When we decided to start our business almost six years ago, having kids was a long way down on our check list. We’d been married for three years and had visions of traveling the world photographing anything and anyone we meet along the way. Little did we know, God had bigger and better plans for our lives. In 2010, shortly after I (Nathan) quit my full time job and launched into photography as a career, we found out that we were pregnant. To say we were surprised is an understatement. We had just moved nearly a 1,000 miles away from our home and families in Indiana to Louisiana, I had left a secure work position at a local university, and we were launching a business that is largely referral-based in a state where we had a handful of connections and no history.
After we spent time thinking and praying through our options, (namely, to stay in Louisiana and attempt to build the business or to pack up and head back to Indiana), we made the decision to move back home only five months after moving away! Rather than “giving up”, we began to see Indiana as the place where our greatest support system would be located. Both of our families live in the area, and we determined to have our children grow up with the luxury of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins nearby. We are experiencing the wisdom of that decision today, having two kids who get a lot of quality time with our extended family.
At the time we first moved back to Indiana, we still faced the same realities: I had left my full-time job, we had just completed two cross-country moves, we were attempting to build our photography business from the ground up, while being pregnant and searching for a new house back in our hometown. Not only were we financially tight, but we felt stress from just about every other area of life as well.
This was a trying time for both our marriage and our business. We didn’t have much money, but rather than blindly throw ourselves into building a crammed schedule to build assets, we knew we had to put the health and wholeness of our family first. We did just that, and took advantage of our greatest asset: time. Unlike people working regular 9-5 office jobs, Ashley and I had jobs with the flexibility to invest into our family, build a schedule that worked for us, and compromise more freely. We had time to strategically plan for the future of our business and personal lives. As we made headway in our photography business, connecting with families and clients and friends all over the area we already knew and loved in Indiana, we fell in love with the flexibility of working from home. We found chunks of extra time to spend with our kids and growing family. Even when our business continued to grow and time became less of a commodity, we had tasted the value of quality time and we vowed that we would make our kids the focus of our lives.
All of our decisions came back to whether it would increase our quality time and health as a family. Over the past six years, we have made compromises and chosen to pass up lucrative business opportunities because of our commitment to family. We have no regrets about our decisions and continue to see how our commitment to family has created an environment that fosters love and security for our kids. Our investment into our family has a huge payoff: our marriage is stronger, our relationships with our kids are deeper, and ultimately we have developed a pace and a rhythm to our lives that makes for a happier, more fulfilling work environment!
So what are some things that we do within our business to provide more time as a family?
1) Hustle: Ashley and I choose to take advantage of our working hours by squeezing out every last bit of our effort into them. We stay focused and work more efficiently with established roles (as we discussed in a previous post), and we make those hours work for our family. For example, with two toddlers who are on the go and curious about everything in life, we try and make most days revolve around investing in them and we wait until after the kids go down for bed to edit, email, connect and research ideas for upcoming shoots. We choose to stay up later than normal and put in a few hours of work before bed so that when the next day comes, we are ready for it. Your kids might be in school, or you might not have kids or a spouse, but you can easily fill in whatever other passions you have outside of photography into key hours during the day, and designate different time blocks to work hard and with purpose.
2) Outsource: This is a tough item for us. I (Nathan) am more of a “control freak” and it is very challenging for me to hand tasks off to others, but when the need arises, I have realized the benefit of enlisting outside help. Not only does it help us establish new relationships with other small business owners and creative minds, it also helps lighten my personal load and alleviate any unnecessary stress. I have been working on this item a lot this year and by outsourcing, I’ve found other chunks of time to dedicate back to photography, my family, and other personal passions.
3) Know when to say “No”: Although being busy might seem great because it can mean more cash flow, a peaceful and healthy life does not have a price tag. Running yourself to the ground only ends up hurting, and the benefit of money is lost when you’re exhausted, sick, and friendless. We know that our family time is priceless, and these years with each other and our children cannot be bought back. When we book photo shoots and weddings, we strategically black out certain dates and weekends in our calendar to make sure that we have time for our family. It’s a built-in accountability system, and if we aren’t intentional about doing it, our schedules will eventually run us. If you are still in the first year of building a business, this might be harder to do. Attempt something manageable, like marking out one family day every other week. Designate a rest day in the week, and designate work days. Make sure you are putting some specific focus and time to your family.
4) Plan Ahead: I discussed this a little bit already, but it can’t be stressed enough. Make sure to schedule time in your calendar to spend as a family. Budget ahead of time and buy the yearly memberships to the Zoo, Childrens Museums, tickets to your favorite sports team, or whatever else it is that you might be passionate about. When life gets busy, we have a reserve of money, energy, and free days that we planned out in advance to put the wind back in our creative, emotional, and relational sails. We try and have options for ways to spend our time as a family, and it makes life feel less like a grind and more like an adventure.
What do our family days look like?
We do a number of things: we visit the zoo, the children’s museum, interactive children’s activities (Indianapolis has a great one called Connor Prairie), we go out to eat, get ice cream, go to a park to play on 8 foot trampoline or splash pad, ride bikes, and adventure as a family. During the spring, summer and fall it is easy to find something to do. Most cities have an online guide of activities and free concerts for kids. In the winter, we try and stay creative by bundling up and enjoying what the snow can offer as well. We have to get resourceful with our time; one day this past April we let the kids get paint out and have fun painting, drawing and coloring.
As with your business, be creative in your family and personal time.
As a photographer and a dad, I love to take the kids on photo walks. My son has fallen in love with it too. I gave him my first camera I ever owned (a Nikon d5000) and he goes with me and takes pictures around town! Seeing life through Zeke’s lens is nothing short of fascinating.
Even if you believe that you’re a workaholic, I promise once you begin to portion out time to your family and your passions, you’ll realize how refreshing and helpful it is. Your work time will gain more purpose and productivity if you build in breaks. For Ashley and I, we will never regret the time that we spend with our family! Life goes quickly, we know that we won’t be able to get these years back. Live life purposefully, and really live every minute to the full!