Balancing a Photography Business, Family Life & Full Time Job
For many of us, photography isn’t our full-time job. Heck, it might not even be a money earning thing for some of you and you only do it for fun (and that’s definitely okay)!
In fact, it seems as though, more often than not these days, “Part-time Photographer and Part-Time _________” is becoming the norm, with most folks finding that they are using their photography business as a secondary income - supplementing either their full-time paying job, or their incredibly thankless but rewarding “job” as a stay-at-home parent.
Balancing a successful part time photography business with a full-time job and a family can be incredibly difficult and stressful, but with a few tips, you should be able to manage your time better, and wear multiple hats in your day-to-day life as a Photographer!
The Grind and Finding Balance
For me, photography is a part time side gig. However, my photography business is a legitimate, registered business from which I make income, have expenses and pay taxes. I manage a queue of clients and schedule sessions throughout the year. That being said, I also work 40+ hours a week, have two children, and participate in other activities outside of work (ever coached 3-year olds in soccer? It’s like herding cats).
To many of you, it might appear as though I have mastered the ancient art of “Finding More Than 24 Hours in a Day”, as it seems like it would be almost impossible to manage all of that at the same time, right?
This may come as a shock to you, but I am not Indiana Jones, and I have not found an ancient device from a bygone civilization that has given me powers to control time and space. Crazy, I know!
Instead, I have found and mastered a few incredibly useful tools of the modern era that give me an advantage to help tackle the chaos that life and work brings us!
Time Management Tools
The simple fact of the matter is that there are only 24 hours in a day. You have to sleep for some of those, work your full time job for some of those, function as an adult for some of those, and somehow manage not to go crazy. Managing your time as a part-time photographer on your own can be difficult, if not nearly impossible, unless you’re some sort of super hero when it comes to time management. For the rest of us simpler folks, a solid time management tool is going to be your best friend.
Personally, I manage all of my photography clients using 17Hats. I have discussed 17Hats at length over in the Pretty Forum, but the basic gist of the software is that it is a superb project management suite of tools that allows you to track clients, jobs, finances and paperwork (the headache of every photographer). 17Hats has a slight learning curve, but once you get used to it and develop great workflows, you will be able to schedule and track your clients with just a few minutes of your day, a couple times each week.
Many photographers keep some sort of incredibly thick planner or trapper keeper to store all of their client’s pertinent information, printouts of emails, etc. but 17Hats handles all of that information, with the inclusion of some automation added to the process.
That also brings me to my next important time management tool; a good digital calendar. We all have smartphones now, so keeping track of your dates should be much easier now that you can always look up your schedule. It is important to make good use of this tool.
For my family, my wife and I share a digital calendar (which also syncs with 17Hats) so we always know what is going on, and when it is happening. I will be the first to admit that the matriarch of our family runs the show, so I always know when I have a free hour or two to schedule a session because thankfully she keeps all of this information on our digital calendar up-to-date.
Importance of Finding “Me” Time
All the photography time management tools in the world might help you schedule clients and sessions, and make sure your work does not overlap, but it will not directly help your sanity, and the most important people in your life; your family.
No matter what, I always make sure to put my family first. I cannot stress how important this point is, and if you only take away one thing from this post, it is to always put your family first!
I started my photography career as a single man, and it has evolved throughout my life of getting married, having a son, and then having a second son. My photography business has seen house moves, renovations, milestones and, through it all, has adapted and changed to fit whatever life chose to throw at it. But never once, never in my almost 10 years as a photographer, has my photography business ever taken precedence over my family.
Clients will come and go, but it is important that you don’t ever take on so much work that it starts to affect the rest of your life. When my son was born, I decided to cut back on the number of weddings I took, because the first wedding I photographed after my son was born, was the longest 10 hours I have ever experienced. I could not be with my family, and it was heartbreaking. I love shooting weddings. I love seeing two people in love and sharing their special day with family and friends. And I love being the one to help capture those memories forever. But those feelings don’t hold a candle to the time I get to spend with my family.
How to Keep Your Sanity and Your Photography Clients
It helps to be up-front with your client communication, and be very clear about your needs and the needs of your family. My family is the most important thing in my life, so I make sure to include this topic in my conversations with clients.
For example, when I talk to my clients about scheduling and mention the importance that my sessions need to start and end on time, I make sure to add in the fact that my family is the reason. I would love to stick around and chit-chat with my clients for hours on end, but there is probably a really good chance I have a wife at home who is growing more impatient by the minute and wondering where I am, so being prompt with my schedule timing is key.
I also stress the importance of showing up "on time" to sessions. Keeping an hour session to 60 minutes means the rest of the stuff you’ve packed into your day does not get bumped or need to be rescheduled. Sessions need to start at the start time - and that start time isn’t “show up and prep for 15 minutes”. If clients need to have hair and makeup done, unless it has already been built into the schedule, needs to be done before showing up.
For sanity sake, you also need to make sure you are making time for yourself. Meditate. Shop. Rock climb. Do whatever it takes to make sure you have at least a few minutes each day or week to clear your mind. A cluttered mind leads to a cluttered schedule, and then you end up missing “Donuts with Dads” or showing up late to a photography client meeting. Not good!
The Balancing Act: Putting it all Together
I know it may seem as though I have oversimplified the process - and the key to success is “just manage your time better and also make time for your family and yourself and maybe cut back on clients if you’re feeling too overwhelmed”.
Yes, I know it is not that simple.
But start by working on just one of these items. Start by getting your schedule organized with a calendar, or give some sort of project management tool a try (like 17Hats). Maybe try downloading an app on your phone to help you meditate for 15 minutes a day. Taking the first step towards getting your stuff together and being a bit more organized will put you on the right path toward being able to better manage your full time job with your part time photography business and family life.
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