It can happen to all of us. Questioning what we do, whether or not this is the career for us, whether we are good enough, or even if we want to continue pursuing our photography career. It doesn’t help that in photography, the seasons of work seem to come and go… we can be riddled with business to the point of overwhelm one month, only to be sitting and desperately waiting for an inquiry the next. The chaos of it all is enough to fry your nerves and wrack your brain if you let it. Never mind the demanding schedule, the long hours, the high expectations, and the endless hats we wear as entrepreneurs. It’s no wonder so many photographers experience burnout. Many even leave the industry. But it doesn’t have to be that way. That’s why we came up with these 5 tips on how to avoid photographer burnout. These are things that can help you maintain a healthy balance in your life, so you can continue doing what you love.
One of the best tips for how to avoid photographer burnout is to plan ahead. None of us walk into a busy season of life planning on burning out. And yet, it still happens. Why? Because we don’t plan for it not to. In order to keep yourself from burning out, you must have a plan. And having a plan requires knowing your limits. A great place to start is by setting boundaries. How much work can you handle while still remaining a civil, functioning human being? Any work beyond that gets delegated or referred. Maybe the planning involves taking a load off at home to help you not feel so overwhelmed. Can you budget to hire some help around the house during your busiest season? If yes, do it. If not, decide that those dirty floors will not consume your mind or make you ridden with guilt. Learn to give yourself some extra grace when it’s needed. Does “managing it all” overwhelm you? Evaluate your current situation and where you can call in reinforcements. Whatever it is that gets you stressed when your schedule begins to fill up, look for a way to tackle that stress before it beats you.
Once you learn your limits, you can also recognize when it is time to recharge. There comes a point where your work is no longer productive, and you need to shut it down. Learn to step away and shut it down before you reach the point of overwhelm. Give yourself permission to recharge and rest. End of story.
Make a Friend
There isn’t much that I’ve found more difficult than to face challenges alone. Whether you are a hobbyist looking to grow, just starting your business, or you’ve been in business for years, we can all benefit from finding someone who is like-minded to share the ups and downs with. I am so thankful for the friendships I have with other photographers that can understand the highs and lows of not only the entrepreneurial side of photography, but the roller coaster of the creative growth process as well. It helps to have someone who “gets it” when we want to quit one day, then take our best shot the next. We all need someone to encourage us when we’re discouraged and to celebrate our wins.
Make the Work Fun
I refuse to let my work feel like work! At least not for long. Sure, there are always parts of the job that aren’t my favorite, and there are situations that come up that aren’t fun, but I’ve learned that if it feels like work for long, there is something I’m not doing right. I really enjoy what I do. And I am intentional to make sure that it continues to feel enjoyable each and every day. Some days that means cranking the 90s music while I’m editing. And sometimes it means bribing myself with treats and prizes (like coffee and chocolate) for getting things accomplished. This happens a lot on my bookkeeping days… the more receipts I enter, the bigger the coffee (hey, if it worked for Pavlov, it works for me). If I can’t find a way to make the work fun, it’s a sign of a deeper problem, and I probably need to revisit #1-3.
Take Time to Play!
I am a firm believer that not only should our work be fun, but so should the rest of our lives! I adore my job. I sometimes still can’t believe that I get paid to do what I love so much. But you know what? I also love other things. And those other things make me a better professional. They even me out. They give me joy and hope and inspiration. So I make sure to take time to step away, to take off the professional hats that I wear, and play. I go running, I go exploring, I design, decorate, and dream. And when I come back to the professional table, I am better for it.
It’s completely normal to have stressful, busy and challenging seasons. We all must if we want to be successful. But burnout can be detrimental. I decided a long time ago that there are certain hills I am just not willing to die on. I love what I get to do for a living, but I refuse to let it run me into the ground. Now that I know how to avoid photographer burnout, I can ensure I am setting healthy boundaries and keeping a solid balance in my life.