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Whether you are a beginner or amateur photographer, or a professional operating as a business—or no photographer at all—one of the primary obstacles to success in your private, working or business life is poor time management. Why do you think so many people drive dangerously and impatiently during rush hour every morning? They simply don’t leave the house as early as they should. Why are so many “soccer moms” across the globe in a rush every day to run errands, transport children, etc.? They simply don’t carefully and thoughtfully organize and schedule their day.
Many amateur photographers are frustrated they can’t find more time for photography amongst their busy schedules of school, work, family, friends, etc. For professional photographers, who are trying to make a living, good time management is extremely critical. So many of them generate much, if not most, of their income from an hourly or daily fee, which means they must maximize the number of limited hours per week to produce income.
Although the following time management tips will help just about everyone, they are specifically directed at full-time professionals, who work from their homes or studios.
1. In reality, professional photographers are business owners first and photographers, second. To make a living as a pro, you must have at least some kind of rudimentary business structure that includes the marketing of your services, general/financial management and customer service. Whatever amount of time you spend on the tasks related to the operation of your business is time a client could be buying.
2. Improving your time management, so you’re more successful, has psychological and practical components. The psychological part is how honest you are with yourself about your photography business. If you expect it to support your family and your future, then you better be very serious about making it succeed. It simply must! The controls are in your hands, so you better make sure you are in charge…of everything!
3. As a professional photographer, you should already have a good understanding that time is money; it is the coin of your realm. You have a limited “time” bank account, so you better maximize the value you receive for every hour. Remember that time is being expended, regardless of what you do with it; you can’t stop the flow of time, but you can use it wisely.
4. One of the many practical components of time management that you can put into action very quickly is limited your availability to the rest of the world. This may seem counter-intuitive, since it would seem to make sense that a business owner must always be available to talk with clients, accept a delivery or respond to an email or any other communication to the business.
5. Unfortunately, most modern humans are conditioned to answer the ring of a phone (and now an email), much like Pavlov’s salivating dogs. Doing so can be very counterproductive, however. If you’re a hardworking pro, then whenever the phone rings you are likely (and almost should be) focused on a high-value task. Answering every phone call could interrupt a train of thought, even a creative thought that is vital to a client project. You may be in the middle of delicate and precise editing of client photos that must be finished today. The point is if you don’t control your availability, as measured in time, then others are controlling it for you. Not the path to success!
6. The practical solution to this practical problem of unlimited availability is to create communication guidelines that you share with each new client, vendors and others. It should clearly state when you do not take calls and a block of time of every day when you return calls. You can tell clients that you return calls within 24, 12 or 6 hours, or whatever range of time you prefer. Remember, 9 of 10 calls are not emergencies. Calls from vendors should particularly been screened or moved to voicemail, since you are their customer.
7. Now, in the professional photography world, there will be times when you want to take a specific client’s calls because you are at a crucial moment during their project that requires immediate and rapid decisions, or for other reasons. Establish that availability on as-need basis, however, and for a limited amount of time.
8. As a professional photographer, you may have many occasions when you will be focused solely on an all-day assignment or are traveling for a multi-day project. It’s a good idea to create an auto email response that communicates your unavailability and why and for whatever period of time, and within which block of future time you will be responding to emails. You can record a similar message for your voicemail.
9. When you use these techniques to take control of your time, you suddenly discover that you have more of it to fill with profitable client projects.
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