Escaping Business With Our First Family Vacation

Like white water rafting or flying through a good book in one sitting is for some people, Fearless and Framed is my thrill. Truthfully, I’m the opposite of someone that experiences business burnout…. I can’t get enough. Turning off being in work-mode is a challenge every day. I call it sickly-driven and carry a lot of guilt over this as often I feel like I’m not being the best mom or wife I could be. I’ll catch myself spending time with the kids as they play with the hose and buckets; while physically present, my mind will drift back to work. Typically, when I’m not supposed to be working is when I have the best ideas. And then those ideas ignite the need to get back to work. It’s a cycle that is hard to escape when you’re in it deep, but I believe I’ve cracked the code for myself. So this is a message for all of my go-go-go, hustlin’ readers that have a hard time letting themselves chill out, work-free, and guilt-free. #dreamobsessed

Here’s the thing: I have big, ambitious dreams.

These dreams have often set me apart from friends, family, colleagues, you name it… making me feel like the weird one. It’s feels like there’s a whole part of me my family & friends don’t know, because they don’t get it when it comes to photography and online business. Talking about it results in blank, confused stares. Fearless and Framed has become the community of people who get it… get me. You see, of the people I know in real life, I hear their big, ambitious dreams and my mind automatically translates the dream into an action plan.

And then I hear it, “Yeah right, Marie” or “I wish.”

It crushes me, because I know they could achieve the life plan they want. It feels like I’m the only one that fully believes the dream will be a reality… this even happens when I’m talking to photographers I mentor.

I hear their dream, but I don’t hear their belief. 

I dream of our family being world travelers, living abroad, but still having our residence to come back to whenever. I dream of continuing to share my knowledge and encouragement to coach photographers into the documentary photography business they want, while still being a photographer myself. I dream of a lifestyle of my family together, growing and learning, living with intention… and the 9-5 + full-day school hustle is non-existent. (Google World Schooling… that’s what I want).

To make your dream a reality, it takes consistent, hard work. Period.

It’s a hell of a lot of small, tedious steps to reach the big milestones. The small steps are the hardest to take, because it feels like “what’s the point?” and often requires sacrifice. How much or how little you sacrifice all depends on two things: 1. How bad you want the dream and 2. the quality of life outside of dream-work you require (with the quality of life being subjective to each person).

I’m fearful I overwork and obsessively look towards the future, missing out on today. Here’s the thing: that last sentence simply cannot happen, because I’m aware. Understanding what I need to do to feel present & maintain my dreamwork allows me to set boundaries.

Just in case you wanna bookmark this post, pin this image:

work-life balance for photographers

Achieving Balance for Your Work-Life Boundaries

There is no reaching a perfect work-life balance, but doing your best to do what you can day in and day out is a constant. Michael Hyatt wrote a book called Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want (affiliate link), which talks about designing your life plan (if you purchase the book, make sure you visit here to grab the bonus workbook). Before learning about the book, I listened to his guest appearance on Amy Porterfield’s podcast. Michael spoke about drifting in life and referenced a story about him and his wife drifting out to sea while snorkeling in Hawaii. Scary stuff! The point of his story was to say that we do that in life… no one intentionally gains a ton of weight or heads down a path far from their dreams. Instead, we drift to these places, slowly and almost near invisibly. This resonated with me deeply, because sometimes I wonder, ‘How on earth did I get where I am?!’ in many facets of my life.

Think about the areas in your life you are constantly trying to improve or get by on. Your creative side, your health, spirituality, money, love, family, friendship, etc. Is there one area that is totally stressing you out or bringing you down?

What if instead of whittling away on each area daily, you intentionally focus on one area (the stressor or the one that would result in satisfaction and motivation)?

How would alleviating that stressor make you feel? How would that feeling impact other areas of your life?

For example, say you’re painting 4 walls in your home. You roll one stroke of paint on each wall, rotating walls with each stroke. The energy it takes to complete the room will feel like little progress is happening. Instead, focusing on one wall at a time will result in a achievement providing a burst energy to move onto the next and belief in reaching the finish. Total motivation. This is why financial advisors want you to aggressively work to pay off your smallest debt first rather than spreading around payments making little progress.

Spring 2015, my stressor was inconsistent income. Trying to run both my photography business and Fearless and Framed was like running a business plan of passion & hope. I was excellent at marketing, audience growth, and building community… I was not so great at selling. (and yes, there is a difference in Marketing and Selling). I had no business or marketing systems in place (in fact, the thought never even dawned on me), which resulting in over-working and stress.

I knew if I could alleviate that one stressor, I could then: 

  • be a better, relaxed version of myself when with loved ones
  • have the ability to hire out pieces of business rather than doing-it-all myself
  • feel less wound up like a top over finances, allowing less clouds and clutter on my mind when focusing on other goals

So I set out on a mission.

I wanted a certain amount to come in each month – not enough for lavish vacations or new toys, but enough to pay the bills and set a little away. It started with help and direction (because we all know Googling our way to success takes forever). With a couple of courses, some 1:1 coaching, and a hell of a lot of hard work over the past year and half, I was able to alleviate that stressor quickly. I don’t believe this would have been possible if I was spreading my energy between all of my tasks and trying to navigate it all on my own.

I won’t sugarcoat it: This didn’t come without sacrifice.

The artist within has suffered a bit… in a way I’ve drifted from being the shooter to being so deep in making Fearless and Framed a viable business. Yikes.

There were many Sundays I shipped the husband & kids off to their Grandparents so I could work. Hello guilt from choosing work over family.

Sometimes, 2 months would go by before I’d edit some of my personal photos. What?! This is not me.

I never wanted to teach marketing. Ever. A documentary shooting blog was my original vision for F&F. But listening to the Fearless and Framed audience, photographers were struggling to find clients and help them to “get it” when it comes to documentary sessions. This ‘cry for help’ (for a lack of a better term) was one I couldn’t ignore. Over the past year, I’ve grown into an accidental marketing educator in my role to develop a community for storytelling, documentary photographers that are striving to photograph clients and people all around them.

Big ideas for F&F you are unaware of (coming later this year) have taken shape. My days are filled with building marketing systems for F&F, working on new products, blogging, and the best part: working with small groups of Mastery Moment-Seeker students.

Here’s the thing:

a) I’m aware my artistry has taken a temporary backseat. I believe this was necessary, because juggling my photography business + F&F was harder than I thought it would be. With a few systems in place here at Fearless and Framed (and 4 amazing team members!), now I’m able to step back into being the photographer and find myself picking my camera back up more frequently with joy.

b) I knew my boundaries, no it never has felt like I was missing out on anything. For example, implementing just one Sunday a month to dedicate to work worked for us. This never turned into an every Sunday thing, because having that clear boundary was crucial. We know what our family can handle.

Finally, my secret to making the dream happen: dedicated time away.

I struggle here, because business is fun for me. However, taking time away always results in a fresher, better you to give back to any area of your life, business or otherwise.

In April, we took our first family-of-four vacation. As soon as we left Michigan, my mind let go of being the boss lady. I was able to immerse in the thrill of the beginning a great trip. By the end of the week, I felt refreshed like I had no I idea I could be. Since then, I’ve made sure I give myself plenty of “pleasure breaks” as Melissa Cassera calls them.

If you are submerged in life day in and day out, I challenge you to consider doing something for you. Your mind and body will thank you. 

Wanna see some photos of our vacation? Our destination: North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Kendall and I have been to this resort before. I loved how relaxed this place is and NOT full of spring-break kids like downtown Myrtle Beach is at Spring Break. I was worried about what this trip would be like with our son, Levi. Oh, how I cannot wait until he’s an adult and I can tell him all the stories of how he lovingly drives us bananas most of the time. The energy this child carries is like nothing I’ve ever seen, challenging our every direction and laughs in your face at any kind of discipline. And he did wear us out, daily.

This trip was a total re-connection for our family and was well needed. We swam, we barbecued, we saw tigers, went to an aquarium, we played in the sand, we visited old friends and had local shrimp & fish for supper, but mostly, we ate up the time together.

Most images my Canon 5D Mark III 24-70mm 2.8L and a handful of iPhone photos:
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Oh yes, we ended our trip driving through a blizzard in Ohio and kissing a cement guard wall head-on on the highway. Way to go out with a bang right? Luckily, no one was hurt (except for the truck) and we did not ricochet back into traffic or anything. The crazy snow photos from above will forever be a reminder of the hand that was on us that night making sure we got home safe.

Tell me in the comments: What have you done lately to escape all the business and chaos and treat yourself?

P.S. If you’re going on a special vacation or are living a story you know will inevitably become part of your past, consider working with me as your photographer. I believe in looking at our story of this season in life & savoring all the details through photos – no matter what season of life you’re in. To learn more about working with me, email me with your location and a short piece of your story & let’s make it happen.

Author: MarieMasse
I help client documentary photographers fine-tune their workflow + marketing game, so their work is filled with sessions that represent their voice + client values while earning a living. I shoot undirected, off-beat stories that aren’t preserved often enough (like the story of couples before starting a fam or becoming empty-nesters – a dream project of mine), so my clients’ old box of photos is a meaningful, visual diary of their life + legacy to leave behind.

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