8. Set boundaries and SWITCH OFF
Seriously. Set boundaries. Make a work schedule and stick to it. Take at least one day off a week. Stop working and responding to emails or messages after a certain time each night. I have been terrible for this. I respond almost instantly to messages when I get them. If I don’t I feel incredibly guilty or worried that people will be disappointed. The truth is, most people don’t expect an immediate response, they were only starting to because I set those expectations early on. When I message someone else I don’t expect an immediate response so why was I setting this standard for myself?
The reason I do it, is because for the first time in a long time, I genuinely look forward to work. With the exception of one daunting shoot and doing my finances, I’ve been excited about every single work day. Every. Single. One. So much so, that without realising it, I turned everyday into a work day.
One of my measures for success on my business plan is a better work-life balance. Despite how much I love it, if I’m working everyday then I’m not meeting my target. When I work all the time I don’t know how to relax. Running your own business takes dedication and spells of long hours and many, many days work in a row. But for me, it shouldn’t mean I’m back in a place where I’m working so much that I can’t switch off.
So I’ve turned my phone to “Do Not Disturb” at certain times each day and while I might not be able to take regular days off in my line of work, I’m planning in at least one day a week to have to myself where I’ll be switched off from social media. It’s the future and I’m looking forward to it.
9. Celebrate the little things
Progress is little teeny steps forward at a time. Probably a few backwards, some sidesteps, maybe a leap or two in any direction and then back to the teeny forward steps. When you spend most of your workday by yourself, it’s easy to become target focused and simply tick things off of lists. Never pausing to enjoy the work you have done or celebrate how far you’ve come. This can be destructive as you start to feel like there’s a never ending list of things to do and forget about all the things you have achieved.
With no colleagues to remind you to celebrate, you have to take responsibility to do it yourself. You’re your own boss and it’s your job to motivate and reward yourself when you do your job well.
Don’t be afraid to take a moment to enjoy the things you’ve done. No matter how small. I sometimes celebrate with a cuppa when I finish an editing target or for really big achievements I take my tangled nerves and tense camera-holding-photo-editing shoulders along to my massage therapist for an hour of relaxing and remembering that I’m getting there. Hell, when I finally finish this blog I’m having the next day off to watch Christmas movies with my other half!
Running a small business is a work in progress and always will be. You should celebrate when you can.
10. Projects = Progress
When you take a passion which was once something you did to relax and you turn it in to something you rely on to make money, it can very easily become stressful and the enjoyment all but vanishes. This was something I was always wary of. The risk of the pressure to pay bills outweighing my desire to stick to what I want to be creating with my craft. It prevented me from taking the leap for a long time as I never wanted to be in a position where I was doing work I wasn’t happy with to make ends meet.
The reality is, that has happened. I’ve taken on a couple of shoots that weren’t really what I set out to do. They went well and I enjoyed them but I had a slight nagging feeling that they weren’t quite, well, me. It knocked my “pho-jo” on occasion but I received the best bit of advice from another photographer and friend. Make sure you always have your own projects happening. The things you want to work on to keep you inspired and your creativity flowing. My dream goal is to be a wildlife photographer and I make regular plans to push that dream forward but I have discovered a new passion for candid family photography and found a way to really make a difference to people by taking portraits for women and girls through my #RealGirlsRealBeauty project. I started the latter after a conversation with a concerned mum and it’s become something so important to me and my brand. It has also sharpened my skills and challenged me in a whole new way.
Your personal projects matter. They’re the reason you fell in love with this work in the first place. Don’t neglect them.