How I run a burnout-free business – Guest Blog by Anna, Studio Gently

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The first year of my business was, I think it’s fair to say, a bit of a disaster!

Those early months as a brand photographer were idyllic. I was supporting myself, busy with client work, and giving it my all. I was happy to work long days and weekends and had no idea burnout was around the corner.

But in April 2017, just six months into working for myself, burnout hit spectacularly. I had a psychotic episode at age 24, the first and only person I knew to have one, and a long road to recovery lay ahead. One of the biggest goals of my nursing staff was this: how do we stop you from burning out again? The answer: amazing work boundaries…

That was almost seven years ago and I’m happy to report that I’ve never had another psychotic episode in the time since. Today, I’d love to share with you how I run a burnout-free business working for myself as a brand photographer.


Let’s get started…


I plan my annual leave before I plan anything else

I didn’t take any annual leave in the first six months of my business, but now I make sure to plan my annual leave at the start of the year and work my client projects around it. This starts by marking my leave on my big wall calendar that I keep above my desk for speedy reference, and then adding it to my digital calendar afterwards.


I take much more leave than I used to (and more than most people to accommodate my fatigue struggles), so it’s important to remind folks when I will be off! I do these a few different ways:


  • I have my next leave listed in my email footer, so clients see it every time we’re in contact
  • I set up a Zapier automation that automatically sends a reminder email to clients two weeks before my leave starts
  • I add my leave to my OOO that’s on at all times


I’ve found that if I don’t treat annual leave as a priority, I will constantly try and fit it around client work and client work will always win! Now I book it out in advance and see it as set in stone from that point onwards.


I have a work phone and a personal phone

Does having two phones lead to lots of questions and jokes about what my job could be? Yes, it does, but it’s also totally worth it. I will hasten to add that I didn’t open a second contract and end up spending around £100 on phone bills each month. Instead, I simply waited for my existing contract to end and upgraded to get a new handset. I chose a very minimal data plan for my old phone, and boom, now I had a work phone just for my clients.

At the end of the week, I put my work phone in a drawer so it’s out of my sight. Clients can still contact me via text or WhatsApp if they want to, but I get to feel like there’s a little separation between my work and personal life. It’s one of my favourite tweaks I’ve made and I’ve convinced lots of my business pals and clients to do the same!


Glencoe Scotland
Glencoe Scotland – 📸 taken by Anna

I don’t work Fridays

Some folks will be a wee bit shocked at this… but I actually think I get MORE done now that I don’t work Fridays! This started as a pandemic experiment. I used to go into a client’s business to shoot for them every Friday, but that of course stopped when lockdowns hit. Instead of filling it with more work, I decided to experiment: what if I just treated myself to Fridays off? I knew that I could manage the rest of my client work with this boundary because I was doing it already to go into my client’s office. What if I didn’t plan anything in its place?


I knew my personal life would benefit from the switch, but I wasn’t expecting my work to benefit in the way it did! I found that I was better rested, and getting more done the rest of the week. It turns out there’s a lot of science out there proving that we will let a job stretch into any amount of time we give it, so a four-day week might not mean a drop-off in performance at all. I found I was having better ideas, I was more excited about work, and getting some fabulous rest in too. I never went back.


I make sure I have reasons not to work

As business owners, it can feel like any free time should be spent on our work. That’s how I felt in the early stages of my business and some weeks that’s how I feel now! I’ve noticed, though, that I do so much better when I plan out activities that will keep me from sitting down at my desk and doing some jobs. I like to make sure I…


  • Make plans with friends, especially friends who are also off on Fridays and love a coffee as much as I do
  • Keep a list of work-free activities on my phone. (I also have a board on Pinterest!) This might sound silly, but it’s a lot harder to talk yourself into choosing rest when work is calling without some ideas to get you started. My current faves are knitting, watching this week’s Drag Race, and doing crosswords.
  • Tell friends and my partner to call me out. My other half knows that if he sees me with my laptop or work phone on a weekend, I want to be called out for it! Sometimes you don’t even realise you are working until it’s already happened.


I’d love to hear how you avoid burnout in your business, and you can find out more about me here on my website.

Thank you for having me PPF!


Picture of the authorAnna is an Edinburgh-based brand photographer working with creative kin across the UK. She loves helping even the shyest clients feel comfortable on camera, and when she’s not shooting, you’ll probably find her cosied up under a blanket with a fave magazine.


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