How to Handle Holiday Season Burnout

November 18, 2021

Ever crashed onto your couch at night, exhausted from what feels like countless hours of holiday shoots and fresh out of holiday cheer? Yep. It’s just as you feared: the burnout monster has come to crash your Christmas party. But don’t worry. I’ve been there, so I can coach you through it. Together, we’ll make […]

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I'm a photographer, educator and weekly podcaster. I left teaching in a First Grade classroom to build a thriving photography business, and inspire and teach other like-minded women how to build, scale, and create a photo business. I am so excited to meet you!


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Ever crashed onto your couch at night, exhausted from what feels like countless hours of holiday shoots and fresh out of holiday cheer? Yep. It’s just as you feared: the burnout monster has come to crash your Christmas party. But don’t worry. I’ve been there, so I can coach you through it. Together, we’ll make the holiday season sparkle again! I’ve learned four valuable lessons that I’m happy to pass on to you- how to handle that holiday season burnout as a photographer. Think of it as an early Christmas gift. 

Holiday shoots are an incredible way to build revenue, girl, don’t get me wrong. But after a while, they can deplete our mental and emotional resources. It’s easy to feel fresh out of creative juice—and don’t even get me started on the physical exhaustion of crouching, standing, and kneeling for hours to get the perfect shot.  If you’re feeling “off” these days, here’s how to recognize what might be going on in that brain of yours. 

Step 01: Learn to recognize burnout.

There are a few telltale signs of burnout that most of us never even connect to work! Maybe some of these ring a bell: 

  • Ever feel that imposter syndrome creeping up? 
  • How about catching the sniffles more often than usual?
  • Is your idea train totally off the tracks these days? 
  • Do you dread doing work that once excited you?

Yep, these can all be signs that work is burning you out. Be mindful of these signs! When our work/life balance is steady, we’re confident in our work, we care well for our bodies, and we have allll that good energy that comes from fresh ideas. But when we go too hard for too long, we lose our creativity and our confidence. If you’re feeling unmotivated and uncertain in your shoots, it’s time to treat the burnout, sister. 

Step 02: Learn to treat yo’self. 

Okay, maybe you can’t pull off a “Tom Haverford in Parks and Recreation” day, but when you feel burnout coming, don’t push through. Seriously, don’t do it (even though you’ll be tempted to)! Treat yourself kindly! We’re not here to run our lives into the ground for the sake of our businesses. Like I said, it’s all about the balance, baby—not just the Benjamins.

If you do find yourself in the middle of holiday photo shoot insanity, make sure to counterbalance it with something that nourishes you, body and soul, even if it’s tiny. Take a long, hot bath. Stock up on everything nutritious and delicious. Get a mani, a massage, a mindfulness moment in a yoga class. Go out to dinner with friends who fill your happiness cup to the tippy-top. Simply pause and take some deep breaths. (It’s amazing how much this small act can transform things!)

These are just ideas—do whatever feels right for you! Just don’t neglect yourself. Spending time away from work will help you do better work, I promise

Step 03: Learn to set limits. 

Spoiler alert: Time is a limited resource, and photography takes a lot of time. It’s not just the shoots! It’s all the driving to the shoots, browsing Pinterest for new holiday ideas, editing galleries for families in time for holiday cards to be printed and mailed, answering texts and emails and website queries. 

Yes, it’s all amazing, but it’s also a lot. So don’t forget to factor in allllll the tasks you’ll still be doing during the holidays, and factor that into your Christmas photo schedule.

It might sound counterintuitive, but when we set boundaries around our time and our work, we actually leave room for our best work to shine through. A totally booked holiday calendar might feel like a needed bank account boost, but we actually settle for less than our best when we show up to shoots overworked and overwhelmed. (Psssst, and remember: putting our best work into the world is what enables us to keep growing our business, finding our dream clients, and improving our craft! A win, win, win!)

Step 04: Learn to embrace routine. 

If we’re honest, some of us creative gals like to fly by the seat of our pants. Keep it spontaneous, we say! I’m all for a little unforeseen adventure, but I’ve gotten pretty serious about the rhythms I keep in my business. And it’s caused my burnout to get veeeery small, if not disappear completely. Don’t be afraid of routine—it won’t kill your creativity. In fact, it just might boost it. 

First things first: create some consistency in your calendar. Maybe you’re not a morning person, and you’ve decided to shoot outdoors in that late afternoon golden hour this year. Aaaand maybe you want to edit on Tuesdays and Thursdays, leaving Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for potential shoots. That’s great! Decide it, and then stick with it.

If you get that new client inquiry that absolutely needs their family photos done on a Tuesday morning, you’re just not their girl. A well-timed “no” is balance’s greatest weapon. Don’t be afraid to use it. 

Next, create a little routine in your days. This can be work related—or totally not! Choose which things will be a priority for you, and eventually, you won’t even have to think about them. Which is a huge bonus, because it clears up some brain space that you need to be creative! 

If you want to get a walk or a workout in before you sit down to answer emails, don’t open your inbox until your movement for the day is done. If you want to avoid fast food lines, prep those shoot day snacks in advance! Establishing your daily routines and your weekly workflow is a game. changer. Just trust me on this. 

These four tips will keep the bummer of burnout at bay, so that you can enjoy the holidays, too! You’re a person, not just a photographer. It sounds obvious, but I think sometimes we forget! Care for yourself as a person, and you’ll find that your photographer self will reap all the benefits, too. 


Ready to level up your photography business in 2022? 

Service-based businesses need a rock solid plan these days. 

Build yours in my Art & Heart Workshop this January!

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I’m Jillian Goulding, a photographer and educator raising babies and building my life in Sacramento, CA.

Over the years, I’ve transformed my side hustle into a thriving photography business that has taken me and my camera to the beaches of San Francisco Bay, the pages of People Magazine, and the screens of Extra TV.

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