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Summary:

As if working with others wasn’t hard enough, working with your spouse sometimes proves to be harder. You live together, work together, and do almost everything else together – it’s the perfect recipe for a heated argument. Is there a way to live and work together […]

As if working with others wasn’t hard enough, working with your spouse sometimes proves to be harder. You live together, work together, and do almost everything else together – it’s the perfect recipe for a heated argument. Is there a way to live and work together without letting your relationship, and your careers, come crashing down?

Before you start building expectations of your partner, yourself, and your relationship, it’s important to focus on what you know about each other first. Sometimes, men expect to perform the more technical tasks, but what if the wife is better at fixing or installing new hardware? Conversely, some women might assume that they’ll take on more nurturing roles, but what if it’s the husband who’s good at helping irate clients to calm down?

What will make things work is not how you fit yourself into certain cookie-cutter roles or preconceived notions of what you should do, but how you both create roles that you actually can do. These roles will accommodate your respective skills and interests, rather than forcing you to take on tasks that you’re not comfortable with.

Business and money.

Although competition can be healthy, it might prove to be destructive to compete with your partner. It might be especially tough if you’re working in the same field or niche, yet you keep separate businesses. After all, how do you reconcile that you’re a team at the end of the day if you spend your work hours competing with each other? What usually helps is to each have side projects which are completely different, or to work together occassionally. This way, you’re not directly competing all the time.

If you work under the same business name, it’s important that you manage separate aspects of the business. For example, my partner does the accounting, as well as research on possible ventures we might be interested in. I, on the other hand, handle client communications and most of the marketing. This kind of job distribution allows us to work in the same business without interfering in each other’s work.

Money is said to be the number one reason why couples argue. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t risk talking about money. In fact, honesty and openness is especially important for couples who own a business together. Establishing some money rules to begin with will allow you to discuss your business finances more objectively.

Defining boundaries.

Discussing boundaries should be done as early as possible, especially if you’ll be working as a team for some projects. Without discussing boundaries, it’s much easier to get into a fight. What you intended as a kind suggestion could easily be perceived by your partner as scrutiny or micro-managing.

The first step in defining your boundaries is to each have a dedicated workspace. This ensures that you both get privacy, as well as the freedom to do what you want with your work hours. Having separate spaces will allow you both to work without having to deal with your different working habits.

In a previous article here at WWD, Pamela Poole talked about respect for ‘The Bubble’ – that mental zone you’re in when you’re completely immersed in your work. My partner and I know from experience that it can be annoying when we’re interrupted while we’re in ‘the bubble’. To prevent this from happening, it helps to actively look for visual cues to see if your partner is open to interruptions or not. A shut door might be a good enough sign, or it could be something more subtle like the focused look on your partner’s face, or their typing speed.

Making the relationship and the business grow.

It’s also important to make the time and effort for your relationship without all the business. If you’re mostly discussing invoices and cold calls, the business might be growing but your relationship risks being stagnant. You should be a couple first, and business partners second. Acknowledging this will give both of you the feeling of security knowing that if the business fails, your relationship still lives.

Do you and your partner telework together? What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing so?

  1. My wife joined me on my business 3 years ago, and since then our business has doubled in revenues every year. We do have separate offices. She handles the business side of things and does all the SEO research, and conent writing. I handle all creative, coding, and manage our design and developer sub-contractors, and we share client contact responsibilities. We also team up on new client visits although she writes most of the proposals. Do we have a few moments of tension? Sure…but at the end of the day, we are husband and wife, and that tension is history.

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  2. My husband an I are both artists and work together on a full-time basis in very tight living and working quarters. We spend a little time each day to go over who is doing what and where so we don’t step on each others toes. We have been in business together for 4 years, but only full time at the same time for the past 3 months and have already seen huge growth in the number of projects we can complete together more quickly. We do some things together, sometimes even painting on the same illustrations, but we also have clearly defined duties in other areas like accounting and chores. We each lead in the areas where we have our greatest strengths (web design, cartooning, watercolor, marketing, client relations etc. . . ). I think figuring out who is better at what and who likes doing what early on has really helped to define our roles in the company. I agree that your relationship has to come first or everything else will crumble. A great relationship with your spouse can be a solid foundation for your family and your business. The key is to always put your partner’s needs above your own, be quick to understand and forgive and never forget that no matter what, you are on the same team. And if you still have that pent up need compete, focus that urge towards your business competition and get ahead in the marketplace.

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  3. Finding and knowing your strengths will absolutely help! It took us a while to figure that out. Another thing we figured out early on that really helps … when your wrong – admit it quickly and make it right. When your right – shut up. :)

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