Having a Full Time Job…and Pursuing Photography

Business

One of the frequently asked questions I receive is how a photographer can balance working a full-time job and pursue professional photography at the same time. I try to offer my insight as best as possible, but it’s been five years since I had a part-time job and ventured into full-time wedding photography, so I wonder if I’m out of touch. Kinda like saying Let’s Git Jiggy Wit It in front of a group of teenagers…please don’t ask me about that. It’s a long and painful story.

I’m thoroughly impressed with how my friend Gail Werner handles the balance between her full-time job, being a professional photographer, and having a life. We’ve chatted about show she’s seemingly Super Woman (sans the leotard bootie shorts), but what it really boils down to is discipline. That’s it. I asked her to share more about how she successfully pursues business, art, and the love for many things.

When Jasmine asked if I could help with a guest blog post, I was happy to. Because, quite honestly, I think she’s the hardest working girl in the industry. And I want her to enjoy a vacation free of thoughts about blogging. Or anything, really, that doesn’t involve a drink with a little umbrella in it. 🙂

For the past two years, I’ve juggled a full-time position in public relations and a photography career. In my situation, I love both jobs. So the balance I’ve struck lets me carry on a fulfilling dual career. And yet, I know many are looking to transition into becoming full-time photographers, trying to do so while working 9-to-5 jobs and/or raising kids at the same time. It’s difficult, but I believe if you love the art of photography and are willing to manage your expectations, you can make it work. And maybe still enjoy episodes of Modern Family every now and then, too!

Here are a few thoughts on time management, organization and staying healthy. These kernels of truth have allowed me to reach ever closer to that elusive idea of a “balanced life.” I’m not sure any of us in this industry have mastered the idea, but we’re all better off for trying!

REMAIN IN CONTROL OF YOUR INBOX: I try to keep my inbox to fewer than 20-30 messages through a process I read about in “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. In a nutshell, I DELETE what I can; FILE what I want to keep but don’t need to act on (I set up folders like “Invoices” or “Receipts/Registrations” to handle this), DO the less-than-two-minute responses and MOVE into reminder folders things I’m waiting for (like responses back to emails I’ve sent out). As Allen says: “Getting everything you can out of your inbox is a huge boon to your clarity and control of day-to-day work. If you let your inbox become a staging ground for undecided action items and reference, your mind will grow numb, knowing you have to reassess everything every time you glance at the screen.” Time’s too precious to do that!

GET A WORKFLOW DOWN AND KEEP IT SIMPLE: If you’re not a full-time photographer, it’s going to be next-to-impossible to turn a wedding around in under a week. My goal with every wedding is a 2-week turnaround (telling my clients’ 3 weeks to pad the timeframe). This turnaround covers everything from culling/editing to finished blog post and preparation of deliverables. To keep things simple, I’m pretty much a shoot-and-burn photographer; I don’t have time for print order sessions or the errands involved with a lot of inventory. If you are in a dual-work situation similar to my own, you have to come up with a workflow you can stick to. There isn’t time to experiment with post-processing techniques, edit every image in Photoshop (I do the bulk of my editing in Lightroom) or take a week off and come back to it. Doing so is a sure-fire way to lose momentum and momentum is your workflow’s best friend.

LEARN TO SAY NO: The only way I can hold myself to this workflow is turning sessions down that take away from it. I am first and foremost a wedding photographer. I shoot 2 weddings a month (sometimes 3 for an average of 10-12 a year) and I have to keep it that way if I want to keep myself feeling balanced each month. It’s hard to turn some clients away, but remember your sanity is worth it. It’s often times better to build your business slowly and steadily. I’ve seen many photographers burn out with their inability to say no. Clients will keep coming, trust me. And some day, you’ll be ready not to have to turn them away.

LIMIT YOUR WORK HOURS: I make it a point most nights to cook dinner and eat with my husband. Afterwards, we squeeze in TV time on Hulu or Netflix or a walk with the dog before I head to work in my office. My aim is to keep at least one weeknight and one weekend evening work free, but on nights where I am in the office, my workframe window is 2 to 3 hours (typically from 8 until 10 or 11 so I can keep some time to read for pleasure before bedtime). I stick to this limited arrangement, plowing through my checklist as quickly and efficiently as I can. In some ways, it works to my advantage because I don’t have time for distractions like the Internet or social media.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY: When I see photographers posting to Facebook about how they’re editing until 2 a.m., I think a) that’s crazy! (I’m in bed by 11:30 most nights, thanks to a day job that starts at 8 a.m.) and b) it’s a warning sign of burn out. Building a photograph career shouldn’t come at the price of your health. You can’t work at your best (or be as fast thinking) if you’re letting yourself turn into a zombie from “The Walking Dead”!