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Quitting Your Day Job Part 2: Five Tips for a Productive Work Day

By Chris Nachtwey on June 25th 2014

What Really Happens When You Quit Your Day Job Part 2: The Emotions and Five Tips For a Productive Work Day

This is a unsugar-coated look into what life is really like when you walk away from the steady paycheck and enter the world of being self-employed. I will be sharing my experiences, thoughts, and anything else that comes my way as I navigate the waters of being a full-time photographer. I also hope to interview other full-time photographers to share their experiences with you as well.

Last week, I covered six important business tips I suggested doing before you book your first paying client. This week I’m going to dive into the emotion I felt when I left my day job, and how I structured my work day to be more productive.


The Emotions

Leaving my day job was an easy thing to do in terms of the process. I wrote up my two weeks notice, printed it out, signed it, made a copy, and handed it to my boss. That put into motion the reality that I was leaving, no more thinking about it, no more talking about it, I was really going to be leaving in two weeks. When I first handed in my notice, I didn’t feel much, it felt like a business transaction. It was not until my hour long drive home that evening did it hit me. I felt free.

My job was not a bad one; it just wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore. My goal before I went to college was to own my own creative business and I worked hard to get to the point of leaving my job to run my business full-time. My last two weeks flew by and were marked with well wishes from co-workers that I miss seeing everyday, and comments about how it takes guts to leave and be self-employed. On my last day when I drove my long commute home, I had smile on my face knowing when I woke up the next day, I was finally on the road to following my dream.


The Next Morning

Some might take a few days off or maybe a week once they are free to be their own boss, but not me. I woke up the next day after leaving my job to plenty of work. I got up, did my normal morning routine and instead of walking to my car, I walked to my home office. It felt right, I was ready! I had two client meetings, an engagement session to get ready for, I needed to write an article for SLR Lounge, and I had online meetings with my team of writers over at Then it hit me, how am I going to manage all this on a daily basis and still have a productive work day?


Five Tips For a Productive Work Day

1. Wake up and Get Ready for Work

Sure, you are self-employed and are free to sleep in or sit at your desk in sweat pants all day if you want. I have found though, the days that I don’t wake up, have breakfast, and get dressed for work are days I get almost nothing done. Getting up and dressed for work gives you a sense that it’s time to work, and can help give you the energy to get your work done. Also, you might consider waking up early. Several studies have shown that a common trait in the top CEOs and other influential people is waking up before everyone else and being productive.


2. Stay Off Social Media

If you take one thing away from this article, it is this. Stay off of social media when you are working. Nothing can kill your drive to get work done more than an hour wasted on Facebook. Just think of all the work you could have completed in that hour looking at meaningless Facebook posts or Tweets. Now, if you use social media for work, than by all means use it, but don’t waste time looking at meaningless things, do what you need to do for business, then log off.

3. Designate Working Hours

I cannot stress this point enough to anyone who works from home; you need to set business hours for yourself.  I know photography is not a normal 9-5 job. If you shoot weddings like myself; you are going to meet with clients in the evenings, and shoot engagement sessions and weddings on the weekends. Those are not everyday tasks though; there will be many days that you are not meeting with a client or shooting something. Figure out what schedule works best for you and stick to it as much as you can.

My Schedule

  • 8-9am: Check email and social media sites associated with my business only.
  • 9-11am: Client work (photo editing, respond to emails, contracts, working on wedding timelines, etc.)
  • 11am-1pm: SLR Lounge work
  • 1-1:30pm: Lunch
  • 1:30-3:30pm: work (talk with my team, work on features, emails, etc.)
  • 3:30-5pm: More client work
  • 5pm: Walk away from my office (My day is done)

4. Take a Lunch Break

At your day job, you probably had a lunch break right? Well, you still should take one! It’s a good thing to take a half hour-to-hour break. Leave your office and have lunch, work out, take a walk, get a coffee, etc. It breaks up your day and gives you the energy to finish up the rest of your day.


5. Call It a Day

I end my days at 5pm when I don’t have a client meeting or session to shoot that day. I literally put my computer on sleep and leave my home office. Sure, not all my work is done, but unless I’m on a deadline, there is always tomorrow. Go enjoy the rest of the day knowing you had a good workday, and that what you didn’t get done today can always be done tomorrow.


Figuring out a good work schedule is totally up to you, and you’re free to do as you please. But, I guarantee if you have one you follow as close as you can, you will get more work done and feel better about working from home.

Till next time, keep shooting, building your business, and embrace the hustle!

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Chris Nachtwey is a full-time wedding and portrait photographer based in Connecticut. He is the founder and creator of 35to220 a website dedicated to showcasing the best film photography in the world. Chris loves to hear from readers, feel free to drop him a line via the contact page on his website! You can see his work here: Chris Nachtwey Photography

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Richard Bremer

    Great tips. When you stop and think about it, also quite logical. Biggest waste for me is nog only social media, but also turning on the tv in the morning. Leaving tv off, just turning on the radio or mp3 player, saves me tonnes of time that I can invest in my business.

    One more tip that works for me: don’t put any games on your smartphone. They are very distracting. At least, for me they are.

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  2. Aaron Cheney

    Such a good article!

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  3. Rafael Steffen

    Thanks for sharing the schedule tips.

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  4. Vince Arredondo

    I was planning leaving Facebook for a while so I can focus more in developing my skills as photographer.

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  5. Ian Moss

    I love the point about staying off social media. I only ever use social media while huge stock files are uploading – honest!

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  6. James Matthews

    Great read Chris although I think you should change point 2…

    2. Stay off SLRLounge…I spend more time here than on any social media account :)

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  7. Christine Einarsson

    Working from home is remarkably hard and one needs some serious dicipline. Stay off social media is probaby the best tip ever.

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  8. David Hill

    All really logical. Thanks. All makes sense to me! You have to have a defined day or it can very easily become very unproductive especially with kids buzzing around the house too! Dave

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  9. Pye

    Stay off social media, haha, has to be the biggest waste of time in the workplace ever.

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  10. Ji Hoon Heo

    “Stay off social media” is the best advice ever.

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  11. Jared Stewart

    Great article. Even if you are not self-employed, but simply working from a home office it is still important to set a schedule like this, just as if you still went in to the office. Definitely helps you stay productive.

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