One of the questions I am most often asked is "how do you do it?" Meaning...how do you balance business and family?
It's so easy to get sucked into the endless hours of social media, shooting, equipment hunting, prop shopping, and record keeping....and then you realize you've lost sight of why you started a home-based business in the first place. For many of us, we started this because of our families; I am no exception to this. I have two kids with one on the way. I still "work" outside of home as a law student (which is a whole other blog!) and find balancing very difficult.
The hardest time to keep the balance is at start up, but I also think this is most critical to your success. When I started out, I was spending hours in the evening doing everything I listed above plus marketing and designing my website. I found myself balancing but still overwhelmed. Then I realized....if you are going to "make it" (make it in the sense that you become successful AND still have time for family), you must dedicate your time. I often say, "I'm being efficient, not lazy". The key is to find what helps you be efficient which is pretty much the theme to the tips I'm going to include in this post.
Even once you have clients pouring in the door, you still have to maintain record keeping and marketing. Again, it's about finding efficiency while maintaining costs.
Here are some tips to balancing:
Dedicated office hours!!!
I still vary on this, but I'm trying to be very strict in only being on social media or email during my set office hours. My hours at home are for my kids; the business will be there in the morning because you know what? More than likely the person awaiting a response is at home playing with their kids too!
Pick one goal to accomplish a week
I'm not talking a little goal. I'm talking big goals such as preparing marketing materials for the next month. By getting it all completed in one week (during your office hours), you *will* get ahead.
HAVE A PLAN! Having a timeline plan of goals and a to-do list will hold your feet to the fire to get it done. When you are in a time crunch in order to manage business and family, there is no messing around when you are in your "office hours".
Get a smart phone
This isn't a plug for Apple or Android. I'm dead serious on this. I do the majority of my work while I'm out and about. It is critical that I can send and receive invoices via PayPal apps, respond to emails, and have access to my calendar to input information. I am able to go to appointments needed or be at my "day job" and still maintain my business without putting off clients and letting the work build up. Here's a post on the top apps to revolutionize your photography business for apps for your phone or computer.
Automate your workflow
Watch your processing of photographs. Are you doing the same steps over and over? Create your own automated workflow (i.e. an action) to go ahead and run these steps for you. I cut down my processing time immensely. I am able to batch process and leave open ALL photos with the action run in Photoshop, walk away and do other things I need to get done, come back, tweak layers, add any extra edits needed and I'm done.
Limit the number of photographs in a gallery
This will work for you two fold. First, by limiting the number of photographs presented to the client, you are helping them to not be overwhelmed and able to make decisions for purchase. Second, it cuts down your processing time! Why process and the client only chooses a few? Remember, your time is money!
Set a timeline goal
Do NOT let editing and to-do lists build up. My goal is to have a session edited within 48 hours of shooting. When I book my session, I go ahead and carve out time on my schedule for editing. This will not only impress your clients, but it will reduce stress and allow you to be "ahead". When little Joey comes and asks you to play monopoly, now you won't be concerned about the Jones' gallery because it will already be done and delivered.
Remember why you started your business to begin with
Put a picture up in your office that will help you remember why you're doing this. It will inspire you to get work done, use your time effectively and efficiently.
I hope this helps some of you. Of course there are other ways to be efficient; these are just some tips of what I have learned. Don't let your circumstances get in the way of your goal of owning a home business.