Photography balance is an elusive animal. Entrepreneurs as a group are more enthusiastic about work than most. Many of us started working at a very young age because we felt motivated to be productive. We also tend to derive a lot of personal fulfillment from the work that we do. I’ll be honest up front, balance has never been my strong suit. I like to give the task in front of me everything I have. Not the worst quality, but it can have a negative impact if left unchecked.
While I was in college I worked with a middle-aged guy at a local grocery store whom I personally liked, but was perhaps not the most enthusiastic worker. His lack of enthusiasm frustrated me a little bit, but I did learn a lot from him over the years we worked together. He had a handful of phrases he liked to repeat given the chance and one of them stood out to me — it goes like this: “There’s no sense killing yourself.” Simple and effective. In other words, you have a long life ahead of you, manage yourself now so you can continue to perform over the long haul.
Every Photographer Has Needs
Imagine for a moment that you have a personal cook, the best that money can buy. There is a catch, you can only choose one meal. You will of course choose your favorite meal. You’ll get to have this meal 3 times a day for the rest of your life. Probably sounds great at first, but over time you’re affinity for this meal will sour and eventually you will grow to hate the meal that once held such a special place in your heart.
Starting a photography business is a very exciting adventure. It is tempting to want nothing else than to find clients, take pictures, repeat. While I encourage you to embrace this excitement, it’s important to keep in mind that this feeling will fade without some moderation and balance. You’re now your own boss and you wouldn’t deny your employee a balanced life, so why are you doing it to yourself? List out the things that make you feel fulfilled in life outside the studio and make time for all of them. Don’t let work be an excuse for not living.
Being Busy Doesn’t Equal Success.
While listening to a popular radio show on my way home from work I listened to a caller describe her success as a photographer. Essentially this woman was working 100 hours a week and making about $20,000 a year. Guess what, she was calling because she was burning out. No kidding! I was much more impressed with her stamina than her business success. That’s not to say that someone should be judged on their income, that’s not the point. The takeaway from this example is that time is a precious commodity. You have a fixed number of hours to fulfill all of life’s needs and dedicating 80% of your time to a job that isn’t even paying the rent is not a recipe for a happy life or a successful business.
Many photographers feel that having people beat down their door for an appointment is success — it’s not. Having an overflowing schedule is actually a sign that you have some maturing to do as an entrepreneur. Every photographer should be asking themselves several questions consistently. How much am I making per hour of work? Am I making the revenue necessary for basic living? If I don’t have the revenue for basic living, what do I need to change? Did I eat lunch today? Where are my kids? Am I still married? etc.
Photography Balance Brings Business Success
Your body is not a machine. If you don’t give your body a break to recover, you’ll find yourself becoming less productive. In addition, a tired and weak body is less apt to identify better ways to pursue your business goals. You may convince yourself that sitting at a computer isn’t that hard and you can push yourself longer hours. You are wrong. Your mind is going to fatigue just like any other muscle in your body and if your mind slows down, so does everything else. Making time for everything (i.e. family, friends, fun, sleep, food, etc.) will make you better able to accomplish the demands of your business.
Your business can be a great source of personal satisfaction over the course of your career. Your business is, however, not the only source of satisfaction. Ignoring all or part of the other aspects of your life will inevitably lead to burnout and resentment. Conversely, leading a balanced life will allow you to reach your business goals faster. You are running a marathon, so don’t let your eagerness rob you of future success. I assure you that a balanced life will help you achieve your photography goals.
photo credit: Cindy Tang