When a person decides to start his or her own photography business, rarely do think of how it will impact the other person in his or her life. They love photography. They have a desire to turn it into their business. And they move forward with it.
Yet owning and operating your own business is a 24 hour commitment. Even though you set your own hours, do the type of business you desire, and operate you photography studio any way you choose, the businesses is always there. It’s a completely different thought process than working a 9 to 5 job.
We learned this early on in our career. Andrew and I both worked 9 to 5. Andrew photographed a few weddings and portraits on the side, and eventually made it his full time career after losing three jobs in three years to corporate downsizing. I helped out with weddings on the weekends, and soon made it my passion too after I “saw” the perfect image with a bride, set it up for Andrew, and he took the image from the wrong angle. The very next wedding he put a camera in my hand and said, “you do it”. The rest as they say is history.
But working together day in and day out with your significant other can be trying times. Even today, we work out of our home, have desks in the same office 10 feet from each other, and pretty much spend most of our hours together.
Here are 8 secrets we’ve found that help us run a photography business as a husband and wife team.
1. Set up job descriptions. Even though you’ll probably both be involved in most of the business tasks, it still helps to define each other’s roles. There will invariably be things one of you enjoys more than the other. Split out the roles so you each enjoy what you are doing.
2. Set up systems. As two separate people, you’ll each have your own idea on priorities, and how to handle different situations. Discuss each item in the business, and establish a system for how to handle it. A notebook with checklists can keep you both on track for everything from meeting with clients, to production work.
3. Accept each other for your differences. I’ll admit it – I’m the clean freak. If you move the stapler on my desk, I know it. Andrew, however, lives by the pile method. We each have our desks, and we respect our separate workspaces. You can’t change the way someone lives and works, especially when you’re together 24 hours a day. Give each person their own territory, and accept what they do with it.
4. Have separate, outside interests. Make sure you each have something you enjoy alone or with your own set of friends. Andrew sails and races sailboats from April through October each year with a group of friends. I do a variety of things from taking classes to book clubs with friends. Being able to get away for a few hours here and there can put a new perspective on what you do.
5. Do things together outside of work. Living together and working together can quickly become monotonous, especially if your studio is in your home. Make sure you plan things away from your home, even if it’s just an hour or two. Go out for lunch one day a week. Head out on the weekend for “date night” to dinner and a jazz band. Or just head to the movies on an afternoon. It’s important to get out and talk about things other than business.
6. Recognize each other’s strengths. While everyone likes to hear they are doing a good job, it’s even more important when you’re working together and are married too. Compliment each other regularly on the jobs you do. When you’re out networking, give your partner compliments to prospective clients. You are a team, yet you each have your strengths. Give praise where praise is due.
7. Be supportive. Some days your partner may be working 15 hour days. Other days it might be you. You each have a position in the company, and shouldn’t be upset when you have more to do than your partner.
8. Renegotiate and test all the time. Don’t get caught up in the business, and have it burn you out. Take time away from the business periodically to reevaluate direction. Are you both still happy with the business? Are there other interests you want to explore? It’s easier when you work a 9 to 5 to explore other careers. When you’re together, it may start to feel like you’re pulling away from each other. Separate business from your marriage, and realize that to stay healthy you have to grow and explore.