04 Sep 5 tips to help you survive a ‘portfolio career’
Recently things have been pretty crazy at Little Vintage Photography HQ and it got me thinking about ways in which I can try and improve my focus and time management.
Running an analogue photography workshop for a group of 9-14 year olds a few weeks ago around the theme of ‘Destiny’, I decided to start off proceedings with a simple(!) question for them; Their plans for the future, what careers they are passionate about and how they want to spend their lives. It began with a game, where they had to choose from jobs on a list, guessing which were mine and deciding whether any of them appealed. Here’s the list:
Artist, Photographer, Scientist, Technician, Teacher, Engineer, Researcher, Podcaster, Lecturer, Finance Director, Writer, Musician, Driver, Dog-Walker, Designer, Event Manager, Illustrator, Producer, Editor, Camera Operator, Boom Operator, Inventor, PR Manager
When I revealed to them that I actually do ALL of these jobs, their little faces were pretty stunned. However, as for so many others, this is the reality of forging a career and making a living in 2017. Whilst it was never part of my original plan, I’ve found that I enjoy having a ‘portfolio career’. It helps me stay enthusiastic, interested, curious and challenged. It means my days are never dull and it sure as hell keeps me on my toes! I get to meet people I never would, go to places I never would, try things I never would.
However, running your own business, whilst also freelancing and occasionally holding down contracted roles can at times, be overwhelming, chaotic and stressful. Anyone who’s heard me speak on the Sunny 16 Podcast will know that trying to fit it all in and focus on one thing at a time is definitely something I struggle with. With that in mind, I’m now putting together a toolkit of things I can use to help make life easier for myself so here are my 5 tips for surviving a portfolio career…
Use your travel time wisely – When I was commuting from Liverpool to Stoke, I used to do my emails on the train to work and read a book on the way back. This helped me get into work feeling like I had a clear slate and was ready for the day, whilst being able to unwind on my way home. Listening to a podcast in the morning would have been another way of feeling energised when I got into work whilst also triggering lots more productive ideas. This also gives a solution if you have to drive, rather than get the train and switch out the paperback or e-book for an audio-book in the evening to unwind. It also leads me to my second tip…
Listen to podcasts – Commuting presents the perfect opportunity for this but even when I don’t travel, I use my dog-walking time (see the list above!) or whilst I’m making my lunch/in the kitchen. Harness that otherwise wasted time to listen to & catch up on industry-based podcasts. Download them before you leave the house so that you’re not using all your data (like I did the first month, oops!) and listen to them as you go. All you need is a free podcast app (it doesn’t have to be iTunes). For the photographers amongst you, there’s the U.S based Film Photography Podcast, the Classic Cameras Revival and of course the UK analogue photography Sunny 16 Podcast which I co-host with two lovely chaps, Ade & Graeme.
Have a go at a ‘limited-time’ plan – I’m just starting with a self-led ninety-day plan as suggested by the wonderful Michala from Wood For The Trees Coaching. In the past I’ve also looked at 100 day challenges such as this one from Business Bakery which really appealed, but was perhaps a little too long for me. When I fell off the wagon, I found it difficult to get back on. I’d suggest starting with a shorter plan, perhaps a one-month trial that focuses on just one area/subject/project so that it doesn’t seem quite so overwhelming. You can always work your way up.
Try having ‘themed’ days – This is something I first came across listening to Janet Murray’s ‘Soulful PR’ podcast (see point 2!) One of her guests talked about using themed days to help keep your focus on a particular area for each day of the week. For example, as I now co-host the Sunny 16 Podcast and we tend to record on a Monday evening, I realised that when I started my blog, I should aim to write & publish this on a Monday too, making the first day of the week ‘Social/Media’ day for me. Tuesday is ‘Finances’ day (boo!) but seems to work better than a Monday as I know that transactions which can sometimes be delayed over a weekend, will have definitely appeared in/out of my bank by then and so it gives me a more accurate picture.
Admin services – This is a new one to me but is something that I’m hoping to explore more. As one of my jobs is working as a vintage wedding photographer, I asked a question this week in the Secret Retreat group that I’m part of, about systems and software that other photographers use to help them keep track of their clients and projects. I was given two suggestions; 17 Hats and Lightblue Software – I haven’t yet tried these systems out fully myself and I’m sure there are a million more out there, but they seem like a good place to start. If anyone has suggestions for others, please let me know in the comments below!
If you’re interested in learning more about the magic of analogue photography but are not quite sure where to start, you can get in touch here to find out about my introductory workshops & courses or listen to me each week on ‘Sunny 16′ where I co-host the UK analogue photography podcast.