I'm writing this post assuming a few things. If these things aren't true about you - that's great too, you'll still hopefully find something helpful. For the rest of us, I'm making these assumptions:
1. Most of us consider ourselves photographers first. We just happen to get paid for it, and it's our "business."
2. Most of us devote ourselves to our photography, and are increasingly passionate about doing more photography.
3. Most of us are overwhelmed at the burden of running a business of photography - and don't quite live balanced lives as a result.
The truth is - running a photography business (as any business), is hard work. It's hours of bringing in business, meeting with clients, photographing sessions and weddings, editing, processing and enhancing images, making sales, fulfilling orders, networking, marketing, keeping track of revenue and expenses, and more!
I talk to photographers who work some crazy hours. They stay up late editing their latest wedding - or blogging - or whatever. I've talked to photographers who talk about how exhausted they can be at the end of a wedding season. I talk to photographers who tell me that they never feel caught up - and feel totally overwhelmed.
It seems to me that it's fair to ask ourselves - who's the boss? You've probably heard people ask the question: are you running your business, or is it running you? Or, "are you working ON your business, or are you working IN your business?"
For me, the question is this:
Are you building your business around your life, or are you building your life around your business?
If it's the later, you might want to ask yourself why you're in business in the first place. I LOVE this photography thing I get to do - but I don't EXIST to do it. My family doesn't exist just so I can pursue this photography thing. In fact, the opposite is true.
If it was just about the photography - it would just be this fun hobby, and I'd go get a job somewhere else. After all, we have an 18 month old daughter, and another on the way. Those kids will need braces, or glasses. They'll want to play soccer or t-ball, or volleyball. They'll want to be in the band, or choir. Someday they'll want to go to college and get married.
Our condo is fine, but we'd like to buy a bigger house - one with a nice yard. We'd like a new car (or new to us), and we like to travel. That's our life. My photography business is designed to fit in - and support our life. I do that by setting boundaries that make it easier to keep things in perspective - and make it easy to answer the question: "who's the boss."
Maybe some of these will help you :)
1. Set Work Hours Whether you work from home, have a studio, or work in an office, set hours that everyone knows are work hours. It's wonderful that being self-employed gives us the freedom to set our schedule, but often that freedom becomes a burden when we find ourselves out of balance. Nobody benefits when we get out of balance - not our families, not our clients, not our business, and not ourselves. The benefit of everyone knowing when you're "working" is that you have also now decided when you're NOT working!
2. Get out of the house. I work from our studio. Sure, I sometimes work from home - and I'm not saying no one should ever work from home. I AM suggesting that sometimes you can be much more productive just by going somewhere else to work. The act of going somewhere, and working in that environment can go a long way to your working mindset.
If you don't have a studio, maybe try working in a coffee shop. Or, if you're too easily distracted, find a place that you can focus. There may be another photographer that would let you use their space to work. You might be able to find an inexpensive office space to work - or you can rent space at places like Kinkos.
3. Turn off the internet. Let's face it - most of us are highly social people. We're also easily distracted. We get an email, or see a twitter, or receive a facebook message - and we have to reply immediately. We read blog after blog, and it's not long before we're an hour away from what we set out to accomplish.
I recently realized that I got more done in a 4 hour plane flight, than I do in an 8 hour day at the office. I don't think it was because I was more relaxed or comfortable. I'm pretty sure that it was because there was no internet. There were less distractions. Try it.
4. Email twice a day. My email comes to my phone. My email app on my laptop lets me know every time I have a message. I used to check my email on my phone before I even crawl out of bed. I have a hard time escaping it, so even when I do have the internet on, I keep my mail program closed. I only check - and respond - to email twice a day now. In the morning at the end of the day. There are very few things that I've found to be so urgent that I really need to respond immediately.
5. Say No. There's no question that the less you do - the better you'll do everything else. Saying no is a hard thing to learn. We want to say yes for a number of reasons - we want people to like us, we want the job, we need the money, we feel guilty - the list goes on.
The problem is, often the consequences of saying yes are far worse than people not liking us, or losing a job. Every time we say yes to one thing - we are, in effect, saying no to something. Unfortunately that often ends up being our current clients - or our family.
Say no more often to the things you choose - so you aren't forced to say no to the things that really matter.
What else? What are some things you've found that are helpful for you? Feel free to leave a comment - your thoughts can add a ton of value to others!