AND active photography business owner, but not both at the exact same time.
We need to let go of the multitasking myth and accept that we can’t do everything all the time. By creating boundaries between work and life that allow us to only do one thing at a time, we can actually perform at our best.
Mistake #3: Starting Too Many Projects
As creatives, many of us struggle with this. We love the autonomy of being our own bosses, but sometimes we desperately need structure to create photography work-life balance.
I absolutely love trying out new ideas and new tools. But when I was trying to get my photography business off the ground, I started too many projects and failed to finish enough of them. I actually started to miss having a manager that told me everything I needed to do each day.
Solution: Switch Brains
Once we start our own business, we have to think with two different brains: the CEO brain and the worker brain.
We need to turn on our CEO brains at the beginning of each week to make a strategic list of priorities. Then we need to switch on our Worker brain to get it done.
When I tried to think like a CEO and worker at the same time, I’d be in the middle of a project when I’d stop and think, “Oh, should I do this instead? Or maybe I should build this thing with this tool instead. Or maybe I should work on this project first…”
I wasted so much time debating with myself, trying to decide which projects to focus on. What helped me the most was blocking out time on my calendar at the beginning of each week to define my top priorities so I wouldn’t waste time second-guessing myself or my to-do list.
Mistake #4: Allowing Interruptions
We all know that when we’re on a shoot, interruptions are unacceptable. We would never dream of taking a phone call if we were in the middle of shooting a wedding.
You only have one opportunity to get the right shots, so an interruption here COULD kill your business.
The irony is that interruptions when you’re in your office working on your business ARE killing your business.
It might not be as obvious, but it’s true. I know these constant interruptions were devastating my business. I allowed every phone call, client issue, email, and Facebook notification to interrupt my flow.
When I tried to spend time with my family, work interruptions were just as bad. Phone calls, emails, texts, and Slack messages were just as costly to my family life as they were to my work life.
Solution: Remove Distractions
When you’re on a shoot, you’re in a state of flow. You can do your best work because you’re not dealing with interruptions or distractions. You’re focused on one singular thing — creating a great experience for your clients and taking awesome pictures.
You need to do the same thing when working on your business.
Here’s a really useful exercise: take out your phone and open your notification settings. Now look at how many apps are allowed to send you notifications.
It’s probably a lot more than you realized!
Now turn off as many notifications as you can and experiment with putting your phone in Do Not Disturb mode when working on a project. The thing is, every alert that pops up on your phone sucks up invaluable time. You desperately need to limit these distractions.
If you work from home, one strategy is to get out of the house and head to a coffee shop so you can do your creative work in a distraction-free environment.
When you limit distractions and interruptions, you allow yourself to be at your best — in work AND life.