How to stay organised as a self-employed creative - PART ONE (Organisation & Goals)

Note: This is a blog post written more for self affirmation and for other photographers than for clients! I've found it quite therapeutic writing about how I do things business-wise, and it's been good to revisit all the different aspects of keeping my business organised to keep me on track. I know a lot of people struggle with this so hopefully it will help someone somewhere out a bit! 


In an effort not to warble on for pages and pages (which I seem to have done anyway) I'm going to split this into a few posts; Part One will cover general organisation, day to day and larger goals. Part Two is all about how to handle the work day, keep focused and making sure you're at your most productive, and Part Three is entitled 'Working from.. home?' and focuses on how our chosen work space can alter our productivity levels, and the options that are out there for self employed folk.

I'm writing this from my point of view as a wedding photographer (with bits about being an online shop with The Vintage Binding Co too) and although many of the same principles are true for other stay-at-home creatives, like bloggers, there will be some things that are mostly applicable to photographers. 

"Daily, I seek the gratification of that ultimate horizontal pen stroke dancing my way toward the bottom of the page"

Part One - Organisation & Goals 

I've been reading and researching over the last six months about maximising productivity and business output, and the main things you can do is to make sure you're organised. This keeps your brain clear and more focused, you waste less time searching for 'that thing you put somewhere' (be it a receipt for a large purchase you need to log, or a file on your hard drive). I am on the ever insatiable quest to make myself the most organised person ever, and I wanted to share some of my findings with anyone who is interested in or struggling whilst working from home. 

Daily Tasks

This is where my list making will often spiral out of control and I'll end up using all available page space to write more things down!  The picture below was my todo list for the 2nd and the shortest daily list I have ever written due to being ill! I wouldn't want to bore you (or embarrass myself) with the size of the normal daily scribbles... It does feel really good if I get everything done and know I can relax that evening in the knowledge I've done enough work; the problem is often that there is an infinite amount of things to do and if I finish all my jobs I just add more. 

Weekly Goals

For my weekly lists I usually put aside 30 minutes on a Sunday and work out what jobs need doing and  prioritise them in order. I (try to) tackle the tasks that are the hardest at my most productive times (for me this is when I wake up). This may not be first thing in the day but bear in mind it's much easier to put something off and 'run out of time' if it's last on your to-do list and you're ready to give up for the day. Try and get it out of the way and you'll feel satisfied, and more motivated to accomplish the rest. I'll be writing more about that in Part Two - (Love Mondays Hate Fridays) on Thursday. 

One thing I do every week is my accounts; going through my bank statements and logging what's come in and gone out during that week. A lot of people really hate doing book keeping, or employ an accountant, but I do actually quite like it! It's a lot easier to keep on top of it if you regularly put aside 10-20 minutes a week, rather than leaving it for months and having a huge task on your hands. 

I got ahead of myself and drank the prosecco before I finished my tax return.. doh


Monthly achievements

I try and limit this to 5 goals and these are generally bigger tasks I'd really like to get in the month ahead (I failed this month and wrote six....). I use this for reference when planning my days and weeks to make sure I'm on track. Also pictured is my monthly Social Networking grid, which I use to remind myself to post on the sites I currently use. I can also see at a glance how many blog posts I've done, and what about so I know when I should be blogging or posting again. Blogging regularly is such a useful tool, it enables  your clients to be able to see more into your personality and opinions, and it's also great for SEO. 

Monthly goals are also good for giving yourself a pat on the back, and to enable to you celebrate your success. So often we go through life focusing on what we haven't done or what we've failed on, when what we should be doing is acknowledging what we have achieved. 

Year Plan

Each year in December I make time to sit down and evaluate how the year has gone, and focus on what I want to achieve with the next 12 months. This time really helps me to see what's been a success and what needs work, and to help me break down the monthly tasks. It helps me keep track of the bigger picture, and remind me that my ultimate goals are attainable (even if sometimes they seems so far away)



To keep track of my appointments, personal and business, I use a weekly planner by Moleskine. I keep telling myself I should use digital too (there have been a few near misses with losing it!) but I just can't see to make myself keep it up. I've used this pretty much since I was 14, when people used to say "how do you have so much to do all the time to fill a diary!"





NB: I can guarantee I did not do that much exercise that week! 


So that concludes my first part about staying organised and focused. Looking at it written down like that seems like a lot to do, but once it's built into your routine it makes everything run that little bit smoother, and helps you appreciate what you have accomplished, not just what you have left to do. 

More reading:

  • Liv Purvis from What Olivia Did writes on working from home 
  • Jasmine Star is pretty on it and has written a few!
  • (This is a great one for photographers on organising their photos)