• Work Life Balance for Photographers: 5 Tips for Reclaiming Your Sanity

    Michael Thomas Ireland

    Hostographer - Work Life Balance For Photographers


2 out of 10

Time To Read

12 Minutes

Time To Implement

30 Minutes

Work Life Balance! Something so easy to understand, yet so hard to actually achieve? Let me guess. You started your photography business thinking that you’d click your shutter a few times, edit some photographs, deliver them to the client, and make bank like Scrooge McDuck? Well, alright, maybe you didn’t think it was that easy but it was close to that right? If you’re reading this you’ve probably already discovered that running a business is hard as hell. Sacrifices get made and while they get easier and easier, it certainly doesn’t feel good to neglect things you previously didn’t. It’s especially more difficult when those things are your friends, pets, family, or even yourself.

While I won’t be able to completely eliminate those struggles, I can certainly help. Here are 5 actionable tips to reclaim your sanity and reclaim some of your life so you can spend more time with the truly important people.

1. Map out your week… every week.

Laying out a map or plan for your business is absolutely vital. I’ve been doing since I first entered the job market way too long ago. I tend to work best with a list because it allows me a constant roadmap of my day. I can then prioritize that list and accomplish the most important and/or time-sensitive items. As an added bonus I can look at the list at the end of the day or week and get that sense of accomplishment which keeps me motivated next week.

How you do it is up to you. Maybe you want a weekly list. I have some pretty intense ADHD so I tend to create a daily task list and then every Sunday I’ll write a list of the overall things I want to accomplish through the week. I keep my list closest to me on my desk and knock the items out one by one.

Hostographer - Work Life Balance For Photographers - Always Have A Notepad

A notepad, always ready to go.

Bonus Tips
– If you decide to do it weekly, write your list on Friday before you leave for the weekend. (instead of Sunday). If you write it before leaving on Friday your tasks will be fresh in your mind as opposed to Sunday night or Monday morning when you’re trying to get back into work-mode.

– Hand-write your task lists. Writing it by hand helps you write it to your mind better than typing it does. I personally keep mini-legal pads on my desk at all times. If I don’t have a legal pad near me, I feel lost.

2. Spend A Specific Time Being There for your Clients Every Week

I get it. You feel obligated to be there for your customer (or potential customers) at all times. While this is noble, it’s just not possible for work life balance. Sure, the cynic in me says let’s never speak to customers again, but we also need to grow our businesses. Interacting and getting to know your clients is the best way to do that, period.

Here’s a compromise. Dedicate time every week (or even every day) to spending that time with clients. Online, in person, whatever. Even if it’s a live chat, your Facebook VIP group, or even having local meetups.

Your job as a small business marketer (yes, you are a marketer, like it or not) is to be in the minds of your clients as much as possible. There’s a reason McDonald’s, Coke, and other big brands spend billions on advertising. You can’t go an hour without seeing that Coke logo. Try it. It’s tough.

Not only will this make your existing customers love you more, but it’ll introduce you to new clients naturally. Raising your own personal brand is the key to more referrals which means more jobs which means more income.

Sue Bryce is considered an expert in the industry right? Do you think that distinction helps her find jobs easier? You bet it does. Raise your personal stock and raise your revenue. It’s science.

Bonus Tips
Set this specific time every week (or day) and schedule it, advertise it, market it. Make an event out of it. Build hype. It’s easier to gather people together when it’s not just random times. Example, maybe you’re a family photographer. Every Tuesday at 8 PM have a live chat gathering for your local moms. Give out some prizes as motivation to build even more hype and excitement.

3. Check and respond to your email at specific times.

Are you a slave to your email notification? I was. It was dreadful. I would stop doing whatever I was doing the moment that email dinged. Sometimes it would be a customer, sometimes it would be a marketing email from Target. No matter which, my momentum doing whatever else was completely stopped killing productivity. Something had to change.

A few months back I made the following changes and haven’t looked back since.

  1. Turned off notifications for all email notifications. This included my work PC, my laptop, my phone, my work tablet, and even my wristwatch.
  2. Set specific day(s) and time(s) where you check and respond to any outstanding emails.
  3. Alert clients via your website, auto-responders, etc that you respond to all emails during these specific days and times and if you have an emergency or need to reschedule you can call this number.

Make sure you self-enforce your new rules. Doing all this is worthless if you’re still opening your email client every ten minutes. Honestly, when was the last time you had an email that needed a response within 4 minutes? You’ll be ok, and some of your sanity will be restored promise.

Finally, I’m sure some readers will curse me and click off of this page because there’s no possible way a sane person could possibly let new leads fester for a day or two. I get that, the early bird gets the worm after all.

Setup a new Gmail account that’s for new leads only. Turn on notifications for that box. Now have your other email account forward those new lead emails to the new box. Then the only email notifications you’ll ever see are those shiny new leads.

So fine, you can’t completely cut out your daily emailing dependancy, but you can certainly reclaim much of your time which leads to a healthier work life balance.

4. Take notes, keep track of everything.

There is so much we have to process every day that there’s just no way for the human brain to process it. How many times did you have a brilliant idea that you thought on the toilet, went to wipe, and already forgot? Alright, maybe a notebook wouldn’t have helped you there, unless you’re a weirdo who writes on a notebook while pooping but hey, you do you.

Keeping notes allows you to retain everything for the long haul. You can write what works, what doesn’t. Future ideas. Maybe you see a random business doing something in the realm of marketing that’s brilliant. Maybe you see another business doing something terrible. Write it down.

Hostographer - Work Life Balance For Photographers - Takes Notes For Everything

My business notebook, always within reach.

5. If you’re not being paid, leave the camera at home.

If you’ve been a photographer for more than a week you already know that you’ve become your friends and family’s favorite person when those special events pop up…. and because family helps family and friends help friends, they’re rarely pulling out the checkbook. I also understand that it’s hard to say no to the people who care about you. It’s not exactly easy to tell the person who let you live rent-free in her womb for nine months no, right?

Well, it’s time to say no. At least to most people. Maybe give mom a pass this time? But everyone else, “sorry, I’m off duty”. Let them know before coming that you’ll be bringing yourself, some alcohol, but not your camera. Never feel obligated to be the families official photographer. Uncle Kenny, the plumber doesn’t carry his plunger to family reunions, does he? Just let them know you want to enjoy the day too. You can’t do that if you’re working.


It’s easy to forget about what’s truly important when you’re a small business owner. When you’re the sole reason if a business will succeed or fail, the pressure mounts and it’s easy to fall into that trap of prioritizing business over your friends and family. It’s only natural that you think if the business fails, you fail those same people. Balance is good, balance is necessary. Hopefully, these five methods will get you started for now. Implement these and be on the lookout for five more next month.

We asked our community for their own work balance hacks. Here’s what they said.

“Honestly. it starts with knowing your business so that you can go in and not overbook/overwork yourself. Then set aside at least one day a week where you focus on home life.”

Tiffany Maxey

“I use the app “clear” as a checklist so I don’t forget anything. I can make multiple lists and reprioritize tasks on the list so nothing falls through the cracks.”

Sarah Par-tay Hardin

“I think it’s important to be able to say “no” to clients sometimes. There will be occasions where a client may not be the correct fit for you and in the end, it will end up causing you more work and emotional stress if you agree to the session despite your hesitations. If you’re feeling overwhelmed know that it’s okay to scale back and become more selective about what you take on. Your business will actually succeed more in the long run if you do less work with better quality.”

Leslie Jennings

“Keep a timeline, Write. It. Down! Do the things in the order that they have to be done in. If it takes 16 days for a canvas or prints to be delivered make sure to order it 20 days before you need it. Nothing beats prior planning when it comes to delivering on time.”

Gloria Sorenson Reiss

“Outsource anything that isn’t something unique only you can do. Automate anything repeatable!”

Carissa Lyn Potterton

“Time with my family is super important to me! Aside from shooting (which generally takes place in the evening), I have set office hours. When I clock out, I leave work behind so that I can be more fully engaged as a wife and mother. Knowing that I have specific hours devoted to work helps me manage my time better and provide consistent service to my clients.”

Jessica Robinson

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