When we work for other people, having work hours, weekly meetings, and daily tasks is practically expected.  However, when working for ourselves, it’s very easy to let time slip by if we don’t create a schedule for our productivity.  The great thing about working for ourselves is that we can create a schedule that works with our own peak productivity and distraction times.  If we know that we are most productive with post-production late at night, and we have the freedom to wake up later in the day, than we can create a schedule that allows us to focus in this way.  If we know that we’re most alert to responding to emails first thing in the morning, than we can create a schedule that works with our peak alertness.  By simply planning out when we will deal with our regular tasks for a typical week, we can quickly increase our efficiency.

Maximizing Photographer Productivity by Creating a Schedule

WHAT TO INCLUDE IN YOUR SCHEDULE

1. Shooting Days and Times – Stay in control of your schedule and your time by letting clients know when you’re available, rather than asking them when they’re available.  Designating shooting times in your schedule allows you to easily provide clients with your next three available times and days.  If you’re a wedding photographer, you may not want to schedule engagement shoots on Saturdays during your peak season in case a wedding opportunity comes along at the last minute.  If you’re a portrait shooter who works outdoors with natural light and you prefer to have your weekends free, than you may only want to schedule portrait shoots during the week during your golden light hours.

2. Post-Production Times – Once you know when your possible shooting times are, then you know that you will also need to designate an appropriate amount of time after each shoot for post-production like backing up images, culling, editing, and enhancement.  Whether you do this, or you give this task to someone else, there needs to be time set aside in your week to deal with these tasks.  Once you make time for this in your schedule, it’s easier to enjoy an evening out because you know that you’ve set aside post-production time the next day to move the project forward.

3. Marketing Times – Whether it’s blogging, Facebook, Twitter, emailing vendors, or working on a newsletter, there needs to be time set aside in your schedule to help market yourself and share your work with future clients and referrals.

4. Communication Times – As tempting as it is to check your email as soon as something new comes in, you will be much more efficient if you designate time in your day when this is appropriate.  Since email can easily take more time than we’d like, it may also be helpful to set a timer in order to make sure that your time spent on email isn’t leaking over into times you need to work on other tasks.

5. Meeting Times – If you do in-person sales after a shoot, or meet your clients in advance of their shoots, you need to make sure you have room in your schedule to make these happen at a time and day that works for you.

6. To Do List Times – Inevitably there are tasks that fall outside of the above categories and will need to have time set aside in your week to be dealt with.  Perhaps it’s running to the store to get supplies, entering your financial numbers, updating software, researching your next piece of equipment, or following up with inquiries that you haven’t heard back from.  Allowing yourself a time during the week to catch up on things you’ve placed on your to do list means that your to do list will never get too long.

SAMPLE SCHEDULES

Below are just a couple examples of how a 9am-6pm work schedule could be broken up differently.  Obviously, you want to create a schedule that works best for you and takes advantage of your peak working, communication, and distraction times.  It’s also good to designate other productive tasks that would be appropriate in each time slot in case you don’t have post-production, shoots, or meetings during the times you’ve set aside for them.  When you know what’s coming next in your schedule, it’s harder to get distracted and lose track of time.

What does your weekly schedule look like?  Share your answers in the comments!

Sample Schedule A –  Portrait Photographer

Monday – Friday

9am – 11am Post-Production
11am – 12:30pm Communication
12:30pm – 1:30pm Lunch Break
1:30pm – 3:30pm Marketing/To Do List
3:30pm – 4:30pm Communication
4:30pm – 6:00pm Shoots/Meetings

Saturday – Sunday – Off (or premium shoots only)

Sample Schedule B – Wedding Photographer

Tuesday – Friday

9am – 11am Marketing
11am-12pm Communication
12pm – 1pm Lunch
1pm – 3pm Post-Production
3pm – 5pm To Do List/Communication
5pm – 6pm Meetings/Shoots

Saturday – Shooting
Sunday – Monday – Off

Written by Anne Ruthmann

photographer anne ruthmann

Anne Ruthmann is a philanthropist and visionary, who makes a living as an international award-winning wedding & lifestyle photographer.  She geeks out about business strategy and finding ways for artists to make a living doing what they love, which is why she feels strongly about developing community at her Boston PUG and sharing information onPhotoLovecat.  She also recently started offering the Smarter Business Workshop in order to provide hands-on help to photographers in several different cities around the US.  When she isn’t working or helping others, she enjoys traveling the world with her husband and trying foods she can’t pronounce.

5 Comments

  • jamilah says:

    What perfect timing for this article… the last couple of weeks I’ve been losing sleep trying to juggle being a teacher by day and a photographer by night… it’s especially crucial to make a timeline when you have limited time to do things… the difficult part is sticking to the timeline — because it’s so easy to keep working a little more and finish up another project… while your husband waits for you to come to bed…

    Thanks for a great post that many of us can relate to… I especially love the sample schedule, something to work towards =) -jamilah

  • Megan Clouse says:

    Great tips Anne, thank you!!

  • Thanks a ton for this Anne, Great help for workaholic folks like me who have a hard to getting a schedule up and running and end up working 24/7 🙂 – G

  • Anne, This is awesome. I need your help big time! When is the next workshop? I am going to start right away with a schedule. I am struggling terribly with time management. I think I might rest now, knowing that there is someone out there who can help a right brain artist figure out the business end of her business….thanks, elizabeth dondis

  • Anne says:

    If you have a hard time keeping a schedule – try implementing just one block of time each week or start with just one little scheduling rule for yourself – like only doing shoots on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Implement one thing at a time until it feels right, and then add more as you start developing good habits.

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