The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Working With Your Spouse in Your Photography or Video Business

Saying "I do" to a business partnership with your spouse or partner can be enticing. You love your spouse or partner, but does that mean you should be business partners? Is it worth risking the personal relationship for the business relationship?

Chelsea and Tony Northrop provide some wonderful insight into the benefits and disadvantages of partnering with your spouse or partner in their video above. Based on my own experience partnering with my wife in her Italian travel company, I found Chelsea and Tony’s advice to be spot on. Chelsea and Tony discuss the many advantages of working with your partner as a business partner, but I think they miss one important point, and that is the sharing the worries that come with running a business. While my wife is the driving force behind our company and does nearly all the work for the company, I’m involved enough to understand what the major issues are. This permits me to be there for her to bounce ideas off of or more importantly, to be there to listen and just let her vent her concerns. The Northrop’s discussion focuses on a partnership that tends to be of equal business partners; however, there are all types and levels of business partnerships between spouses/partners. This doesn’t mean the advice they provide isn’t applicable to other levels of spousal involvement in the business. Actually, I think their advice might be even more beneficial for couples whose involvement in the business isn’t 50/50.

From our own experiences, my wife, Ashely, and I found the following to work for us:

  • Schedule a time for a meeting to discuss topics related to the business. At the dinner table with the family isn’t always the best time.
  • If you work out of your house, schedule the meeting for a location outside of the house. Yes, the local coffee shop can be a place, but the local library or school can be great places too. We use the lobby of a local hotel for our meetings while our daughter takes her equestrian lessons nearby.
  • Put down in writing who is responsible for what. Mostly out of fun, we went as far as to give ourselves titles within the company. I became the manager of IT and accounting while the family dog was the director of security. Not only did this lend some humor to the situation, but it also provided some lines of responsibility so that each other who is responsible for what.
  • Running your own business is more than a full-time job. It can become a 24-hour-aday job, but you can’t let that control the rest of your life or your personal relationship. Each partner has to have the ability to say "I don’t want to talk business now," and the other has to respect that.

If you run a business with your spouse or partner, let’s hear what works for you. It just might help the rest of us keep our relationships, both business and personal, running smoothly.

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it's seem that Chelsea and Tony have encountered a problem.

Simon Patterson's picture

Of course they have, and no doubt more than one problem. They're married after all!

Simon Patterson's picture

I don't run a business with my wife, but both your advice and the Northrups' advice looks pretty sound to me.

John Dawson's picture

Generally speaking, work + spouse = gasoline + matches. There's A LOT to be said for separation of work and spouse.

It's like "family vacation" -- an oxymoron.

Stephen Kampff's picture

"the family dog was the director of security" – love it!

Douglas Turney's picture

Thanks. I think there is always room for some fun. The really funny part is the dog would lick the person to death before ever biting anyone.

Neither my wife or I are entrepreneurs. We met at work in 1977; she was laid off in 1990 and I was laid off in 1991. Since then, for over 15 years, we've practiced "paycheck diversity".However, in 2006, I started working for the same employer, but we worked in different agencies.