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Dear clients, I hate you. Mid-season burn out is here.

The phone rings, I’m annoyed.

A client emails asking a question I’ve already answered and I’m muttering under my breath and pounding an answer out like Schroeder from the Peanuts on my keyboard.

It’s here, my friends.  Mid-season burn out.  Summer is coming to an end, fall is on the horizon and the next wedding-less week end seems as far away as the first snowfall.    Every Saturday the chicken is saucy, the dress is white, Beyonce wants him to put a ring on it, and the Black Eyed Peas Have a Feeling, they want to get it Started in Here.

I’m swamped.   The editing is piling up, the laundry is piling up, I’ve got weddings, portrait sessions, new client consults and for some reason I thought launching a business blog this month would be a good idea.  Idiot.   This is the stuff I was dreaming about in February and now that it’s here I’m annoyed by a client call because all I can think of is how I just need to get some damn WORK done and I wish they’d leave me alone.

Yeah, I want paying clients to leave me alone. That’s wacked.  Time to do some readjusting.

So let’s go over some plans to work through this burn out without alienating our clients and to keep spirits and creativity up.

Take a realistic look at your workflow and your contract

The idea of putting up a sneak peek the night of the wedding was really fun and cool when you started, right?  You couldn’t WAIT to get home and download those files and play with them.  Now you’ve maybe got a few kids, a significant other and the idea of sitting at the computer after an exhausting 12 hour day makes you want to weep.   You want to kiss your kids, grab a beer and just sit on your ass. Maybe you broke up with your boyfriend recently and you are not loving LOVE like you used to and you need to decompress after the wedding.  But you’ve promised Bridey you’d have that sneak peek up, and she’s on her phone refreshing Facebook looking for them. Meanwhile, that one super-helpful bridesmaid is posting photos that she’s Lo-Fi’d to hell everyone is gushing over. You GOTTA get those sneak peeks up, right?

No you don’t.

First of all, photography is not fast food.  The quickest does not win.  If the sneak peek is stressing you out, then change it.  Tell you clients you’ll have it up Monday, or even in a week or so. Whatever works for you.   Do you promise the photos will be online a week after the wedding?  Change it.  Tell clients it will be 4 weeks and then surprise them.  That three weeks will be a lifesaver for the year you get strep throat and are in bed for a week, or when your dog dies and you can’t bring yourself to work for a few days.  Under promise and Over deliver.  Always.

Set a Schedule

Slammed every evening with engagement shoots all week and then before you know it it’s Saturday?  Oh, and then you had that one couple that you know, “works”, so they need you to do their session on Sunday so you are dragging your ass out of bed after a wedding on a Sunday morning.  Sound familiar?

Stop it.

Just stop.  Figure out what schedule would keep you sane and just do it.  Clients will wait.  We are not curing cancer, we’re photographers.  They will not die if they can’t have their engagement session on the 14 month-aversary of their first date.   My schedule is set in stone and it’s outlined very clearly to my clients from the first time we meet:

“Sessions are available Tuesday through Thursday, day or evening.  Fridays are reserved for re-scheduled sessions, Saturdays are reserved for weddings and Sundays are reserved for my family. The studio is closed on Monday. ”

Pretty clear, right?  Now that doesn’t mean I don’t have people say “Oh, but you must have some Saturdays that are available!”  When they find out the next available Saturday is 4 months away, it’s funny how quick  a Wednesday evening works out for them.  I know of other photographers that offer Saturday sessions only at a premium rate.  What’s your happy price to miss a BBQ on a sunny Saturday in June with your family to shoot a portrait session?  You decide.

Being busy is a good thing, and your clients want to know you are busy because it means they chose a popular, successful photographer. Being available 24/7 is for fast food.

So you look at your schedule and your workflow and begin to panic.  You’ve got 6 weddings to edit, 10 sessions, consults scheduled, your kids birthday party and 5 albums to design.  Summer has slipped away, you only made it to the pool a handful of times.  Friends call you to go out and you tell them ridiculous things like “I don’t think I can plan on going out until November” like I told a friend recently.  But the truth was, I just hadn’t really sat down and worked out what I really had to do.  I was spinning from thing to thing, managing email, checking Facebook (distraction, anyone?) and I hadn’t made a schedule.  Once I did, I saw I really was okay and was on track with what I had promised my clients for turn around.  There will be a few that I do not surprise with over delivery.  But that’s okay.

In over your head?

If you are at the place where you are past deadline, your clients are calling and emailing and you know you have to do something…now is the time to do something.  In fact, the time you should have done something was before this, but you already know that, don’t you?   So.  Right now.  Make a schedule.  A realistic one.  If you know you can’t deliver that wedding that was due last Friday for at least two weeks than man up and admit it.  Call your client and apologize.  It’s okay to be human.  It’s okay to say “I’m really sorry but I underestimated my work flow this month and I am behind. I’m passionate about your photos and want them to look their very best so be assured I am working on them.  I anticipate that  will have the wedding for you by x date .  Because of the delay, I’d like to offer you a 11×14 wall portrait of your favorite photo” (Or whatever you feel is a good throw in)

You’re apologizing for the delay, you’re letting them know what you are doing without simpering about how busy you are , and you’re offering a token for their trouble.

Then get it done.  And change your contract to give you wiggle room.

Outsource

Oh, I know. You’d never outsource.  Your photos have to be edited a certain way that no one could ever understand.  It’s like quantum physics, your editing process.  If you COULD teach someone to edit your photos you’d have to kill them.  Unicorns couldn’t even understand.

Yes, I am making fun of you.  But honestly?  I get it.  Our business is our baby but  sometimes we throw the baby out with the bathwater.

If you can’t outsource your editing take a look at what you could outsource

1. Childcare

2. Laundry

3. Housecleaning (the day I realized that I had to sell TWO 8×10’s a month to pay my housekeeper that comes in twice a month changed my entire life)

4. Retouching

5. Album design

6. Lawn work

7. Blogging

 

The list could even go further.  There is something you can let go.  There really is.  Try it.

Ice Cream

When all else fails, ice cream helps .  Always.

 

 

 

10 Comments

  1. What a great post. Making a schedule and sticking to it is the only way back to sanity :) FB is my biggest distraction…but hey, if I didn’t have FB i would have never have “met” Kim and Charo and now have the honor of reading these awesome blog posts. Thank you for keeping my sanity :)

  2. When times get thick and it seems too much is happening in too little time I narrow down my focus and deal with only one thing at a time. I get it done and off my list. Basically the opposite of multi tasking (which by now everyone knows is really not more efficient). It took my years to realize that if somethings don’t get done when they are supposed to the world will not end. I have also learned when life is dialed to full load not to give clients a date on when they can expect something. I am a bit vague on when something might be completed. This gives me some wiggle room and I am not adding more deadlines to myself. If I get it done earlier than I thought then all the better for everyone. If you don’t take time to take a break then your life will start to darken at the edges and you will feel you are responding to things rather than controlling them.

  3. perfectly said and thanks for the reminder. we aren’t curing cancer. brava and keep the hard truth coming!

  4. Great reminder re: having a schedule – it allows us room to a)not freak out and b)get it all done (even with the help of others).

  5. perfect timing for these words of truth. and humor helps.
    yup. ice cream.
    thank you

  6. You have hit the nail right on the head. Yes outsourcing can be quite hard for some of us , buy it’s the only logical answer. The problem being I am so
    Particular about my work I have never even considered it, until now. Reading your post, it sounds exactly like my life. You have helped me to see some light at the end of the tunnel.
    Thank you so much for the great advice and I look forward to reading more.

  7. oh, this is so good. i found this blog after jamie at the modern tog linked you in her weekly mailing, and this is exactly where i’m at these days. i’ve mentally reminded myself this week after reading your post that i’m not curing cancer so no, i don’t need to take time to call a client on an evening during family time because she’s freaking out about HER poor planning. as well as other good tidbits from this post. thank you so much for posting this. (:

  8. It’s so true – we try to do everything ourselves and sometimes fail miserably! :) I’ve already changed my contract for delivery in 4 weeks and pushed it out to 6 weeks, just to give me the leeway during periods when wedding bookings are heavy (like 4 in 5 days) …. when it’s quieter my clients will get their photos sooner (under promise and over deliver). After all, we’re entitled to a life during the “season” aren’t we?

  9. Thank you for sharing this post! It’s a really smart business post, and a really smart personal post! It’s been a wonderful experience taking on post work for other photographers this year… I love how much of a burden it takes off of them… something I enjoy doing that helps others! The unicorn comment made me laugh as I used to feel that way about my own work!

    Cheers! Aaron

  10. Haha, I love the title of this article! The one thing I learned early on was to set a schedule, otherwise I never had any time for family or myself!

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