Tips + Techniques

Sage Advice from a Marketing Expert on Creating a Long-Term Work-Life Balance

February 18, 2020

By Christine Tremoulet

We all dream of the longevity of the photographs that we create; the images that future generations will look at to remember the people they loved, the memories of their lifetime. Have you ever considered the longevity of your business and the steps you need to take to preserve it?

In terms of business longevity, work-life balance is often discussed, but when you are the business owner, what does that even mean? Where does your work end and your life begin? The line is completely blurred.

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At the start of my photography career, I told a friend that achieving this balance was my goal, and she asked me if I had ever spent time on a balance board at the gym. Have you tried one? As you stand on it, you are constantly adjusting and it is physically exhausting. It drains you. It never stops; you are never still.

It was at that moment that I realized that the work-life balance that I envisioned is a myth. Your work and your life are not two separate things, and trying to separate them leads to more stress and frustration as you are constantly working to keep that balance board level. It is important that you take care of yourself, along with your business, to achieve the career longevity that you desire in photography. To do that, you need to create a structure that will allow you to achieve happiness across all aspects of your life. That way, your work can support your life, and your life can support your work.

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Set Goals

Success means very different things to different people. Everyone is in various stages of their careers. For some, success means a supplemental income to their own or their partner’s full-time income. Others might define success as a multi-photographer studio with a high volume of clientele. Does that make one photographer more “successful” than the other photographer? No. 

For your own happiness, your success should be framed by what your goals are, first and foremost.

Define your goals. I recommend working from the top down: 

What do you want to earn in a year?  

Once you know that, what do you need to hit monthly to get there? How much income do you need to bring in? How many clients do you need per month? 

Can you break those numbers down per week? 

There is no mythical income number that you need to hit to be deemed a successful photographer, as long as you are setting and achieving your personal business goals.

You also need to consider your future plans. 

Are you hoping to have employees someday? Do you want to own a brick-and-mortar studio? Are you willing to keep up on marketing trends, forecasting and sales?  

Success means happiness

If you’re making six figures a year yet you’re miserable and stressed and haven’t had a vacation in three years, you will burn out.

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Be Deliberate With Your Time

You are an artist, but your business is a machine that needs to be fed. It will only put out what you put in. Some days, it feels like it will not stop, as you spend late nights at the computer editing and working on holidays, weekends, doing everything you can to feed that machine. This is when life balance begins to break down. Take control of it before it overwhelms you.

Remove Time-Wasters 

It came to light recently when I was in the California National Parks how often I picked up my phone to check Facebook. It is a mindless task, a physical hit of dopamine, but it takes our focus away from what we need to be doing. Removing the Facebook app allowed me to regain a significant amount of time back in my day. Whether it is social media or mobile games, they can be distractions in your workday. Remove your easy access to them.

Look Out for “Procrastiworking”

What work do you do when you are procrastinating, avoiding a task that you dread? This activity looks like work, but in reality, it probably isn’t where you need to be focused. Have you ever found yourself redesigning your website when you should be editing your latest session or creating a client album? Procrastination is most often fear wearing a disguise; when you start procrastiworking, you need to recognize what is taking place. Ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?” What is the worst thing that will happen if you get the work done? 

Manage Your Schedule 

Build a schedule for yourself that accounts for tasks you must accomplish to move your business forward while also including breaks to have a life. Consider using a system such as time blocking to dedicate time daily to critical business tasks. This is how you keep the business machine fed; a steady revenue stream requires steady marketing and sales for your business. Without planning, these tasks will fall to the bottom of your to-do list. In planning your day, it is also important to consider your own energy levels, your natural rhythm. Take advantage of your peak high-energy times, scheduling tasks that take less focus in the slower parts of your day.

Outsource Work 

This is effectively buying your own time back from your business. The majority of photographers I know run businesses by themselves, wearing all the hats. This may seem to have financial advantages, but you are not an expert at everything. There are people out there that you can hire to do tasks as well as you do them or better, for less than what you pay yourself.

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Take Care of Yourself

Your business, as a machine, relies on your well-being. If you are not there to tend to it, it will not move forward. Surrounding yourself with a supportive community is a crucial asset for any photographer. Nurture the relationships with your family and friends, in addition to your peers in the industry.

A key element is to make sure that you are taking time off. If you work on the weekends, try to schedule one or two days during the week as an alternate weekend. Schedule plans for dinner with a friend, a date night with your partner or a day with your family. 

Plan a vacation.

They are not a luxury; studies show that a vacation will revive you and improve your creativity and your work. You will see an increase in productivity, along with happiness. If you have not taken a vacation in years, 2020 is the time to put one on the calendar and make it a reality. 

If you do not deliberately schedule these times, work will take over. There will always be something that is more urgent at the moment. After all, you are building this business to create a wonderful life. The life part won’t happen if you don’t keep your business in check. 

Christine Tremoulet is a Houston-based photographer who launched her professional career in 2007. Her work has spanned weddings, boudoir and brand photography. She is also a speaker and educator, focusing on marketing and selling online so that you can build a business you love that supports the life you want to live. She is the host of the Reframe Success podcast. 

WPPI: This will be her sixth year speaking at WPPI. “Your Journey to Tell Your Stories, Book More Clients and Make More Money,” takes place Feb. 27, from 3:00-5:00 p.m.