From cash flow to clients, the photo life is full of challenges. But you can still thrive – IF you take care of yourself! Here’s what we mean… (Featuring LAJOY PHOTOGRAPHY)
No, Like, Really: You Need to Take Care of Yourself
You’ve already figured it out: the photographer life isn’t all art and adventure. Some days it’s more like a rags-to-riches story that’s stuck in the “rags” chapter. Meanwhile, books and blogs and motivational speakers insist that you just have to “work hard, harder, HARDER!” to achieve success – and you’re thinking, “If I try any harder, I will absolutely implode.”
And we get it. It’s admirable to push yourself. Hard work is imperative to success. But all the pushing and hard work will be meaningless if you don’t take care of yourself.
STOP. Don’t roll your eyes. This isn’t some feel-good hippy-dippy article pushing bubble baths and scented candles (although we totally love that stuff.) We’re here for some real talk about what it takes to survive and thrive as a photographer.
To-Do Lists are GOLD (If You Do Them Right)
“I was drowning with no one to save me,” shares LaJoy Cox, an Atlanta, Georgia, wedding photographer who built her business while juggling single parenthood and a day job. “There was so much I wanted to accomplish that it was hard not to work all the time,” she admits. “I found myself editing at 2:00 A.M. instead of sleeping, and responding to emails during family movie times and even during dates.”
Sound familiar? We want to help you control your time so you are as healthy as your business! Here’s where to start:
Clear Your Mind with Master To-Do Lists
Getting organized is a great first step toward getting your head above water. But it’s not enough to make a checklist of only your photography-related tasks. To take care of yourself and your business, you also need a deep understanding of your personal priorities.
To begin, create two Master Lists: one for business tasks and one for personal tasks. As you think of new tasks throughout the day, add them to the appropriate Master List. Will these lists get long? Yes. But think of your Master Lists as your mental dumping ground: a place to clear your mind of its clutter.
Identify Your Top Three Priorities Every Day
At the end of each day, create two Top Three Lists: one for the next day’s personal priorities, and one for your business priorities. Use your Master Lists to populate your Top Three Lists every evening.
#ShootProofPRO Tip: Sleep Tight!
End-of-day lists are the best! Why? Because list-making is proven to help you sleep better!
Your Top Three Lists should be:
- Detailed. Don’t just write “edit photos” and “dog.” Get specific! Try, “edit Kris and Ava’s engagement session” and “take Rover to the groomer.” The point is to itemize bite-sized tasks that you can accomplish in one sitting. Even large projects can be broken down into small tasks!
- Timed. Add a (realistic) time estimate beside each item. This will help you organize your day so you aren’t still up at midnight completing your to-do lists.
- Balanced. If you miraculously complete the day’s Top Three Lists with time to spare, you can always snag another item or two from your Master Lists – but keep it balanced! Don’t reload your business list and ignore your personal list. If you add “update last month’s bookkeeping,” you should also add, “take a 30-minute walk.” This will help you take care of yourself as well as your growing photography brand!
Stop Multitasking. STOP IT.
Yeah, yeah, you can do it ALL at the SAME TIME! You’re a friggin’ superhero!
Here’s the thing: just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Turns out, multitasking actually makes us less productive, less efficient, and can even lower our IQs. Ouch!
Take Care of Yourself by Doing One Thing at a Time
If you’re a dedicated multitasker, it can be really hard to break the habit. To start focusing on one task at a time, LaJoy suggests that you look at things like a photographer and ask yourself, “What’s in focus?”
“If you are always sending emails to clients, your phone screen or computer is in focus,” explains LaJoy. “Meanwhile, your child is telling you about something that happened at school and you can’t even remember what they were wearing that day because you never actually looked away from your device to look at them when responding.”
When you realize you’re multitasking – especially when it’s to the detriment of relationships you value – you need to stop the distracting behavior, take a breath, and intentionally focus on what matters most in that moment. Sometimes what matters most will be your kid showing you their crayon drawing of a cat on a trampoline. Sometimes it will be the email you’re writing. Both are okay. Choose one.
If you’re ready to cut back on all that stressful multitasking, you need to practice single-tasking. In our tech-heavy culture, this can be tough. Here are some exercises that will build your single-tasking muscles so you can take care of yourself:
- Take a walk without your headphones
- Eat a meal without watching television
- Pet your pet, brush your child’s hair, or give yourself a neck massage without any other distractions (or something else touch-oriented, like knitting, coloring, or even folding laundry)
- Participate in a short guided meditation (try a FREE meditation at Headspace.com)
The more you practice single-tasking, the easier you’ll breathe while you’re doing just one thing. “I get it,” says LaJoy. “We got into business to do things the way we want to do things and to build a future for our children and make something special. However, mental health and self care are necessary to maintain a great company. So take care of yourself!”
Give Yourself Permission to Build an All-You Business
Sometimes, dreams of success are the ultimate motivators. Other times, those dreams are your worst enemy. Especially when you’re envisioning your dream life as a photographer, it’s easy to obscure your own wonderfully one-of-a-kind future behind the world’s expectations of who you should be and how you should get there.
What if there were no expectations? How would your life look if you wove it, pattern-free, out of every beautiful moment, every hard knock, every eye-opening experience, every wild ride? Because here’s the truth: you will never weave that life if you keep trying to incorporate threads of someone else’s success.
Invite Wisdom Into Your Life
Think about the people you know who allow you to truly be yourself. Who can you laugh with, cry with, be quiet with? Whose energy fills you up and never sucks you dry?
Hopefully, some of these people are in your family and social circle already. Put effort into those relationships, and expand on that empowering community at every opportunity. Then, as LaJoy recommends, “listen to the people around you.”
When the people you admire overlap with the people who know you best, you are blessed with truly remarkable sources of wisdom and insight. These are the individuals who will cheer you on as you grow into the “you-est” you possible – and build the “you-est” brand imaginable.
Own Your Truth
“Believe in your purpose,” LaJoy imparts. “Know which clients you want to service so you can cut out those who aren’t interested in what you offer.”
It can feel scary to define yourself so narrowly, but knowing who you are (and who you aren’t) doesn’t mean you have to be unkind to those outside those parameters. It just means you can be fully and unabashedly yourself, and connect mismatched clients with photographers who are a better fit for them.
Quit waiting for the “perfect opportunity” to finally get organized, slow down, and take care of yourself. The time is now. Now, when you’re stressed, when life is crazy, when you’re feeling uncertain or overwhelmed or all alone. You will never regret investing in yourself, because when you’re healthy and happy, your business, relationships, and day-to-day experiences will be healthy and happy, too.
Written by ANNE SIMONE | Featuring LAJOY PHOTOGRAPHY