A couple of weeks ago, we ran Part 1 of our “TruLife® Acrylic Big Question: Work-Life Balance for Photographers.” The answer, it seems, for many photographers is not necessarily the one like-minded, aspiring freelancers and small business owners want to hear: Balance is elusive.
Interestingly, it wasn’t always a balance issue that photographers were frustrated with. They are creatives who have to run a business. As a result, many considered that part of their day-to-day (the business part) the hardest thing to manage. But the message most relayed was that it didn’t really matter. They didn’t really “choose” this life. It chose them. The need to be creative, to be the masters of their own fate… challenges and balance issues aside, these are the things that drive them forward, regardless.
After we wrote that article, some more of our TruLife® featured photographers chimed in with their thoughts on running their own business, so we thought we would add a second part.
Let’s hear what they had to say…
Work-Life Balance: Haley Pope
Haley Pope is a photojournalist and zoologist (best job description ever) and while balance is something she says isn’t always easy to achieve, she says knowing yourself, and a nice, simple list on a piece of paper (and a coffee) can go a long way towards that goal.
Achieving a perfect balance between work and life when you run your own business is a artful task in itself. How do you decide what to work on, when, and for how long? When should you take time off to focus on yourself, your friends and family, and community?
This can be one of the most difficult parts of running a business, especially a creative business when creativity can hit you at any moment and demand your attention.
Unlike most jobs where you have a definite start and end to your day and therefore your duties, my job doesn’t necessarily have to start at 8 am and end at 5 pm.
At any point in the 24-hours of each day, I could constantly be working on something. That could be answering emails, writing a blog post or article, managing my social media accounts, promoting the business online, developing proposals and contracts for clients, working on the projects for my clients, or getting out into the field to photography nature or a specific subject matter.
For me, that finicky work-life balance starts with an old-fashioned piece of paper, a pen, and a cup of coffee each morning.
In one column, I write down the tasks I need to accomplish that day in order of importance, starting with the most important task. Throughout the day I work down that list until, ideally, all tasks have been crossed off.
Tasks that cannot be accomplished within a day are written down in a second column. If they have a deadline associated, I include that next to the task to help me plan out my days according to things I can finish quickly and those that need to be addressed even if they take longer to do.
My little piece of paper keeps me accountable, focused, and motivated when no one else is around to do so.
Despite not having consistent, concrete work hours, it is important to set those for yourself based on when and how you work best.
I am most focused in the morning and lose the ability to get difficult work accomplished later in the day. So, I begin in the early morning and will work until around 3 to 5 pm.
After this time is me time. I make sure to work out, cook healthy meals, spend a bit of time on other hobbies, and relax before going to bed.
Even if something nags at me, I will write it down ahead of time so I make sure to address it the following day.
The key is to understand yourself and how to manage yourself. How, when, and where do you work the best and are the most efficient with your time?
Good questions, Haley. Good questions!
Work-Life Balance: Stacy William Head
Stacy William Head is a landscape photographer based in the Canadian Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada, in a very small area known as Crowsnest Pass. According to Stacy, a big part of any kind of balance is mixing things up creatively and professionally, and keeping your eye on the prize.
It’s easy, he notes, in the fast-paced social media reality we live in to focus more on quantity, than quality, so it’s important to develop some perspective in your social habits and strategy.
Landscape photography as a sole business can be a lot more challenging than it appears on the surface. Most still work full time on a separate job or the better option may be to combine it with a wedding, portrait, sport and/or wildlife photography business.
I believe it is important to diversify, and become proficient in many areas of photography to build your network and revenue stream.
I recently completed a course in concert photography and found it very interesting and completely different from landscape shooting.
The common misconception is that if you are proficient in one area—for example landscape photography—you can easily transfer to something like wedding photography. Not always! Both are very different and take years I believe to master.
With landscape, the challenge can be the travel time involved and it’s very much affected by weather as well.
There are many days with very little sleep, especially if you’re on a limited schedule and traveling in remote locations like Iceland, combined with hiking and working with/managing the elements.
It can be very demanding, but rewarding and fulfilling when you see the results of your hard work and get to share it with others.
Having a balance between shooting and the business/social media side can be difficult and it’s important I think to have a good balance.
Recently I have been focused more on developing a larger network where I live by getting to know more local businesses and also helping with charity groups.
I will be donating a number of prints to an upcoming benefit concert/photography event for the nearby national park that got damaged by forest fire last year.
Sometimes I believe you can become too focused on the social media aspect of photography and it can slow your progress as an artist—you can become more focused on quantity instead of quality.
Work-Life Balance: Benjamin Von Wong
As we’ve noted in our featured profile with Benjamin Von Wong, his photography and photographic projects are immersive, involved experiences.
He has photographed models with sharks underwater in Fiji, and an adventurous quadriplegic mom hanging off the side of a cliff in Australia.
Not a lot of half-measures! Still, does that mean some kind of balance still eludes someone like Ben?
How do/did you do it?
It was over six years ago… and I was still living at home with no kids so I don’t feel like it’s a very fair comparison.
Long story short, prior to quitting my job, I just shot on evenings and weekends… every week three-to-four times a week. I didn’t really think about it, I just slept less.
What were/are your biggest challenges?
The challenges have changed a lot from then to now, many times.
The digital world we live in today is radically different from what it was even just a couple years ago.
I think that trying to draw a correlation between someone’s success a few years ago and apply them today is a losing strategy, because you’ll only end up with the generic answers: work hard, work smart, never give up.
The truth is, you need to experiment and adapt and jump on opportunities when they come based on the advantages and disadvantages you are given.
What did you learn about how to run a photography business and how do you prioritize all the various components that make you successful?
I’m not sure if this answers the question, but I feel like you can try to pursue many small contracts or a few big ones. I chose the latter. Each one comes with their own separate challenges.
Work-Life Balance: Brad Scott
Brad Scott is a photographer and videographer. He travels all over the world and even nailing him down for these questions was a challenge! How does he find balance in the flurry of it all?
When I first started taking photography seriously and decided I wanted to make it a career I was living on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii.
I was working as an assistant for one of the top in water cinematographers, Erik Ippel. He was paying me a little bit of money to shoot from the beach with a 600mm lens while he was filming from the water for big surfing events like the Billabong Pipe masters. But this wasn’t enough money to pay the bills.
I was working for a friend of mine as well who was a contractor and he was paying me well to do finish work on luxury homes and large apartments projects.
I really wanted to be a full-time photographer, so any time I wasn’t working construction I was out at the popular surf breaks trying to get shots of the professional surfers so I could sell images to their sponsors.
Well, it turns out that’s what everyone else was trying to do as well.
I started trying to do something different and started shooting photos of the non surfers and tourist that were learning how to surf and found that they were the ones who wanted photos to capture the memories of how awesome it was challenging themselves in the large Hawaiian waves.
This taught me a valuable lesson: try to be different and go against the grain.
I built my first photography website, which was oahusurfphotos.com (which I don’t own anymore), and I would upload all the photos I took each day and name the surf break and I would hand out business cards to the surfers as they exited the water.
They were stoked that I captured their surf sessions and were surprised that I was willing to photograph them since they weren’t professional surfers.
Ever since then I now try to be different and take different photos and find different angles instead of trying to duplicate what others have already done or are doing and I think that has a lot to do with my success.
What were/are your biggest challenges?
I think what creatives need to understand is that you are running a business. And, unfortunately, exposure doesn’t pay the bills.
If I were to change anything I have done in my photography career, it would be to never give away images for free or for credit unless they are giving you a great advertising spot.
In my experience, it never turns into anything and if nobody gave their photos away for free these companies would see more value in photography and would be more likely to pay what it’s worth.
I focus at least 60 percent of my time on marketing my photography, and the rest of the time actually shooting photos/video and editing projects.
Use social media to market yourself and don’t be afraid to pay for advertising.
You can guarantee that other business savvy photographers and artists will be paying for advertising space, and they will be the ones who get the business. It takes money to make money.
Also, spend more effort and time on awesome experiences so that you can capture unique images instead of worrying so much about the camera you are using or the lenses you are using.
I can guarantee that when you look back on your life when you’re older you won’t remember the lens you spent thousands of dollars on but you will for sure remember that incredible photography trip to Iceland you took.
Have passion in what you do and don’t take the easy route trying to duplicate every image you see on Instagram.
Take your own path and you will find much more success.
Is it About Work-Life Balance?
Most of our respondents this time around focused more on how they made their business work.
They weren’t stressed or bothered about the balance they had or didn’t have, they wanted to make sure they were growing, learning, and getting better at their business.
Take your own path. Figure out how to be accountable and motivated. Experiment and adapt. Don’t let one aspect of your business take over (i.e. social media).
Good advice. What would you add? Share your thoughts on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.
Check out our TruLife® Acrylic Featured Photographers to read all the nice things they have to say about TruLife® Acrylic, and don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter so we can deliver recent blog posts, along with any TruLife product and program updates, right to your inbox.
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This article is intended for educational purposes only and does not replace independent professional judgment. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) individually and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinion or position of Tru Vue or its employees. Tru Vue does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented.