This entire post was on my original blog and I still find it to be true for me. I copy/pasted it exactly as is, mistakes and all :)
**Are you like me and have many thoughts run through your head either late at night as you are going to sleep, or first thing in the morning? That's how I woke up today. This is a very raw and personal post that will be filled with errors, but it's something I've wanted to get out for a long time. Thank you for taking the time to read it!**
There is a saying out there. I don't know who said it, I've only seen it posted on Facebook from time to time. It says, "Stop the glorification of "busy".
I began noticing just how often the word "busy" gets used in day to day language. In fact, it's probably about as common of a small-talk topic as "So how about this weather we're having!" (But seriously, what is up with this weather we're having?!). I don't know when this happened, but at some point we began putting too much stock in the word "busy". Somehow, "busy" became the staple to which we associate a successful life. I'm not ok with that.
When I first opened, every single person that walked through my door asked if I was keeping busy. I get it. The underlining question that they were asking was about the success of my business. However, it's rude to ask if you are making lots of money, so the question was disguised in the form of casual conversation. "Ya keepin' busy?" is something I hear every single day of my life. It's not something I mind hearing; I'm glad people are taking an interest in my business.
When I opened the pressure to keep busy led to a very impractical business plan on my part. I felt like a failure if every single hour of every single day wasn't spent constantly working on something. When someone caught me taking an hour for myself, I felt like I had to justify it by immediately listing off how many hours I had spent working that week just to earn that one hour off. I lowered my prices and offered ridiculous sales in order to keep this mantra up. I had to be "busy" or I wasn't successful.
I ended up exhausted and frustrated. Here I was working every waking hour of the day and when I would put my books together at the end of the year I had barely turned a profit. For the first three years of my business, I didn't cut myself a salary. I didn't lose money, which was a huge plus. But, I was still sitting on a pile of debt from start up costs and wasn't looking to cut that down any time soon.
I couldn't figure it out. What was I doing wrong? I had no spare time, I had way more sessions than I ever dreamed of having, I had the amount of weddings I strive for each year. When people asked if I was keeping busy, I confidently replied with "Oh ya!" and they were so happy to hear that. I must have been doing something right, right?
After 2012 I couldn't take it anymore. I had had my worst year (profit wise, I was still quite "busy"). I was completely burnt out and I was honestly ready to call it quits. I toyed with the idea of closing up the studio and giving on-location a try in order to cut back on my expenses.
And then I saw that quote. The one that turned things around. "Stop the glorification of busy".
And I did. I stopped buying into the philosophy that we have to be busy to be successful and to gain respect. I stopped being busy.
I took an honest look at what I needed to make per session, per wedding. I figured out just how much time was being spent on editing, marketing, communication, etc and I stopped being busy.
I raised my prices and swallowed the fact that I was no longer going to be a go, go, go photographer. I was going to have spare time and I was just going to have to get used to that. It did NOT mean that I wasn't working hard, it simply meant I wasn't going to drive myself insane anymore. I wasn't going to lose sleep over the photographer down the street posting more sessions than me, I wasn't going to make myself sick over one lost customer, and I was going to stop being busy.
In 2013 I had what I consider to be my first successful year. By successful, I mean I had happy customers. I provided a level of customer service that still wasn't quite where I wanted it, but was getting close. I worked probably 25% less hours, which was still not down to the 40 hours a week I aim to be at but was improving. And, I earned a salary. Not a high salary, but a livable salary for the first time in my career. I did it without being busy.
In 2014, I cut back even more. I began to focus primarily on weddings and seniors, and I put a lot of effort into creating an experience for both. I started taking more classes and focusing on improving every single time I picked up my camera. I took some weekends off for the first time in 4 years so I could visit my husband while he traveled for school. I took an entire month off to be with him while he had an externship in Colorado.
I had my second successful year.
I wasn't busy.
My photography has flourished since making this decision. I can hardly stand looking at most of the images I created from 2010-2012 because I am so disappointed in myself for over booking all the time and taking on way more than I could handle. I'm mad at myself for buying into the "busy" concept and not doing what was right for me. Most importantly, now I am happy. I have been so much happier these last two years than my first three. A happy photographer=happier customers.
Now, when people ask if I'm keeping busy, instead of responding with bug eyes and a dramatic slow head nod, I smile and reply "I'm exactly as busy as I want to be".
*Disclaimer. Clearly, there are some business that MUST be busy to be successful. If you are a store, you definitely want as much foot traffic as you can get. However, if you are in the service industry I believe there is a point to which the quality of your work starts to falter if you take on too much. My breaking level will not be the same as what others may be. For me, I can afford a lighter work load because I have no employees to pay and fairly low overhead. What I recommend doing is figuring out what you can handle sooner rather than later. I needed those first three years to teach me very valuable lessons so I knew how to improve. I consider it the "paying my dues" time of my career. I needed to make a name for myself before I could slow down.