After nearly a decade of experience in the Toronto wedding industry, having met countless wonderful couples who work together and having had a lot of personal intimate conversations with industry pros, my personal advice would be to venture into starting a studio with your romantic partner with caution. Here are the top seven reasons why.
1. High Risks of Failure
Did you know that 52.6% of all small business in the service sector will fail within the first 5 years and nearly 70% of all small businesses will fail within 10 years? Is it really a good idea for you and your partner to put all of your eggs into one basket? If for some reason the business that the two of you started begins to head south in the future, can you and your partner navigate through the tough waters?
2. Work/Life Balance
Any relationship can have ups and downs, but working together with your significant other is especially challenging. It’s often difficult to separate personal matters from home to work and vice versa. To add on, most successful entrepreneurs in the wedding industry that I know of are usually workaholics who are obsessed with perfection. When you have two people together that share these similar traits and habits, the business may start to become the priority. This can affect the relationship, as they forget to spend quality time with one another aside from work. (This is from personal experience and observation of other couples.)
3. Raising Kids
If you and your significant other are both shooting as a team, the two of you definitely have to give up some of your weekends for weddings, engagement shoots, and possibly client meetings. When the both of you are crucial to the operation of the business, it becomes harder to give your full attention to your kids. A compromise that I typically see during peak summer season is that one of the partners will do more behind-the-scenes work, while the other will go out to shoot weddings on the weekend.
4. Division of Labor
When running your own photo studio, an important factor to consider is how the two of you will divide up the tasks. From my personal experience and from speaking to other entrepreneurs inside and outside of the wedding industry, the ideal business partners are individuals who can bring different skill sets into the business. Each partner should have different roles and responsibilities, while rules on decision-making and resolving conflicts should be set. Does this fit the description of your partnership situation? If both you and your partner are doing the same tasks, there’ll eventually be a time where you don’t see eye to eye, and a clash is bound to occur. When it comes to dividing up the tasks to run your business, you really have to put yourself and your partner into roles where you both can excel. If your partner can do a certain task better than you, then you need to trust them and delegate the task to them.
Like most of the business owners I know in the wedding industry, the last thing you are considering while running your business is life insurance and health benefits. With all of the expenses of running a business, this is often the last thing on your mind. However, if both you and your partner are working in the same business together, the two of you should seriously consider getting some kind of coverage. Unfortunate life events can come at any minute without warning, so please give this thought. I have known a few Toronto photographers and videographers who stepped out of the wedding business and began working for a larger organization or the government just for the benefitst. So, it might make sense if either you or your partner works a full-time job to provide the entire family with coverage from the larger company’s benefit plan.
6. Management Issues
As the studio manager at our wedding videography company, dealing with our staff is sometimes as tough as dealing with our actual clients. Photographers and videographers are by nature artists, meaning that they are creators with their own passions, visions, and ideas. Being an owner means that you have to learn to speak their language and guide them into your expectations. There are certainly a lot of cases of stubborn artists, and there are cases where some may have huge egos and become extremely sensitive to the slightest critical feedback. Over time, there are also photographers and videographers who are burnt out and no longer care about their work. You, as the owner, have to guide them back or make the difficult decision to let them go. Now, imagine you have a permanent staff member on your team who you can't fire regardless of their performance, who might not even listen to you, and is adamant on doing everything their own way. This team member could turn out to be your partner. So, think twice and get to know your romantic partner really well before you begin your business venture together.
7. Variable Income
The final point that I want to make is that when you are starting a business, it is really difficult, especially if it is your first time. If both you and your partner are working together on starting your photography/videography business with no other sources of income, the stakes are a lot higher, and the financial consequences of failure are a lot more severe. If the two of you decide to get a mortgage and buy a house, this could be very difficult, especially in the beginning stages of your business.
Because of these seven reasons, I rarely recommend photographers/videographers who are in a romantic relationship to start a business together. What I have seen quite often in the wedding industry are couples who become strategic partners. This is a relationship where each partner brings something different to the table, while operating their own business independently of each other. Some examples would be: a wedding planner and a photographer, a photographer and a florist, or a photographer and a makeup artist. Both are in the creative industry, share similar schedules, and can refer each other to clients.
However, if you and your partner have been dreaming and planning a business for a long time, it is my honest advice to just give it a try. If you never try, you will forever regret the chances you didn't take. Just ensure that you and your partner really understand the seriousness of your venture, plan out your business in steps, lay out your finances, properly divide up the tasks, and formulate your decision-making and conflict resolution processes. If you do succeed, it is totally worth it, building something you love so much with the person you love the most in the world is honestly priceless.