The big juggle // How I manage

Note: this post has been updated from its first version. The updated parts were typed with my right hand while I fed Grace with my left hand. Just to give you a little insight into how I -quite literally- juggle at times.

I’m sitting at Starbucks. I bought a £1.70 cup of black coffee so I could sit and use the wi-fi. My son is in an acting class from 10-6 and I’m blogging like fury for these 8 hours as well as wading through about 50 emails: reader questions and fan mail (I still can’t believe I get that!). I had two this week from mums who want to go all the way in business and want to know how I manage my life. One asked how I balance everything “without going crazy” and I laughed out loud (much to the chagrin of the lady beside me working on her taxes). I certainly do perform a painfully calculated balancing act, but I don’t do it without going nuts.

I’ve completely lost my marbles.

I can’t remember the most simple things. My diary is my LIFE. I even have to put in there “call mom” and sometimes, I still leave her hanging. I leave things in my friend’s cars all the time. Forget my debit card in the machine at the grocery store. But the one thing that I will never allow to suffer from my drive and determination is my family.

Some things that keep me uncontrollably busy:

  • I run Gracie May Photography and this blog
  • I write for a Canon magazine and at least 4 posts a month on dPS.
  • I teach classes on Rock the Shot.
  • I do training films for photographers.
  • I’ve just added vlogging to my repertoire.
  • My husband and I lead a church
  • I have 3 kids who attend three different schools in three different towns.
  • Our little girl is profoundly disabled and she has nappies, 4 therapists, hospital appointments, orthotics appointments and we’re just getting started on an extension on our house to make it more accessible. We’re tripping over equipment in just about every room.
  • I have a very small semi-detached house (small by American standards, decent by UK standards) so it has to stay organized and clean

Even just one of these things would be too much to handle on a good day, but I balance them ALL. But not without help!

Last year, I decided that some things had to change in my life for me to achieve my goals and some of the changes were decided out of our control. Like my husband losing his job. At first, a disaster, but in the end, a very good move!

Last year, we…

  • Threw away our TV. Not only did this give me more room in my little house to set up an office corner, but my husband and I instantly became the most productive humans on the planet. I feel clean, pure and I can breathe. I have no idea about X-factor, ‘I’m a Celebrity…’ or any of that jazz. And I don’t miss it one single bit. About twice a month, I get a chance to relax with some TV, but I watch the BBC or Channel 4 on the computer and I only watch documentaries. Oh…and The Office. I probably couldn’t live without The Office.
  • Got rid of that pesky J.O.B. The small business my husband worked for caved in at the very same time that everything with my business was picking up. Now, we trade letting each other sleep in, drink tea in the afternoon and lead a stress-free life where we can work together. He works awfully hard as a minister and we keep a very balanced schedule. We organize our life through a shared Google calendar and share one car. He does the school runs most days while I work. He cooks! I couldn’t do ANY of this without him but, sadly for him, he doesn’t get nearly as much lovely fan mail as I do! If you enjoy what I do, drop him a line to say thank you!
  • Got a storage unit. I had a studio for a while last year, but found that I was shooting on the farm much more often and it was really just a glorified storage unit. So now, I have an actual storage unit for my studio equipment (which really only sees the light of day once in a while) and this frees up my house.
  • Learned to say no. Just practice it in the mirror. I swear it will make your life an utter dream.

Naturally, there are so many more things that go into making my life work. If you’re doing photography for a living, there are a few things you can do to help balance the act:

  • Streamline your workflow. Set aside only 1 hour for editing a session. Learn how to batch edit in LR or PS and keep it simple. By all means, go to town on your own personal work, but keep work for your clients manageable. Oh, and get brutal when choosing keepers. Provide 20-30 finished images and only choose the best of the best.
  • Charge more and work less. When you charge more, you can afford things like a sales person to do your in-home viewing sessions. I personally only accept four sessions per month max. I charge enough to make those worth it and have time for other things. Some simple math: you can charge $100 for two sessions or $200 for one. By charging more, you also put yourself in a certain market where you will attract clients who value your work and spend more on the finished product. But to charge more, you actually have to be worth it. Keep learning and growing and make sure you have beautiful packaging and marketing to draw the clients.
  • Practice. When you shoot a paid-for session, never do it somewhere new. Shoot in a location you know well at a time of day you know well and this will produce consistent products for your clients and well as cut down on your busy-time.
  • Have an 8 day week. Mary Kay Ash once said that if you wake up one hour early every day, you will add an entire day to your week. I get up before the kids, drink my happy juice (coffee!) write a couple blog posts, balance the accounts, whatever I need to get out of my head to have a productive day.
  • Get tech. My MacBook paid for itself quickly. What I used to accomplish in one hour, I can now do in 15 minutes with my fast computers. With my iPhone, I can answer emails on the go and I use an iPad to effortlessly share images with clients at viewing sessions.

I am always aware that at any moment, my life can change. I listen to my body. If my brain is shutting down for lack of sleep, I have to force myself to shut down the computer and go to bed before midnight. I know myself and don’t even get on to quickly check emails because if I do, it turns into an all-nighter. At times, I can barely control the business woman inside me and I work too hard. But I always come back around and get my act together.

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  • I realize this post is almost a year old, but I’ve just discovered it, as I’ve only just discovered you 2-3 months ago.  I feel so fortunate to have found your blog! You are amazing and so is this post! Thank you for sharing! 

  • dini

    oh my goodness you are truly amazing! i live in israel and always receive your blog posts at around 7.30am….and i always think to myself ‘gosh, what time does this person wake up??’ hahaha, and now i know the answer.
    you are such an inspiration. may God always continue to bless you with the strength (inner and outer) to do what you love to do. and thank you for always teaching me so much. i am so grateful!

  • Libby

    I have recently graduated college and trying to establish myself and grow a business.  I love your blogs and this one in particular is very helpful.  Thank you for all you do.

  • You’ve made me aware that I really need to put pen to paper and organise myself. The saying ‘NO’ comment is also something I need to do.  Unfortunately because I do indoor photo sessions it takes me at least a day to edit each session! Maybe convincing my husband I need an iphone to go with my iMac will also help me to be more productive.  Like you I balance 3 kids and they do different clubs after school every day, which takes up a lot of time! Not sure I’m as brave as you to get rid of the TV, thanks for sharing x

  • Sonya

    Tell your husband that I say Thank You to him for being supportive of what you do. Having someone you love believe in you makes so much of a positive difference!

  • You managed that so much carefully. Thanks for sharing the tips with us.