I am not gonna lie, being a full time working mom and a small business owner on the side is not for the faint of heart. I’m here to explain how I got started, keep it going, and why I continue to do it.
I work full-time 8-5 in HR, but on nights and weekends I run a successful photography business.
During my busy times I easily work 60+ hours a week. I also have a 3 year old, a dog, a house, and last but certainly not least a husband that is amazing. I should be clear that without him this would not be possible. He’s a rock star dad and husband.
My day job is all policies and employee relations. Not creative or inspirational… unless you count mediating employees as inspirational, which I do not!
When I started my photography business for real in 2009 (after years of portfolio building) I had an apartment, a dog, and a boyfriend. It was easy to schedule sessions and make time for editing. Fast forward to today and it’s a real struggle to say “no” to clients when I am over booked. I have more business that I want/need. It’s a great problem to have except I do not want to stop my HR work to run my business full time, so I had to figure out a way to find some middle ground. Learning to say “no” and to schedule smartly has saved my business and created more time with my family, which is always first priority. Last year was a big learning year for me in that department.
My new rules are I only shoot once a weekend. Generally I’ll schedule a couple clients back to back every other weekend. My turn around time for sessions has adjusted from 2 weeks to 3-4, and even though I generally get them completed much faster than that I want to under-promise and over-deliver! That’s always a good business rule I have learned. I also do not take on more than 4 weddings a year. Weddings are HUGE time suckers and while I love the challenge, my time is just not worth it for more than 4.
Fall is super challenging as it’s by far the busiest time of the year. From October through the beginning of December I could easily shoot 30-45 sessions and that is ALL WEEKENDS. Last year I had 38 clients and I cut off scheduling the last day November! I said ”no” and it hurt, but I did it. I took off the entire month of December and it was fabulous! Oh and all that extra work meant that our December trip to Florida was paid for exclusively by my work behind the lens.
So why do I make myself crazy you ask? Well, after getting laid off twice in one year in 2011, photography helped us make it through. It’s also helping pay off debt and gives us the “fun money” we want. I love the craft and the challenge it gives me as well, but let’s be honest the money is the motivation. Like so many industries this business grows on word of mouth and in order to keep that pipeline going I have to consistently be busy and keep my name out there. I market through Facebook and other social media networking almost entirely and so that’s quick and easy, and I get a huge return from a little bit of time. At the end of next year we will be 100% debt free (with the exception of our home) and then the real fun starts with all the extra money.
At the end of the day I think I will always feel a bit of guilt that I do not devote more of my free time to my family, but I also know that I work this hard for them. Just like a working mom with only 1 job there are days when the grass is so much greener on the other side, but dang it… I do not live there and most days I love it.
Jenn lives in rainy hipster filled Portland, OR with her husband, (almost) 3 year old Oskar, and rescue mutt Oden. She works full time as an HR Manager and runs a successful photography business in all her “free time.” She likes honesty, a well composed photo, and things that should’t make her laugh… but do. You can find her blogging at Elsewhere and on IG and Twitter as @oskarsmomma.