We’ve been photographers for over seven years now. We have three kids, age 8, 6, and 4. Since we started our business after we had kids, we’ve always had to be a little creative to make it work.
The thing about working for yourself is that it’s incredibly awesome and incredibly overwhelming, all at the same time. Since we do this together, Josh and I both get to stay home with our kids. That means two parents at every field trip, every school party, and kindergarten lunch every Friday.
But it also means staying up late working after the kids are in bed, ShootQ reminding me that I’m 32 days behind on 48 tasks, and running back and forth between soccer games, wedding consults, and portrait sessions every Sunday, squeezing in just enough time to grab a burrito at Chipotle and call it dinner.
And just like I told you in my first post about balancing personal life, maintaining that balance in work life is a constant struggle. The thing that we’ve discovered though, is that if you put certain strategies to work for you, you can be a lot more efficient, which certainly helps with keeping the balance!
The five strategies I want to share are set lower expectations, get organized (and stay that way!), have clearly defined roles, get help, and take care of yourself.
Set lower expectations
There’s a quote out there “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good”. Seriously. We all know that if we spent 15 minutes editing each image that we deliver, they would be pretty close to perfect. But who has 15 minutes to edit each image? I don’t. You don’t. Find an editing style that is efficient and makes your photos look “good”. They don’t have to be perfect.
It used to take me 8-10 hours to design a wedding album. I would go back and forth over which images to include and how to best arrange them. But once I got myself some InDesign templates and made my workflow more efficient, I was able to cut that design time down to 3-4 hours. And my clients don’t seem to love my album designs any less even though they take much less time.
Get organized (and stay that way!)
One of the best things we ever did was to sign up for ShootQ, spend the time up front getting it set up, and then continue using it religiously. Whatever system you use, whether it’s an online workflow management tool like ShootQ or Tave or a white board on your wall, it won’t work unless you actually use it.
I hated spending 10 hours getting our workflows set up and organized, but I save 2-3 hours per week now that I have them in place because I’m not constantly trying to figure out WHERE I am in that workflow for each and every client. And I don’t forget to do important things anymore because ShootQ reminds me!
Just like in your home life, you can make your business run better if you find the problem, create a solution, and (this is important!) stick with it. This goes for everything from workflow to sorting business receipts to updating your website. As my friend Natalie Norton likes to say: “Make a plan, keep it simple, work your plan.”
Have clearly defined roles
Okay, this one works best when you work with your spouse in your business. Josh and I work together and we have clearly defined exactly what part of every workflow each of us is responsible for. He edits and blogs. I do the bookkeeping and the album design. And so on. We don’t have to argue about whose turn it is to edit this wedding and because we each specialize, we’re more efficient at our assigned tasks. Also, I hate editing, so that works out well. And he would fall asleep doing our bookkeeping.
Even if your spouse doesn’t work with you, you can still make this one work though. Maybe he takes the kids to soccer practice on Thursday nights so you can work. Or he takes bedtime duty on Mondays so you can schedule client meetings. It’s all about knowing what’s expected of you and keeping up your end of the bargain.
Repeat after me: I need help. Now say it again. Go ahead. I’ll wait. It’s true, whether we want to admit it or not. Now that you know the problem, find your solution. Maybe you outsource album design, hire an office assistant to process print orders, get an intern to do your filing, or just beg your best friend to cook a week’s worth of dinners and leave them in the fridge.
The fact is, we want to have it all. But we can’t do it alone. One of the best decisions we ever made was to get interns. It’s incredibly rewarding to teach someone how to start and run an effective business and it’s even better having someone help me pare down the never-ending to-do list. So quit killing yourself trying to prove a point. Get help and be happier! It’s really that simple.
Take care of yourself
We all know the feeling this time of year. We’re stretched way too thin. We’re trying to juggle holiday print orders, school parties, family parties, last minute wedding album orders, too many family portrait sessions, and oh yeah, cooking dinner, doing laundry, answering email.
This is the time of the year that we stay up too late, get up too early, don’t eat enough of the right foods, can’t find twenty minutes to work out. But the truth is, if we spent a little more time taking care of ourselves, we’d be much better equipped to handle the chaos and craziness.
The last part of taking care of yourself is knowing when to say no to a job. You know that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you get a request for extended family portraits? You know the clients… white t-shirts and jeans, they want to shoot at noon on Christmas Eve outside even though it’s going to be 12 degrees and can’t you just Photoshop in the cousin that couldn’t make it?
Part of taking care of yourself is listening to your instincts and turning down jobs that will only add to your stress level. So just say no! You’ll be glad you did.
I hope these tips can help you as much as they’ve helped me. Do you have anything that you’ve found has helped you be better able to handle the craziness that comes along with running your own business and having a family? Leave me a comment… I’d love to hear about it!
Josh and Jenny Solar, Missouri
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Josh and Jenny Solar are parents to three kids, Max, Ava, and Lia (and a basset hound named Banana). In addition to being full time photographers, they created The Happy Family Movement in the spring of 2011 to encourage and inspire family togetherness through memorable family experiences and simple ideas for happy family living. The overarching goal of The Happy Family Movement is to rewrite the way our generation views raising kids… to seek out a happy family and find the JOY in parenting all over again.