Tracie Maglosky found success through self-discipline. You can, too
What’s holding you back from achieving your professional and personal goals? Bad clients? Economic doldrums? Time? Rather than blame external forces, it’s time to look inward: It might actually be you.
“It all starts with yourself and finding the freedom in discipline,” says photographer Tracie Maglosky from her Cincinnati, Ohio, studio. “I used to think I was such a free spirit, but I realized that discipline offers so much more freedom. When you develop a habit, it’s automatic, which means you don’t have to make a decision. That will free your mind.”
Maglosky came to this realization after being in the photography business a few years. She made a lot of common mistakes in her early days: not charging enough, working an insane amount of hours, and running in circles chasing the work, doing the work, then chasing the work again. She was exhausted, working 60 to 70 hours a week, and missing out on a lot of her life and the lives of her children.
Now 10 years into her professional journey, Maglosky relates her turning point: “I had this epiphany that if I didn’t start charging more and getting more time back, I was going to be in deep trouble. I looked at my business and my life, and thought hard about what I wanted both to look like. I had to get this right.”
That revelation led Maglosky to understand two crucial things that turned her business around: She had to raise prices, and she had to manage her time. It sounded simple, but it felt overwhelming. To keep herself from spiraling into self-doubt, she reached back to her pre-photographer days, when she was a highly successful corporate saleswoman. If she could generate a million dollars in sales for her old company, she knew she had to be capable of earning enough money to support the life she wanted.
Tracie Maglosky’s essential advice
Embrace the fear: Charging what you’re worth means losing some clients. Know that it could be scary at the outset, but plan ahead so you’re not blindsided.
Visualize: What do you want your life to look like professionally and personally? Do you want more time with family? Do you need to refocus sales and marketing? Identify areas that need attention so that you can prioritize later.
Prioritize: Maybe you need to establish your marketing plan for the year or focus more on closing sales or tightening up your contract. Make a list of everything you need to do, including personal time, and dedicate daily blocks of time to each task. Yes, even an hour of unstructured hammock time should be penned into the calendar.
Take one week at a time: Each Sunday, Maglosky looks at the week ahead and tweaks her schedule and workflow. Devote time to organize the week so you’re ready to fly on Monday morning and make it through the week without feeling pummeled.
Protect your schedule: Be firm and stand your ground. Phone ringing during email hour? Unless it’s an emergency, it goes to voicemail.
Set the tone for each day: Whether you need to exercise first or you do your best Instagram captioning in the early hours, devote your first task to the highest priority to-do item that will make you feel accomplished and armed for the day.
Ask for help when you need it: Know when you need to outsource. If a task is taking more time to complete than is profitable or if you’re just not good at something, you’re wasting time and money. Editing, social media, sales—you can outsource those and focus on what you’re best at.
“I decided I wasn’t going to dumb-down the industry by not charging what I was worth,” she says. “I went into it with eyes wide open, knowing I would probably lose some clients, and I was right.”
That’s the downside of raising prices—some people simply won’t be able to afford you. However, Maglosky also realized that for every 10 clients she lost, she only needed two replacements at her new prices to maintain her income. With that perspective, the price increase felt doable. But one hurdle remained: She had to believe that she was worth what she was charging.
“It sticks like peanut butter in your mouth the first time you talk to someone about new prices,” she says. “But the more comfortable you are in talking about it, the more comfortable clients are in paying. It’s about attitude. If I know why I’m doing what I’m doing, I’m more likely to stay in my lane.”
An unforeseen side effect of raising prices was that Maglosky had a lot more time on her hands. While that sounds like a good thing, slowing down her breakneck pace initially made Maglosky feel anxious, like she wasn’t working hard enough.
“When you go from working 70 hours in a week to not nearly as many, you can freak out even if the same money is there,” she says. “Activity makes us feel important.”
Thinking about her apprehension over working fewer hours, she realized this was the opportunity she sought to create a healthier work-life balance. Better time management would allow her to pull her priorities back in line, which would make her feel more accomplished and confident, which would make it easier to look clients in the eye and name her price.
“I talk to photographers all over, and the No. 1 complaint I hear is that they don’t know how to manage their time,” says Maglosky. “We all want to look at our weekly schedule and get it all packaged up nice and neat, but it’s not always possible.”
To avoid being sidetracked by procrastination, distraction, and myriad unforeseen events, Maglosky knew she would have to devise a system. That system’s name is discipline.
Maglosky’s studio operates in time blocks, of which she’s very protective. Each day she prioritizes the tasks that need to be completed and then structures her time so those priorities are met. The most important things go to the top of the list.
Setting her intention for the day keeps her out of common pitfalls like falling into the social media well or getting sidetracked by emails. Maglosky’s workdays are broken into chunks of 45 to 50 minutes that are devoted to specific tasks—blogging, client meeting, meals, etc.—with no crossover.
“The No. 1 priority we should all have is protecting our time, and it’s not as hard to do when you know what’s important,” she says. “People often get distracted because they want to be distracted. It’s tough to see your own value if you’re running on four hours of sleep because at that point you don’t have much value. But if you come to the table at 100 percent, you feel the value you’re trying to sell.”
Stephanie Boozer is a writer in Charleston, South Carolina.