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Work vs. Life – New beginnings!

This won’t happen a lot, but here’s a blog I’ve just written with NO PICTURES… yikes!! However, I have wanted to ‘journal’ these feelings for a while now & decided to do it publicly incase any readers like me, get swallowed up into their dreams, their ambitions, their goals almost to the point that it’s all we eat, sleep and do. If you ever feel stressed about these things, take the advice I was given below on board – don’t forget them like I did. I know from experience how much it hurts!!

Let’s begin with this fact that I keep seeing which inspired the beginning of this blog:

“Only 20% of running a successful photography business is the actual photography,
80% is the business behind it all.”

This is easily overlooked when first starting out as a photographer – I certainly didn’t realise the importance of gaining skills on business management, sales & marketing – I was living in ‘La La Land’ assuming I could get by on my passion alone. This assumption was quickly shattered after my first ever wedding! Since then, I’ve enrolled on business, sales & marketing courses to build myself up to be a ‘real photographer’! This is my dream, so it deserves to be worked hard at. I would never rely on Facebook for instance as my only source of business growth.

Since I’ve been working full time for myself (2 months now), the business side of Rachel Lilly Photography is pretty much ALL that I’ve been doing. I’ve really realised how much having another job hindered me and kept my ‘business work’ tucked away. I never had time to conquer it all so it just continued to build up and up. I’ve only just caught up!!

I often wonder about how I coped for my first two years of trading where I had a steady & continually growing stream of photography commissions, whilst still keeping my day job for the secure income (something I couldn’t afford to lose in my business’ early stages)?! The truth is: not very well! I felt on top of it all mentally, with only a few ‘freak outs’ over the sheer quantity of work I had to battle through in hardly any ‘spare time’. But it was my body which finally rebelled. This really showed me how fragile we humans are, and how quickly & silently stress can affect us – the most common way being mentally. Which is why I thought I was ok – I never knew your body could have a say!! A simple check up at my doctor led her to sign me off work completely for an entire week – she said I was showing signs of fatigue and after questioning me about my daily activities, she told me that I needed to take a full week ‘off’ with no computer, phone calls or anything at all that was even the slightest bit ‘work’ related… I had NO idea what to do with myself!! I was so used to working from 6.30am until past midnight, 7 days a week. What on earth did people do with all this spare time?!!
I followed her orders though, and spent most of my time outdoors (away from the computer!), walking, sketching, shopping, my dad (who’s a pilot) took me for a flight one afternoon – it turned out to be fantastic week! But I couldn’t help feeling guilty as I personally didn’t ‘feel’ that there was anything wrong with me! And that’s the scary part – I didn’t even realise how much I was suffering. As the week progressed, my energy increased, my zest for life came back & I had inspiration pouring out of my ears – my husband quickly noted the changes in me! First lesson was learnt…

Try to find a healthy work:life balance.
“Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground” (Theodore Roosevelt).
Keep aspiring to your dreams but don’t forget the things you already have around you before you lose them altogether.

This sounded good, but word of mouth was in full swing with my photography & my dream career was almost at my finger tips. My style was growing, my brand was becoming known and I felt I was under a considerable amount of pressure to keep it up.  I just needed to keep working that little bit harder to take to the skies & say goodbye to the day job… my eyes were firmly fixed on the stars once again, and my feet were no longer touching the ground. Towards the end of my second full year of working with two jobs, 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, my body had another argument with me… I thought I was ok – I was having heaps of fun doing my work, I was keeping every single one of my clients happy, I was producing work that I was proud of, I was able to buy not one but two cameras that I thought I would have to wait YEARS for…

Then I developed a rash – after another trip to my doctors I was told I was doing too much again! This time I’d got shingles!! Apparently shingles only really comes out in people my age who are wearing themselves out/stressed/burning the candle at both ends etc etc.. My rash wasn’t even in a place that I could try to ignore it so that I could carry on – it was under my bra straps, in my arm pit and down my arm! The pain was shocking, in every sense of the word, and I couldn’t do much at all! This time I was out of action for a full fortnight. Thankfully I had age on my side with this – sometimes shingles can last years, particularly if you’re over 50. I still get the occasional twinge/stabbing sensation in my armpit as a reminder though! Second lesson learnt…

“Without great solitude no serious work is possible” (Pablo Picasso)
We have to make time for ourselves in order to have success – not just in work, mainly in life!

Since leaving my day job two months ago, I’ve had to force myself to stop working each day at about 5-6pm. I take regular breaks, and I even have a day or two off each week! I finally feel as though I’m finding myself again, because I’m actually making time for myself, my family & friends. I finally understand that I only have one job now, and I should treat it as such – I should work to my heart’s content during ‘work hours’ doing the best I can in the job that I adore. Then I need to try & switch it all off in the evenings and my days off to focus on all the other things outside of my work bubble, to relax a bit even! This is unbelievably healthy for our minds and bodies, I’m already noticing the benefits after just two months. Even my work is improving!

If I were to go back in time to the start of those to two years, I would definitely plan more time per week to spend with my husband, or do something that I enjoy at leisure more often – away from my computer/ipad/phone, even my camera *quivvers*

My ‘dream career’ is to capture other people’s memories for them to treasure for many generations through my ‘photographic skills’. But this only equates to 20% of my business. The other whacking 80% depends on my business, sales & marketing skills. But I mustn’t forget about mine & my loved ones memories.

If you can relate to this at all, I challenge you to make time everyday for a week to concentrate on something different; learn something new, play a game, go for a walk. Whether it’s half an hour or 3 hours, whether it’s a break from your work, a game you’re addicted to, or your upcoming wedding. Take a break from it as often as you can and you’ll begin to notice the benefits.

This transformation has been the biggest struggle of my life, and I know I’ve only just begun to tickle the surface – each struggle could be seen as a part of a rocket that I’ve been trying to build over the last few years – many parts have broken or failed, but through sweat, tears and sheer determination, my rocket is now standing tall. I’m ready to step inside and launch into my journey to try & get as close to those stars that Roosevelt mentions in the quote above. But how will I keep my feet on the ground?! Each day that I take off, I’ll make sure my rocket will turn around & take me back to Earth in time for tea! The journeys I make are going to be very bumpy and my engine may fail from time to time. But I will keep on learning along the way, find new routes & I truly believe the views will be spectacular, and they are what will make it all worth while. I’ve already had a fair amount of ‘pinch me’ moments in my photography career and I’ve not taken off yet!

We must never forget that life is the most spectacular show on Earth… speaking of which, it’s friday night & we’re off to grab a curry!

28/03/2014 - 11:41 pm

Rob Finnigan - I see a number if people who, like you, are driven by an enormous passion and I tell each and every one of them that they have to make some “me” time. You’ve bravely written about the invaluable lessons you’ve learned; it’s a great blog even without pictures and I hope everyone who reads it understands the importance of the work/life balance. You are more than your work, brilliant though it is. Take care!

29/03/2014 - 9:35 am

Annette - I loved reading this, I can relate to so much of it and will remember the sound advice. Here’s to meeting up in space! Xx

19/03/2015 - 11:12 pm

Longchamp Fuchsia S - Thats excellent and very nicely written.Often I tend not to make comments on the web, however Ive to say that this site actually made me want to. Actually excellent little bit of material

28/12/2015 - 10:24 am - I am truly thankful to the owner of this website Work vs. Life – New beginnings! » Rachel Lilly Photography who has shared this impressive piece of writing at here.

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