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Whether you just started your small business or you’ve been in business for a while now, it can be so easy to compromise your priorities as you grow your company and provide for your loved ones. But, you shouldn’t have to give up all of your free time—or keep missing your kid’s soccer games—when it comes to making your business flourish.
Erica and Jon Hayes know firsthand how difficult it can be to protect your priorities while running a small business. This Arizona-based, husband-and-wife brand photography duo used to spend their weekends rushing around to find a babysitter before shooting weddings. But, Erica and Jon were tired of missing moments in their kids’ lives and knew they needed to make a change. Now, they’ve completely blocked off their weekends so they can dedicate that time to family events, church, and relaxation before the week ahead.
In this episode of Priority Pursuit, Erica and Jon share how they’ve restructured their business and schedules to focus on what matters most to them. And, they explain how you can build your small business around your priorities.
Now, before we dive in, you might recognize Erica and Jon from a previous episode. We last discussed how to prepare for your branding photo shoot so you can help your clients increase their brand awareness and drive sales while delivering a great experience. To learn more about Erica and Jon and to find guidance on brand photography, check out “Episode 52: How to Prepare for Your Branding Photoshoot with Erica & Jon Hayes.”
Why did Erica & Jon decide to focus strictly on brand photography?
Erica and Jon started their photography business after their son was born. Erica had picked up photography as a hobby but decided to start offering professional shoots. And, Jon was discouraged with a sales job that took him away from his family all day, every day—so, he happily joined Erica as they began their photography business.
At first, Erica and Jon would shoot just about everything, including weddings, lifestyle portraits, and brand photography. However, they quickly realized that now, they were both away from family every day. Weddings took up entire Saturdays, and family shoots required the couple to leave the kids with a babysitter on weeknights.
“We were [shooting everything] in the name of family and freedom, but we had none of that,” Jon said. In fact, one of their breaking points was missing a soccer game for a session. “With that first soccer game we missed, I said, ‘I will never do this again. This is one soccer game we’ll never get back,’” Erica said.
So, from that point on, Erica and Jon chose to only say yes to new projects that fit into a regular workweek. For the Hayeses, that meant focusing exclusively on brand photography, because the market was pointing to a need in their community for commercial photographers who could help organizations build their brands.
While Erica and Jon still honored commitments they’d made to couples and families, they no longer featured wedding and lifestyle photos on their website. Since then, they’ve slowly phased out these services so they can spend evenings and weekends with their family. Focusing solely on brand photography has allowed Erica and Jon to reclaim their schedules and keep their priorities (especially their kids and their faith) at the forefront of their lives.
How did Erica & Jon build their small business around their priorities, & how can others do the same?
1. Determine what your priorities are.
Before you build your small business around your priorities, you should know what your priorities actually are! For creative entrepreneurs, Erica suggests taking time to decide what your “why” and “true north” are. In other words, what (and/or who) matters most to you, and how can you honor that in your work life?
For Erica and Jon, their “why” is their kids and their faith. They’ve honored these priorities by keeping their weekends work-free; Jon is a worship leader at their church, so Sundays are reserved for worshipping and relaxing as a family before the school week and workweek begins. And, Erica and Jon homeschool their children while working from home to maximize their time together.
Erica and Jon encourage all creative entrepreneurs to decide what their priorities are and to stick to them. For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, weekends are pretty busy, especially during the summer! And, you know it’s difficult to make time on the weekends to relax with your spouse. But, if your partner is the person who matters most to you, they should be a priority regardless of how busy you are. To put your spouse first, maybe you can reserve Monday evenings for date nights and decline any Monday evening shoots to honor that time with your partner.
2. Take control of your schedule, but be flexible.
Homeschooling their kids has allowed Erica and Jon to take charge of their daily schedules, since they’re no longer dropping the kids off and picking them up from school. Jon typically works in the morning while Erica’s teaching, and Erica sometimes works after the kids are in bed. Other times, Erica works during the day while Jon takes over a couple of lessons with their children. While their schedule might change now and then, Erica and Jon have figured out a general routine that works for them as creative entrepreneurs and as homeschooling parents.
Between teaching and raising their kids, and scheduling and shooting sessions, the Hayeses are really honest about how tough it can be to stay flexible and fit everything in each day. But, putting their family first in all business decisions has helped Erica and Jon say yes to projects that align with their priorities—and no to the ones that don’t. “At the end of the day, if we know our priorities were kept in order—if we poured into our kids and maintained our priorities, both in our personal lives and in our business—it was a win,” Erica says.
Everyone’s family and business are different, so what works for Erica and Jon may not work for you. And, that’s okay! Controlling what your workdays will look like (with some wiggle room for when life happens) will help you schedule your project around your priorities.
If someone is frustrated in their business & ready to make a change, what should they do?
Many small business owners and creative entrepreneurs struggle to balance serving clients well and keeping their priorities in order—all while supporting their families. For example, let’s say you keep taking on exciting but time-consuming projects, and you’ve reached a point where you can’t even remember why you’re doing the things you’re doing. If you’ve gotten to that point in your business, what can you do?
1. Make sure you aren’t compromising your priorities.
Erica and Jon encourage other creative entrepreneurs to take time to figure out why they’re struggling and what they can do to remedy the situation. A great place to start? Look at your business decisions (and your schedule) and make sure they’re coming second to your priorities—your kids, partner, or anyone (and anything) else that matters to you.
When Erica and Jon were frustrated in the early days of their photography business, they paused to ask themselves why they were struggling. The reason? They were rarely home with their kids on weeknights and weekends. Erica and Jon were especially exhausted from shooting weddings on the weekends; it felt like something they had to do as photographers to succeed in the industry, but they didn’t enjoy it—and they missed their family.
Erica and Jon had an honest conversation about how they’d been compromising their priorities and guilty of saying yes to every single client and project. Once they stepped back and realized why their current situation wasn’t working, Erica and Jon pivoted their business to focusing strictly on brand photography and reclaiming their evenings and weekends so they could spend more time with their kids.
2. Invest in a business coach or mentor.
Back in 2017, Erica and Jon reached a point where they were ready to quit their photography business, but instead, they went to Showit United (a photographers’ conference) and decided to try coaching. They thought that working with someone who wasn’t so close to the day-to-day of their business could be a valuable guide. And, they were right!
“It was a terrifying investment, but it gave us an insane amount of perspective,” Jon said. Having a neutral third party to help them analyze what strategies were working (and not working) gave Erica and Jon the insight they needed to turn their business around and make it flourish.
Erica reminds us that we should never be too prideful to learn from a mentor and ask for advice! No matter how long you’ve owned a small business or worked as a creative entrepreneur, investing in a mentor or business coach can help you study your company from a different angle and find areas for improvement that you may not have seen before.
3. Learn from Erica & Jon themselves!
Erica and Jon have learned so much over the years, and they love sharing that knowledge with fellow brand photographers and other creative entrepreneurs. “We’ve been blessed to be able to take the business we’ve built, and all of the hard lessons we’ve learned along the way, and turn that into education for other creatives that want to step into this space,” Jon said.
If you’re struggling in your business, looking to switch to commercial photography, or ready to get your weekends back, Erica and Jon’s educational courses can help! The team also has a weekly email series that photographers and other creatives can subscribe to for tips and tricks to help their businesses succeed while keeping their priorities in order.
Friend, I hope this episode inspires you to determine what matters most to you and build your small business around your priorities! By designing your company around your loved ones—and activities that help you take care of yourself—your work will take on even more meaning, and you’ll be able to, as Jon says, “say no to good things so we can say yes to great things.”
Want to hear more from Erica and Jon?
If you want to connect with Erica and Jon, learn about their mentorship program, or find more resources, you can:
- Visit their website at ericaandjon.com.
- Follow them on Instagram at @ericaandjon.
- Subscribe to their weekly emails (52 Weeks of Education) at ericaandjon.com/52weeks.
Links & Resources Mentioned in This Episode
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