Photographer burnout is one of the main reasons my clients seek my support. Behind every overly exhausted photographer is a human pouring their heart and soul into every image, every client and endless hours learning and honing your craft.
As someone who spent two years recovering from business burnout, I just want you to know that if you find yourself in a season of photographer (or business) burnout, you are not alone.
And while there are no quick fix solutions on your road to recovery, there will come a time when your energy is restored. You can build the systems and boundaries that will help support you in regaining (and maintaining) your energy.
When I was going through my own season of burnout – the advice I received over and over again was simply to slow down and rest in order to recover. And while that was such well meaning advice – I simply couldn’t see any space or time to rest.
Which is why I thought I could share three rituals you could use to start recovering from photographer burnout. I incorporated these rituals into my daily routine, and even though it took me two years to fully recover, the business I built in the process is beyond what I could have imagined.
Which leads me to the first ritual.
Ritual one – re-imagine a new way of working
If you are in a season of photographer burnout this ritual might be hard. It’s ok to acknowledge that this process of re-imagining a new way of working can feel daunting. When you are stuck in a loop of just trying to keep up it can be hard to imagine anything else.
If you have a spare moment try to find a quiet space where you can truly think, and allow yourself to dream about what an ideal work week would look like.
- What time would you get up in the morning
- How would you spend your days
- Think about how your business could revolve around your life instead of the other way around
- How many clients would you be working with at any given time
- How many shoots would you be able to do
- What days would you work
- Would you have people supporting you behind the scenes or would things feel more simple so it was manageable on your own
The point of this ritual is not to figure out how all of this would be possible, but rather to identify your desires (and needs). Once you connect with what you truly desire and value the easier it will be to create the foundations to make your ideal work week possible.
Ritual two to recover from Photographer burnout – creating pockets of space.
When you are experiencing photographer burnout one of the hardest things can be finding the time and space for your body to rest. Sure it’s easy in theory, but we don’t all have the option of taking a year long sabbatical to recover. Sometimes you have to still keep things moving.
Which is why creating pockets of space can be really helpful. I would suggest trying to create spaces for rest, and spaces to help you build more sustainable business foundations. It’s really helpful to do both of these things simultaneously.
If you only find space to rest without working on the foundations to avoid burnout in the future then you will be stuck in a cycle of resting, only to be overwhelmed moments later. If you keep trying to get ahead by creating supportive foundations, you could make things even worse and not give yourself the space to think clearly and recover.
But how do you actually go about creating pockets of space?
The simplest way to create pockets of space is to start letting some things go. This is one of those simple things that sounds really easy, but can be really hard to put into practice.
Start with the easiest things – things that you don’t want to do, feel you should do (even though they don’t feel in alignment) and if possible try to get some help and support.
This could look like:
- Focusing on one social media channel instead of trying to do them all
- Limiting the services you are currently offering to those that aren’t as draining / time consuming
- Getting additional support – like outsourcing your social media or hiring a virtual assistant.
- Getting support outside your business – for example getting a meal delivery service.
- Finding additional childcare so you have a little more space to rest
- Or as simple as sending out some washing to your local laundry service (this is something that I find so helpful in seasons of burnout).
- But if this isn’t possible it could be helpful to speak to a partner, friend or family member and let them know you are struggling. You might be surprised to know how many people would love to support you!!
The statement ‘let me check my calendar’
When I say this I always have a little internal giggle because it sounds so cringey to say ‘ let me check my calendar’ but honestly it was so helpful when trying to recover from burnout.
As a photographer (or any business owner) it can be so tempting to over commit – agreeing to doing things and then regretting it later. So before you agree to do anything, make sure you can realistically fit it into your schedule.
Another strategy is to be more open and let people know that you have unintentionally overbooked yourself. Try to get comfortable moving things around or cancelling things that aren’t urgent.
It’s ok to change your mind – as long as you handle this with intention and respect people will always understand (and if they don’t, that has a lot more to do with them than with you).
Take that space and don’t fill it
This might seem obvious, but if you don’t take the space you create and treat it like gold you could lose it without realising it. Don’t let other tasks or commitments seep into the space you have worked so hard to create. Use the space to rest (first and foremost) and use some of it to build foundations that will allow you to create more space in the future.
Ritual Three when facing photographer burnout – looking for the root cause, instead of hacking away at the branches
This is something I read in Greg Mckeown’s book Essentialism and it really stuck with me while trying to recover from my own business burnout.
I can’t remember the exact words he used, but basically instead of finding solutions to surface level problems, you need to dig a little deeper in order to find the root cause if you want to prevent things from happening all over again.
For example, if you notice that you keep falling behind on your editing. A surface level solution might be to increase your editing window, providing you with the temporary ease of more time to edit your client galleries. But sooner or later you might find yourself trapped in the same cycle because you didn’t tackle the root cause.
This could be – that you don’t know which galleries you have to edit first and so you keep putting the ones you are less excited about off till last. Or it could be that you are taking on too many clients – in which case you might need to increase your prices to be able to decrease your client workload.
Another example could be your social media is taking up all of your time. You are spending hours trying to get ideas on what to post and getting caught up in a cycle of comparison and information overload.
A surface level solution might be to buy another marketing course or outsource it to someone else. And while those might be good solutions there is still going to be work involved and you might still fall back into the same patterns.
A better solution might be to get clearer on your brand strategy so you know who you are serving and what your unique brand of magic is. Reducing the time spent searching for inspiration and instead creating content that is strategic and helps you connect with your soul aligned clients.
You could also find other ways to reach your soul aligned clients that don’t involve social media at all. In which case you could work on your SEO, build out an email newsletter strategy or create foundational blog articles to help you connect with the clients who light you up.
How to perform this ritual
So how do you actually put this into practice? This is a ritual you could do daily for a month and involves time-tracking. I would suggest recording everything you do in your photography business and notice how each task makes you feel.
You could also see how long these tasks take, if they make an impact and if you can find any solutions. Think about these solutions and try to understand if they solve the root problem? If not, what could be a better way to tackle this issue to avoid it from happening again?
And if you need support with this, I can help you create strategies that will help you tackle issues that are leading to your photographer burnout and put systems or processes in place to avoid them from happening again.
These are three simple rituals to help free up your time when suffering from burnout as a photographer. Some of these might work for you, others might not. But they certainly are a start to help you build a more energetically sustainable business.
I would love to encourage you to experiment and see what works for you!!
If this really resonates with you and you want to find out more – head on over to see how we can work together. Or sign up to my newsletter where I share more tips on how I run a thoughtful & intentional business rooted in slow business values & principles.