There are several ways we all naturally future-proof our businesses. As photographers and business owners, we tend to do this by becoming better photographers, marketers, and sales people. These skill sets are proven to grow our businesses and are the foundations of many worthwhile workshops. But there’s an often overlooked aspect of future-proofing in our industry that’s equally important: protecting our bodies and minds against burnout.
Let’s start with a definition. Future-proofing is defined as anticipating the future and developing methods to minimize the stresses of future events. But one of the most important ways we are able to impact the sustainability of our businesses is constantly overlooked.
You may say, “I photograph weddings. I love what I’m doing, and this is more of a passion than a job.”
My response would be, “Yes! And let’s keep it that way!”
As those complexities build season after season, the relationship we have with our business and passions evolve in ways difficult to predict. If we’re not careful, and if we don’t monitor ourselves as we grow, we can find ourselves diving head-first into the deep end of burnout.
Any passion we transform into a career has a foundation of joy. Deep down, it comes from a place of service that helps our businesses orbit around meaning and fulfillment. However, as our businesses mature, money, time demands, sales, visual consistency, branding, marketing, and the physical demands of our career all come into play and can cloud the waters.
Types of Burnout
In my 10-year career, I’ve encountered two distinct types of burnout. First, there are the mental challenges of being a small business owner and creative. Second, there is physical burnout. The mental challenges of burnout show themselves in different forms that vary from person to person. Some of the most common are things like extremes in work such as oscillating between periods of low activity and periods of high activity. These highs and lows are intrinsic to our seasonal work. Burnout could come from feeling like we’re lacking control in our schedules and workloads or from work-life imbalances. These are all challenges many solopreneurs face.
While many careers face the challenge of mental burnout, there is a physical burnout unique to our profession. We use our bodies in ways few in other careers do. We demand a lot out of every inch of our bodies, and we need to be fully functioning to perform the actual thing we love (and get paid) to do.
What Can We Do?
Because our career is so demanding on our bodies, I’m a huge proponent of future-proofing by customizing our self-care and treating our bodies like assets in our businesses. Let me repeat that: treating your body like an asset in your business is a way to future-proof yourself from burnout.
We should be caring for our shoulders, neck, and hands based on how we carry our cameras and edit our photos. We should understand how our bodies react to carrying the weight of our equipment for long periods of time. We should be experimenting with recovery techniques and hydration to find what works best for our bodies and will help us bounce back from a wedding hangover.
I find that using a tennis or lacrosse ball to give myself a deep tissue massage and increase blood flow to my shoulders, back, neck, and feet helps me recover from a long wedding day. I’ve also researched how endurance athletes hydrate themselves, taking a page from their books on what to drink before, during, and after a long wedding day (find that recipe here).
When I’m doing office work, I make sure to incorporate 10 to 15 minute breaks every 90 minutes into my day. This keeps my mind fresh and focused on the things I need to accomplish. Because of this, my time is far more effective compared to pushing projects and tasks to completion.
I also create personal work that will never see the light of day — work that’s only for me and keeps my creativity itch scratched. Committing to these types of routines help me push back against the compounding effects of weekly wedding hangovers, long editing sessions, and constant client work.
There isn’t one magic bullet that prevents burnout. Everyone has different needs. So, what’s important here is defining what works best for you and taking the consistent steps over time to keep your body and mind fresh season after season.
I feel self-care is an antidote to burnout, and this is why I’ve created a self-care plan for my business. My plan takes into account my personal needs and schedules the things I need to replenish myself. This helps me give 100 percent to my clients, my family, my friends, and myself throughout the season. As an added bonus, by sticking to my plan, I’m weaving sustainability back into my business.
If you’d like to make your own plan, you can find a template here.
Future-proofing your body and mind for your business includes being honest about how much we have left in our tanks and knowing how we’re going to replenish well before we start feeling burnout tapping on our shoulders. Marketing, sales, and enhancing our photography skills are all important aspects of future-proofing your business. But please don’t forget that your body and mind also require future-proofing.