Being a photographer may seem like there is no way to avoid business overwhelm. It may feel like the nature of the beast. Running a business is hard work and thus overwhelm is inevitable.
However, you must question where the root of that business overwhelm is coming from.
Usually it is because there is an abundance of work (which isn’t a bad thing) matched with little to no boundaries and systems.
I know that in my personal life when I am feeling overwhelmed it is usually because I have taken on too much, or trying to juggle too many “balls” in the air. I must take a moment to regroup, prioritize, let go of some things, and put a plan into action.
So what about in business? I’d have to say much of the process is the same.
There are several steps to help you avoid business overwhelm. The more attention to pay to each area, as described below, the more smoothly your business will run. You will also be surprised that when you do these things, your business can actually grow in a more sustainable way.
Where do you begin?
First, decide on a minimum and maximum number of sessions you can take on each month.
When you have not set boundaries as far as the number of sessions you take on, business overwhelm is inevitable. Most people cannot shoot everyday and keep up with clients. However, a “full” schedule may actually leave your calendar looking pretty empty. With a false sense of needing more sessions, you keep taking on more clients, beyond your actual capacity.
As you have more clients then you can handle, you get behind in your turnaround time. You may be sacrificing quality time with your family. Also, you may be sacrificing the client experience.
Setting a minimum allows you to set goals of how many you need each month. At the same time, setting that maximum allows you to have a boundary and a reason to say no to a client.
Bonus: Afraid of turning away clients? Consider this. When your calendar is full, you can suggest they move to another month/season, oftentimes they are willing to do so. Another thing I do as a Seattle family photographer is I point them to my newsletter to be alerted to session openings. Usually they will understand, jump on and book for the following year. You can also, always point them in the direction of another photographer in your area that needs business.
The next step to help you avoid business overwhelm is to put systems into place.
Overwhelm usually comes from having the feeling of too much to do. Thus, finding ways to save yourself time without sacrificing the client experience is key. Having systems is my saving grace as a business owner, and well, as a mom, too.
As a business consultant, the first “system” I suggest photographers put into place is having email templates from the first inquiry through the final touch point with their client. Whether you’re using a CRM, like Honeybook, or simply copying and pasting into gmail, having pre-written emails for your most common emails will save you time. This will also help you provide a branded and consistent experience for your clients.
Another important step to take is to set work hours.
Running a business, tending to the daily requirements of running a household, and raising kids all at the same time can take a toll on you. Trying to do it all at the same time can lead you to quick overwhelm, burnout, and making mistakes.
Instead, set work hours. Talk with your partner, hire help, ask grandparents, find someone to watch the kids. Then you have set time you will work on your business. This will make a world of difference.
Finally, an unpopular opinion is to limit social media usage to avoid business overwhelm.
As the saying goes, “stay in your own lane.” When you’re consuming too much other content, or seeing what others are doing, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. It is easy to fall into the comparison trap. Then, before you know it, you’re questioning if you’re doing enough, doing it right, should change everything about your business. That is not good for your mental health, your business, or for preventing business overwhelm.
I set a daily limit for social media that I aim to use for engaging with my followers and other accounts that bring me joy and inspiration. Then I’m off for the day. I focus my time and energy elsewhere.
This is probably the most challenging step for people to take, but can really have a huge impact.
In the end, avoiding business overwhelm comes down to setting boundaries and setting up systems.
Boundaries will help you set and reach your goals, while keep you from taking on too much. At the same time, systems will save you time while giving your clients a streamlined experience.
There will always be times when you start to feel overwhelmed, whether it is triggered by something by home life or work life. However, when you go back to the beginning and get to the root cause, you can avoid burnout.
Looking for more strategies to help you with growth without the business overwhelm? Join my newsletter list for just that.