The big juggle: How I manage

6.16.16-ee

Note: this post has been updated from its first version. The updated parts were typed with my right hand while I fed Grace with my left hand. Just to give you a little insight into how I -quite literally- juggle at times.

I’m sitting at Starbucks. I bought a £1.70 cup of black coffee so I could sit and use the wi-fi. My son is in an acting class from 10-6 and I’m blogging like fury for these 8 hours as well as wading through about 50 emails: reader questions and fan mail (I still can’t believe I get that!). I had two this week from mums who want to go all the way in business and want to know how I manage my life. One asked how I balance everything “without going crazy” and I laughed out loud (much to the chagrin of the lady beside me working on her taxes). I certainly do perform a painfully calculated balancing act, but I don’t do it without going nuts.

I’ve completely lost my marbles.

I can’t remember the most simple things. My diary is my LIFE. I even have to put in there “call mom” and sometimes, I still leave her hanging. I leave things in my friend’s cars all the time. Forget my debit card in the machine at the grocery store. But the one thing that I will never allow to suffer from my drive and determination is my family.

Some things that keep me uncontrollably busy:

  • I run Gracie May Photography and this blog
  • I write for a Canon magazine and at least 4 posts a month on dPS.
  • I teach classes on Rock the Shot.
  • I do training films for photographers and have the next one.
  • I’ve just added vlogging to my repertoire.
  • My husband and I lead a church
  • I have 3 kids who attend three different schools in three different towns.
  • Our little girl is profoundly disabled and she has nappies, all of her food and drink spoon and bottle fed, 4 therapists, hospital appointments, orthotics appointments and we’re just getting started on an extension on our house to make it more accessible. We’re tripping over equipment in just about every room.
  • I have a very small semi-detached house (small by American standards, decent by UK standards) so it has to stay organized and clean

Even just one of these things would be too much to handle on a good day, but I balance them ALL. But not without help!

Last year, I decided that some things had to change in my life for me to achieve my goals and some of the changes were decided out of our control. Like my husband losing his job. At first, a disaster, but in the end, a very good move!

Last year, we…

  • Threw away our TV. Not only did this give me more room in my little house to set up an office corner, but my husband and I instantly became the most productive humans on the planet. I feel clean, pure and I can breathe. I have no idea about X-factor, ‘I’m a Celebrity…’ or any of that jazz. And I don’t miss it one single bit. About twice a month, I get a chance to relax with some TV, but I watch the BBC or Channel 4 on the computer and I only watch documentaries. Oh…and The Office. I probably couldn’t live without The Office.
  • Got rid of that pesky J.O.B. The small business my husband worked for caved in at the very same time that everything with my business was picking up. Now, we trade sleeping in, drink tea in the afternoon and lead a stress-free life where we can work together. He works awfully hard as a minister and we keep a very balanced schedule. We organize our life through a shared Google calendar and share one car. He does the school runs most days while I work. He even cooks! I couldn’t do ANY of this without him but, sadly for him, he doesn’t get nearly as much lovely fan mail as I do! If you enjoy what I do, drop him a line to say thank you!
  • Got a storage unit. I had a studio for a while last year, but found that I was shooting on the farm much more often and it was really just a glorified storage unit. So now, I have an actual storage unit for my studio equipment {which really only sees the light of day once in a while} and this frees up my house.
  • Learned to say no. Just practice it in the mirror. I swear it will make your life an utter dream.

Naturally, there are so many more things that go into making my life work. If you’re doing photography for a living, there are a few things you can do to help balance the act:

  • Streamline your workflow. Set aside only 1 hour for editing a session. Learn how to batch edit in LR or PS and keep it simple. By all means, go to town on your own personal work, but keep work for your clients manageable. Oh, and get brutal when choosing keepers. Provide 20-30 finished images and only choose the best of the best.
  • Charge more and work less. When you charge more, you can afford things like a sales person to do your in-home viewing sessions. I personally only accept four sessions per month max. I charge enough to make those worth it and have time for other things. Some simple math: you can charge $100 for two sessions or $200 for one. By charging more, you also put yourself in a certain market where you will attract clients who value your work and spend more on the finished product. But to charge more, you actually have to be worth it. Keep learning and growing and make sure you have beautiful packaging and marketing to draw the clients.
  • Practice. When you shoot a paid-for session, never do it somewhere new. Shoot in a location you know well at a time of day you know well and this will produce consistent products for your clients and well as cut down on your busy-time.
  • Have an 8 day week. Mary Kay Ash once said that if you wake up one hour early every day, you will add an entire day to your week. I get up before the kids, drink my happy juice (coffee!) write a couple blog posts, balance the accounts, whatever I need to get out of my head to have a productive day.
  • Get tech. My MacBook paid for itself quickly. What I used to accomplish in one hour, I can now do in 15 minutes with my fast computers. With my iPhone, I can answer emails on the go and soon, I have an iPad to effortlessly share images with prospective clients and at viewing sessions.

I am always aware that at any moment, my life can change and God is in control of it all. I listen to my body. If my brain is shutting down for lack of sleep, I have to force myself to shut down the computer and go to bed before midnight. I know myself and don’t even get on to quickly check emails because if I do, it turns into an all-nighter. None of this will be worth it if I lose my children, relationship with God or intimacy with my husband. At times, I can barely control the business woman inside me and I work too hard. But I always come back around and get my act together.

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Elizabeth Halford

Elizabeth Halford

ELIZABETH HALFORD IS A PORTRAIT AND WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER IN THE HAMPSHIRE, ENGLAND.

She blogs about photography and business with her unique plain English approach. Elizabeth has been-there-done-that with running a photography business that doesn’t profit a penny and loves teaching photographers how to get away from the starving artist model of running a creative business.
Elizabeth Halford
  • Laura - You are amazing, Elizabeth. I love your priorities in life and I love that you threw away the TV. Thanks for sharing all of this. 🙂

  • sandi ducote - Oh My Gosh!! You are SuperMoM. What a schedule, it’s a good thing you are so organized.

  • Debra - Elizabeth,
    I’m not sure what trail I followed to discover you on Twitter, but I feel so fortunate to be able to view your beautiful photos and writing on your blog! I’m bookmarking you and cannot wait to read more and view more gorgeous photos.
    :),
    Debra

  • Laura - Tell your husband that I said thanks for being so great and supportive. It sounds like you both make a great team.

    Laura

  • Kate - Elizabeth, Thank you so much for sharing your life and knowledge with all of us. I always look forward to seeing an email up date from you. You are such an inspiration and I appreciate everything you do so much.

  • Pam W - Thanks for sharing how you manage life. It makes a lot of sense to get help when you need it. You kids and husband are blessed to have you!

  • Victoria - Thank you for this! I had no idea how busy you really were and am in awe that you really do somehow manage it all. I think if I were faced with all the challenges you were/are faced with, I would just put photography aside. Trying to give your best to your daughter, your best to your son, your best to your husband, your best to your clients….what do YOU do for YOU? As moms we put ourselves on the back burner. Now that I know how you manage it all, how do YOU take care of YOU? Over a year ago, starting a photography business seemed like a piece of cake to me. Was I in for a rude-awakening or what?! Kudos to you for having the drive and determination to make it all work. And then to go one step further and blog for us-your readers. My schedule & workflow needs a serious overhaul after reading this. I feel overwhelmed at all the business “stuff” there is to do. So another question-it seems there are always little projects that pop up-website content update, newsletter, blog posts, pricing evaluation, changes to all documents where pricing is listed if changes are made, client orders, promotions, packaging supply order, etc.. The list goes on and on…this isn’t including sessions, editing, emails, etc.. Do you have a strict schedule for everything business that you follow? Okay, I’ll quit with the questions. Thank you again for blogging-it’s appreciated more than you know!

  • tamsen - fantastic post. thanks for sharing!

  • Janneke - I also just wanted to leave a quick thank you! It’s very inspirational to a newbie mom and newbie photog to hear that it is possible to have balance and joy in your life. Best of luck and prosperity to you and your family as you keep God first and remember that life is more about the journey than the destination! And tell your hubby that he’s amazing!

  • Jenny - Dear Mr. Halford,
    You are awesome!!! 🙂 Thank you for helping your wife help others. She is a blessing across the ocean for me! It is amazing and encouraging that you (both) have created a system that works, especially when you are being pulled in a bazillion directions. Elizabeth, thank you for sharing this glimpse into your life. Your words are tremendously helpful.
    Keep up the good work, Team Halford!!

  • Maricel - Just wanted to let you know… you are simply AMAZING!

  • christy combs - What a great, heartfelt post~

  • Susie Collet - This is a great post. Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂

  • bri - Thank you for writing this post! You amaze me. Our life is pretty hectic and I am out of my mind trying to figure out how on Earth to ‘run a business’. I have gone as far as going down to register my business name with the City. That’s that.

    I have NO clue how to even GET started. I have done shoots and I have gotten paid for them. I have never had one that pays the full amount that I charge b.c I always ‘cut a deal’. If I didn’t I wouldn’t have any shoots. It isn’t that I charge too much. I have done comparisons and I am on the bottom line price wise.

    But when you have others around you that are starting out and charging less in the same “work pool” they are going to get that business and leave you dreaming of fun shoots.

    I don’t even have time to THINK of where to begin, it’s so unreal. We have 3 boys ages 1, 2 and 3. They are home all day every day. My husband, too, lost his job a while back and so that has allowed me to move further into my business world (If I knew how to run one). Now he works during the afternoon hours for a couple hours a day and it has been a HUGE Godsend! We don’t have near the income we did and I don’t make hardly anything with what I do but God has put this desire in my heart and lead us on this path, I know there is a purpose.

    I am so thankful for your blog! For someone like me that cannot afford any classes or any expensive equipment for now, you make it easier to see my dreams. You write the things I need to hear in order to KNOW what I am doing is right.

    Thank you! OH and THANK YOU Mr. Halford for making this possible as well! 🙂

  • kellytonks - yes, what they all said.

    I’m chugging a long here on everything you say I’m like your much older younger sister;
    i got an Apple , Lightroom and Photoshop, studying my butt of taking all the tips to heart.

    Being prepared and ready, pricing, equipment… the list goes on and on.

    Your in my prayers, we immensely respect your honesty values and candor–THANK YOU!!! xo

  • Imene - Thank you so much for this post. I realize I really need to hire someone to help me out. Right now I work when the kids are asleep and that leaves me tired the next morning.
    I would love to know more about batch editing and how you keep your editing simple.

  • Sidney Morgan - I love this post. It definitely has helped me realize that I need to slow down and realize what is good in life and what is truly important. 🙂 LOVE this post. Thank you for writing it!

  • Lee-Ann - a wonderful read! thank you for sharing!

  • Melissa - Hi Elizabeth! I just wanted to say thanks for sharing this particular blog!! (I love all of them) This one however hit home. It helps tremendously to know I’m not the only one whose “lost my marbles!” Keep up the great work!! xoxo

  • Melissa - One more thing! Tell your husband thanks! I have one of those and I don’t know what I would do without him and his help recently!!

  • Iwona - You are talented in so many ways! maybe you should write a book one day?! I am pretty sure it would be bestseller and as beautiful as your photography. All The Best to you and your husband and Thank You very much for sharing your knowledge and thoughts! simply amazing!

  • Stacey Baker - Sweet Elizabeth,
    Thank you so much for your posts. I have only been following you for about a week, but I have learned so much from you. I too have a special needs child (not as involoved as yours – he has Asperger’s) and I am married to a pastor. Without his help I could never do this . . . he too cooks, cleans and helps care for the boys. Prayer is definitely my saving grace!

  • Erin - Elizabeth,

    I absolutely love your blog! I’m an aspiring photographer, and your blog has been such a great source of information for me! I often feel like I have the most complex life.. 2 kids, full time job which requires travel, full time student, and trying to start a photography business. It’s nice to hear that other moms and photographers live thru crazy schedules like I do!

    I’m a Canon user, and I’m trying to add to my arsenal of lenses. I’d like to get a 50mm lens, among other things. Where do you buy your equipment? Do you have a good source for quality used equipment?

    Keep up the good work! Can’t wait to read your next blog entry.

    Erin

  • SM - An eternal perspective changes everything. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  • Tiffany - Wow… Just wow.

    I’ve just started following your blog, and you just amaze me.
    You’re business-minded, but also down-to-earth, and those are two traits rarely found in one person.

    God bless you, your family, and your future endeavours!

  • Michelle Corbo - This was BY FAR the best blog entry I’ve read of yours… thank you! I’m going to stop whining now.

  • Meg - Thank you so much for this post, Elizabeth. I have been following you for several months now and I had no idea that you had a special needs child. You were an inspiration to me before but now you have blown me away with your determination! I have dreams of having my own photography business and recently bought LR and PS. I am walking through it little by slowly. It definately takes TIME to do and a commitment. I also work full time and take care of my family but I am realizing that anything worth my while is going to take work, work and more work. With the help and guidance from God and the courage to keep following my bliss I hope to get there someday.

    Also, your husband is a definate blessing to you for sure! Having a partner to help you and encourage you is priceless. Thank you Mr. Halford for all your hard work, it certainly has been a blessing in more ways than one!

  • Claudia - Thank you so much for sharing, you are really a remarkable woman.

    God Bless you even more!!

  • Lindsay - Hey Elizabeth, I’ve been reading your blog for a while but haven’t commented until now. I just wanted to thank you for always posting such inspirational, helpful information! I really appreciate it! You’re amazing!

  • Michelle - I’ve got some free time (though I could be studying but I’ll wait ‘till my cup-o-coffee is finished) and I really enjoy your blog and photos, especially this post. So I thought I’d send you fan mail haha. I don’t know how I found you but I’ve been subscribing to your updates for about 2 months now and I quite enjoy your blog.
    I want to say how happy I am to see someone so incredibly busy and full of priorities is still able to handle this business and family – crazy or not haha. I’m hardly a business, as I’m not even doing anything about it for the winter season with the exception of studying and practicing so I can improve what I create. I’m a single mom, working as a direct support provider 3 days a week (sometimes that’s 40 hours when I don’t have my daughter) and going to school 3 days a week. My boyfriend lives out of state and lately I’ve only been able to see him once every 2 weeks (love him and miss him but not worth the drive in snow storms at midnight when I get off work).
    My goal in the next 8 years is to have graduated with honors, be a nurse part time, a photographer part time, and married with 3 children (have a 4 year old now and he would like 2 more, I’m game – after I get the ring) living on a farm with a dethatched studio.
    I want to tell your husband I’m a huge fan of his, what I read put him on a pedestal. A man who helps out so much with the house and kids is a real man to me, you see too few of these (luckily I snagged one as well – in fact he’s a bit cleaner and cooks more than I do – I need to step up my game!).
    I applaud you in all the work you are able to accomplish from your children to your business to keeping up with your blog. I appreciate all your tips and enjoy your updates.

  • John Parli Photo - You sound like a cool cat Elizabeth, and so does your hubby; how’s that for some much deserved fan mail eh? I am a stay at home dad/photo-dude and am currently typing this while I cook split pea soup hoping for the best and am watching my 2-1/2 yr old torment the puppy, all while my 4 month old watches. I love the “add an eighth day to the week”… so true.

    Keep up the good work and God Bless!

    -John

  • Shannon - As if I could have more respect for this woman I don’t personally know. I really appreciate this post and the honesty in it. I have three kids, my husband works about 57 hours a week with a 45 minute commute one way and I’m also a full time student all the while I’m trying to start my own business. I just started a small business management class this spring and I’m totally excited about it.

    Thank you also for your honesty about your faith. That is so refreshing.

  • Steven Halford - Wow! Thank you all so much for the encouragement 🙂
    I have a great wife and great children. I am truly blessed, and blessed by your many wonderful comments 🙂
    Thanks again

    Steven.

  • Jamilla Yipp - I have to say that this post was right on target for me, I am so glad I came across it!

  • Jan - Well I didn’t think I could love the woman you are any more, but you just pushed it over the edge.
    Always an inspiration.
    xoxo

  • Kim - Thank you so much for sharing. It makes a person feel real!

  • Courtney - You are awesome!! 🙂 Another inspiring post!

  • Meo - Funny how God uses random blog posts that I stumble upon to speak to me.

    Thank you for your honesty and encouragement for us other moms who are balancing on a toothpick.

    <3
    Meo

  • Vickie Thomas - Elizabeth, you really are an inspiration and an encouragement. Thank you so much for not just sharing your photography with us but for sharing your self as well. Say a big thank you to your husband for his support and loyalty. May God continue to keep His hand on you and your family and may His goodness follow you always.

    I am really glad I found you!!
    Blessings,
    Vickie

  • Cynthia - Thank you for this. I have friends that are always telling me I juggle too much…but I don’t feel like I do. This is truly amazing. You really put life into perspective. I wish you the best! Love your site!!

  • katie - WOW! Thank you not only for sharing some fantastic tips but the “real life” side of things too. Blessings to you and your family. Finding your blog has filled hours of my day and I’ve enjoyed every second of it, so excited to have found it…just when I needed it…ahh sovereignty in a Mighty God!

  • Mila - Hi Elizabeth,
    You are the best in your field. One of the reasons is because you know where it all comes from: God and all that he gave you.

    I just saw the latest video you posted. It’s funny, but now that I know about Gracie it broke my heart. I already completely fell in love with her, watching the video, and now that I know that something is wrong, it just makes me so sad. Although, to be honest, in the video, she outsmarts the both of you, even being sleepy. 😉 What exactly does she suffer from, if you don’t mind me asking?
    Your children are A M A Z I N G! They are the true beauty in front of your lens and more than anything or any other person, they, themselves taught you about the children photo biz. You are creative and good with numbers, but your children are the true stars, with their charisma and caring for you.
    You drew me into your website with your generosity and wit, but they will keep me here. For as long as you all will have us.

    Lot of LOVE,
    Mila 🙂

  • elizabethhalford - @Mila: wow thank you so much. They really are stars and the whole reason I ended up doing all this in the first place.

  • Colleenhc - Thank you so much for sharing!
    I love that family and your relationship with God is so much more important than the things of this world, and that you trust in Him 🙂 It is inspiring!

  • Elisabetta -  Thank you  so much!  and Amen!

  • Dee - wow you are a true SuperMOM! I thought I was jugglig a fulltime job, raising our 2 year old, managing our household, starting up my photogrpahy business. Some days it just seems so much and these tips are invaluable. Thank you so much xx

  • Ria - WOW, AMAZING!

  • Alena Belleque - Oh my goodness, this article just got Favorited, BIG TIME!!! You’re amazing, you know that?? Girl, it’s so awesome to know that you’re a fellow Believer, and to hear such honest and encouraging words. You inspire me, and I am already feeling more hopeful about my life and choices, just reading this and thinking about how I can start applying it right away! God bless! *hugs*

  • Melody Hyatt - Wow, I am very inspired by you. You seem like a great person. I am glad to have found your blog : )

  • Andrea - Thanks for sharing!  I LOVE that you quoted Mary Kay Ash!!!  I am a Mary Kay consultant and she was truly a brilliant business woman and knew how to keep her life prioritzed – just like you.  🙂  Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  • Jenni Barfuss - I realize this post is almost a year old, but I’ve just discovered it, as I’ve only just discovered you 2-3 months ago.  I feel so fortunate to have found your blog! You are amazing and so is this post! Thank you for sharing! 

  • dini - oh my goodness you are truly amazing! i live in israel and always receive your blog posts at around 7.30am….and i always think to myself ‘gosh, what time does this person wake up??’ hahaha, and now i know the answer.
    you are such an inspiration. may God always continue to bless you with the strength (inner and outer) to do what you love to do. and thank you for always teaching me so much. i am so grateful!

  • Libby - I have recently graduated college and trying to establish myself and grow a business.  I love your blogs and this one in particular is very helpful.  Thank you for all you do.

  • Fairytale Moments - You’ve made me aware that I really need to put pen to paper and organise myself. The saying ‘NO’ comment is also something I need to do.  Unfortunately because I do indoor photo sessions it takes me at least a day to edit each session! Maybe convincing my husband I need an iphone to go with my iMac will also help me to be more productive.  Like you I balance 3 kids and they do different clubs after school every day, which takes up a lot of time! Not sure I’m as brave as you to get rid of the TV, thanks for sharing x

  • Sonya - Tell your husband that I say Thank You to him for being supportive of what you do. Having someone you love believe in you makes so much of a positive difference!

  • Vernon - I loved this article, Elizabeth! You’ve echoed the a lot of the advice I give and have heard in terms of how to manage your time to grow a photography business. You must ruthlessly prioritize everything in your life, and that might mean making some sacrifices and giving up some things that you enjoy (e.g., TV). I also think its important to make time to relax, you don’t want to burn out— then you won’t be of much use to anyone, including yourself. Keep up the great posts, I really enjoy your site!

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