High fives to all the working parents living their dream and taking care of their kids. I get it, it ain’t easy. It’s hard work and you deserve any and every award anyone could possibly receive (and by award, I mean allllll the sleep, wine and french fries you could ever wish for).
As a stay at home parent AND full time photographer, trying to find and then maintain work-life balance can be tricky. It took me awhile to find a bit of a stride while working from home with my little man, Grey, at my side, but I’ve found a few things that work for me and I want to share them with you!
Step 1 – It doesn’t always go as planned.
Lately my days have been scheduled around setting a timer and taking Grey to the potty every half hour. Glamorous life, lemme tell ya. However, the sooner you can realize that your work-at-home life won’t always go as planned, the better! That’s not to say all your best-laid plans will fail, but being a stay a home parent means some days your attention is more on your sick kid than the edits you were excited to get done for your amazing clients! Try planning your day with a little wiggle room around the big things you know you have to do like Skype meetings with new clients or in-person meetings!
Step 2 – Set some boundaries.
Know when to stop working! This is probably one of the hardest things when your computer is RIGHT there and you know you could just quickly send an email to answer a clients question, or when you have an epic idea for a shoot and you just want to get the details written down. When my (handsome) husband gets home, I know it’s time to prioritize my family so we can enjoy the moments we have together before our toddler is a teenager and all my husband and I want to do is sit on the front porch and watch our neighbors.
Take a look at your week; the meetings you have, the sessions you are shooting, the edits you have to get done, and then set your ‘working hours’ for each day. I am a big advocate for planning in your day time that you will NOT work. For me, I know that from the time my son wakes up until around 10:30 AM is our morning time together. Then I’ll power up my computer and start working on admin kinds of things – responding to inquiries, answering emails, making invoices, etc. until lunchtime, which is again, time for just me and my son. The other time I schedule NO work at all is the time between when my husband gets home from work and about 9:30 PM. That time is for my family as it’s the only time we’re all three together. After that, I often will spend another hour editing.
Being able to set up your days to your schedule is one of the perks of working from home. Just be sure to set up a schedule that ACTUALLY works and is realistic for you!
Another BIG boundary I set for myself was leaving my camera at home for social events. The only events now that I take my camera to are ones that I know I want to make memories from – the first time we took my son to see 4th of July fireworks, going as a family to visit Santa, my best friend’s 30th birthday. Other than that, I leave my camera (and therefore any temptation to create more work for myself) at home.
Finally, set some boundaries around your social media. Mute the Facebook photography groups; spend less time looking at work in your genre on Instagram. Social media is a wonderful thing, but if you’re constantly spending time with other artist’s work – especially if it’s similar to yours – you’ll start feeling suffocated by all the extra noise out there. I haven’t left the Facebook photography groups I was in, but I did mute them. As soon as my Facebook timeline became free of the constant bombardment of other photographer’s work, I felt my mind starting to fill back up with my own creative ideas and motivation.
Step 3 – Get help!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it! If you have a lot to do and you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, ask someone to come over and watch your kid or kids for a few hours so you can really focus on what you need to get done! There are so many people in your circles who are probably more than willing to help if you just ask.
There’s also the wonderful possibility of taking on an intern or someone who is looking to jump into the photography biz who could be willing to help you do some of the things that aren’t high priorities like blogging, uploading images into Planoly, and responding to emails with canned responses. This can actually be an awesome opportunity for someone who just wants to see what the ‘life of a photographer’ is really like!
My goal as a photographer is to connect with my clients and make beautiful photos. Other than that, I want the rest of my precious few minutes of the day to belong to my family and not run the other parts of the business myself. As my business can afford it, I’m slowly bringing on more people to help me with this. This means jumping on the virtual assistant train and hiring out some tasks that I don’t necessarily love to do while placing them into the hands of professionals who can really make my work shine!
Aaaand before we move on. Let’s just take a moment and talk about the wonder that is Planoly. Planoly is a social media planning app, specifically designed for Instagram. You can upload photos, then drag and drop them into place for a flawless grid. Input the caption, schedule the post, and let Planoly auto post to Insta for you! Planoly makes it SO EASY to plan out Instagram posts while I’m at the pharmacy waiting on the pharmacist to hand me my son’s meds. This app is one of the most helpful things I’ve ever used!
Other help you can invest in that’s well worth the money is hiring household help. If you can knock vacuuming/dusting off your list of chores, you quickly see that free time coming back to you to spend either working or with your family.
Step 4 – Make the most of it.
I’m not saying you should try to multitask ALL THE TIME, but if you’re waiting for a flight in an airport, grab a coffee and reply to some emails. If your computer decides to be slow when loading in your latest session, open up Insta and engage with your followers. Making the most of these little moments can make you feel like an efficiency wizard!
During these moments, it’s also important to realize the GOOD multitasking habits and the BAD multitasking habits. For example, you may need to resist the urge to open Facebook while you wait for Lightroom to load. This is single-handedly my biggest struggle– it’s SO EASY to open up Facebook and lose time by absentmindedly scrolling scrolling scrolling. Set for yourself your little efficiency hacks like emails, and engagement, and stick to them without letting personal tasks creep in.
Step 5: Take care of your creative self.
Do something challenging, inspiring, or out of the box at least once a month. For me, that’s doing things like coming up with a fun shoot idea that my clients typically aren’t going to think of or want to do themselves, finding a couple and doing it for free. I also love going to look at the art of other creators, especially when they’re photographers who do not shoot work like mine or non-photography makers. It’s important that you take time on a regular basis to feed your inner creative. When yourself up creatively, you fill up that reservoir inside you that you pour into your paying clients.
I would absolutely love to hear from you about how you maintain a work-life balance including what tips, programs, or apps you use to help keep the balance! Community over competition is one of my mottos so let’s start a conversation so we can all learn from each other and try some fun new things that can improve how we do our jobs. The better we do our jobs on our own time means we can give better energy to all the lovely humans who book us and trust us to capture their love story and to our own humans who love us no matter how many times we say ‘just one more email!’.