Overwhelm. That seems to be a state that many of us live in these days. For photographers who are still trying to balance a day job, while making a go of this photography business thing, overwhelm is a mild way of describing your current state.
I’ve been there. You get a camera; you love your new hobby, and as you start getting better and better, people want to give you money for doing what you love. Soon you find yourself coming home after work, and spending until the wee hours of the morning editing photos; your evenings and weekends are spent shooting and building your portfolio. You make some cheap business cards, build a quick website, and voila, you’re in business. You begin to go to industry get-togethers and booking a few jobs here and there. The extra money goes straight back into your newfound business. Who needs sleep, right? You begin dreaming of the day you can quit your stupid day job and do what you are passionate about every single day.
If you’re looking for an article on how to find work-life balance, this isn’t for you. If I were to write an article on work-life balance, it would be pure fiction as I haven’t ever achieved work-life balance for more than a few weeks at a time. This article is going to share some tips on managing your stress if you are trying to balance your day job and your budding photography business. That I do have experience with.
When I started my photography business, I had a four-year-old that I was starting to homeschool, a full time (though flexible) job as an educator, I was the social media coordinator at my work as well, and I was heavily involved with church and choir. On top of that, I began running two local photography groups and hosting bi-monthly shootout events in the area. It was a crazy busy time that was stressful, exhilarating, and completely exhausting.
We all know that excess stress is not good for your health and well-being, but as budding entrepreneurs, time management, and juggling it all is one of our biggest challenges. Here are some things you can do to manage or alleviate some of the stress until you can either 1) quit your day job 2) win the lottery 3) get a divorce, quit photography, and become a writer, like me.
Six Stress-Relieving Tips For Those Juggling A Day Job & A Photography Business
1. Get Your Priorities Straight
The most important thing you need to do is remember your priorities. Your family comes first (I hope) and making sure you have time for them will only help you in the long run. A supportive spouse in your business just makes life easier – logistically (whose going to keep your kids busy when you’re spending all weekend shooting a wedding?) and mentally (divorce is expensive).
For me, when I feel overwhelmed, I make lists – to-do lists, lists of goals, a wishlist, etc. When I physically write these things down, can see them and begin tackling them one by one, I feel less stressed. Methodically going through each item and crossing them off as they get completed, for me, is calming. Some people don’t like to-do lists and do better with a “Done” list. Listing out what you’ve accomplished instead of what you have to do really works for some people (not for a Type-A+ personality like myself).
And obviously, figure out a way to reduce your commitments, if possible. Learn how to say no.
2. Have Office Hours and Photography Business Hours
When you are juggling a day job and building a business, make sure you keep business hours for both. It’s not fair for your employer for you not to give 100% of your effort when you are with them, and it’s not good for your business if you don’t give 100% to your dream. So you must set limits. If you find yourself editing until the wee hours of the night, and having to get up exhausted for your day job, this is a sign that you need strict photography business hours.
Pick a block of hours where your focus is only on photography (no TV, interruptions, day job, etc.). During this time, make sure you get your list of things you MUST get done that day, done. When time is up, then stop working. No overtime.
Look into a studio management system that automates certain processes for you. That will cut down on your emails and response times. Also, think about involving your family members on some tasks. Maybe they could help you with paperwork or some other non-essential task. (This will also let them feel more involved in the business and spend some time with you).
[We recently reviewed Sprout Studio Management System here. It may work for you.]
3. Make Exercise a Priority
You probably are thinking that I am crazy! How will you ever find time to spend working out (and why would you want to)? But trust me on this one. Taking even 30 minutes to be active and get your heart rate up will give you clarity and focus and be a huge stress reliever. Keep in mind the number of hours your body is sitting at a desk, behind a computer. That’s not good for you.
Back when I was juggling it all, I took an MMA class four times a week. I needed that time to beat up a punching bag so I could relieve all the stress. These days, I don’t have quite as much on my plate, but I run almost every morning, and I hate running. But I’ve realized that running 5-7 miles at sunrise is the only time of day that I have no distractions, no one needing anything from me, and is the slowest part of my day. I’ve come to appreciate every painful step (Okay, not every step, but a lot of them).
When I was juggling all that stuff mentioned above, the only thing that saved my sanity was outsourcing. I built it into my pricing to afford to send my weddings off to be edited by someone else. I’d shoot a wedding, pick my favorites for my blog and then send the hard drive off. It would come back all done, like magic.
[REWIND: 5 REASONS TO USE SHOOTDOTEDIT]
At the beginning of a business, profit margins are small (or non-existent), but consider hiring a VA (virtual assistant) to help you manage some of the non-essential, non-shooting, annoying tasks you don’t have the time nor the desire to do. It doesn’t even need to be photography tasks; I hired a maid to come clean the house every other week when I was shooting weddings. Currently, I’ve outsourced my meal prep. I dislike the task of planning, cooking and cleaning up after a meal and so every week, I get deliveries of healthy meals prepared by a chef, and I no longer have to cook.
Find ways to outsource; in the long run, it’s cheaper. It gives you more time to work on your business, spend with your family, or just gives you some extra breathing room, which equals less stress.
5. Set Realistic Goals
You may have a goal of shooting 50 weddings this year. Is that realistic? Can you handle 50+ client consults, 50 days gone shooting, X number of editing hours, the tens of thousands of images, AND keep up with your day job, family responsibilities, et al?
When setting goals, be sure to make them realistic. Trying to reach a virtually impossible goal is stressful. Accept that whatever it is you want to accomplish is going to take longer than you think – from the minute details to your grandest dreams.
Maybe it will take you an extra year to transition out of your day job or a few years to save enough to quit and work on your photography business full time. I’m not saying don’t hustle, because you have to hustle if you want to be successful; I’m saying don’t kill yourself by taking on too much or thinking you can do it all. You can’t. Well, you can’t for any sustained period. Building a business is a long game. You need to have the endurance to run the whole time, not burn out in the first quarter.
6. Schedule In Mandatory R&R Time
To relieve stress, you MUST schedule in a time to rest and relax. Not rest and be attached to your technology all day, checking your emails every two minutes while you’re in line at Disneyland, but rest, with no work in mind, no to-do lists or things that have to get done. Your list will still be there when you get back. R&R could be a quick cup of coffee with a friend, a mani-pedi, a massage or even a weekend stay-cation binge-watching Netflix. Just make sure you are scheduling time for you.
Juggling life isn’t easy. Juggling life as an entrepreneur caught between the corporate world and the world where your passion thrives is even harder. But take a deep breath, remember why you’re doing it all, and work on relieving some stress. In the long run, you’ll be more productive and much, much happier.
What are some ways you relieve stress and juggle it all? Comment below.