Listen, let's keep this on the DL.
You're reading these words on a screen because you are special, my friend. This link is only shared in certain group settings and is a place to share tips, tricks, and all things bidness. Oh, I typed that right. BIDNESS. Down at the bottom of this fancy screen is a contact form, just for the secret blog. Want to know how I made a shot happen, the lights, have a horror story you need answers to? Get at me! You don't even have to enter your info, unless you want a direct response. You can sign it 'Exhausted in Cincinatti' for all I care. So many others have poured into me, I can only turn around and share what I know. Because the only way we make it through this bullshit called Life is TOGETHER.
And that's not a Hallmark card. That's the fucking truth.
Oh, yeah. I swear. If you care about that sort of thing so much it's gonna cause a problem, I'm probably not for you.
Let's do this!!
Year 3 and 137 Clients
You read that right, too. ONE HUNDRED THIRTY SEVEN. That was just me, my third year full-time, me and 3am were buddies, let me tell ya. And the night shift security guards at my office building. (They're a story for another time though.)
To put some perspective on this, at about 100 clients, I am at max capacity for the year. I can only bill 100 days, really, with the way admin work and other things shake out in the wash. So 137? Aha. Ahahahahaha. Right. When this photo was taken, I'd had three beers at this event, because I had the flu and a 101 degree fever and had damn near crawled to this wedding.
Something had to give. Or I was going to. And I didn't have the capacity to hire a full-time assistant. Plus, I didn't even know HOW to hire an assistant. Where would I find one? So I sat down and took my laundry list (more on that in a minute) and started taking the tasks off that a college student could do. What were the things I could train someone to do in an hour or less, that would free up the most time for me?
Shabam, Helper Elves were born.
I still use them, to this day. Because what I really need is a 40+ hour assistant who lives in the same city as I do and someone else to just do all the schlepping. But my name ain't Annie Leibowitz, so until there' a big fat uptick in the salary, this is what has helped me the most to survive a variety of seasons.
What's your time worth?
Before we get into this, I should put out there that some of these things cost money. It's true. Some of them are free, sure, but quite a few of them require you to throw some cash at them. But here's the thing - what's your time worth? At the end of the day, it's worth it to me - especially during busy season - to throw money at someone else to do a lot of these things because otherwise, I don't get a day off AT ALL. I need the freedom to sleep in, to call my Mama, to go out to dinner without stressing one night during the week. You might not think it's worth it and that's totally fine. Take what serves you best and run with it. There's no judgment here, man.
Your Laundry List
Before we even start these shenanigans, you have to have this done. You could sort of wing your way through these processes without it, but it's gonna make all the difference in the world. The laundry list is every.single.task. I do as a business owner. Down to "Write blog" or "Respond to Emails". It might sound suuuuuper small, but super small adds up! WRITE IT DOWN. It might take some time, depending on your job, but it's gonna save you some sanity and isn't that why you're here in the first place?!
Once you have this completed, come on back and just start right below this box. Or keep reading. You're a confident, capable adult, do what you want.
Sometimes, you're the only one that can do it.
I mean, for real. So, instead of lamenting over how you need a clone, or what can you do to get some goddamn sleep, flip the script. Fine. You're the only one that can do the business stuff (which I would dare to say is a total *lie*, but hey, you're an adult. I'm trying to give you the benefit here.) What can someone else do OUTSIDE the business? Because I'm gonna bet that if you're overwhelmed with your work, other areas are really stressing you out. During busy season, I can't even think about cooking.
Ok, that's a lie. I hate cooking. But, you know what IS helpful to me during busy season and helps my brain calm down? Baking! Except going to the store for baking supplies requires me to go right near Target and since I'm going near there *anyways* let's just pop in and then it's bing bang boop I've spent $184 USD on these two bags and fucking hell, I forgot baking powder. I flipped the script and started listing out things that occupied a lot of precious time and energy, or were a big detraction (detractor? detracting?) - you get it. Start with *that* shit, if the business stuff is overwhelming to you.
Didn't we already talk about laundry? We did.
I'm talking about the ACTUAL laundry. You know that mess that piles up and piles up and you are just like sweet Jesus, is this the rest of my life? Change the game. Don't tell me you can't do this, man! Pull a Mighty Duck and change it up! (Apologies to non-Americans for this reference. It was just too good of a setup. Sorry for your confusion.)
If you live in the city, a few extra bucks results in sanity. I went by my local dry cleaners, after seeing online that they offer laundry services. Asked about setting it up. Turns out, they give you as many bags as you request and put a plastic card on it with a bar code, automatically pulling up your info when they scan the tag. A bag holds about a loads worth of clothes, so I got three - whites, darks, dry cleaning. I figured I could handle the towels and bedding. (You can forget that mess in the washer at least three times without messing something up.)
Bonus: Where I lived, they pick up and drop off 48 hours later! You hear me? THEY PICK IT UP. And when it comes back, it's either folded or hung - your choice - ready to roll! My total cost for two loads? $19 USD. Is that worth three hours of my time? YA DAMN SKIPPY.
I will note that some of you are rolling your eyes because it's obvious I don't have kiddos. I hear you, I hear you. And I'll simply say that I did all of the laundry for a team of 13 in eastern Europe during a long term trip there and I implemented similar techniques. Went to the laundromat with all towels/bedding one weekday evening, went again on Sunday with all clothes. Everything got done in one big swoop! But, further, you could always divvy this up differently and send all of YOUR things to the laundry, leaving only kids things at the house. Wouldn't it be nice to not have to dig for your underwear in a pile of pink ponies?
One more thing about clothes.
Unless you're Meghan Markle, or anyone else who could put on a burlap sack and look FABULOUS, I'm gonna bet that getting dressed can be exhausting. Does that shirt fit this week, ooh I like those jeans, but only with that shirt, where is that shirt, I hate everything let's just put on yoga pants and call it a day. (You know I'm right!!)
Except here's the thing. I tracked my productivity and I don't get NEARLY the same amount of shit done in yoga pants. I do much better, if I can brush my hair and be a bit put together, you know? So, Marie Kondo to the rescue!
Ok, actually, I've never watched her. But! I know the concept and I took a Saturday during off-season and devoted it to my closet. If it doesn't fit RIGHT NOW, and it cost less than $50 USD, out the door it goes. Does it bring me joy? And I took it further - is it in this palette I created? No? Out the door!!! The result is a wardrobe that is 100 percent cohesive, with pieces that actually fit me and aren't a pain-in-the-ass to get on. Palettes are down below and I'm sure it will evolve over time. But now, I actually get dressed, it takes very little time and my yoga pants are actually being worn for yoga. (OMG I couldn't imagine, either.) Bonus? My closet is super organized, laundry is easy, and that clean space reduces my stress level! Win-win-winner-winner chicken dinner.
Can a monkey do it?
Ok, maybe not an actual monkey. But, what on your laundry list could you hand off to a college student? A retired woman who is dying to have something to get her out of the house?
For me, this is creating galleries and maintaining a couple of spreadsheets I have. Galleries are generated for all upcoming clients on Mondays, the spreadsheet is handled, and I receive an email with whose on deck to get delivered in the next seven days, as well as any upcoming prep I need to complete that week. Time saved? Honestly 2-4 hours, because I would get distracted while I do something mindless. Takes them less than 2 hours, costs me $30 bucks. Uh, YES PLEASE?! This job is Helper Elf Number One.
Helper Elf Number One has a job description and everything! So, if someone has to step out mid-season, replacing this role isn't difficult. Because life happens, emergencies happen. The wheels have to keep rolling! So what is something on your laundry list that would save you a chunk of time and could be trained easily? You have something on that list. Promise.
Errands are such a bitch.
Meet Helper Elf Number Two! In the course of a week, having someone else do all the errand running saves me 8 hours. This person picks up the groceries, the mail, drops off mail, goes to Target, picks up dinner, and if I had kids they would take them to soccer practice or pick them up at a friends. I pay them anywhere from 14-19 USD per hour, cash in hand at the end of the day, and my stress level goes down significantly. Worth it, honey!
Double bonus: I actually stick to my Target budget because I swear to 8lb 8oz baby Jesus, they put something in the vents and I spend triple what I wanted AND forget trash bags, every time.
Stress, stress, go away. Don't come again.
This is highly individualistic, but try to hear me well on the overarching theme, here. What makes you tick? And what can be implemented to relieve it? Don't start with trying to come up with answers to BOTH of these questions or you'll get irritated and shut down and have a cookie and turn on Netflix and then nothing is helped. No, I don't speak from experience.
I was in this yoga class once (yes, I'm basic white girl, let's get on with it), and we were holding reverse warrior for two full minutes. Because she likes pain, I don't know. But, while in it, that instructor interrupted the silence by asking "What do you need?".
"In this moment, right now, think of nothing else but what you need. What tiny change would bring relief to you? What minute movement would change the way you feel right now for the better?" And I realized that by turning my big toe a mere quarter inch to the left, it was a much more enjoyable experience. The lesson though, it stuck with me.
So I bring you the same question. What tiny change would bring relief to you? What small thing could bring a better experience to your day? These next couple of boxes are mine.
This is my pretty girl, Eliana. We've been buddies for 7 years now and she's still just as beautiful as the day I got her. Keeping her in pristine condition and well-organized (there's a closet bar across the backseat, amongst other things!) reduces my stress. Last year, I was on 37 flights *but also* drove 30k miles with her - or 500 hours of driving time. It's incredible to get on the road and just GO. There's no worry about noise, tires, if something might happen. And bonus, she gets incredible gas mileage! After being a digital nomad with her for nearly five years, she honestly feels like home more than anywhere else. If you are someone who drives a noticeable amount, *enjoy the drive*.
Paying Premium can sometimes be worth it.
With as much time as I spend on the road - 35-40 weeks most years - there's a LOT of music happening. Even further, I watch a show on one of my screens while I edit on the other one. (Sometimes, it's a movie. And a quick sidenote on that - movies are how I track my time! Turn something on that I know really well and give myself to the end of the movie to finish a project. Or turn on an album I know well - what up, Dave Matthews Band?! - and clean the house. It's a great way to keep myself going.)
Because of this, I pay for the subscription services. Commercial interruptions make me a CRAZY PERSON. Maybe you can live with them and that's fine. But, when I'm in a flow jamming it out, hearing about Nexium is the best way to stop my process. Total cost per month for everything? Approximately $60 USD. Yeah, I can get with that.
Hoo boy, get a notebook. Or maybe you're a genius. Whatever. Have you gotten a snack yet? Maybe this is when you get a snack. Snacks help everything, amirite?
After that insane third year - INSANE - I realized that no one gives a shit about my time as much as I do. And even though I strive to be considerate of others, that often doesn't come back to me. So, schedule blocks became a thing! Some people call this compartmentalization (<---that word took three attempts y'all), you can call it Miss Piggy for all I care. This is how it works (for me - again, you do you, boo boo!)
Basically, there are rules about what I will do and what I will not do. And I try really hard to stick to them. What's the point? Well, the rules center around making me the most rested, strongest, most supportive vendor I can possibly be. This generates great work and happy clients. And that generates more work. See what's happening? And the better the work, the better the clients and now I'm essentially at the point I don't have demanding, rude-ass clients anymore. Because I tell those people to go take a hike. (Also, I have a test for them. But, you'll have to learn about that later.)
Your blocks will be your blocks. As a guideline though, these are mine.
- Absolutely no work on Mondays, unless my spirit gets joy from it and it must be an at home project.
- Absolutely no Skypes/meetings/Zooms/shoots/events on Thursdays. This is Duty Day. I sit at my computer and crank it!
- All meetings will take place after 10am local time. #notamorningperson
- All shoots happen on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. Events on Saturdays. Sundays only when absolutely necesssary!
There's like 28 more (including rules about when I travel and how I travel), but you get the idea. Setting this up this way means I'm no longer shooting six days in a row and then SWAMPED in admin work. It means I get to catch my breath on Mondays and Thursdays. It also means I'm not going wretchedly far over my max capacity which means? Better work! (And that my friends, is what we call Full Circle.)
Is this the end of the list? HEYALL NO. Girl bye.
But, I think this is a great starting point. At the end of the day, really, two simple rules have helped me TREMENDOUSLY and I hope you can see them peeking through in all of the above text boxes. The first is that you're allowed five emotional minutes and then you gotta go be a mother fuckin' boss.
And the second?
Treat yourself like someone you love.
Rooting for you crazy bitches!