For many of us, professional photography has become a team sport. Whether you’re collaborating with other independent business owners or have taken the step of hiring employees, your skills as a manager can make or break your photography business. This week, our contributors share their insights on how to successfully manage your creative team.
[by Jenna Close]
My name is Jenna, and I am a workaholic. If left to my own devices, I will consistently slave away until the end of time, and I will do it happily…almost. For years, having an extreme work ethic was very beneficial to my business. Then 2013 came around, and I literally woke up one morning in a funk. I felt lethargic, uninspired and dull. Thinking it was just a phase, I soldiered on. Day after day the feelings continued and I grew increasingly detached from everything I had previously loved about this business. My work suffered, my health suffered, I didn’t want to travel and soon I was avoiding pretty much everything and enjoying next to nothing.
After some serious consideration, I realized that having a life is an extremely important part of being a small business owner. But…for me that was easier said than done. I still felt compelled to spend all my time focused on my career, and if I did take a day or even an hour off, the crushing guilt and anxiety I felt prevented me from enjoying the free time. A few very simple changes helped me allow for personal time and still fulfill all my business responsibilities.
1) Make a schedule. This may sound ridiculous, but I have a schedule that includes both business and personal tasks. I have a time for exercising and a time for relaxation built in right alongside everything else. In the beginning I adhered to this schedule fanatically, but over time I have become more flexible without falling back into the work-all-the-time trap. Initially, I needed strict rules to teach myself that time for ME was OK. The schedule helped relieve some of my anxiety about getting everything done, thus allowing me to actually use time off to my benefit.
2) Take advantage of work travel. A lot of my business involves shoots that are out of town. While many people find this enviable, there is a very big difference between traveling for work and traveling for pleasure. As often as I can, I build in a day or two of personal time on the back end of the shoot. Sometimes I take some photographs for myself, sometimes I leave my camera at home and just wander around. If I have friends nearby, I try to stop in for a day or two and hang out. This has been instrumental in reducing travel-fatigue and reviving my love of hitting the road.
3) Set small goals and keep them as often as you can. For example: “When I’m home I will stop work at 6pm in order to sit down for dinner with my family.” Even if you have to get up an hour earlier to get everything done, keeping promises like these will be worth it.
Without you, your business doesn’t exist. The care and feeding of your personal life should share equal importance with time spent on your career. Getting a life has actually increased my energy, optimism and creativity immeasurably, and that has translated directly to my work.
Jenna Close can usually be found working in some industrial setting or another. If she’s not there, she’s most likely surfing.
[by Charles Gupton]
When I hear people talk about getting a life, my internal response is almost always, “You’ve got a life. It’s the one you’ve chosen. If you want a different life, make the choices that’ll lead you there!” I want to be clear that although I think this response, I never say it out loud to anyone. But I also make the statement on a regular basis to myself when I don’t like the direction the choices I’m making are taking me.
I recently returned from this year’s South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, where balance of life issues came up in almost every speaker session I attended. I decided to go this year with the idea that I needed to have a better grasp on how to use technology as a tool to help me reach my goals rather than becoming a slave to the ever-present temptation to be turned on with it. I returned with a strengthened awareness that I’ll never be satisfied with trying to achieve a balanced existence. What fits me best is the quest for a more well-blended lifestyle.
When I think of balance, I think of scales, with each side bearing equal amounts of weight. In my mind, forty hours of work needed to be balanced against an equal amount of time off from work endeavors, which always left me feeling frustrated that my partitions broke down so easily.
My visual image of blending is of a painter bringing two colors of the palette together is such a way that they merge together and out again so that your eye doesn’t have a line to distinguish or divide them.
As I’ve worked to blend re-creation and play activities into my work schedule – such as exercising during the middle of the day when my mental energy is at its lowest – it allows me to use my energy to its fullest when and where I need it most effectively.
In my early years as an artist, I viewed having processes and routines as being anathema to the creative spontaneity that I thought best served my work. But through the years I’ve learned – and am still learning – the power of having rituals that shape my day. When I skip daily practices such as meditation, journaling, thought-processing walks, exercise, reading — or cheat myself of needed sleep to push through on completion of a work project — the return on my efforts diminishes quickly.
When I find that my creative energy has waned and the work I’m producing feels like a chore rather than a satisfying experience, I know it’s my choices that are leading to a life that’s less than creatively sustainable. Too frequently, we make statements about the direction of our lives as if it’s someone else’s responsibility to step in and make a change when the choices are well within our current grasp. We just have to take them.
Based in Raleigh, N.C., Charles creates cinematic short films to engage clients for business on the web.
[by Barry Schwartz]
Salsa, country music, rap, and rock often contain an instrument that holds a steady, unwavering beat: a kind of metronome, a through-line.
In salsa, it might be the high, percussive strike made by wooden claves or a cowbell at the same point in every bar, cutting through the other instruments. In rock, it might be a snare drum or a tamborine. It’s there from the beginning to the end, a foundation, something to come home to, the anchor around which voices and instruments can maneuver safely without drifting too far away.
Reliability and steadiness allows for a kind of freedom: variations on a theme, the trust to take chances, the support of the sound as a whole. The skills, talent, and training supporting creative careers are grounded by another kind of through-line: you.
It’s so easy to get sidetracked when you are your only employee, toting that bale in the midst of everything it takes to be a creative entrepreneur – the distractions, deadlines, satisfactions, frustrations, and plain hard work – to remember that none of it matters if you don’t have a personal life. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Even more, it’s your personal life (otherwise known as “you”, not to get too fancy about it) where the unique qualities that make your work different than your competition are engendered because of your taste, particular people skills, ability to to conceptualize then actualize, or maybe just because you’re someone who turns stuff in on time. Whatever it is, it’s you.
So take care to take of yourself – you’re all you got.
Barry Schwartz is a photographer, writer, and designer in Los Angeles who makes sure he has a personal life by always taking off Sunday night (or almost always…).