It seems that each year I tend to have a crazy season and a slower season with the photography business. (Life in general the past few years seems to be in a perpetual crazy season, but that’s a whole story for another post…)
I was thinking about it the other night, and I realized it is soooo easy to let the busy season be the crazy season, and to let the slower season become the stagnant season. Neither way of doing things is really all that ideal.
In the crazy season, you go go go until you just can’t. You run the risk of burn out. It’s easier to forget the “why” of what you do, rather than focusing on that. You get caught up in the to-do lists, rather than caught up in the whole creative process.
On the other hand, in the slower season, it easier to lose momentum. It’s easier to lose sight of the bigger goals because the to-do list isn’t there (or as pressing). It’s easy to let a slow season become an off season. To let the camera collect dust, to let the blog posts slow down, to let the priority shift elsewhere.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of falling prey to both of these seasons. I’ve let the crazy season turn the process into a chore, and I’ve let the slow season allow the business and my growth within it just slip away… out of sight, out of mind.
This year though, I’ve really tried to be determined to balance things out. To win the everyday battles so that by the end of the year, I feel like the war has been won. I haven’t won every battle, but I think I’ve done much better this year than I have in the past. So to those of you trying to balance it all out, here’s a few things that have helped me the past few months:
Taming the Crazy:
- In the busy times, I forced myself to take a night off to sit on the couch with a bowl of Blue Bell and watch re-runs or DVR with Max. Sure, that means I’ll likely finish that session and get the gallery ready to go a little later than planned, but because I’ve been putting in hard work, I should still be able to deliver on time, if not early. These nights might not have anything particularly special, but the time off is just what I need to re-charge and get back at it with renewed vigor the next night.
- I have decided that the photography to-do list won’t start until Peanut goes to bed. Just because I’ve chosen to have this on top of my full time job doesn’t mean that I can let the little moments with her slip by with me at my computer. Sure, starting the to-do list at 8 or 9 at night knowing I have to be up at 5:30 the next morning isn’t ideal, but it’s so totally worth it to have that time with her. Family first. (This also means that I’m spending that time with Max as well… much easier to talk about how his day was or what we’re doing this weekend when I’m not editing or writing blog posts.)
- Say no if needed. This one is still a hard one for me, but I’m getting there. I’m the type of photographer who really and truly wants my clients to get the photos (and experience) they deserve. I want them to know that they are a priority, and that I value their time too, so I’m typically willing to try to make things work – even if that means a shoot prior to my full time job, or one when I get off at 5pm (if the light will be good enough at those times). But sometimes, with the options I have, and the life I have to make a priority as well, the answer just has to be “no.” If I’ve given a few options of days and times, I just have to let it go. I’m fortunate though that I get the BEST clients, and they are typically more than willing to adjust as needed too, so this doesn’t have to happen all that often.
- Re-focus on the “why” – whether you need to design a perfect background for your computer with a saying that keeps you focused, or maybe for photographers it’s an image that speaks to you and pulls at those parts of your heart that are always calling you to the camera. Take time to shoot what you WANT, not just what you’re getting paid for. Challenge yourself. Try to recreate your favorite image in a new way. Do a photo-a-day challenge. Create 3 different edits of the same shot. Dontate your services to someone who truly needs them. Whatever it is that will bring you back to center and remind you of the “why” – do it.
Preventing the “Dead” Season:
- Make sure you set BIG goals for yourself. Having things that are on a broader-based to-do list will give you a spring board for projects when you might have fewer shoots. Really think about the future of your business, and take that extra time you have to dive into ways to make those things come to fruition. Take an online class. Redesign that website. Connect with local vendors you haven’t worked with before.
- Shoot for YOU. Just like in the last method for taming the crazy, you can use this time you have to really think about what it is you WANT to shoot. Typically a newborn photographer? If you’ve got a slow month, and you’re itching to do some fashion shoots – go make them happen. Ask a friend to live out her Next Top Model dreams, then share a glass or two of wine afterward. Take the time to shoot for you – it’ll keep you sharp, and you never know what new ideas/shoots it may kick up for you.
- Try something new. Maybe it’s themed mini-sessions. Maybe it’s a booking promotion. Maybe it’s a contest. Doesn’t matter what it is, just try something. The slower times are the times that you can afford to put your effort into something you aren’t used to. Go ahead. Try something. Just promise me you won’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work out the way you imagined.
So here’s to evening things out: keeping your fire without burning out, and making the most of the time you’ve got. The sky’s the limit, so go make it happen.