My passion for photography started in high school, but my family photography business began fairly recently. It was after a move from Golden to Lakewood Colorado, and I had just taken on homeschooling our kindergartner plus a part-time job. In many ways, it didn’t seem like the best time to start a small business. However the desire was so strong to create family portraits that truly reflected a family’s love for one another as well as the beauty of our Colorado landscape, I dove in head first.
And it was easy. I made a website, got some business cards, and the work started flowing in.
Actually, there’s been quite a learning curve along the way—both in terms of artistry and in business. Lucky for me, I’ve had some amazing mentors along the way, and one major one has turned out to be my husband. He’s been running his own business for many years, and even though our fields (and personalities) are very different, there’s so much I’ve learned from him. And whether you too are running a business, a household, or both, I think there are some nuggets of wisdom here that you might appreciate.
1) Slow Down
My tendency is to push hard and fast whether the task at hand is a list of chores or a list of photos I’m trying to capture for a family. My husband, since our first days together, has challenged me to take life and myself less seriously. There is time to enjoy the moment, to watch life unfold slowly. When we rush about, we miss some of the most beautiful, tender moments.
I have heard from many friends that this has been one of the gifts of the pandemic: we have been forced to slow down. There is pleasure in the simplest of things like a family walk after dinner, exploring the nearby trees instead driving to a museum, or cooking a nutritious meal together instead of going out for dinner.
2) Plan Your Time Carefully
My natural inclination is to do the next thing in front of me, which—especially with young children—amounts to a swirl of activity without one specific project I can point to at the end of the day and say, “Yes, but at least I got this done.” My husband loves Excel spreadsheets (which, I understand from girlfriends, is quite common among the male population) and has shown me again and again how he plans out his time, taking a long term view in order to work towards certain goals. This may seem like it has nothing to do with a day filled with laundry and diaper changes, but hear me out—I think it applies. We can all, whatever our circumstances, benefit from looking at our schedules and how we spend our time. Time is about priorities whether we have carefully considered those priorities or not.
If having an immaculate house is what matters most to you—great!
If having kids who love the outdoors and have a curiosity for nature is your priority—great!
These don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but there might be some compromises in order to strive toward both these goals. The key is intentionality (which may or may not necessitate a spreadsheet).
3) Make Goals and Reward Yourself
Making goals is not a foreign concept to me, it’s the second part that my husband does exceptionally well and I tend to forget. The truth is, we are all more likely to work hard toward achieving a goal if we know there is a tangible reward at the end. For example, he uses a complicated point system to track his many goals, and if he reaches a certain percentage of success, he can buy himself a correlating reward. This, of course, demands another spreadsheet to track, but you can easily achieve the same end with a simpler system: reach a goal, get a reward. Try it and see if it works for you.
4) Be Strategic with Purchases
When it comes to purchases, business owners are especially susceptible to the excuse, “It’s a write off,” but we can all convince ourselves of the necessity of purchases that may or may not actually be necessary. My husband is great at carefully analyzing a need, researching the products available and waiting until he is convinced that his business or efficiency will be enhanced by a particular purchase. Photography, like many other industries—or even like daily life—is chock full of gear that promises to be “the game changer.” I have to carefully select those things that will actually improve my business in a significant way and not get sucked into the lie that I can buy my way into success.
5) Pick Up the Phone
My husband says if an email is more than a couple sentences long, you should pick up the phone and call. For an introvert who truly hates the phone, this has been a tough one for me, but I am seeing the value of his advice, especially during the pandemic. Virtual communication can only take us so far, either in business or in our personal lives. Written words can be so easily misunderstood. Social media and texting have their place, but they can leave us feeling more isolated than ever. We’re not bumping into acquaintances at the park, we’re not gleaning bits of wisdom from each other at church, many big family events that would fill up our social reservoirs have been canceled. We have to find ways of connecting with one another and sometimes that means being the first to call.
So often—whether in my personal life or my family photography business—I find my husband to be a great sounding board and a source of solid advice. I hope you have gleaned some bits of wisdom here, too, and if nothing else have seen the value of an occasional spreadsheet.