Let me preface this by saying that I am no expert on finding a balance because that is one thing I failed at miserably and it’s something I still struggle with.  As a perfectionist and Type A personality, I have a tendency to obsess about making things perfect and wanting to provide the best experience to my clients at any cost… even at the expense of my personal life, my family, or my health.  Just this year, I decided I needed to make a change and put myself first again.  I need to focus on my health, my family, and separating my home life and business life.  But it’s SO HARD when you have a new business.  I honestly don’t feel like we (small business owners) have the luxury of having that balance right away.  Starting your own business takes dedication, hard work, and hustle.  It means your business has to come first – especially if you want to succeed.  Balance will (hopefully) come later, but just realize that the first few years will be tough and most likely, you won’t have any sort of balance in your life.  At least that’s what I’ve found to be true.  In order to succeed you have to make sacrifices.

When I was working full-time on top of doing photography, I felt like I had to come home at 6pm and hop right on the computer to answer emails, update my website, blog, etc. and normally I wouldn’t stop until 9pm or later.  This meant no time for dinner with my husband, no time to spend quality time together after work, no attention was paid to my dogs, no cleaning the house, nothing.  But I felt like I had no choice and maybe that was true.  All of the hard work I’ve put into my photography businesses is really starting to pay off so in the long run, not having that balance has paid off.

But that’s not to say that you can’t find SOME balance in your life while trying to start your photography business while working full-time.  So here are some of my suggestions on how to balance your full-time job and your photography business.

1.  Set a schedule and stick to it.  Planning out your day when you have so much on your plate can be extremely helpful.  Carve out time for yourself, whether it be going to the gym, taking the dogs for a walk, or doing yoga.  You need to dedicate at least 30 minutes a day to yourself, to clear your head, get away from the computer, and just enjoy yourself.  This has been huge for me.  Walking 2 miles a day with my dogs is probably some of the most productive time I spend throughout the day.  I can think freely plus I’m getting exercise and spending time with my dog all at the same time.  Talk about productivity!  Carve out time to spend with your family.  If you have kids, you need to realize that they come first and you need to make sure you aren’t missing their childhood.  Think about scheduling your photography work time for after they have gone to bed.  Also, schedule an hour or two MAX to work on your photography business each evening after work.  Anything more than that will drain you and you’ll quickly find yourself stuck in the situation I was in myself.  Practice what I preach, not what I actually did :)

2.  Throughout the week, make a To Do list to keep you on track with what actually needs to be accomplished.  This will make your photography business time much more productive.  Often times, we find ourselves sucked into Facebook or Pinterest without realizing it and *POOF* you just wasted 45 minutes doing nothing at all to help your business.  Creating a list of things that actually need your attention will help you focus on making the most of your work time.

3.  If you start feeling like you’re in a rut, go for a drive.  Seriously.  This is how I recharge and find inspiration.  Go visit an area of town you’ve never been before.  Go into that little antique shop on Main Street you’ve been dying to check out.  Do something different with your family.  Inspiration comes with balance, so get out there and find it.

4.  Outsource the things you don’t like to do or that aren’t your strong suit.  It may seem silly to spend money on outsourcing when you’re just starting out, but build it into your pricing and spend that time doing something you enjoy and that will help build your business.  One popular thing to outsource is editing.  Not many photographers enjoy that process and there are really affordable labs that will do it for you.  If you don’t like to blog, talk to a friend and see if they’d be willing to write for you.  Hate the business side of things?  Hire a bookkeeper or intern to help keep the paperwork and data entry under control.  Think about ways to maximize your productivity and spend time doing things that will build your business like networking and marketing.

5.  Learn that it’s okay to say no.  When we are just starting out, we are starving for work and sometimes, we’ll take anything that comes down the pike.  If it doesn’t feel right, it’s okay to say no!  Hate photographing newborns but your friend has asked you?  Don’t feel like you have to say yes.  You can always give her referrals for awesome newborn photographers who actually LOVE what they do.  Is your plate already full with clients and you have a few inquiries demanding your attention?  Don’t feel obligated to take every client that comes along.  Sometimes, there are good reasons to say no.

6.  Dedicate time to your education.  Take time each week to read up on the latest industry trends, read a business book, learn about marketing.  Knowledge is power and sometimes, sitting down with a good business read can be just the break you need to help strike a good balance while at the same time, being productive.

7.  Don’t forget about personal projects.  Often times, we spend so much time on the administrative side of the business that we forget about actually shooting.  Go out and practice every week and don’t forget about personal projects.  It can be anything that inspires you – landscapes, sunsets, stray cats, architecture, hidden letters, flowers.  Anything!  Doing something purely for yourself, while also giving you an opportunity to be creative and practice, is a great use of time.

8.  Find a support system.  Reach out to other photographers in the area.  True, some photographers are guarded and won’t want to meet you, but more often than not, you’ll find that most photographers love networking with others because we all know what it’s like to struggle.  Develop and nurture these relationships, as they are some of the most important ones you’ll have in your business life.

9.  If you start to feel burned out, take a break.  This is a clear sign that you need to take some time for yourself and recharge.  Pushing ahead will only make things worse and you could eventually end up resenting your full-time job, your photography business, or worse… your family situation.  If your plate is too full, find ways to make changes so that your stress levels go down.  Think about scaling back on the time you spend on your photography business, or perhaps it’s time to think about going part-time with your job.  Either way, listen to your body.

10.  Take a deep breath and always keep in mind that you aren’t alone.  I’d venture to say that the vast majority of portrait photographers are part-time or they have a partner who can support the family without depending on their income.  Lucky them.  I wasn’t in that situation – we needed my income – so balancing a full-time job and my photography business was essential for us.  Chances are, you’re in the same boat.  Just know that there are others out there who are dealing with the same things you are and it can be done.  Anything worth having never comes easy.