John and I have had the privilege of photographing weddings together for the past 12 years. Before we had kids, this was easy…I mean our job is awesome! It required a lot of work, time, and energy, but it is certainly a privilege to not only work hand in hand, but sustain a living while doing it! Before we had kids, we would work until 10 pm and sleep till 9 am, that was fine. We did this frequently, as our studio never opened before 10 am.
Before kids, our time was our own…if we wanted to do pro-bono work to get our name out there, we did. If we wanted to shoot a wedding in Jamaica or France for a huge discount, then we did! It was a great way to build up our portfolio and spend time traveling and doing what we love. It was a dream realized for us, and we often would pinched ourselves!
We waited 7 years before we had kids. We LOVED to travel and traveled all the time! We lived in France for a while, traveled to Australia, Spain, Italy, Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, and many other places. So kids….shocked our system. Not only did we not understand what true love was until then, here we had this perfect miracle from God, and we were somehow put in charge of it. We were scared to death. John was almost 30, but kept looking around for a real adult. It was a turning point in our lives. We ran a booming studio in the downtown of our Tennessee hometown. It was a labor of love for us, as we rented, then renovated a small space in the back, then renovated the front, and eventually bought the entire building. We never mixed work and home life, seldom brought work home with us, but we talked about work constantly, as it was a love for both of us! Once we had children in the mix, what we seemed to talk about, worry about, and pray about shifted from business to family.
What didn’t work:
We noticed the tension building quickly.. John was working at the studio, and I worked from home. We had split our jobs up pretty equally. I handled the emails, meetings with clients and vendors, albums, and finances. John handled the day to day shoots, all post processing work, commercial shoots, and photo ordering sessions with our portrait clients. We would only work the weddings together. We began noticing that I would need something to at the studio so that I could finish an album or wedding order. Then he needed a client order that I had a home. We were both driving back and forth and getting so frustrated. We waited so long to have children and we wanted to enjoy this precious time. So we made a huge change, and leased out our studio space for 3 years, and moved our business to our home.
The best parts of bringing our business home were some of the worst possible business practices! We worked in the night, when the baby was up feeding, or when we couldn’t sleep. Our work hours were crazy, inconsistent, and we set unrealistic expectations for our clients and ourselves. We were exhausted! This was our breaking point.
Our 5 Tips for balancing work and home.
Balancing life and work at home is a daily struggle, but here are some practices that we set into place that have helped us tremendously.
1. Set a schedule for your work hours.
If you work with your spouse, then both of you need to agree on a schedule. This may change from week to week, but it is SO important to schedule work hours. It is also important that you make sure you set realistic expectations of your time. This took us YEARS to do. If you have kids and work from home, you understand that LONG spans of uninterrupted work time are a relic of the past. We had to learn to work in 1-2 hours spurts (or less!) and be MUCH more productive in shorter amounts of time.
2. Help your children understand work time vs. play time.
John purchased a dark room sign that lights up and says, “darkroom in use.” When the light is on, no one can go in, but when it isn’t on, then the kids can knock and show daddy or mommy their Lego tower or art work. There are times when they bang on the door, someone is crying or little fingers start to reach under the door. I remember that we lost one wedding because I was on the phone with a mother of the bride and one my kids was having a complete melt-down outside the door. I tried to keep my business as usual tone, but it turned out to be a complete disaster. Soundproofing might be necessary for the future! John and I had to learn that while our clients are a top priority in our lives, we wanted to appeal to clients who understood and respected our family business model.
3. Plan, plan, plan.
Plan ahead! Take advantage of being able to start certain processes ahead of time. John started by letting his photo editing software Lightroom run previews during the night, so that things would be ready to go the next morning! We ordered a HUGE wall checklist from Design Aglow and are able to plan ahead and set goals. We also have a dry erase wall calendar so that we can look at the upcoming months at a glance. Make your task list at the end of the previous work day, so you aren’t spending time thinking, “What should I work on first!” You might only get 1-2 hours of uninterrupted time, so be prepared to hit the ground running.
4. Set Realistic Goals for a work day.
When you run a small business, there is NO lack of things to that you need to do in a day, so set realistic goals! Then leave….go play in the yard with your kids, take a walk, or cook dinner together! I could talk all day about this! We had to understand that we were never going to check everything off of our list and we would just have to move it to the next day.
This was the MOST important one for us. Enjoy the fact that you don’t have a 9-5 job when you have small kids. Take a Monday and go to the Aquarium, go for a hike on a Tuesday morning. Make sure you take advantage of the fact that you built this small business and for once, let it work for you!
Working together every day is a blessing, but it comes with its own challenges. We love being able to look over at the desk next to ours and know that we are partners in every sense of the word. In our relationship, we have an amazing chance to encourage each other to grow, not only as people, but as artists. At each wedding, we always steal a glance at one another during the ceremony. It might be subtle, but there’s always that “thinking of you” or “I remember our vows” moment that we share as we witness the covenant of another couple. We have been married and photographing weddings together for 12 years now, and we have both changed so much. For many couples, that is scary, but for us, we try to step back and allow God to mold us into the people He created us to be. We also love being able to share the parenting responsibilities of our children. We purposely moved our office back into our home to create more time with our little ones. It was a unique opportunity and we feel so blessed.
~John + Lindsey Bamber