What is the trick to starting up a photography business, working at it every single day of the week … and staying married too?
I was listening to the radio the other day, and the DJs had an ongoing conversation with their listeners on how people could work together all day, and stay married in the process? Both DJs had no idea how it was possible. The one said he would be divorced within a week if he was forced to spend 24 hours of the day with his wife. The other wasn’t married – so the concept was totally foreign to him. And the listeners that called in all had mixed reviews. Yes, you can imagine how many stories came through – things I had trouble believing they were so wild.
Yet many people do it every single day. Andrew and I have worked together side by side for over 14 years now. In fact, we live in a 1200 square foot condo, work side by side at the dining room table, eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together, and still like to hang out on the weekends together with family and friends. Yes, we do go our separate ways for clubs, hobbies and activities. We book separate meetings with clients, and have our own friend bases and interests. But for the majority of the week, we’re side by side.
So yes, it is possible. And really there isn’t a big “secret” to it. We’re just both pretty laid back when it comes to business and personal issues, and enjoy being together.
Can it work for you? Possibly. Here are some of the tricks we’ve learned along the way.
1. Start by knowing yourself
Chances are if you are thinking of running a photography business together, you’ve already thought about what it would be like to work together. Or had the experience at it. In either case, make sure you give it a test run before you commit. Start by working together part time – that’s what we did. We both had full time jobs during the week, yet spent our weekends together working in our studio. We photographed portraits and weddings together on Saturdays and Sundays, and learned what we were both good at and liked to do. We knew we could work together because we proved it long before we thought about going full time.
2. Learn to step away
Sometimes your spouse will say things that totally bug you. He’ll forget to do things he “promised”, or ignore your ideas to proceed with his own. Yep, we’re all human and have our own agendas. And while its easy to get flustered and frustrated, the tipping point comes in how you handle it. If you scream and get angry, the fighting will start. A better way is to take a time out. Go out for a walk. Run a few errands. Do whatever it takes to calm down. Then approach the situation with a fresh mind and a calm demeanor.
3. Create your own space
Yes, we work side by side at the dining room table. But we each have our own space to do with as we please. I turn the radio on to have jazz music playing in the background – I can’t write with rock or pop music; but I need the noise. Andrew gets “bored” with my jazz station in a hurry; so he plugs in his earphones and chooses his own music for his space. Yep, 5 feet apart with two different stations. Its what we need to operate effectively. And that’s the beauty of it. Do whatever you need to do to create the space you need.
4. Enjoy each other
When I was listening to the radio show, they continually focused on the negatives. If you turn it around and focus on the positives up front, you’ll have a much better relationship going into it. Don’t expect the difference, plan for the positives and move forward. Once per week we head out of our “office” and out to lunch. We choose different locations each week and we spend the time talking about pretty much everything. If we have a “situation” at work, we may turn it into a business lunch. At other times we discuss vacation plans, our daughter, Saturday night plans, or whatever happens to be at the forefront of our minds that day. Its almost like a “date lunch” and we do it because it adds to the fun of working together.
5. Work towards a common goal
When you get married, your goal is a life together. You agree to trust each other, respect each other, put honesty above everything, and love unconditionally. If you already have that in your personal life, transfer it to your business life. Approach every day the same way and you’ll always have success.
6. Communicate and compromise
What’s the number one reason couples fight? Its because communication shuts down. Whatever you do, always be open with each other. And look for advice along the way as well. In personal relationships, mediators can be the glue that holds you together. In a business relationship, consider a business coach. They can be the third party that looks beyond the details and helps you focus in on what’s truly the best direction for the company.
7. No credit, no blame
As soon as you start outdoing one another, the fighting begins. You’re in it together; you’re in it for the same goal. Leave your egos at the door and accept equal responsibility for whatever project you are working on. The goal is to have the business run smoothly. If you both do your jobs correctly, help each other in times of stress, and share and celebrate your successes, you’re company will move forward effectively.
8. Have equal passions
When you decided to go into business together, what was the reason? If you both went into it doing what you loved, with a willingness to become as successful as possible, you will succeed. But if one of you is less passionate than the other, the business will falter. Small business ownership is difficult at best. It takes everything you have, everything you are willing to give. If you’re not in it equally, there will always be stress between you. The key is giving each person the title and position they most want to fill. For Andrew, he became the main photographer. For me, I excelled at business and marketing. We both took what we loved and ran with it. And of course it was towards the common goal of a successful photography business.
9. Have equal outside interests
At the end of the day, if all you do is work, you’ll drive each other crazy. Find something you are passionate about outside of work, as an individual. It may be taking a yoga class, joining a book club, or sailing at the local club. Yes, we’ve done all of this and more. The key is being just as passionate about hobbies and interests as you are in business. It will give you a new way of unleashing your creativity.
10. Use technology for everything
Have you ever tweeted your spouse – even when he’s sitting 5 feet from you? How about sending an email to schedule an appointment? Or putting special meetings on a common Google calendar? If you would do it with an employee, why not your spouse?
11. Keep it fun
What jobs can you work on together? Two minds are always more creative than one. Instead of each heading out in separate directions, plan something fun together once in awhile. It may be laying out a new brochure, or planning a new offering in which you both shoot together. Just like you have to enjoy every client that comes through your door, you should also enjoy every project that comes your way, giving you one more reason to do something great.
12. Plan for the future
Instead of spending all of your time building the business today, what are your goals for the future? Make plans to celebrate along the way. When you reach your first $100,000 celebrate with something you love. We love traveling, so its always in our goals to plan something special when we reach certain goals. It gives us a healthy outlook for business and personal reasons now and well into our future.