Let’s be honest: burn out happens to the best of us. No matter what industry you’re in, it happens. We all go through seasons in our work: busy seasons, seasons of drought, planting seasons, the harvest… but I like to think of “hibernation” as the season my soul yearns for this time of year. Three years ago I had a wedding season where I shot 30 weddings between May and October, this meant traveling almost every weekend and 5 double header weekends. I remember that summer…. wait, no, no I don’t because all I did was shoot, edit, blog, email, rinse, repeat.
I’ve been smiling these past few days as I watch my fellow photogs jumping onto Instagram stories and seeing the burn out in their eyes. But here’s the thing: it’s so awkward because being burnt out doesn’t mean we don’t like our job, it’s just that we cram a LOT of our work into a short period of time and good heavens, that’s not easy. At the same time we are forced to be happy and look alive and excited but when you hit the busy season, you know burn out is right around the corner.
5 Signs You’re a Burnt Out Photographer
1.) No one invites you to anything anymore:
Your friends don’t even try and make weekend plans with you – forget about it, you’re gone every weekend anyways. People start to assume your unavailability and the amount of invites you get significantly declines. If we’re being honest, isn’t the WORST during the busy season because on those really random days off that you get, you’d rather be a total hermit and not see a single human being. In fact, on those days, your deepest desire is to FEEL like a real human being (and maybe get caught up on the newest Netflix show everyone’s been posting about.)
2.) Your daily uniform is yesterdays PJS:
Most of us that work from home get this, right? But when October hits, it’s like: give me anything with leg holes and does this sweatshirt count as a bra? It’s a little sad at times because WHEN you shower (notice I’m saying when… as in, it might not happen as much as it should) you pull on the same ratty sweatshirt from high school and the same pj pants and anyone that lives with you might be getting a little worried about you and your hygiene. You might be found working from bed at the oddest hours, your eyes glazed over, and a little Ben + Jerry’s stain on that beloved sweatshirt – but have no fear, it will still be there for you in the morning in case you need a snack.
3.) The nightmares come more frequently:
I have a recurring nightmare: I’m at a wedding, the bride and groom are walking down the aisle and I am pressing my shutter button and nothing is happening. In my dream I’m not sure if I should yell at them to stop and wait or pretend like all is well while my camera lays broken in my hands. I’ve dreamt about forgetting all my batteries, not having memory cards, dropping my camera into a lake… you name it, I’ve dreamt it. I even had one dream that I brought a litter of foster puppies to a wedding and they were running around the church and I was trying to wrangle the dogs and shoot the ceremony at the same time. Regardless of what you shoot, I would bet $100 that you’ve had nightmares related to shoots, gear… all the things we worry about. Can you relate?
4.) Your To-Do List looks like an encyclopedia:
You’re teetering a fine line of just scraping by and double checking your contracts to see when you promised delivery and spending hours upon hours (upon hours) tethered to your computer screen and promising yourself you will never do this again. You’re freaking out because booking is slow for next year but you have zero time to even think about marketing yourself because dude, you’ve got enough on your plate with your current clients. Each day feels like it passes in the blink of an eye and you’re wishing you had a few more hours each day to… ya know, spend behind your computer because dangit, there’s so much to get done. You might even be adding tasks that are not even a real thing to that to-do list just so you can cross them off and feel like you actually accomplished something for the day.
5.) You question if you’re really cut out for this:
Spoiler alert: you are. This is just a busy season! While you’re promising yourself that you will get help next year and maybe you’ll even outsource or make systems, deep down you’re feeling lucky that you get to take photos for a living and document special days for people you love. When the busy season strikes it’s easy to question your worth, to wonder if you’re really cut out for the industry that feels oh-so saturated, but then you get that camera in your hands and you nail that shot and everything melts away and your smile lights up your eyes and you can’t imagine doing anything else. Heck, it’s still incredible every time someone pays you to take their photo, right? Just know this is simply a season and in a few months when winter strikes you’re going to miss it.
It doesn’t have to stay this way…
I get it, I’ve been there, but as I am coming off of a month of rest, I am reminded that it doesn’t always HAVE to be that way. As memories pop up on Facebook reminding me of that grind, I see this life that is pursuing balance (which is still a mystical unicorn, FYI) and a business that allows me to capture memories while being fully present in living my own. It’s become my mission to pull people out from out behind their computer screens and give them permission to step back into life and get back to the art of what they love! If I can double my income and work less, so can you. Let me lead you…