"You are the ringmaster of this crazy show."
Hi, Lauren here. The world’s most “OK” mom and Photographer. Over the last decade, I’ve taken my photography business from a corner in my living room, to a dedicated room in my house, to moving to a brand new area and getting a high street studio.
In my little slice of the world, balancing family life with my businesses is like herding cats at the same time as playing Floor is Lava.
On a unicycle.
Whilst spinning china plates.
And juggling flaming batons.
Whilst clowns dance around you, trying to throw you off balance.
And I’m not even exaggerating.
I'm guessing your life is equally hectic too in its own unique ways.
As a mother parenting four businesses and running four children (whoops, reverse that), not to mention a menagerie of pets, I’m here today to share my tops tips on how I manage to not only survive the circus of juggling the lens and life (with all it’s messy, imperfectly-perfect moments in between) - but to make it all *mostly* thrive.
Kids or no kids, the responsibilities in life can be heavy, and at times all consuming and in-balanced.
Business and kids are kind of similar. Both take a labour of love to bring into this world. Both demand your attention. Both surprise you in ways you never would have thought. But most of all, both keep you awake at night.
One thing I know for sure is this: As a photographer business owner, you're constantly juggling personal responsibilities with trying to evolve your business (in an ever-changing landscape).
Keeping your passion for photography alive, as well as small humans, and having to do all the mundane tasks in-between that we creatives just hate, to keep those plates spinning, can sometimes leave you feeling more than a little burnt out.
Since starting my creative and photography businesses over a decade ago, it has been an adventure. Things are always changing, especially since lock-downs. There have been many highs and lows along the way. If there is one single thing I’ve learnt so far, it is that your rhythm day to day will change, depending on what is required of you.
It’s absolutely about embracing organized chaos, without letting the small stuff get you down (I promise, the house will be tidy in 10-20 years time). Managing the days, weeks and months in a way that is both structured, but leaves room for improvisation… a little like the best circus act.
So whether you are just starting out, or have been at this photography game for a while - here’s my top tips on how I’ve managed to find my groove as ring-master in this crazy act so far.
EMBRACE THE IMPERFECTION.
Perfection and creativity don't mix. Like oil and water, however much you shake that bottle the two will always separate and be at odds.
So let's get this straight off the bat: Perfection is construed to leave us always feeling like we need to do more. Achieve more. Be better.
But it doesn’t exist. By aiming for perfection, you miss all those beautiful moments. Learning to embrace imperfection, and leave room for extra time, is essential to juggle this thing called being a photographer-business owner-parent. So if you are a perfectionist, try instead to aim for excellence. Quality over quantity, my friend.
FIND YOUR RHYTHM.
All photographers are at different stages in their business, going at their own pace. Each with unique responsibilities at home and varying financial goals. Finding your rhythm in the unpredictable chaos of life isn’t always easy, so flexibility really is key here.
What works for others might not be the right answer for you.
Whatever your schedule, make sure it is something you can stick to with enough flexibility for the day to day unexpectedness!
KNOWING WHICH PLATES ARE OK TO DROP.
When you have so many plates spinning at once, it's inevitable some will drop.
I like to see all my tasks as either china plates, or paper plates. China plates are important, delicate and will smash if dopped. Paper plates are not so important - drop those and you can pick the up again later.
Being able to know which of your current tasks are "China Plates" and which are "Paper" will help you know what you can drop and what needs your most attention.
Ever heard the old adage “It takes a village to raise a child?” Well, the same goes for your business. We are expected to bring up our kids like we don’t work… but then work like we don’t have kids. Burn-out is real.
It’s time to connect with others in the same boat - Find your people. Even if you're an introvert, you’ll find them all hiding in plain sight! You are in this together, and you’ll make some of the best allies you could ever dream of. I’m grateful for my crazy photography fam every day.
• Read More: It Takes A Village
INGREDIENTS OF THE BIG PICTURE.
If you’re anything like me, it’s pretty easy to look forward to those big dreams. The over-arching goals. Where we want to be, the gist of how we aim to get there. But without detailing your plan, it can take a lot longer to get there.
A bit like travelling the world without a map.
I’ll admit I’m the kind of person to dive head-first into something, kind of like jumping off a cliff and building a plane on the way down. But along the way, I’ve realized that in order to make the biggest changes, you need to break the process down into small actionable realistic steps.
Having ways to measure achievements, set your goals, complete small tasks (satisfying) and run your to-do list with a clear intention in sight, is the best and most productive way to actually achieve those big-picture goals. Let’s take inspiration from the little people in our life and say hey, it’s ok to take this at my pace. Wobbly steps lead to strong legs. And like the tortoise and the hare, remember, slow and steady wins the race.
• Read More: The Successful Photographer's Goal Setting Planner
Mindfulness is essentially bringing yourself to the present.
Multi-tasking those spinning plates can seem like our only option at times (especially in the juggle of life), but creating our schedule with a mindful approach allows us to focus on what we are doing and to get better results.
The easiest way to be mindful to get results? Scheduling your day into sections, where you can fully focus on one task at a time, means you are much more present in the moment. This efficiency not only lowers your stress, but you also get to be involved in all those little moments multi-tasking would otherwise take from you.
One word of advice from someone who has found this hard to master? In order to get results, you have to stick to it! As with anything, once it becomes a habit you’ll LOVE this approach to life - but take those baby steps to master this method first.
FLEXIBILITY IS KEY.
And talking of planning, goal setting, and keeping track of progress - flexibility is the key to being able to achieve it all.
Let’s be totally real here. Life doesn’t always get the memo about your busy working week. Appointments happen. Power failures happen. Children need days off school. Family members need assistance. You get sick sometimes. Clients have to reschedule. Pets need attention. Some galleries need more work than others. Houses get chaotic…
However you plan your days, weeks and months, always leave some wiggle room for the unexpected. As creative humans, we are conditioned to fill every possible moment with something that absolutely has to get done. But when you’re a jack of all trades, you’re mastering none.
When I started doing this it took some discipline to find my rhythm. Now I am so used to only filling half my time with the essential tasks (and being ok with things taking a little longer than I’d like), I am a much happier parent, a more confident business owner, and feel more in control of my life.
And hey, if nothing unexpected happens, this gives you a chance to relax a little, step back and recalibrate your mindset - believe me, that’s just as important as everything else. And I’m sure you have 101 little items on your to-do list that can fill those spaces.
REMEMBER - YOU'RE THE RINGMASTER.
In the grand circus act of juggling family life with being a photographer, you are the ringmaster of your own show. It's a breath-taking performance, filled with the unexpected and the beautiful.
You’re the boss.
You set the rules.
Flexibility is key!
As I've shared my journey with you, I hope you've found some inspiration and practical tips to help you thrive under the big top along the way... or at the very least, know you're not alone in this.
Your journey as a parent and a photographer is a unique one. Every moment (whether perfectly framed or beautifully imperfect), is a part of your unique life story.
One foot in front of the next, my talented friend. Keep moving forward, and remember to find the balance that works best for you and your family.
Your fellow Ring Master (ok, clown),
Hi! I'm Lauren
World's most OK mom and Photographer.
Join me on this journey in the beautiful chaos of running a photography business with family life, so we can turn our everyday moments into extraordinary milestones.