I’ve been in the photography business for 9 years. I am been blessed beyond my deserving but it hasn’t been easy. Being a small-business owner is tough y’all. I’ve over scheduled myself, freaked out over slow seasons, cried with self-doubt, and wanted to quit more times than I care to share. I’ve compared myself to other photographers, been envious of others successes, and beat myself up over whether I’m any good.
But I’ve also photographed incredible clients, witnessed new beginnings, and edited until the wee hours because the session was just that good. I’ve made industry friends who keep my spirits lifted and my heart lighter. It’s been a wild ride but it’s been so wonderful.
I am heading into a slow season, at my own doing, and I started to sit back and reflect on the last 9 years of business. And one of the greatest piece of advice I can give to other creatives is to set limits.
There is a lot floating around the internet about finding your ideal client, growing your company, and knowing your worth. And while those may be helpful, I think the greatest thing we can learn as small business owners is when to say no, when to take time to rest, and when to rearrange priorities.
When I got pregnant with Mila in November of 2013, I immediately decided that I would only take 5 weddings in 2014. I shot a wedding 7 days before Mila made her grand debut in July, and shot two weddings in September. Mila was born 4 weeks early with a rare intestinal defect that required surgery hours after birth. She spent 2 months in the NICU and during that time I was able to really figure out what I wanted as a small business owner.
So, I didn’t take any weddings in 2015.
It was the first time in 6 years that I didn’t shoot one wedding as a primary photographer and it was such a formative time for me and my business. So much so that I heavily considered quitting photography all together at the end of 2015. But alas, I didn’t, but I did figure out what I wanted for my business and I thought I’d share them with you.
Starting in 2016, I decided I wanted to take summers off (June – mid-August) and I wanted to take December – January off as well. I won’t lie – I did take a couple sessions for friends this summer, but other wise I took it as a time to rest. By doing this, it opened up my weekends and my family got to spend more time together. Becoming a mom certainly shifted my focus and while it was hard for a few seasons, I am finally at a place of comfort and contentment.
Below you will find the 7 things I did to shift focus and find time for rest:
- Take time off. I already mentioned this above ;). Putting this into action was tough and I know some peoples income needs don’t allow for them to take months off, but scheduling time off is important.
- Prioritize family time. Vince and I don’t plan on having any more kids and we know that we only have so much time with Mila. What is the quote? “The days are long but the years are short” — something like that. And it’s so true. I blinked and Mila is now a fiercely independent three year old. We sold our dream home so that we could have more family time, less time cleaning, and be closer to downtown. Instead of sitting around watching TV, we have been going on hikes and day trips. Our marriage and family has been flourishing and I am so grateful.
- Find you comfort zone. For me, this is only taking on a maximum of 10 weddings a year. I was not comfortable with the idea of being away from my family 2-3 Saturdays a month, because, well, number 2.
- Building a strong community. I have been a co-leader for our local Tuesdays Together group for a little over a year and this group has seriously changed my life. I have met so many wonderful and supportive people. I truly believe in community over competition and for me building a strong community was more important to me than how much money I make at the end of the year.
- Set the camera down. There have been several times in the past where I regret not bringing my big ole fancy camera with me somewhere but I remember that being present is more important to me. I don’t need a perfectly lit photo of Mila picking apples to appreciate our time at the orchard. While I obviously understand the importance of photography, carrying my fancy camera around with me put me into “photographer mode” instead of “mommy mode” or “wife mode.” Plus, most days a simple iPhone photo is sufficient for me.
- Learn to say no. In the past I have over booked and over scheduled myself leaving me exhausted and stressed out. Learning to say ‘no’ isn’t just a limit I set in my professional life, it very much carries over into my personal life. I’ve also had to learn to be ok with other’s disappointment in my ‘no.’ While I never set out to disappoint people, I’ve learned that in order to give my very best, I have to limit where my ‘yes’ goes.
- Family photos. Before Mila, Vincent and I did three sessions the first 6 years we were married….which to be honest is more than most couples. But since having Mila, I’ve really learned the importance of what I do. Photography matters.
My business, my clients, my work matter to me. I feel fulfilled and so blessed to be able to call myself a professional photographer, but I am first and foremost a wife & mother. I had to learn to set limits in order to find balance.
What about y’all? What have you done in your life recently that has caused (or even required) you to shift focus?
We have gotten to have our photos taken by some amazing photographers over the last few years and I wanted to share a few!