I never intended to work from home, let alone in the photography industry. But a career as a lawyer aligned poorly with life as an Army wife and mother, and in 2006, I found myself scouring the internet for opportunities to pave a new professional path for myself, one that was conducive to biennial moves cross-country and babies underfoot. The path to my present role as Clickin Moms’ CEO was a winding one - writer, consultant, photographer - but my hours have always been spent divided between work and motherhood. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way:
Tip #1: Waking up to an action plan makes all the difference. Who’s that looking over your shoulder while you work? That would be no one. You may have some specific client deadlines - responding to inquiries, processing a session, creating an album - and if you want to be in business at all, you’ll get them done whether you have them written down or not. But after you finish those up, if you choose to spend your day jumping from Facebook to Buzzfeed to JCrew’s Final Sale section instead of mapping out your promotional plans for the year, the only person affected is you (and your competitors; they’re all for it). Many of the tasks that will differentiate you and your business are those that no one is waiting on: updating your portfolio, optimizing your website, studying and refining your skills, submitting for publication, reevaluating your products and pricing. Keep a master list of goals, break them down into actionable to-do items, assign deadlines, and take time each evening to move a couple of the most immediate items onto a to-do list that you can and will complete the next day.
Tip #2: A happy place cultivates productivity. Working at home doesn’t have to mean sitting on the couch in flannel pajamas (though it might). What does an ideal work space look like? Feel like? Smell like? Sound like? Taste like? Integrate a positive sensory experience into your work space in order to establish your own Pavlovian productivity zone. I wake up thinking about the whir of freshly roasted beans in the grinder, and, without fail, the workday begins when I sit down at my desk with a hot latte. Try to nurture all of the senses: my happy place also includes window light, Aveda Chakra 3 aromatherapy, a tidy bar-height desk, lodge boots, and a workflow play list or ambient coffee shop noise. It is a recipe for motivation and productivity that I genuinely savor every day.
Tip #3: It’s okay to feel guilty. Little hands tug on my shirt. “Not right now,” I whisper, “Mommy has to take this call.” Running a business - especially when you work from home - is a constant push and pull. Somehow I thought that I’d reach a point where my personal and professional priorities would be in perfect harmony. Ten years later, I still cannot conceive of a scenario that doesn’t involve compromise on both sides. Guilt runs high every time that I say “in a minute” (usually ten) to my kids or husband, and my dones list slows amidst the castle building, potty training, and after school chaos. But do I love the juggling act more than I resent it? Absolutely. I work all the time, but I’m there all the time, too. Balance, I’ve found, is more about feeling an abundance of gratitude than it is about the absence of guilt.
Tip #4: You might not be working too much after all. It’s easy to blame work, but when I’m overwhelmed by feelings of imbalance, it’s rarely because I’m spending too many hours being productive. The culprit can usually be found in the space in between my actual priorities; online shopping, viral videos, random emails, and a slew of status updates can easily lure you down three hour rabbit trails that sap your productivity, force your workday to spill over into family time, and ultimately breed resentment or greater guilt. Use apps that track the way you spend your online time (RescueTime is a favorite) and actively limit access to black-hole websites to a certain amount of time each day.
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