This post is for all the newlywed entrepreneurs out there! Starting a business is a balancing act and a ton of work regardless of your marital status, but there is an extra element to be considered as a newlywed –you’re still in that adjusting period, you have another person to consider, a household to run, and perhaps you have a full-time job on top of it all. I started a business toward the end of our first year of marriage and there was a major learning curve for us as we tried balancing it all. I’m nowhere near a perfect entrepreneur or perfect wife, nor am I an expert on marriage (as you will see below!), but I hope the lessons I’ve learned can help someone out there. So today, I’m sharing my top three tips for newlyweds who are thinking about starting (or have already started) a business:
Work Time vs. Home Time
When I first started working with Jill I was only working an hour or two in the evenings for the first couple of months, so the “work time” wasn’t a huge commitment and didn’t take away much from my time with Jacob during the week or weekends. However, that quickly changed once I decided to grow my business and take on new clients as a virtual assistant and then as a boutique photo editor. This made my time commitment go from a few hours each week to my ENTIRE week when I wasn’t asleep or at my day job. I’m going to be completely honest with you–this last fall was rough because it was my first busy wedding season as an editor AND virtual assistant. I worked 40 hours a week and then the minute I got home every night I would immediately change into comfy clothes (ok…let’s be real, I got into my PJs at 5:30 every day!!) and then got to work. Some nights I wouldn’t eat dinner until 9:30 and other nights I forgot to eat dinner entirely.
But that meant that when my head was in my computer and building my business, I wasn’t asking my husband how his day was, I wasn’t playing with our dog when he really wanted my attention (that makes me so sad!!), and I wasn’t taking any time to breathe, live my life, or enjoy my marriage. I honestly believe it took me the entire busy season until I realized that while I was busy and had lots of work to do, that that was not a justification for me to literally ignore my life.
So, my tip for any newlywed who is starting a business that will have a hefty time commitment : you NEED to separate your work time from your home time. It was so difficult for me to separate the two because I did all of my work AT home–so if I could work on building my website while watching a movie with my husband, that totally counts as a date night, right!? I’m HOME and I have time, so I should be working when I have stuff to do. No. First, you need to discuss with your spouse what your “off-limits” time is. Will you have one date night a week with your phone on silent in the other room along with your powered-down computer? Will you always eat dinner together and talk before you begin working each weeknight? Will you only work Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights and be off the other four nights of the week?? I wish we would’ve implemented these “rules” before we hit the stressful busy season last fall, but we are much happier with the balance we have achieved once we discussed our schedule.
One last quick note on separating work from home : I know you’re probably thinking “well, great Sarah, but I have deadlines I need to stick to and I can’t just not work several days of the week because my clients are expecting x, y, and z back by this date.” I recommend being very clear about your turnaround times in your contract (if your job is very deadline-based like mine!). In my client agreement, I state that my turnaround times are based on standard business days and exclude Saturday, Sundays, and federal holidays. That way, if I don’t have time to work on Saturday or Sunday because I’m spending time with my family or busy with something else, I don’t need to stress as much because I know those two days are not being deducted from my turnaround time. But if I do end up having a few hours on Saturday morning and I get to deliver an edited catalog back to a client early–it’s a win win!
Workload at Home
I am not holding anything back from this post (sorry, Jacob!!) but housework was another huge stressor for us this past fall when I was literally working around the clock. Jacob is my perfect balance…he is always on top of the house work. He will do the dishes as he uses them, and will wash, dry, fold, and put away all of his clothes in the same day. I’m cringing admitting this, but I am a little too laid back when it comes to housework. There were days during the busy season when I only put my clean, folded clothes away because enough time had passed and I needed to empty the laundry basket so I could do more laundry. Don’t judge!!
But because of our difference in preference, household chores caused a lot of stress. I’d be focused on getting my work done the second I got home from my day job and I wouldn’t be phased by the chores that needed done; but it would drive Jacob crazy when I would brush it off and say “we can do it tomorrow.” And the next day, Jacob could almost always tell how stressed out I was and would generally end up doing it himself when I should have been helping.
We finally had to sit down and discuss a schedule that would work for the two of us…I would set aside an hour before I would start working so I could help make dinner, clean up, and just be a partner to my husband rather than pushing the work off on him. This is one of my biggest pieces of advice, and I urge you to have this discussion and come to an agreement on your schedule for the chores each week so the burden of the housework isn’t just falling on one person. This tip obviously applies to any couple–newlywed or not–but I feel like if you haven’t been living together long enough to really set up an established system, this could cause extra stress between a couple and could set a precedent in the marriage that an (undiscussed) unbalanced workload is acceptable.
Small business owners say that their business is their baby and I completely agree. It is something you dream of, then build from the ground up, and has a huge part of your heart. I am so beyond grateful that Jacob is always supportive of my dream and goes to the length of taking on all of this extra work at home so I can physically have the time to get my work done. After a lot of reflection, though, I have realized that while I will always put 100% into my business, it is absolutely essential to be present with my spouse and not let my business priority get entirely in the way of my marriage.
Marriage is a give-and-take with everything. For example, Jacob shows his support and love for me by cooking dinner and taking care of thing around the house so I can get my work done. The least I can do is pause working if he wants to talk to me or needs my help, or put my computer aside a couple nights a week for quality time with him. This is all easier said than done. I get it. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I almost resented date nights because it took me away from my work and I knew I would have to rework my schedule. How bad is that!?!
It was very hard for me to compartmentalize my work and my down time. It was difficult for me to relax and actually enjoy time off when I had so much work that needed to be done by a certain date. Like I said earlier, the most significant change I made that helped me be present in my personal life was simply adjusting my turnaround time and telling my clients that I actually have a specified work schedule. Just because I work at home does not mean I have to ALWAYS work when I am at home. When I knew my “time off” was not detracting from my turnaround time and deadlines, I was immediately calmed and felt like I could go out to dinner and a movie on a Saturday night without making a to-do list in my head during appetizers!
Regardless of the turnaround time though, I urge you to remember that your spouse has most likely selflessly supported you and cheered for your business just as much as you, and it is important to return that love and support for your spouse’s sake. When I took a step back and simplified the situation like that, taking time away from my “baby” to spend time with my husband didn’t seem like another thing on my to-do list. It felt like a blessing.
I did not expect this post to get this personal and open, but as I began writing I realized that marriage is too important to sugarcoat or dance around the details, and the stress of starting a business as a newlywed has really played a big role in our marriage this last year. I just hope this post will help any of you newlyweds starting a business from making the same mistakes we did. It is a lot to manage (especially if you’re still working a full time job on top of it all or if you have kids as well) but you can do it!! Cheers for you, your business, and your marriage!!
And if you need some extra advice, Jill did an entire Facebook Live all about growing your dream job while you are also working a day job and she has some AMAZING suggestions. Check it out here!
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I'm Jill, a wedding and portrait photographer based out of Chicago and Central Illinois, and available world wide! I'm also a photography educator, wife to my favorite person on the planet, mama to 3 amazing kids and an energetic Aussie, and obsessed with statement jewelry and all desserts (especially fruit pies!).
As a past high school teacher, I have a major heart for education. After going full time in my business, I have built a business I love that gives me an almost 6 figure salary and allows me to be home part time with my kids. I dream for you to run a business that enhances your life and lights you up, and I believe I can help you learn how to do it with a little hustle and a lot of heart!
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You're in the right place! As a past high school teacher, educating others is my life's work and a HUGE part of my business! I have been teaching moms and hobbyists how to use their camera from first purchasing it all the way to coaching them into businesses of their own, and I'd love to help you as well, wherever you are (and whatever camera you have!).
I'm so glad you are here! Teaching Photographers and other small business owners how to run more joyful, successful, and profitable businesses is one of my favorite parts of my business! I specialize in working with photographers to make their goals a reality (or figure out what their goals should be in the first place!).