You've heard about it. Heck, I'm sure that you've experienced it. As someone that came up in the workforce in an extremely competitive industry, I know this word inside and out. It's our culture now. You work as hard as you can AND as much as you can and that's how you become successful...right? You devote your entire being to a person or a company that would replace you in two seconds if your croaked and you'll come out on top, right? Or maybe you own your own business and you have taken on the mindset that if you aren't readily available for your clients 24/7, anytime of night, even on holidays, then you won't be successful or continue to book clients. You end up over-worked and UNDER-PAID. But, because you work a lot and you're busy means that you're successful, right?
Not exactly. This toxic (calling it what it is) culture sucks. I see it in almost every industry. Photographers. Videographers. Hairdressers. Makeup artists. Corporate jobs. I'm watching people pour themself into a role, trying to fill every crack, every possible hole, when in reality, you can't. You stretch but it's never enough. You work 100 hours a week but it's never enough. You're frustrated and in a place where you honestly want to quit. Throw in the towel. The thing you once loved, you now despise. You've now allowed your identity to be based on your job performance and now, because you're scrambling to keep up, you allow that to make you feel like you're not capable of a job that you are incredible at.
Welcome to burnout. I've been there. I worked in the food industry for 7 years. This was where I first met burnout. Then, I worked in childcare for 2 years. More burnout. Even in my business, part time, full time, doesn't matter, I met burnout more times that I'd like to admit.
Last year, I had to get real about burnout. I had to do something because what I was doing wasn't working. I was exhausted. I didn't get excited about projects anymore. I was constantly thinking about what was next, what I could do to keep my head above the water. I knew that if I wanted to stay in this (self-employment) for the long run, that I had to change something.
I see you. I do. New business owner. New photographer. I see you in the season that you're in. I want to help keep you away from our old friend burnout. Here are my three tips for avoiding burnout in whatever season of business you're in.
Set business hours. No. Seriously.
I know that it is so tempting to respond to client messages as soon as you get them. I understand the anxiety that is associated with feeling like you may miss out on a booking. However, I can't go into Target at 11:30 pm because I want to browse. They close at 10 pm. I can't just do it because I want to realllllllly bad. It's okay to not be available 24/7, ESPECIALLY if you have a family. IT IS OKAY. Read it again if you need to. Read it 10 times. You are a business. It is OKAY to have office hours. Be clear about this. You can set up an auto-responder on almost every platform that a client would contact you on, just gently letting them know that your business hours are from 9am-5pm or whatever you want them to be. It's that simple.
Don't waste time on people whose values don't align with yours.
You've heard it before: working with your ideal client. While I have mixed feelings about grouping people into a category like this, I do think that as a more cinematic style, documentary photographer, working with people who prefer a light edit with more posed photographs would be like trying to fit a square into a circle. It just doesn't work. They wouldn't receive a final product that they were happy with and I wouldn't feel valued as an artist. It is OKAY to say that you aren't a good fit with someone and it is OKAY to hold your ground if someone is asking you to do something outside of your niche.
Have a support system in place that energizes you and supports your dreams.
I didn't do this for the longest time. I thought that I could do this by myself and didn't need anyone else to help. I was so freaking wrong. Having friends, especially ones in the same industry as you. I have a group of 4-5 photographer friends that I know that I can text whenever I'm needing advice for something and I know that they will be 100% open and honest with me about whatever I bring to them. Having this support system has been so instrumental in building my business to where it is now. Find a tribe of people that share similar values as you. They don't necessarily have to have the same style as you or have the exact same niche as you. If you're struggling to find these friends, search your niche on instagram (#raleighweddingphotographer) and follow a few people. Interact when them. Be genuine. These are the ways I've built friendships.
I hope that these tips are helpful to you in this season that you're in. I hope that you can take these tips and apply them in your business and move away from seasons of burnout.