Using “Family” as an Excuse

Using “Family” as an Excuse

Intro by Skip Cohen

This archived transcript of one of Sarah Petty’s podcasts hit me hard. At this point in our lives, it’s just me, Sheila, and two pups. But it recently occurred to me that I’m putting too much time into work and not spending enough time with them. I was simply not having fun.

In Sarah’s words, I hadn’t earned the ability to put family first. I was functioning through a sort of organized chaos. I wasn’t focused, and rather than be more task-oriented, I was bouncing all over the place, then rushing to make deadlines on various projects.

While it’s not very “PC,” T. Boone Pickens has a great quote that’ so appropriate:

When you are hunting elephants, don’t get distracted chasing rabbits.

It’s not exactly Sarah’s point, but it’s why her suggestions hit me so hard. I hadn’t done the work balance the priorities of the various hats I wear. And while I’m still a work in progress, Sarah got me thinking about everything from my calendar to my backup plans.

We all know how to hold focus with our cameras – now it’s time to maintain focus on your family. The best part of being an entrepreneur is that you can find the balance in your priorities if you just take the time.


By Sarah Petty

I recently had someone cancel an appointment with me because they didn’t have childcare and it got me thinking.

What does “family first” really mean when you’re a parent running a business?

“Family first” is easy to say, but harder to live when you’re serious about growing your photography business.

My first job out of college was working at a regional bottler of Coca-Cola. I worked in the corporate office, was unmarried, and didn’t have any kids, but I remember having conversations with some of the moms there about how they were sad they were missing their kids’ activities.

Even though I was super young, I remember thinking, “Oh, my gosh, what a horrible position to be put in. They had to miss their kids’ activities because of a job and a boss. Wow.”

That’s where I realized I wanted to become my own boss. I knew I needed to be in control of my own schedule. I couldn’t imagine having to choose between a job that pays you and really wanting to be with your kids.

When I had my twins, I left my job at a top local ad agency, and I put on my entrepreneurial hat and I started creating a life where I could put my family first, but still grow a profitable business.

Earning the Ability to Put Family First

Family first doesn’t mean no business, it means family first and business second. You can have the best of both worlds.

When you run your business from a professional business-focused mindset, then you earn the ability to put your family first.

You have to take care of your clients. Under promise and overdeliver. Fix mistakes and take responsibility. Be an excellent business person.

Your business can keep going even while you put your kiddos first. You can still do all the fun summer things with them. Stop using that as an excuse that you can’t keep your business growing because I’ve done it for 23 years.

I have three tips for you on how to put your family first, while you grow a profitable photography business.

#1 Put Your Family Activities on the Calendar First

I put my family activities on the calendar and then I work my business completely around them.

Here’s what this looks like.

I’m the parent begging the coach for the sports season, months in advance. The mom who grabs the school calendar so I have all of the school holidays, breaks, and parent-teacher conference days mapped out, so when something fun comes up, I don’t have a scheduling snafu.

Volleyball tournaments, sports camps, college breaks, boy scout activities, family reunions and anything else that I see go on the calendar months in advance. It is frustrating to me to move people around.

If I don’t want to be treated that way as a client, I know my clients wouldn’t appreciate it either. I try super hard not to do it to my clients unless there’s no other way.

If you put their activities on there first, you shouldn’t have to reschedule.

#2 Put Your Business Activities and Time to Work on Your Business Calendar

You’ve got to become a meticulous planner and scheduler.

Putting family first doesn’t mean just waking up and deciding what to do every day. I learned to become a better planner because I want to run a business and make my family life better.

After I put family activities on the calendar, I figure out how much time I have to dedicate to my business. Then, I put the time to work both in my business (scheduling clients, retouching, editing, and ordering) and on my business (marketing, learning new things, implementing new activities, planning, and working on sales skills) on my calendar.

If you don’t schedule it, it’s not going to happen.

#3 Have Back-Up Resources

I feel so strongly that family first does not mean you have an open invitation to reschedule willy-nilly. That’s what prompted this whole post and podcast.

I had a woman cancel because she said she didn’t have a babysitter. I had already worked my whole week around this meeting with her. She acted like my time was not worth anything.

I get that every once in a while, it will happen. But, not having a babysitter, or having one cancel, is not a good reason to reschedule on your boutique client.

As an entrepreneur, it is your job to have a Plan B, a Plan C, and a Plan D.

You’ve got to plan for this.

I have so much respect for my client’s time. Often they’ve scheduled hair appointments before their session or they’ve taken off work. They come completely prepared. If I was the client, I would hate to be canceled.

It’s Not Always Easy

I never said this was easy, but this is why the earning potential for boutique photographers is so much higher than a shoot and burn photographer.
Shoot and burn photographers are competing on price or getting an hourly job where you have a fixed rate.

You are going to make more money and not feel bad about it because you worked hard to make sure that you’re taking care of your clients.

Creating a Life You Love

My dream for you is to create the life you love.

Think about creating a life where you can be at every activity of your kids and not fear that you’re going to get docked pay by your boss. And if you don’t have kids, you can travel. When I say family first, it’s everything. It’s your pets, it’s taking care of your parents, or being with your friends.

I want you to build a career where you can make the money you want doing something you completely and totally love.

This is not a Disney movie or a fairy tale, I promise you that. It is very possible if you put the work in and learn how to run a boutique portrait photography business.

So, treat your business like a business and don’t use family first as an excuse.

You can have your cake and eat it too. You can have a business that makes you money and put your family first.

Now go do the work.

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This article was written by
Sarah Petty

Sarah is a New York Times best-selling author, highly-acclaimed speaker, author, MBA and coach who started her own boutique photography studio after working for Coca Cola for 20 years and then meeting the marketing goals of a top regional advertising agency’s clients. She attributes the rapid growth of her boutique photography studio, which was named one of the most profitable in the country within just five years in business by PPA, to the creation of her own strong brand. Click on Sarah's photograph to visit her blog.

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