A lot of people set out do define themselves and their business in terms of what they WILL do, however, you should also create a set of intentions for what you WON'T do.
This week I had to fire a client. I had to do it because they were starting to cross over into an area that I have determined unacceptable for me and my business: rescheduling a shoot more than once.
If this were a direct client for my business, I would have asked for a non-refundable retainer for the appointment that would be applied to their total package. This ensures I'm still compensated for spending the time and travel even if someone doesn't honor their end of the request and commitment. However, in this particular circumstance, I was serving as a contractor for an agency that entrusted me to serve this client and to get the job done no matter what- which meant no retainer fee or penalty to the client for not holding up their end of the commitment.
After the client scheduled and cancelled three times, I decided that it would be in the best interest of the agency who hired me if I just fired this client. I never have this problem with my own clients, so I was a bit nervous about how it would be handled by the agency when I acted on their behalf, however I also let the agency know about the client abusing their service offer. I told the client that due to the number of scheduled cancellations, I would need to cancel their request for photography and they could resubmit a new request when they were ready to communicate more clearly and honor their commitment. Within hours of firing this client, I received three new requests from the agency for clients that were all able to make a commitment within the next two weeks. Obviously, karma was on my side and I made the right choice.
While I've been traveling the world, I've also decided that I WON'T work on the weekend, unless it's a very special circumstance that I know will be of a greater long term benefit. In fact, not only have I decided not to work on the weekends, but I've decided I won't do any shooting gigs with my professional gear on Monday or Friday either. This allows me to have more four day weekends and to make sure that my work load is manageable while I'm working with reduced internet speeds and occasional internet outages or times of disconnection. This also means that I'm not using my professional gear for personal projects that aren't going to result in additional income to pay for the wear and tear on the limited gear I'm traveling with.
I started defining what I WON'T do a couple years ago when I needed to maintain more control over an incredibly busy shooting, meeting, and speaking schedule. I decided that if Saturdays were shooting days, than Sunday and Monday were days off and any shoots that were photographed on Saturday weren't going to be ready until at the very least Wednesday or Thursday- because I knew that Tuesday was also going to be a day to catch up on inquiries and communication with clients. Putting limits on when I'll work has helped me create clearer expectations for clients and has allowed me to define my time off and to really take it without guilt for what I'm NOT making progress on. Feeling guilty about taking a break is pretty much the worst feeling ever because you never feel like the time really is YOURS to have when there are outstanding projects. However, if you've set clear expectations with your clients that you don't work on certain days in order to have time to connect with your family and friends, than they can also have more reasonable expectations of the fact that you deserve weekends in your work week as well.
I hope that this post can inspire you to define what you WON'T do in your business so that you can avoid being taken advantage of as a creative soul & business. The healthier and happier you are as a creative business, the more people will value your time and want to work with you.
Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and smart solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.