Stress is a killer. I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Study after study after study all concludes that stress can lead to a whole slew of nasty consequences. It would then stand to reason that it is in our absolute best interest to reduce it as much as possible. Anyone who has chosen to make their living as a photographer, however, will tell you that this is harder than it appears.
The really big irony here is that many of us choose to do photography as an escape from the stress of having a regular job. Many of us are tired of working for “the man”. We conclude that somehow this routine of working a 9-5 dead end job is driving us to an early grave. Once the novelty of going freelance and having your own business wears off, however, the realities begin to set in, and sometimes this passion can prove to be more stressful then the world we were escaping from.
As a full time professional fashion photographer for some years now I can with certainty say that this is a very stressful profession. I shoot over 10,000 pieces of clothing every year. The sheer scale of organizing that and making sure your clients are happy along the way is no small task. I also run one of the most popular studios in the Toronto area which keeps me quite busy and has its own set of responsibilities. Over the years as my business has scaled in size and I have taken on more challenges I have also developed some crucial ideas that help me in curbing stress. I would like to share some of these with you in the hopes that it will help keep you a little saner in your own journeys.
Organize & Streamline
I know, this sounds like MORE work, and it is but with a little bit of effort though you can save yourself a ton of headaches. By nature I am not a very organized person. It is trait I have struggled with for a long time. Early on in my career when the volume of work I had was not that significant, organization was not a top priority. As my business grew this unorganized approach began to put all sorts of pressure on me when it came to deadlines, my sleeping patterns, time with friends and family, and ultimately the quality of my work.
One way to help organize your business is to develop routines. Have a morning routine, as recently suggested by Chase Jarvis, and routines for every other aspect of your business life. It may seem odd to structure your way like this at first but once you get into the habit of following through you will notice the quality of your life and business improving dramatically!
Finding ways to organize and streamline your business will be a key factor in not only helping you grow your business but in also helping you reduce the overall stress you feel while running it.
Ditch The Device
Learn to give yourself some breathing room away from your phone. I have noticed that my phone is one of the biggest stress factors in my life. I am constantly checking it; checking for emails, checking web stats, checking social media, taking calls. All these little tasks add up and eat a significant portion of your time leaving you far less productive. In fact checking my phone has become such a habit that I feel as though I have developed a bit of anxiety when I am NOT checking it. I feel as if I am constantly forgetting something.
I have begun to implement a “top of the hour” regimen with my phone. Although I do still take calls throughout the day, as that is a crucial part of my business, I will only check my phone for emails, text messages, and social media at the top of the hour. These sorts of inquiries can usually wait a little bit, and having this sort of structure keeps me focused on the tasks I have to finish throughout the day without being distracted by my phone.
Find A Positive Voice
In this line of work, criticism can drive you insane. There is an endless barrage of it no matter what level of skill you are at. It is the one thing you can’t escape in this industry. Sometimes criticism is useful for developing our skills and tastes, however, it also takes a massive emotional toll on many of us. There are times where I have slaved over an image for hours, looked at it for days, and when I finally decide to release it, the image is not well received at all. That eats away at me. It makes me question my own abilities, sometimes for days.
That is why it is important to have a strong positive voice in your corner. Someone who can always keep you grounded and reminds you of the progress you have made thus far. Maybe the less than stellar feedback you received from the general public was in fact warranted, but that same work might also be your strongest to date, and that is an accomplishment you deserve to be credited for.
Your images won’t always resonate with everyone, and you most certainly can’t please everyone all the time. Having someone in your corner that will support you in everything you do can help keep your emotions in check when you are dealing with overwhelming criticism.
Pick Up A Hobby
For a lot of people photography is the hobby, but when you choose to make it a profession, it can quickly lose the luster it had when you didn’t try and survive off its income. Hobbies are an important part of life because they offer us a break from reality and offer us a chance to indulge in something we find interesting.
Having a hobby can actually be beneficial to your photography not just because it allows you to take your mind away from your profession, but because it can also help inspire you to create new work. Hobbies give you insight into new topics and as you learn more about them and your passion develops, you can carry over what you have learned to your photography to give it a unique perspective.
Find a few things that you really love doing and use them as a way to balance out the overwhelming stress in your life. It can be an activity you enjoy doing, such as going for a morning jog or perhaps a few minutes of meditation in the afternoon. All you need is a bit of alone time to treat yourself. Personally I have a bit of a sweet tooth and I find that when times get a little rough I enjoy taking a 30 minute break to hop down to a local bakery for some pastries and a coffee. Taking a bit of time out of my day to sit down, relax, and enjoy a nice warm pastry as I watch the hustle and bustle of the streets is a very calming and relaxing experience for me. These little breaks are very important to break the cycle of work and to help reset your mental state.