How many times have you said "yes" to something you felt "eh" about? How many times did you make a choice to say "yes" to that something and knew you should say "no"?
Being pulled in one thousand directions is something most photographers feel, especially this time of year. You really do want to rush through a client's edits because you do want them to have photos for Christmas. Even though you haven't done your shopping, decorating, baking, planning, breathing because your October and November were full with edits, clients, and work.
You need to sometimes put yourself first. Put your family first. Instead of always putting work first. It's hard, trust me I know. Business owners often see their business as defining who they are. It's so much more than just a business, it becomes everything. But at what expense?
Here are a few things you can do today to start setting your own boundaries for your business. These are things you ALREADY know. I know you do. But we all need a reminder, and we all need help, support, and validation. So here it is.
SET OFFICE HOURS: Don't ALWAYS be available. I'm guilty. If I check my email at 10pm and see a new inquiry, I'm obviously going to want to get up right away and respond with my pricing and introductory email. When at 10pm, I need to be relaxing, hopefully getting ready for bed, or spending time with my husband (if he's not snoring yet). Set hours during the day where you will check email and respond to clients or leads. And then stick to it! If you get that email at 10pm, and you want to respond, go ahead. BUT schedule it for the future! Use Boomerang for gmail and schedule it for the next morning when your office hours start. You don't want to always be available to a client because you need to have a life, and if they see one email from you at 10:15pm, they might be more likely to text you at that time, or send another email and be frustrated that you didn't respond right away.
STOP GIVING IT AWAY FOR FREE: Why should one client pay your full price, but another client get a discount or something or free. We all do it sometimes. A free session for a client, or an extended family member. Sometimes, if you are shooting digital, you don't have an literal out of pocket cost, but with film you certainly do! But even if you don't have to spend any money on shooting, your time is money. Your time is valuable. And you should respect that. Also, if I were that client who paid full price and heard you did a session for Mary down the street for free, I won't book you again. That's unprofessional. It's hurting your business and crushing your self worth. When someone asks for a discount, let them know your value. Don't just say "yes".
MAKE POLICIES AND STICK TO THEM: Maybe it's a policy about afore mentioned office hours. Maybe is a policy about not working on Sundays. Maybe it's a personal policy to put down your phone at 9:30 or 10pm to focus on yourself or spend time with your spouse. Make a list of the things you'd with for yourself and then go from there. What do you need more of in your life? Time to read? Time to cook? Time for a pedicure? (Hey, self care is important!) Make that list and then prioritize it!
Nothing here is rocket science or unrealistic. Don't make the same mistakes and then kick yourself later. And especially, DO NOT feel guilty about wanting or needing time away from your business. You'll be more energized and focused in the morning. You know, during office hours.