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The Main Event: Battling Burnout
Posted Jan 23, 2006 Print Version     Page 1of 1

Got a big editing backlog staring you in the face? Tired of spending every Saturday away from the family, shooting weddings? Weary of the endless technology-upgrade treadmill? Well, you're not alone. Wedding and event video is a high-stress occupation, and burnout is an ever-present threat. This month, I'd like to talk about some common ways in which burnout can occur, and suggest some ways to fight it.

Too many jobs, too little return. Having every weekend booked sounds like heaven to some of us. But a crammed schedule can also be a recipe for disaster. Videographers who book this many jobs may be setting their prices too low. They may be editing and talking to potential clients all week, then shooting all weekend, putting in 80 or 100 hours of work for minimum wage, or even less.

I'm beat on my feet. You've just finished ten hours in the field shooting a wedding and a long reception. Every muscle in your body aches, feet most of all. You stagger home, take pain pills, and fall into bed, groaning, "Never again!"

Battle of the backlog. Whether it's because you had too many bookings, one project that was a real bear, or a family emergency, or just because you take great care with each job, you can find yourself staring at a huge pile of tapes that all need editing. Once the backlog goes beyond a few jobs, looking at that pile can be very depressing. This is especially true if, like many of us, you get full payment by the day of the wedding or sooner. Those tapes represent a lot of work, with no paycheck at the end of it.

Déjà vu all over again. Do all your weddings look the same? Having a "template" for a project—whether it's just a mental outline or an actual draft timeline on your NLE—can be a great timesaver. But it can also take away that feeling that you are creating something artistic and fresh.

Race to the future. Every month, a new batch of industry magazines hits your mailbox, loaded with articles and ads for the latest video technologies—digital, surround sound, tapeless recording, new software versions, faster computers, HD, Blu-ray. However enticing, each new piece of equipment or upgrade means more money out of your pocket, and more time spent learning something new. Any one of these, or a combination, can lead to burnout—the feeling that the whole event video gig just isn't as much fun as it used to be. It's turned into a job, and you're considering trying to get your old "day job" back. But before you do, try some of the following:

Write down your gripes. List everything that's getting you down. Then, write down everything that's good about your life. If you can't come up with more pluses than minuses, consider talking your problems out with a counselor.

Schedule your work, and work your schedule. Tackle a big backlog the same way you would eat an elephant: one bite at a time. Set a goal that you can reach in a day, achieve it, and repeat. Your backlog will be off your back sooner than you think.

Take a break. The old recipe for a balanced life is equal parts work, prayer, family, and play. For some of us, our work is play, or we like to think so, but we need to take time to do other things, too. Take the dog for a walk, read a story to your kids, go hang out at the mall, or take a vacation.

Exercise. If you're in good shape, you won't be so wrung out after a long day's shoot. Jog, lift weights, enroll in a martial arts program—anything that'll raise your heart rate and work up a sweat. You should set aside at least two or three hours a week to keep fit.

Try something new. Do a same-day edit for a client. Add film transfer to your list of services. Volunteer to do a video for your kid's school play. Experiment with a new shooting or editing technique. Cold-call a potential corporate client. If you're not moving forward, you're losing ground.

Raise your prices. Trade high volume for high quality. Instead of doing two $1,000 weddings, do one for $2,000, and then take a week off.

Talk shop with colleagues. Join a local videographers' association, or start one. Go to a convention, or just take a videographer friend to lunch once in a while. Sharing your problems with a sympathetic ear can be a start on solving them, and talking about your field with other enthusiasts is a good way to rekindle your own enthusiasm.

Do something educational. Learn some new software, or learn better ways to use your current software. Get a DVD on improving your shooting. Read a book on how to streamline your business and increase profits.

Read something inspirational. For some, it might be a novel. For others, a biography. Or take me literally and read something religious. Inspiration can be found in many places.

Most of all, try to keep a sense of humor and proportion about it all. Don't sweat the small stuff. In the end, it's all small stuff.

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