5 Things Photographers Can do to Avoid Burnout

In the wake of the dumpster fire that was 2020, many photographers face another challenge; trying to schedule 2020 clients into 2021 because of reschedules.

Yeah, that really sucks.

Back in The Before Times (TM), being a photographer was already pretty damn stressful. Add in a world-wide pandemic, and it’s a shitshow of epic proportions both for your bottom line and your mental health.

So there’s no better time than now to start setting some parameters so you can avoid burnout in this already-fragile year we’ve got ahead of us.

Having been an assistant to photographers for a lot of years, I can offer you some prime advice for how to do this.

And as an added bonus, these things will also help you create a sustainable business that actually replenishes you instead of depleting you.

Decide What Needs To Stay and What Needs To Go.

There’s a saying in sales “A confused mind never buys.” I think this also applies to our brain when we overload it with too many things.

If you are doing everything in your business, from the taxes to the editing, you need to let something go because I guarantee you that you are not doing it all well.

You absolutely, 100% need to outsource things in your business not only for your mental health but for the health of your business.

People who try to do it all are never as successful as people who figure out how to let other people help them.

And this is a key part in that sustainability I talked about.

It’s probably not that hard for you to think about a few things in your business (or in your life, for that matter) that you’d welcome being taken off your plate, but you have some bullshit excuse about why you can’t.

Here’s a simple way to look at it —

Everything that takes you away from booking clients and shooting is not bringing you revenue. Bump up your prices a bit, and outsource anything that isn’t bringing you joy and dollar bills.

Revamp Your Deliverables Schedule

In an attempt to make themselves loved by their clients, I often see photographers put timelines into place that are crazy. “You will have your photos 24 hours after your session”.

What?!! How can you even do this and maintain a healthy work-life balance?! 

Or are you routinely working late at night to get things done, leaving you feel like you can never catch up?

Likely, you are not giving yourself enough grace. Starting right now, put into place some timelines that have some leeway if life happens or if you have a day you can’t seem to get off the couch.

(If you lived through 2020, you probably had at least a few of those days amirite!??!)

And let’s not forget outsourcing…because doing that will free up some time for you too.

The “Will Anyone Die?” Rule

This rule goes along with the advice above. Ask yourself, “Will anyone die if I don’t get a wedding sneak peek up the same day as the wedding?” If the answer is no, then don’t do it.

Go home, have a whisky or your drink of choice, and have a well-deserved night’s rest.

Now I’m not saying that you should ignore your contract deadlines. Definitely not.

I’m saying you need to take some inventory of the things that you actually have to do vs. the things you just think you have to do.

(Pro tip – a lot of the things that photographers think they have to do are really just to impress other photographers and don’t add any real value for their clients. #TruthBomb)

Set a Schedule

Now that you’ve outsourced the shit you don’t wanna do and freed up more time for you to do the things you need to be doing, it’s time to take your schedule by the horns and conquer it.

There’s nothing better for preventing burnout than being proactive before shit goes bad. By setting a schedule for yourself weekly and daily, you take control of your life, which helps you see things more clearly.

Here’s an example of how it can work.

Every Sunday night, sit down and figure out what you have to do for the week.

There’s a lot of options for websites out there you can use to do this.

Trello is great because it works like post-it notes on a wall. Write down the day of the week and start assigning tasks to each day. Include as much as you can, including personal stuff like workouts, cooking dinner, carting kids around, whatever. At the end of every day, the tasks you didn’t get done need to be reassigned to another day (or delegated to someone else).

Asana is another great option and easily allows you to assign tasks to team members. Since you’ve started outsourcing by now (right, right!?!), this could help you set due dates for things based on when a team member will complete certain tasks.

While this might be overwhelming at first, what it will help you do is see that there truly are only so many hours in the day, and it will help stop you from overcommitting yourself to clients (and friends and family).

Rest Yourself and Your Brain

One of the things that quickly goes out the windows for many photographers during busy and stressful times is their sleep schedule. If you’re pulling all-nighters editing like some drunk college frat boy (ok show of hands who’s feeling attacked right now!?), it’s time to let someone else take care of that.

Oh hey, that somebody is me!

Getting enough rest is not only good for your brain; it’s good for your business. Now, I’m not going to tell you that if you don’t get 8 hours of sleep a night, you will die (see above), but I am telling you that when you aren’t rested, it does affect brain function.

And I don’t know about you, but after living through this last year, I need my brain to be functioning on the highest freaking level possible.

Another thing that is good for your brain is meditation. If it seems too new-agey for you, I get it. But meditation doesn’t have to be an hour sitting in the lotus position. There are many apps you can try to see if you feel better after even just a short 15-minute meditation.

Some of my favorites are Calm, Omvana and Brain.fm. They all have trials, so check them out and see if any of them float your boat. These apps can help you with focus, sleep, and meditation practices.

If this is a career you want to have for a good long time, that you plan using to support you and your family, you have to take care of yourself first. That’s the bottom line.

If you’re ready to take the first step in creating a more sustainable business, check out some of the services I offer here like photography outsourcing, digital marketing, and more.

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