Running a Business in 3 hours a day, P.3

Happy Friday, friends! Take a deep breath…pour another cup of coffee…and close your eyes for just a second. You made it. You lived another week, friend. What did you do during these short 7 days to grow, change, help, love…what did you do for yourself? I hope that question isn’t one you have to think too much about before you can come up with an answer because odds are you do way more than you realize to love on people and to make this world better. If no one has taken the time this week to tell you…let me tell you. You matter, you count, you are lovely, and I’m really thankful you exist.

I’m excited and nervous to share with you guys another post about how I work, own a business, and schedule my day-to-day. I’m excited because I’ve created this series, and it allows me to share with those of you struggling and feeling like the everyday work of your hands isn’t sufficient to be able to call yourself “professional.” I share because I often feel that way too. Did I mention before that this is my 10th year in business? And I’m still plagued by the ugliness that can come from my own head and the words that can come from people’s mouths about what is and isn’t acceptable to consider yourself a professional photographer (or planner….or designer…or writer…or speaker…whatever your industry may be!). Y’all…it all counts. Hear me loud and clear. It all counts.

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I’m nervous because of the feedback I bring on myself by laying my schedule out there. I’m not scared of the negative feedback…but more scared of the people who think this all looks easy and get the false ideas in their heads that my job…my work…is no big deal. Goodness gracious, “no big deal.” That phrase gets me. BUT, I’m going to tell you guys anyway and give you a little insight into my work life. This post is going to finish my hourly schedule and fill you in as to why I can’t and won’t stay up until wee hours of the morning editing or catching up on emails anymore. Ready…set…go.

12:00- 1:00- Kid Pick Up #1 + LunchMy littlest is a miss, and she is sassy and hilarious and demanding of all the attention I have for at least a good 15 minutes after I pick her up from school. I happily give it to her. Once she is in the car, we go home or run to the store or sneak away for a lunch out. I want her to come home from school and have a chance to unwind and settle, so I hold off on letting Disney parent her for a little bit and we hang out. And I love it. No, I don’t take the crust off. Yes, she sometimes gets treats first.

1:00-2:15- Blog/Facebook Post Prepping/PlanningThis is when I let Reese entertain herself for a little bit (or pull my laptop to the couch so I can edit or email while listening to Descendants in the background for the 15th time this week). During this time I usually prep a blog post or Facebook post of images. I use BlogStomp to help watermark all of my images and shrink them to web size in a matter of seconds. BlogStomp helps me keep my sanity because I have an hour…one little hour…to get images selected, edited, and ready to rock and roll for the next day or wherever they fall along my blog schedule. I will also use this time to read posts from my favorite blogs too. I love looking through the work of my friends and keeping up with their lives and growth too and I also utilize this time for professional development so if there is a podcast or web interview I can watch, this is when it happens.

2:15-3:00- Car Rider Pick Up Line of Doom #2You gotta kid? Then you know about this pick-up line. The one where everyone sits and sits and sits. My sweet boy is usually really excited to see me at pick up, so that makes all the sitting and waiting worth it.

3:00-8:30- Session OR Family Time

My beautiful, wonderful, crazy mother worked her hind end off when I was a kid (she still does!) and never had the option to have a plate of cookies waiting on me at the door when I got off the bus after school. She never had the chance to volunteer in the PTO, and there was no room for June Cleaver in the schedule of a single mom. She worked herself sick sometimes, and I knew that what I wanted most when I had a family was to be available to my babes. And my mom loves the fact that I get to be available to these babies. This time is for asking questions about their days, getting snacks, letting them run around outside or have some time on the iPad so they can just sit for a little bit. It’s for doing homework and going over spelling words and making sure I check agendas and sign off on things for the next day. This time is for making or going out for dinner as a family. *The word “family” is all encompassing in my house. We only eat dinner together as a family of 4 around 2 times a week so…we spend lots of time with people who are like our family, and it is so, so good. This time is for baths and night- night clothes and sitting together before they go off to bed between 8:00 and 8:30.

If I have a session in the evening, I get as much prepped as possible before I leave, and then I get to spend time with a whole new set of “family”! My amazing clients get me, and I love hearing their stories or exchanging laughs about life and kids and Pintrest fails. If I shoot in the evening, when I come home, I back up images, unpack my gear, and jump right on in where my husband is in our nightly routine.  Sometimes I shoot late and sometimes I travel for sessions, so when I get home the babes are already in bed and, in that case, I always check on them and give them kisses on their cheeks and the palm of their hands. I don’t know why I kiss their hands, but I do…it’s my favorite.

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8:30-10:30ish

This time is for paying bills and taxes, book keeping, digging into groups I lead like Pursuit Community Athens (I LOVE these ladies!), Rising Tide Society Athens (this is new to Athens so be on the lookout for info on this!), and finishing up any editing that I need to get done for the day. I shut everything off by 10:00, and I usually do all of this in my pjs on the couch with my husband with a glass of red wine in hand. I also should add in that every now and then, I just need night off. I keep my laptop at bay and just sit and watch Modern Family or one of those shows on the History Channel that makes me want move to Alaska, but only if I can take modern technology and an ample amount of coffee with me. I love this time with just Anthony. We TRY to go on dates often but that doesn’t always happen but I know I can count on this time every night to just sit on the same couch together. We count it and I love it.

When I started this business in the fall of 2005 (officially at the end of January, 2006), I worked all day every day. I would be up until 2:00, 3:00, 4:00 am looking through blogs and watching videos and killing myself to be better. I would lay in bed thinking about all of the images I needed to edit and get out to my clients. I would panic if the little-red-light-of-doom on my blackberry (holler at me 2006!) was blinking because it meant that someone needed me. They needed me and probably needed me NOW. And by 2009 I was spent. I couldn’t do it anymore. I felt so guilty, y’all. All the time. I felt guilty if I went on vacation immediately after a shoot, and those clients had to wait for their images until I returned home. I felt guilty if I went out for dinner with friends while I had emails waiting on me that needed a response. Everything made me feel heavy and this job I have…this luxury that my art is to my clients, made me a slave, and it was no fun. When my son was born in April of 2009 I had an eye-opening moment with one of my incredibly kind, loving, and thoughtful brides. Randi and Jon got married on May 2nd, 11 days after my boy was born. I panicked and wept and freaked out so much before their wedding because I knew I was under contract and I HAD to be there. I cried because I had fallen in love with Randi and Jon’s story and relationship, and I desperately wanted to be there to celebrate and shoot their wedding and I didn’t want to disappoint them with having only half of my heart in their day. I went, and I was sad to leave my baby. My brand new, 11-day-old, breastfed-only baby. I cried in the car on the way there and knew that I just needed to make it through 11 hours, and I would get to hold him again. When I walked into Randi’s room, she ran over to me, wrapped her arms around my neck in a hug, pulled me away from her, and said, ” What are you doing here?!?!!” Wait…what? I had that option?!?! Randi went on to tell me that she loved me and she trusted me and she knew that even if I weren’t there, we would provide her with beautiful and perfect images from her day and an experience she wouldn’t forget. She trusted our team to take care of her. .. *insert big tears in my eyes and the shattering of everything I spent my “free” seconds of every day worrying about. You guys, Randi trusted me. She trusted me no matter what. It was then that I realized my clients had NOTHING to do with how much I was killing myself. They had realistic expectations for what it was like to be human…working with another human. They knew that they had to sleep, eat, spend time with their families, take breaks, go on vacation, and sometimes have an off day…so I probably had to do those things too. Somewhere in my head there was a disconnect, and I felt like if I didn’t deprive myself of these little luxuries, then they would go somewhere else. They would find someone they thought was more dedicated to their needs, and I would be finished. Yes, I am fully aware of how silly that sounds. I lived it for a solid 4 years before I could bring myself to change and take time to slow down, not book every client that came my way, find time to grow and keep myself refreshed and alive, so that I could give each person that graced me with their business the very best of me. I am constantly communicating with people in my life and especially my clients. They know that things take a minute. They understand that I have a family, and I understand they do too because we talk about LIFE and all of the crazy, beautiful, messy parts of it. They send me recipes and ask for more than just ideas of what to wear when I shoot their sessions or if I have any allergy needs for my dinner at their wedding. I love it. I love every part of these relationships. **Randi owns Carry Your Heart Events and is an amazing wedding and event planner in North Carolina now. Our friendship grew so much in the early years of her business and I just love her so much!

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Once I was able to set realistic expectations for myself, it was so much easier for me to do that for my clients too. They want healthy, happy, ready-to-go Melissa as much as anyone else, and they are more than gracious to me when my day-to-day schedule gets off or when unexpected things come up.

Next week, I’m going to share how I handle unexpected things coming up that change my schedule, how I talk to my clients about them, and the responses I receive from them as well. Have an amazing weekend friends! Next week’s post will also be coming right after I return from the Pursuit Conference in Rome, Ga. I’m already packing the tissues and preparing for the Lord to wreck my heart in the most humbling and amazing ways, so I’ll definitely recap that time too!

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