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Time management for photographers

How to get more done by getting organized
by Silke Güldner

Photographers usually organize their business themselves. It's up to them to decide how to allocate their time. That doesn't always work out well. They are often under pressure or rushed, which comes with the job. There's not enough time for everything, they forget things or set the wrong priorities. Does that sound familiar? Especially self-employed people work more than 60 hours per week. Workload is either too much or too little, rarely balanced. To get more control over your own photo business, a better time management and a smart task planning helps. Creativity and structure are not mutually exclusive. After all, those who manage their time well are not only more successful, but also more motivated and balanced. And this has a very positive effect overall on all areas of life.

Set priorities right!

There''s a lot that freelance photographers have to fit into their day-to-day work to keep the business running. From project planning and management to self-presentation and communication with clients and team partners. Maintaining the website and portfolio alone takes time on a regular basis, with social media profiles on top of that. But also pricing and quoting, researching costs or acquiring funding, drafting contracts and usage agreements needs uninterrupted working time and can't be done on the side. Yet many photographers have no system for scheduling their tasks and time. Scheduling meetings, phone calls or back-office tasks a few days in advance is something a lot of them are not used to. They prefer to take things as they come, to handle things spontaneously. And they often prefer to sit for hours editing images (and listening to podcasts) instead of completing urgent tasks.

Don't waste your time!

Time is a valuable resource, so use it wisely. Here are five simple tips that will help you: 

  1. Work strictly in accordance with your calendar. Don't just note down your jobs and customer appointments, but also reserve time for office tasks, portfolio or website maintenance and acquisition. Don't wait until you find time for these tasks.

  2. Determine your daily and weekly work hours. How much you can and want to work so that you can manage your personal life and keep your health in check.

  3. Create a to-do list. This way nothing important will get lost and it will help you to organize the next day and week and to see what you have already accomplished. 

  4. Schedule a fixed "weekly"! Monday morning, for example, should be reserved for marketing & communications tasks each week.

  5. For time-intensive tasks, work according to the principle of timeboxing. Limit the time you want to use for completing this task from the beginning. 

Consciously managing your time avoids frustration that quickly sets in when important tasks are only incorporated into the job on a whim or at random.

Use your time effectively!

Identify the time suckers in your job. Here are two useful formulas for your time management:

  1. One of the two rules recommends not scheduling more than 60% of your daily work time. Leave 40% open for unexpected tasks and as a buffer for requests and ideas. Give it a try!

  2. The second formula aims at the efficiency of your work. It assumes that we can achieve 80% performance by only 20% effort. A wonderful idea, for those who can be sparing with their energy but a real challenge for perfectionists. And in order not to let your precious time flow away, learn to distinguish what is important and what is urgent! 

Good time management gives you room for ideas and to build and grow your photography business. More time does not increase the quality of your work, but good time management is integrative and creates space for your creativity.