Keeping Balance When Creativity is Both My Passion and My Business
Guest post by Jo Garlike
Finding balance when you work for yourself and juggle wanting to grow your business, keeping up with the marketing, a family home and the noise of social media is something that I am always working on. I’m not sure I always get it right and at times I know the balance is out of kilter, especially on a day to day basis. I have learned to accept that within my business as a wedding photographer there are moments of peaks and troughs, feasts and famines, all or nothing, which does mean that I have to think of balance in terms of months and seasons as opposed to daily.
Here are 4 main areas that I review once a year to keep a check on how I am feeling, the balance in my life and you could say my ‘formula for life’ as a creative business owner.
Bringing in a creative job that is intense, busy and demanding emotionally, physically and creatively, can feel as though you are giving everything you have from early Spring until late Autumn. I find it’s good to stretch that creative muscle and do projects just for fun. Something that replenishes the creative energy again. I will either pursue a project for passion as opposed to profit or take myself on a creative date once a week. I often don’t find time for ‘creative dates’ during the wedding season but I make sure during the quieter times I set aside time for this.
Some creative dates I enjoy are walks on the beach, a lone trip to the cinema, a wander round a National Trust Garden. However, what is most important is that it is just me so that I can think of it as a date with creativity. I ask myself – “What did you love doing before you owned a business? Could you bring some of that back in to your life to keep your creativity alive?”
In order to do the above, I have to set myself boundaries. As the business has progressed you often learn by your mistakes. During year 3 of my business, I was a stressed, burnt out mess and I realized I never ever wanted to feel like this again. All the enjoyment had been sucked out of the creativity and being a self-employed business owner. After lots of tears and sleepless nights, I had to sit down and create some boundaries for me and my business – I created a list of things that were non-negotiable. I asked myself what did I feel like I was missing out on by working these many hours and what did I no longer enjoy doing?
As a result, I created boundaries around not working on a Sunday, not working the evening before a wedding, never working Christmas Eve, I decided on times I would stop work each day and the importance of holidays and occasional weekends off during the summer. Something I realized was that for every yes I said in my business I was saying no to something else and I needed to consider if that was worth it. If you need to set some boundaries I propose you ask yourself what do you feel you are missing out on? What needs to change?
This is a hard one if you are a sole trader and I truly understand that it is so hard to say ‘No’ to an income. I fell in to the trap of being responsible for everything – before if had to take time away from work, my business would come to a standstill. I was too afraid to invest in support as I valued needing to earn enough money as opposed to valuing my time. I am still guilty of this from time to time but then going back to the boundaries I’ve set for myself, I realize that if I feel like I am missing out, something has to change. Something I ask myself often is ‘Am I working in my business today or on my business today?’. If I had more time to work on my business, my income could be higher and then I can outsource, instead sometimes we can fall in to the trap of working in our business to meet deadlines. I need to remind myself sometimes that that is not what I left employment and moved to self-employment for.
Once a year, I look at my workflow and the systems I use to make the work flow. I consider if I’m doing anything more than once - certain email responses, resizing images for a blog post, uploading to social media, client galleries, basic stage editing. Then I think through how I can make these tasks simpler. Could I use a template that I slightly adapt? Is there a program out there that could do the simple tasks like resizing images quickly?
A helpful tip I follow is to use post-it notes along a wall to mark out every step of a workflow from beginning to end to highlight any of these areas where I’m repeating work.
At a high level, if you were to take some time at least once a year (but as often as you like really) to ask yourself these questions and consider your responses – you would have the insight you need to potentially shift your goals and change your focus/perception of how work is balancing with the rest of your life.
- Have I planned anything creative for myself to do at the moment?
- If not, what did I love to do before I owned my business? How can I bring this in to my life more? How much time realistically can I give myself to do something for passion? (Remember it might be seasonal as opposed to weekly - every business and self is different)
- What do I feel I have missed out on due to my workloads this year? If I have missed out on anything, what are the 3 most important things I would like to make time for?
- What boundaries can I give myself that are non-negotiable to achieve this?
- If I got sick, would my business come to a standstill or would it be able to continue?
- Is there anything I can outsource to give me more time to work on my business?
- On an average week how many hours / days am I working on the business in comparison to working in the business?
- Breaking down my current workflow, are there any repetitive tasks that I am doing more than once?
- Could I create a system/template/use a program for these repetitive tasks?
Jo is the founder and owner of Summer Love Photography. A Family and Wedding Photographer based on the Norfolk, Lincolnshire Cambridgeshire borders in the UK, covering all of the UK and further afield. She is a country girl at heart with a love for big skies, her garden, long walks, sunshine, travel adventures and journaling. There is nothing more she enjoys than documenting real life, stories and people.
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