Amanda Kraft is a photographer and holistic health coaching living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She photographs high school seniors and recently created Stop Editing, Start Living to help creative professionals regain control of their businesses, so they can live the life they have always dreamed of. Most days she can be found coaching her clients, preparing gourmet dinner, relaxing with her husband or enjoying the open road in her jeep.
I've been on the receiving end of text messages that go something like this: “OMG, my to do list is kicking my butt, who did you recommend outsourcing editing to?, Is it November yet?” My group of photography and designer friends are all hitting mid season burnt out and we are only in July. While my shooting season is just getting started I am feeling cool as a cucumber. The same feeling I have been experiencing for the last three years. Your going to say to yourself… isn't that great, she probably isn't shooting at all! Wrong! I am shooting, but on my own terms. For the first 7 years of my business I was a manic one woman show; completely unhappy, working countless late nights and traveling non-stop. Every ounce of me went into building my business and the only thing that I received in return was a bigger waist line and major headaches. Fast forward to three years ago when I finally woke up and realized that I might have the career I have always dreamed of, but the life I wanted to go along with it, clearly wasn't happening.
When I actually decided to Stop Editing and Start Living my life changed and over the next few weeks- I am going to share my top tips to help you to regain control of the business that you love so much, so you can live the life you have always dreamed of.
a) Take a social media vacation: Allocate 30 minutes a day to check in with your social media accounts and then close it down for the rest of the day. You will be amazed at how much work you can accomplish in a day when social media distractions are taken out of the equations. I remember sitting in a photography seminar with Travis Guggleman speaking and he said something that really changed my life, he said “In 40 years, when you are sitting on the front porch with your husband/wife, it isn't going to matter who won this past season of the Bachelor or American Idol” and he is completely right. All of this extra “stuff” we distract ourselves with really has no bearing on our daily lives. Sure, who doesn't love a good YouTube video, but if you are already feeling overwhelmed, watching the video isn't going to help cross off tasks off of your to do list.
b) Create a schedule: Take 15 – 20 minutes to create a schedule for the rest of the year! Yes, for the next 6 months. Start with scheduled weddings, events and sessions you already have contracted. Then add in family obligations and a few “personal” days. Determine which days of the week you want to designate for shoot days, admin days and editing days. Don't tell me that your clients won't understand or your business won't survive. Trust me, it will and by limiting yourself to the days you shoot for your sanity will only put you in greater demand. For my business,Monday and Wednesday's are shoot days and are the only two days given when a client calls to book a shoot. On a very rare occasion, I will open a Thursday if I am planning to be out of town for a few days, but I control my schedule not them! When you go to the dentist or doctor, you are on their schedule, so why do we as photographers feel the need to cater to every whim of a client?
c) Hours of Operation: If you aren't creating defined business hours than you are doing yourself a major dis-service. You can't expect clients to adhere to your boundaries if you haven't set them for yourself. If you choose to work from 9 – 5 daily than don't email your clients at 11pm at night and get mad when they start an email conversation back and forth or worse yet, call you on the phone! Once you have created your defined business hours and shooting schedule, start to leave the “office” at quitting time. All of the “extra” hours you are putting in more than likely aren't greasing your pocket in overtime pay. So, why work and put in all of these extra hours working for “free”?
d) Do one thing for yourself everyday: Take a 30 minute walk in the morning with the dog, stop by the driving range and hit a bucket of golf balls or try a new fitness class. Better yet, prep dinner for that evening in the morning before your day starts, so you actually have something healthy to eat. For most of us, we wanted to have our own business to allow freedom and flexibility in our lives, so don't feel guilty by actually taking the time to workout or do something other than edit photos.
e) Sweet dreams: Ask yourself when you last had a great night of sleep? Spending countless nights working til the wee hours of the morning isn't doing you much of a benefit. More than likely you are oversleeping in the morning, running behind schedule and never feeling caught up. Get yourself back on a normal sleep schedule. Bed by 11 and up by 7 or whatever works for you. If you set your office hours to start at 10am imagine what you can get done before 10 each day.
Come back here in a couple of days to check out the next installment in this series by Amanda Kraft. If you would like to share your experiences, please comment below!