Ian and Tanya Grant

Hi everyone, it’s Tanya, the blog manager here at TSBC.  Katie asked me to chime in on the topic of going into business with a spouse.  It’s no coincedence – Katie and I actually met when my husband and I photographed her wedding!  I’ve been working with my husband, Ian, in some capacity for the last 10 years, and it’s been quite a journey.  Over time we’ve launched an event photography business, a school photography business, a headshot photography business, and most recently a product-based (rather than service-based) business, not to mention juggling each of our individual freelance projects.

I remember sitting in a bookstore, reading about different business entities, when Ian asked me if I’d like to make an LLC with him.  Sexy, right?  At the time we weren’t even engaged, so it felt like a very big step in both our business and our relationship.  Luckily, taking the plunge into business together has been rewarding, but it hasn’t been without frustration.  Here are the three things I wish I knew before going into business with a spouse.

1. Learn each other’s work styles.  This may sound like common sense, but trust me, it has taken trial and error to make our day-to-day businesses flow.  I’m the annoying combination of both a Type-A personality and a morning person, while my husband is decidedly a night owl.  By the time he starts at the office each day, I’ve already been working away and have a list of things to discuss with him.  It drives him crazy when I bring up a to do list before he’s had a chance for his brain to wake up.  Similarly, bringing up work-related topics before bedtime (when he’s alert) means my mind races and I can’t sleep.  We’ve had to find a time for these chats that works for both of us.  We take daily walks at lunchtime to catch each other up on our ideas and to steer the businesses.

Going along with the time of day that you and your spouse work best, there’s also the environment in which you work best.  I usually like a quiet workplace when I’m doing creative work like writing blog posts, but Ian is happy to have a documentary running in the background.  Most days we make it work (thank you headphones!), but some days we just need to pull the laptop into a separate room.  Working with each other doesn’t mean you have to work with each other in the moments you each need your space.

2. Divide and conquer, but also cross-train.  You and your spouse most likely have a different set of skills.  This usually benefits your business, and it’s great to play to your strengths.  I come from a background in corporate sales while my husband has lived the entertainment-industry freelancer lifestyle.  I can rock a spreadsheet while he’s a whiz at Photoshop.  This is great, because we can cover the different aspects of the business needed to make it thrive.  This also leads to a natural division of tasks and helps us be the most efficient in accomplishing them.  That being said, if someone’s sick or unable to work, we need to make sure the business can still flow.  Make sure you cross-train on the daily functions that keep your business running – whether that’s fulfilling orders, getting back to customers, or contacting vendors.

2a. Communicate.  Ok, I threw in a bonus, here.  Going along with divide and conquer is the idea that you need to communicate what you are each working on.  Setting clear expectations means the work gets done and nothing falls through the cracks.  For me and my husband, we use a set of shared Google docs to store information and to-do lists.  There’s also something to be said for a giant whiteboard to write down daily tasks.  Find whatever method or tools work for you, and make sure you check in time to time to reevaluate.

3. Know the big picture.  It’s important to be on the same page with your spouse when it comes to both the direction of your business and the direction of your life.  Write a list of your goals for the business as well as the steps you need to take to get it there.  When you both know the overall goal, it helps you prioritize each of your individual tasks.  At the same time, keep in mind that you’re most likely working together so you have a certain sort of lifestyle with your partner.  This means making sure you actually get to have a life outside of work.  When life gets hectic (and in entrepreneurship, it does!), make time to be together outside of work.  If this means hiring a babysitter and making dinner reservations, go for it.  There’s no one in life who will understand your unique journey the way that your spouse will, so make sure you nurture your relationship.

I would love to hear – for those of you working with a spouse, what are the ways that you’re making it work?


What are 3 things you wish you knew before…?  Send an email to Katie at katie@tradeshowcamp.com


Related posts: