If you’re DONE feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and not-good-enough, it’s time you learned to set boundaries! No more trying to measure up to someone else’s vague standards. Build the photography business YOU want to build, so you can live the life YOU want to live. (Featuring KRISTY DICKERSON. Photos by TESSA MARIE STUDIOS.)
Post on Instagram!
Respond to emails!
Bake a Pinterest-worthy cake!
Raise delightful children with astonishingly jam-free hands!
This is the impossible bar photographers are struggling to meet every. single. day.
Heaven help you if your website crashes or the dog pukes on the floor, because you’re barely treading water as it is.
Maybe – just maybe – it’s time to say NO.
This is where STARTplanner creator and Start Balancing author Kristy Dickerson comes in. Here she shares the step-by-step tips you need to set boundaries, get organized, and build your best life – kiddie jam-hands and dog puke notwithstanding.
How Do Boundaries Fix My Mess Of A Life?
There’s no way around it: life is messy.
The good news? When you set boundaries, you can compartmentalize the stressors and deal with them appropriately: at the right time, and in the right frame of mind.
“When you work from home, it’s hard to set boundaries for home tasks and work responsibilities. For me, the three methods that help are: maintaining a schedule and communicating it to everyone, defining a workspace, and finding someone to hold your business accountable.” – Kristy Dickerson
#1: Maintain A Schedule
When you’re employed in an office, it’s easy to maintain a schedule, because your schedule is set for you. If you don’t adhere to that schedule, your colleagues will let you know!
Work-from-home pros, however, enjoy so much flexibility they often find themselves floundering – and getting nothing done. Or worse: they accomplish stuff that doesn’t matter (WOW, you just binged your third Netflix series this week!), while critical tasks sit on the back burner (“I’ll answer those emails… tomorrow.“)
Kristy suggests THREE straightforward steps to help you maintain a schedule:
Scheduling Step #1: Decide which tasks to DO, and which tasks to DELEGATE.
Don’t wait until you’re gasping for air to breathlessly beg for help! Decide now what can be outsourced.
Are you the worst at bookkeeping? Outsource it! Is editing the bane of your existence? Time to outsource! Would you rather break a bone than clean your bathroom? Hire a darn housekeeper and get back to the work you really care about – the work that’s earning you money!
“If you work from home and have young kids, consider hiring childcare help two days a week so you can really stay focused.” – Kristy Dickerson
Scheduling Step #2: Allocate time to your regular, repeated tasks.
We all have tasks we perform regularly – some we don’t even think about! Getting a good night’s sleep, waking up and taking a shower, getting dressed, eating breakfast… these are daily activities we all engage in without even considering the time we allocate to them. These tasks are necessary parts of our lives, and we draw boundaries accordingly.
A Silly Scenario
Friend: “Hi, I know I just woke you up in the middle of the night, but would you like to meet for coffee in 10 minutes?”
You: “Is it an emergency?”
You: “Look, I’ve only had three hours of sleep (I require at least six), and I would need to shower and get dressed (which requires at least 30 minutes), so NO, I cannot meet you in 10 minutes.”
Friend: “But I’m ready NOW! I want to meet in 10 minutes!”
You: “Sorry! You’ll have to wait until morning! That’s my boundary.“
Hopefully that silly scenario makes the point clear: you wouldn’t skip sleep or a shower for no good reason. So why would you show your other tasks any less respect?
You already set boundaries every day without thinking about it. A few more boundaries can only help!
Schedule regular time for:
- client meetings
- TIME OFF!
“Instead of paying bills as they come in, set aside two Fridays a month for paying bills. Once a month, set aside time to plan your marketing budget and forecast your preliminary numbers. Schedule similar tasks together to save time!” – Kristy Dickerson
Brick-and-mortar businesses have hours. Why can’t you?
There’s nothing wrong with only answering emails before noon, only editing on Tuesdays and Thursdays, only meeting with clients on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings, and taking Mondays off for family day.
Establish a schedule that works for your business and your lifestyle, and stick to it! This is how other successful businesses operate. Why should yours be any different?
“Your friends and family will learn when they can reach you and when you are unavailable.” – Kristy Dickerson
Scheduling Step #3: The early bird gets the worm.
One of the perks of work-from-home self-employment is your total control over your own schedule. You can choose to sleep in, take naps, or stay up late and work into the wee hours of the morning.
However, if your work schedule is too erratic, you’ll find that you aren’t actually getting anything done (other than the naps.)
“My day starts at 5am which allows me to get more done before my entire family wakes. This makes for a super-productive start to the day!” – Kristy Dickerson
Take advantage of your flexibility in ways that are beneficial to you and your family.
Getting up early to work may not be fun at first, but after a cup of coffee and a productive morning, you’ll be grateful to have put in a solid eight hours of work by lunchtime!
Or maybe you’re a night owl, and you work best when you sleep in with your family then stay up late to complete your tasks.
Whatever sets you up for success is a-okay! Just find a solution and stick with it.
“Start getting balanced with a FREE downloads & graphics bundle! You’ll also be to be entered to win 1 of 3 signed copies of Start Balancing!” – Kristy Dickerson
#2: Define A Workspace
“Your workspace might be an office, or a corner of your bedroom. It could even be your couch! I’ve done all three. It’s only important that when you create a space for work, it’s organized and inspiring. When it’s time to work, you want to be ready to rock and roll!” – Kristy Dickerson
If you settle into your workspace and can’t quite focus, take stock of your work area. Is it overwhelmed by clutter? Is your workspace a catch-all for unopened mail, abandoned dishes, and some tiny person’s stinky socks?
Spend a few minutes decluttering your work area. And, if possible, declare your workspace off limits to other people’s items. When you work from home, it’s too easy for work-things and life-things to intermingle. And since both life-things and work-things deserve your full attention, it’s best if they’re also allotted their own spaces.
#3: Find An Accountability Partner
Maybe you already have an accountability partner through your church, a parenting group, or a therapy community.
If so, you already know that accountability rocks! It connects you with a non-judgmental collaborator who provides honest feedback, thoughtful guidance, and empathic insight as you navigate the complexities of (in this case) entrepreneurship.
“Having someone else hold you accountable makes a huge difference in your business. Your accountability partner can be someone you pay – like a business coach, mentor, mastermind group, or your business partner; or they can be a friend or someone you swap services with. Spend a couple hours each week helping and pushing each other to get things done.” – Kristy Dickerson
Accountability doesn’t have to be terribly formal. Meet for dinner and drinks, or connect over coffee if that works best for you. Whatever helps you and your accountability partner connect authentically, communicate openly, and get s#!t done is the RIGHT way to go about it.
Set Boundaries with Clients (without Hurting Their Feelings)
Setting boundaries with friends and family is one thing. It’s another thing entirely to set boundaries for your clients – the people who write your paychecks!
While it may feel scary to set boundaries for your clients, it’s necessary if you want to maximize your time, provide an excellent client experience, and position yourself as a true professional.
There are a number of ways in which clients unwittingly breach your boundaries, and most of them can be solved with simple workflows.
“Your most important asset is time, so create streamlined workflows and templates for any tasks you do repeatedly. For example, if you respond to pricing inquiry emails over and over, create a template that you can copy-and-paste, add a little personalization, and move on!” – Kristy Dickerson
Email Templates: Your New Best Friend
Kristy shared these specific template ideas to save time and set boundaries:
- Session Guide Email. Create a copy-and-paste template of what your client can expect during their session. Include what-to-wear tips with a link to a Pinterest style board, and links to your favorite local stylists and/or salons. Personalize with a session date/time/location reminder!
- Session Follow-Up Email. Create a copy-and-paste template thanking your client for sharing their time with you! Include a reminder of when their photos will be ready, and how they’ll be delivered.
- Gallery Ready Email. Create this email template in your ShootProof dashboard, where it can be automated and personalized every time a new gallery is ready to send!
Just Say NO! (It Feels So Good!)
Photographers build their businesses on YES.
“YES, I’ll photograph your wedding!” (Even though you’ve never shot a wedding before!)
“YES, I’ll photograph your newborn!” (Even though you’re kind of scared of babies!)
“YES, I’ll photograph your Healing Crystals Essential Elements Oil Mudmask Leggings Zen Kit!” (Wait – what is that again?)
But sometimes, it’s necessary to say NO.
“Saying no isn’t always a bad thing. You need to have clear goals for your life and business, and know that it’s okay to turn things down that don’t align with those goals. Learning to say no will keep you from spreading yourself too thin and overcommitting.” – Kristy Dickerson
If you find it hard to say no, create a template to help you! The next time you need to say no, don’t overthink it. Simply copy-and-paste your NO template into an email, and hit SEND. And if the inquiry comes in via a phone call? Tell them you need to think on it, and ask, “Can I get back with you via email?” Then email your NO template when the time is right.
Here’s a starter NO email template – just to get you going:
Hello, Lovely Potential Client!
Thank you so much for getting in touch. Your project/event/family sounds wonderful!
Unfortunately, I’m not available, but I’d love to refer you to a few of my wonderful colleagues who would take great care of you! I know all of these photographers personally, and would hire them myself. You can’t go wrong with any of these artists!
- First Photographer’s Info
- Second Photographer’s Info
- Third Photographer’s Info
Should you contact any of these photographers, please let them know I sent you their way!
I wish you all the best,
-Not Your Photographer
PRO TIP: Saying NO Without Saying Why
Note that in the above NO example, we didn’t say WHY we were unavailable. We simply said NO.
It’s okay to turn down an opportunity without explaining or making excuses.
You don’t have to say, “I loathe weddings,” or “I’m terrible at photographing newborns,” or “I think your product is stupid and I don’t understand it.”
You only have to say, “I’m unavailable,” and refer the potential client to another trusted colleague.
Done and done.
Set Boundaries For Every Season: The Good, The Bad, & The “Meh”
“One of the biggest problems with being a photographer – and yes, it is a problem – is that we love what we do. Our passion can overtake our personal obligations, our family life, our health… and then we find ourselves out of balance. It’s important to set boundaries if we hope to achieve balance in our lives, continue doing what we love, and be there for the people around us. We must make a commitment to take care of ourselves before caring for others.” – Kristy Dickerson
As any good flight attendant will tell you: put the oxygen mask on yourself before you try to help anyone else, because if you can’t breathe, you won’t be helpful for very long.
Boundaries help you breathe. They’re your oxygen mask.
Alternately, think of boundaries as actual fences or barriers. What happens without fences and barriers? The chickens get devoured by foxes. People drive the wrong way on the interstate. Water runs all over the floor and your kids don’t get a bath. (Admit it: that visual is kind of hilarious.)
Boundaries help you get stuff done efficiently and effectively.
“Boundaries are imperative to maintaining balance. There are seasons of hustle, and seasons of being off-balance. A season of being off-balance is okay as long as you recognize it, put limits on it, and know how to restore balance when that season is over. Embrace each season, and enjoy it for what it is!” – Kristy Dickerson
Set Boundaries Full of Compassion
As you build your business and your boundaries, show yourself some grace. Failures are as important to your story as successes, and beating yourself up for what you perceive as shortcomings will only hold you back from focusing on what matters most.
If you encounter an obstacle or experience a lull, take a breath, regroup, and show yourself some love.
“Celebrate your victories and be proud of all that you are accomplishing!” – Kristy Dickerson
Your Challenge: Set ONE new boundary today. Then tell us what it is and how it will help you in the comments below!