In addition to our photo editing services, we connect with industry leaders to share their insights on relevant topics. For this topic, we brought in Leeann Marie, Wedding Photographers, an established Pittsburgh Wedding Photographer, ShootDotEdit Customer, and proud mother. She has a great understanding of how crazy it can be to figure out how to manage a business and a baby. She is going to break down exactly how to find the balance between running your wedding photography business and caring for your baby.
One of the leading wedding photographers in Pittsburgh, Leeann Marie has created an exclusive brand that is family focused for the cosmopolitan bride. She’s a national speaker for WPPI, has been in business for 9 years, and has a background in Industrial Engineering giving her a unique perspective on photography and business. She relies heavily on systems in her business to accomplish all of her goals, and has been a ShootDotEdit happy photographer for 7 years. She lives in the city of Pittsburgh with her husband and daughter. She loves looking out her back window into the firefly-lit woods, and enjoying a night out for sushi, and drinks with friends. Learn more about Leeann on her website and Instagram account!
Part 1: How to Create Routine
We welcomed our daughter, Joy, in April of this year, and it’s been a true learning experience having her in the house with me while trying to maintain the same number of weddings and clients this year. I’m on track to photograph 23 weddings of my own this year, with numerous other engagement sessions and associate weddings. That’s a lot to even think about!
In this first section, I will share how to break up your days to be the most efficient and create a solid routine. But before we get into the good stuff, let’s look at baby pictures!
Oh wait, I mean, let me provide a little disclaimer: Every baby is different. Every pregnancy is different. Every business is different. Every home is different. Your business, baby, and home will work out best when you take bits of advice, tips, and tricks – and then mold them into the perfect solution for you. These sections include what has worked for me, but I’m also going to do my very best to be as objective as possible. What works for me may not work for you, but the principles may help you to find the perfect “sweet spot” to living the life you dream.
On that note, let’s dive into principle numero uno: ROUTINE.
Become a Creature of Habit
I’ve created a short video below if you’re the visual type and prefer to see my tip in video form.
Do you have friends who live and die by their child’s bedtime, making them no-fun-friends who leave early just so Johnny can get his 12 hours? I don’t blame them! Kids thrive on routine! While creating a routine, especially with a brand new baby, can seem next to impossible, try and find a few times of the day you’d like baby to learn consistency. Morning and bedtime are prime examples.
For me, we do the same thing every morning: open blinds, change diaper, nurse, play downstairs for ~1.5 hours, back into nursery, read book, close blinds, back down for morning nap. Isn’t that thrilling? But really, at first, she perhaps wouldn’t nap right away. Or we would have to go to a doctor’s appointment in the morning. But over time, keeping this consistent has provided a morning routine that’s now like clockwork. I know the morning nap will come easily, and it does. And here I am writing this article!
Choose 2 Areas for Routine
Babies, children, and adults do well when there is routine and the day can be at least marginally predictable. Newborns don’t have a routine, but even starting to think about this concept in the early days can pay dividends down the road.
Whether you’re awaiting baby or working with a new bundle in the home already, write down 2 areas where you’d like to create a routine. Note all of the steps you’d like to do, and try and work it into each day. Keep consistent, and modify the routine if necessary (i.e. you transitioned from bed to crib recently, baby started solids, you’re traveling, etc).
(Do I have her routines typewritten and mounted to the inside of the baking closet door for the babysitter? You better believe I do!)
While you’re working on that, stay tuned for the next section: How to Use Your (Minimal) Spare Time!
Part 2: How to Use Your (Minimal) Spare Time
Congratulations! Baby is here and now you’re into the good stuff – how to manage having a baby in the house while also managing your photography business. In the last section, I talked about the importance of routine, and how it can help you to better predict your days and times you may work. The next step – working! (Imagine that!)
Just as I did last time, I’ve created a short video highlighting my tips and tricks for effectively using your spare time. Take a look!
Maximize Your Baby’s Naptime
Babies need sleep. Do they actually take it? Sometimes yes, sometimes no, but a sleeping baby is your best friend towards getting work done. When the baby is napping, try your best to cross things off of your To-Do list.
Create a To-Do List
This To-Do list: write it the night before. Brainstorm before you go to bed all of the things you’d like to get done tomorrow if you had a wealth of free time. Things you write down may include cleaning, grocery shopping, taking a nap, emailing a booking proposal, or showering. Yes, showering. I like my To-Do list to be good ol’ fashioned pen and paper, but you could plug it into your phone or iPad – whatever works for you! Once you’ve created this list, go to bed and try not to let your mind wander. Your goals will be waiting for you in the morning.
Pick an Area of Focus
When the next day begins, I pull out my To-Do list and pick an area of focus when nap time rolls around. I may think, “I will do everything business-related during this nap,” and I ignore the rest. This helps me to be hyper-focused and therefore hyper-efficient. You are your own worst enemy when you try to multitask!
Baby may nap for 20 minutes, or you might get the luxurious two-hour nap! Whatever time you have, focus on one area and go be Superwoman!
Set an Evening Schedule
Lastly, let’s talk briefly about evening work. This is the time when baby has gone to sleep for the night and you have longer stretches of quiet time. For some people, this is their prime working time, and I too work during these hours from time to time. One word of caution – this is also time for yourself, your marriage, your sleep, and your mental health. Keep these other areas in consideration before jumping into your office at the first sign of baby
All in all, when you have a routine and focus during naptime, you can get a lot done in short spurts of time. The key? Focus. Minimize distractions. My challenge to you now is to write your To-Do list tonight. Write only things you’d love to complete tomorrow if you could. Everything that isn’t done tomorrow gets moved to the next day’s list. Once you have this list, see if it naturally falls into 2 or 3 “groups” of tasks. Pick 1 to focus on tomorrow when you can!
Next, I’m going to dive into how you just signed up for 3 jobs. Did you know that?
Part 3: How to Balance Your 3 Jobs
Whew! Tired yet?
You’re full-force into baby-duty, or perhaps you’re trying your best to make a “game plan” for when baby comes. Either way, you’ve wrapped your mind around the idea of creating routine and managing your limited amount of spare time. Those are concrete ideas, and hopefully, you have some solid ideas on how to incorporate them into your new days.
What isn’t so concrete? Understanding that you now have 3 jobs. That’s right – 3! Did you realize that? You are now managing a home, a photography business, and a baby. This realization took a while to hit me, but once it did, it hit like a giant dump truck filled with river stones. Your in-and-out days will change – significantly. Your life will change more than you ever anticipated. You will be sleep deprived, and you will be asked to do more than you think you can actually accomplish.
(You’ll have to do things like make Halloween costumes – because of course, you have time for that!)
But remember this – you are not the only one. There are others, like myself, out there going through the exact same transition. Soon, this mixed-up-world will become your new “normal.” In the midst of the craziness, here are some things to remember.
It’s OK to ask for help
This is such a challenge for me! I always believe that I’m the most efficient, go-getting, do-it-all kind of woman. I don’t need help! I can do everything… until I couldn’t. And then I cried and cried and cried, and thought I was going a little bit crazy. And that’s when I had to step up and admit that I needed some help. I sought out a babysitter. I ask my mom to come and watch the baby for a little bit of time. In fact, right now I’m writing this article in a restaurant while I eat a real meal and focus on writing. It’s OK to ask for help – do it!
Prioritize your tasks
Your house may be messier than usual (I actually really love this online cleaning schedule). You may not get to work out as much as you could before. You may take a day longer to respond to an email. It’s normal. Just do your very best to stay on top of things. Prioritize what must get done that day and you’ll be fine!
Your clients care, but not as much as you do
Your clients love you, and you love them. They may congratulate you on your new addition, but let’s face it – they want their images, and soon! Try not to blame everything on having a baby. Work hard to meet your deadlines and expectations (outsourcing my color correction to ShootDotEdit is my lifesaver here). Admit a little weakness, and then do your very best behind-the-scenes.
In the midst of this life change, remember you now have 3 jobs (some of us even more). You’re a business owner, mom, and household manager. It’s a big life change, but you’re not in it alone.
Connect with others
Finally, remember it’s good to connect with other moms! Share what works for you and ask for insights on areas you are looking to adjust. Use #babyandbusiness on Instagram to share how you manage your 3 careers!
Next? We’ll talk about photoshoots, weddings, and managing clients. How can you possibly be a breastfeeding mother while photographing weddings on Saturdays? More to come!
Part 4: The Details Behind Shooting with a Newborn
In previous sections, I’ve touched upon how to create routine, ways to tackle your To-Do list during nap times, and how you have multiple roles you must become accustomed to with the arrival of a baby into your home and work-life.
All of these pieces are big parts of your working life, and it’s important to be able to get work done in your office when you can. However, what are wedding photographers to do when it comes to the other part of our jobs: working with clients and photographing events? There are some adjustments that must be made, but it’s all pretty easy when you have a game plan! Let’s get into it!
Typically, I would schedule meetings with potential clients for times that worked well for their schedules. Sometimes this would be during the day, sometimes the evening, weekends, etc. It’s important (if you meet with clients prior to booking) to have these meetings scheduled ASAP!
With the arrival of my daughter, it’s now trickier to schedule these meetings. My husband works out of the home, and hiring a babysitter for just an hour sometimes doesn’t make sense. Instead, I’ve moved to offering client meetings during the early-evening hours (before baby’s bedtime) and on the weekends. This ensures I have someone to watch her, and these times typically work with my clients’ schedules as well.
Make sure your husband/caretaker/babysitter gets there early! Clients can arrive early too, and you do not want to be taking a meeting while a baby is sitting on your lap drooling all over your hand! Not that I know this from personal experience or anything…
One HUGE decision that helped me in my business was the decision to focus solely on wedding and engagement photography. This helps me to have a “filter” for every lead that enters my inbox, and I can easily say “No” to the shoots that do not fit with my business.
I highly recommend creating your own filter on what you do and do not want to be working on, especially in these early years with a baby. You may even choose to have an area of focus every month. Maybe during the summer and fall, it’s weddings only. Maybe in November, it’s mini-sessions. Perhaps in the winter, it’s boudoir. Whatever you do, create your personal filters and stick with them. This will help you to not feel guilty for saying “No” and will keep you sane at the same time. Keep in mind this also means saying “Yes” to some free-time, family, and friends – also important!
Wedding days when you have a baby have now become your “free time.” Kidding (only a little). Leaving the home for a full day can be difficult. You want to be with your baby often, and you may have a sense of guilt or anxiety when you leave. This is totally normal.
In the early days, leave the baby with a loved one if you can, or find a babysitter you trust completely. It always helps me to have photos texted to me throughout the day so I know the baby is doing just fine, and I can continue to focus on my wedding clients.
Leave a List for Your Caretaker
Leave a list of must-knows for your caretaker: feeding times and amounts, bedtime, bath routine, and what you would like done while you’re gone. I did this a lot in the early stages, and it helped me to feel more relaxed while I was shooting.
If you are a breastfeeding mother, wedding days just became even trickier! You will need to ensure you leave your caretaker with the necessary essentials to feed your baby. Your baby needs to eat even if you are gone all day!
There’s always the potential that while you are gone your baby may refuse a bottle. Don’t let this scare you! If it does happen, keep working with your baby and caretaker to develop a solution so you can work and focus. You will be surprised by how easily you can be creative with your solutions when it comes to baby and work!
So there you go! We covered client meetings, how to say no, and how to prep for the wedding day. You will be great when you have to leave the home to photograph events, and you will smile even more then you get home to kiss that little face you’ve missed all day!
One final good idea – now that you have a newborn yourself, consider adding newborn photography to your offerings!
Next: The nitty-gritty of setting up your business for SUCCESS when baby arrives!
Part 5: Long-Term Sustainability and Health
This is the last section of my Business and Baby post! Wahhhh! Wait. Was that the baby?
Today we’ll sum it all together. We started with the idea of creating a routine when the baby has arrived, how to manage your limited amount of spare time, balancing 3 jobs, and how to tackle wedding days. Now it’s time to talk about the final piece: preparing for baby by setting up your photography business and personal life for success.
Long before that precious bundle of joy arrives in your home, you’ll have months to prepare for their arrival. These months are an important time! Don’t let them go to waste! Preparing your life for the tornado-that-is-baby is the best way to ensure you and your clients are happy in the coming years.
I spent a lot of time working in my off-season while I was pregnant and preparing for our daughter to arrive. Hours spent at my desk, small tweaks, and ensuring I was teamed up with the right partners allowed me to continue with my current business volume even with a newborn in the house. What are some keys to long-term sustainability?
Make Changes Before Baby Arrives
After baby arrives is the worst time to make changes to your photography business, partners, editing style, album design, home, routine, etc. Prepare as much as you can in advance! Make sure you have these things in order:
- Set up the nursery as much as possible.
- Create your ideal “baby space” and “workspace.”
- Get a new car or home (if you’ve been looking). Easier said than done, but figured I’d throw it out there!
- Shoot workflows: Write down exactly how you will process every wedding and portrait session. Stick with this once the baby has arrived. Consistency is king.
- Emails: Write out templates for your common emails. Make sure they fit well with the workflows you’ve designed. Make them general enough to copy and paste, but personal enough to keep an inviting touch.
- Editing Style: Download the latest versions of the software that you may need for editing. Settle on a consistent look and style. Set standards for how many images you plan to deliver from each wedding and session.
- Booking Process: Update your booking process if needed. Ensure you have all clients in order for the current season and next. Sign up for credit card processing (clients are more willing to spend money if they can pay with a card).
- Sales Process: Decide how you want to manage any pre-and post-wedding sales. Develop a sales and marketing strategy and write it on a calendar.
Schedule, Schedule, Schedule
You may want to plan on a maternity leave! This is a great idea! Even if your “maternity leave” still consists of photographing weddings on the weekends, try and schedule everything else before the baby arrives. This includes:
- Plan with friends and family when is the best time to visit once baby has arrived.
- Pre-plan meals! I created a TON of freezer meals while pregnant, and we used them often in the early weeks of the baby being in the home.
- Schedule social media posts.
- Schedule educational and personal blog posts ahead of time.
- Pre-write upcoming wedding blog posts. Or, outsource your blogging needs to a specialist, like Fotoskribe.
- I will pre-write based on conversations from our initial client meetings, things I know about them from Facebook, or send a questionnaire to gather details such as engagement, wedding details, what they are looking forward to, what they love about each other, etc.
Team Up For Success
Team up with partners that will ensure your success. Make sure you have a great team that you trust and can count on in both your personal and business life.
- Babysitters: Start looking for a babysitter before the baby arrives! You may be lucky and have family or friends close by who can help in a pinch. Or, you may need to look on sites like Care.com. I rely on grandparents, a babysitter found through our church, and one from Care.com. It’s good to have a few people to call on because you never know when you may need a hand! Even if it’s a sanity break!
- Significant Others: Prepare your significant other for the changes you’re going to experience in your personal and business life. Develop a game plan for when is “work time” and when is “family time.” Set up expectations on household management, grocery shopping, budgeting, etc. The more you are both on the same page, the better!
- Associates: Your business associates can also help you in a pinch! I am very close with my team, and if I need someone to watch the baby while I have a session, I know I can drop off Joy with my associates and we would be good to go!
- ShootDotEdit: I use the UNLIMITED Plan, and submit all of my engagement and wedding photo editing to them within a few days (usually 1 or 2) of photographing the event. They manage all my color correction, and I’m able to turn around images to my clients quickly!
- KISS Books: KISS is my album design tool and album company. Their products are gorgeous, so I don’t have to worry about quality issues or variability. They also have impeccable customer service and their album-design tool is very slick! You can also outsource your album design to them completely with their “Design for $49” option.
- ShootQ: ShootQ not only manages my booking process and workflows but also sends out my automatic invoice reminders. This helps to make sure I get paid when it might slip my mind otherwise!
Rely on Solid Workflows and Partners
All in all, the more you can plan in advance the better. Once the baby has arrived, rely on your solid workflows and partners to carry you through the season. This preparations and teamwork combined with routine, efficient use of time, and a healthy work/life balance will help you to be the best parent and business owner you can be once your new love has arrived! Enjoy! It’s the best!
There is a lot of excitement that comes along with running a photography business, caring for a baby, and being a parent. Set yourself up for long-term sustainability and health by taking a look at all areas of your personal life and business to see what changes and adjustments need to be made.
For more ways to make changes and optimize your business, download our free How to Grow Your Wedding Photography Business Guide! Click the banner below for 50+ pages of actionable tips and tricks perfect to help you achieve your goals and find success.