what it's like to work with your spouse

Working with your spouse (thoughts by Paul & Hayley) [TPP #77]

For Hayley and I, the last 12 months have included some radical life changes:

  • We sold our house in November 2016.
  • I quit my full-time job in December 2016.
  • In January 2017 we began a 5 month trip around South East Asia.
  • In June we returned home and I began full-time work on my business.
  • In September 2017, Hayley left her full-time job to come work with me in the business.

It used to be that we would each leave for work in the morning and not see each other until we both returned home in the evening. Now we spend all day, every day together and have to think about how we balance our work and home lives.

In this post, we’d like to share what it was like to make this change. I’m going to write about how we decided to make this leap, then Hayley will comment on what it’s like to work together. Enjoy!

Don't want to read this post, listen below (12:02):

Paul Minors

Making the leap to full-time self-employment – by Paul Minors

Making the decision to quit my job and pursue self-employment was scary enough. But when it came to Hayley quitting as well, now that really was nerve-wracking.

Working together has always been the goal but to be honest, I thought it would be years before we got to this stage.

In September last year, we made the decision that Hayley would leave her job for a few reasons but mainly because Hayley was no longer happy in her role at work and didn’t see a future at the company.

For us, the decision was pretty easy. We’re both firm believers that life is too short to put up with doing something that doesn’t make you happy.

In saying that, we didn’t make the decision lightly. There were a few key criteria we had to satisfy before Hayley would quit to come work with me:

  1. Hayley has to add value to the business (i.e. “shifting work” is not good enough) – What I mean is that it wouldn’t be good enough for Hayley to come work with me if she was only going to take work away from me. Instead, she has to add value to the business by doing things that I’m not currently doing. For example, Hayley is helping me by developing a new book summary subscription service and running Facebook ads for our products. Rather than me just dumping tasks onto Hayley that I don’t want to do, this forces her to generate new sources of income so we can justify her being part of the business.
  2. Even if the business makes no additional revenue, we have to make it work under a worst-case scenario. Before Hayley quit, I spent a fair bit of time looking at the numbers (made easier using Pocketsmith). I looked at my average earnings (as a sole operator) over the last few months to see if this could sustain the both of us. I wanted to make sure that even if Hayley joined and had zero impact on the business (which is unlikely) that we would still be okay.

Since Hayley’s come on board, we’ve been able to achieve exactly what we wanted – Hayley is working on opportunities that I can’t pursue (as I’m usually busy with consulting work). It’ll take a bit more time for those opportunities to manifest into real ROI in the business, but we’re moving in the right direction.

For us, we measure our success based on a very simple question – are we better off compared to when we were working full time? Recently I wrote about why we don’t want to scale our business and in that post, I mentioned that our monthly sales goal (a.k.a. “target monthly income”) is calculated based on our previous salaries, plus a buffer for expenses. As long as we earn at least what we were earning full-time, but we’re working on our own terms, then that’s great! Everything else is a bonus!

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Hayley MinorsWhat it’s like to work with your spouse – by Hayley Minors

When I started telling people that I was leaving my job to work with Paul, I was met with very mixed reactions. Obviously, people were pleased for us and pleased that the business was obviously doing well. But the overwhelming response I faced was people saying that they could never work with their partner, that they would get so sick of each other. For us, it was certainly a consideration, we didn't want to get sick of each other, but we really didn't think it was going to be an issue.

We were lucky enough to have a ‘trial period'. I took a 5-month sabbatical from my job and we spent the time travelling throughout South East Asia. Throughout this time, we were both working a few hours a day on Paul's business. We'd usually start the weekdays early, get a head start on work at a cafe or workspace, and knock off after lunch to explore and enjoy our time.

For 5 months, we spent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week together. We were often confined to small confined hotel rooms, exhausted after hours of travel or stressed out after realising we were at the wrong airport (yes, that actually happened). This was all a good test for us and we managed to have fun while working hard and growing a business. Most importantly, we loved every minute of it.

I can confirm, that almost 6 months since leaving my job, we're still not sick of each other. Working together actually works really well for us, and it supports the lifestyle we've always wanted. There are three key tips I have for anyone considering working with their spouse.

  1. Have your own lives outside of work. This one is really important, we obviously have a bunch of mutual friends, but we also value our time with our individual friends. On weekends or after work we'll often spend time separately with our friends. I'll have lunch or dinner with the girls and Paul will head off for an early morning surf or game of golf with his mates. Even during the working day, we'll spend time apart. We don't always eat lunch together, we don't even always arrive at work and leave together. We both have different schedules and we embrace that.
  2. Don't forget to nurture the relationship. This one spins off from my previous point. Remember, that just because you were at work all day together, you actually spent the majority of the day staring at a computer screen or discussing blog posts and email replies. This isn't what you can consider quality couple time. It's important that you still make time for each other outside of work. Going out for dinner and catching a movie on a Friday night or heading out for coffee and a beach walk are a few ways we ensure that we remain close.
  3. Separate work-life from home-life. This leads me to my last point. It's easy to let work slip into your daily lives, and we are certainly guilty of heading home after work, only to sit on the couch with our laptops open and discuss work. But this is inevitable, and part of why having flexible work hours is great. We do get to work from home if we need to. But it's important to recognise the moments when work-talk is inappropriate. Usually, we're good at recognising the right moments, very rarely, one of us will have to stop the other from a work-related conversation and say, actually, can we not talk about work right now. It's about finding the right balance.

Overall, I consider us to be extremely lucky.  Lucky to have the opportunity to work together, and lucky enough to be able to thrive as a couple and as a team while doing so.

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