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Finding Work-Life Balance as a Freelance Photographer

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When it comes to life, do you ever feel like you just can’t get a break?  Or that you’re swimming upstream?  Life is always busy and it’s hard to keep everything together, but when you’re a freelance photographer there’s always something to keep you even busier.  There are a ton of articles, blogs, and books about how to find that perfect work-life balance, while also being productive. Separating free time and work can be difficult, and it also gets confusing. Long days of editing can lead to long evenings of catching up on your emails and responding to clients.  All the while, trying to stay on top of social events during the evening, and yet rarely being able to focus on one task at any time.

This kind of sounds like a lot of us, doesn’t it?  But when it comes to running a freelance life, finding the balance can be especially difficult.  You don’t have the ability to “clock out” at 5 pm like you do with a regular job.  Which means you’re always thinking about your project or working on something – even if it’s just in your brain. We could give you a long list of things to try – such as productivity apps, or using task lists or even going into “do not disturb” mode when you’re trying to edit or doing a specific task.  Some of that will work for you, and some of it won’t.  That’s just the way it is.  But the real problem is that this kind of work isn’t just black and white, and you need to be able to embrace the shades of gray.

Setting Expectations

To start, you need to give yourself permission to work at any point during the day.  If you decide that you’re going to work from 9-12, and then from 3-8, let those be your hours and don’t feel guilty about it.  The key here is that you need to let people close to you that these are your work hours (or your temporary work hours) so that everyone knows what those expectations are.  Maybe share your calendar with your partner in order to keep them in the loop of when you’re available and when you’re going to be putting your nose to the grindstone.

Alternatively, if you’re expecting a call, and you’re out with friends, be upfront about it.  Don’t make it look like you’re being rude while checking your phone under the table.  Share this information with those that you’re with.  If you have to, step out of the room in order to deal with your business.  Everyone in your life should know that you don’t necessarily work the 9-5 hours, and therefore you might have times when you’re not there 100% of the time.

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Always Keep Working

If you use a lot of outdoor spaces for photo and video shoots, you will find that location scouting can be time-consuming.  A way to remedy this kind of potential time-suck is to use your downtime to find new locations.  No, you don’t have to be “on” all the time, but if you’re out for your daily run, maybe try a new park.  Or, if you’re trying to find inspiration for your shoots, think about what you’ve been watching on TV.  Maybe watching a show from a specific time period can help you get inspiration for a new project.

While some of this might seem like you’re still working all the time, I think that it definitely comes down to the expectation piece.  If you need to put in 50 hours each week, you need to outline what that looks like.  This includes where you’re working and what you’re doing.  Having a schedule for your life isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  So long as you don’t schedule yourself down to the minute.  That said, knowing that you’re going to be working these particular hours this week is going to help you in the long run.  That way you can identify what you’ll do with the rest of your time.  Like I said, I think that this also applies to life in general, so keep that in mind the next time you feel like the walls are closing in on you.