To celebrate moms, we took time to chat with a couple of our favorite photographers, Natalie Licini of Je Revele Fine Art Photography and Chrysta Rae of Chrysta Rae Photography, about how they juggle successful photography businesses with raising their family. They’ve shared a little insight into how to get the kids to the dentist and invoices in the mail, all while keeping their clients happy. Like all moms, keeping all those balls in the air is a struggle. But one that is rewarded with the best of both worlds – time with their children and paying the bills doing a job they love.
Today we’ll see their top five tips for getting everything done like a pro.
1) Make – and Stick to – a Strict Schedule
One of the biggest advantages to being your own boss is setting your own schedule. But that doesn’t mean that work has to slide into family time and vice versa. Find a balance between the responsibilities of your business and your children no matter how tough it is, especially when your office is at home and you’re truly never far from work.
I try to work Monday through Thursday and keep weekends free. Each day I wake about 8am, spend time with my children, check email, drink coffee, and then drive to our New Jersey office by 10am. We have two photo shoots per day on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday with Tuesdays reserved for client viewings (sales appointments), usually late in the day to accommodate working clients. Fridays I reserve for accounting at home. Every day I handle client inquiries and questions and head home about 5pm. Every other Saturday is date night with my hubby and every single Sunday we have dinner with my parents, brothers, aunt, and cousins. It’s my favorite day of the week. We just relax, talk about life, and enjoy the company.
I drop the kids off at school, then I’m off shooting. I can book 1 to 6 shoots a day (once I did 9, but I almost died). While I’m out, I have to find multiple addresses and deal with realtors, homeowners, builders, and managers on location. I help stage, clean houses, make small talk, shoot, and then I scoot to my next booking. I pick up my kids and take them to hockey, or go grocery shopping, or pick up their friends, etc. Both my kids love it and thrive in hockey. And in my schedule, hockey is non-negotiable. They are members of a team, and that has huge value. Nothing interferes with that. And as much as I can, I’m at each practice and every game cheering them on.
2) Stay In Focus, No Matter Where You Are
Focus on the job at hand. Be present in the moment, and with the people you’re with at that time. Give all your attention to your clients when you’re working with them, and to your family when it’s their time for your attention.
My main focus is always my boys. Their needs come first. Work is always there, so I just make sure when I’m with my kids, they know they’re my priority. I’m lucky they understand how hard I work, and that I’m doing it to better our lives. And when I’m at work, I build a true bond with all my clients. Simple things like not bringing my phone into a client’s home—it’s easy, but important. They know they’re the only focus I have while I’m with them. I ask questions and talk about my personal life; my clients truly know me and, in the end, they know they’ll get my best effort AND that I truly care about them.
3) Don’t Be Afraid to Outsource
Whether it’s help with the kids and the house, or with the non-photography tasks of your business, know when to hire an extra set of hands or two. Relinquishing control can be hard, but you’ll save that much more energy to focus on the things only you can do.
We have an au pair who lives with us. She helps with the children during the day while I’m at the office, feeding, dressing, playing with the kids, and getting them to and from school. In New York City having an au pair is more economical than day care, which costs 35-50% more. My team helps with editing, printing, writing, and preparing our clients’ orders for pickup. I’ve hired additional staff to write for Je Revele, and we have an in-house editor.
4) Love What You Do
We hear from photographers all day, every day, that they love their jobs. Keeping your heart in line with your hands is the best way to guarantee success, and that you’ll wake up every morning excited about the days ahead.
The biggest perk of doing photography for a living and raising my boys is they SEE daily that if you love something, you can find a way to make a living doing it. Work should be something that gets you out of bed in the morning, not something you press the snooze button on while dreading the day ahead of you. The bottom line is I do what I love and have found a way to make money doing it, and I also have balance with my family. Being a mom is the most important job in the world, and the most rewarding. I truly think I’m giving them a very big life lesson in finding their passion and empowering them. With enough persistence and passion, anything’s possible—it’s there for them to grab.
If you love what you do, and can pour your heart and soul into growing your business, do it! Don’t let fear hold you back. I’ve had photography mentors over the years who’ve really helped me grow and establish my business. Attend workshops with some of the masters in our industry and you’ll find your skill level improve dramatically.
5) If You’re Just Starting Out
Making the leap to start your own photography business can be the most exciting step of your life, especially if you’re coming away from being a full-time parent, or a more traditional job. Here are two final tips to keep in mind if you’re looking to go pro.
Set a timeframe. I gave myself one year: if I could pay my bills and still afford a few luxuries at the end of it, I would continue. It started up quite quickly for me; I posted on Facebook that I’d offer $50 photography sessions for families while I was still in school. It was truly just to give me things to shoot and learn “in the field.” From that one post I did hundreds of portrait sessions and, after I graduated, I was confident enough to even shoot weddings.
Network! I suggest networking with your community, business owners, moms, and dads. Always gently mention you’re a photographer and be prepared to hand them a brochure of your work. I have little accordion brochures in my purse that I give out by the dozen, thanks to a suggestion I heard on creativeLive from Sue Bryce. Rather than having someone lose my business card, I give them a brochure so they can see my work immediately. It makes a good impression that helps them make a call to book a session with me.
Do you have your own secrets to running a tight family ship? We’d love to hear them! Add your comments at the end of this article.
My name is Chrysta Rae. I’m a professional interior/real estate photographer working full time in the Edmonton, Alberta area. I have 2 amazing children, Tyson (he’s 11) and Grayden (he’s 10). The boys are in grades 5 and 4, and both play in high level hockey all winter, and both play spring hockey as well. My kids are exceptional people. They’re funny, kind, thoughtful, dorky, and loveable. I love being their Mom.
My family was first. I started photography professionally when my youngest went into grade 1. I have always been a very self-empowered business person. I previously owned a closed captioning business that ended when my youngest son was about 2. With the recession and new technology, the business just slowly died. I was a stay-at-home Mom until both kids were in school… then I needed to fill my days back up again! I had always loved photography and decided to focus my attention on it on a “professional” level. I enrolled in the New York Institute of Photography and devoured everything I could to learn every single thing I could about every aspect of it.
I was born and raised in New York City. I reside there with my husband and 3 children. We have 2 girls ages 5 and 4 and our son is 11 months old and already walking. Yay! My daughters are in dance, piano and have singing lessons. It’s busier than it sounds, but we have a manageable schedule.
I opened my business 6 months after my first child was born in 2008. I started photographing clients using backdrops in my basement in 2008. In 2011, I left my full time job and moved to my first studio. Then in 2012, I rebranded and opened our flagship studio in a historic New Jersey Castle.