You’re busting a gut to make your photography business a success and of course you expect some support and encouragement from the person closest to you. But what you get instead is more like doubt, criticism and maybe even resentment. Today we’re talking about what to do when your partner is unsupportive of your photography business
Scroll down for the blog post if you prefer to read 🙂
I couldn’t ignore this topic for a moment longer. It rears its head time and time and time again. So many of you are struggling with this. So let’s dive into this and think about the reasons why your partner might be unsupportive about your photography business and what you can do about it.
Knowing someone doubts you feels bad enough. But it’s so much worse when that doubt comes from the person closest to you whose opinion really matters to you. They don’t even have to be outwardly negative - lack of encouragement is negative enough and can leave you feeling alone and bitter and misunderstood.
But let’s step into their shoes for a while before we start trying to resolve the situation. It’s so important to try to understand why they’re finding it difficult to be enthusiastic or supportive of your dream.
Think about it, your decision to build a photography business has a huge impact on their life and the life you share together. When the life they were comfortable and settled in changes suddenly it’s bound to kick up some anxiety and maybe even some grudges.
Money is already one of the top issues couples fight about. It’s up there with housework and in-laws. Money makes people crazy. Especially worrying about a lack of it!
When you started your photography business you were probably full of enthusiasm and promises about how you were going to make it work. How you planned to do it all on a shoestring and how much you were going to be making within the first year.
We’ve all been there.
But of course, for you, the reality kicks in pretty quickly, doesn’t it? You realise that becoming profitable takes time and huge effort and starting a professional photography business on a shoestring is near impossible. You’re on this huge learning curve and you’re full of passion so you accept that it’s not going to be as easy as you thought and you get stuck in anyway.
But your partner is left wondering what the hell is happening. The joint bank account has been emptied to pay for your camera upgrade, your new lens, insurance, a website… But where is this money you said you’d be earning by now?
If they’re not self-employed, they don’t understand the time it takes to see results. When they don’t see results they just presume you’re failing. They might even think you’re being incompetent or lazy because, if that’s not the case, then where’s the money?!
This is your dream but pursuing it has financial implications for you both. Less money means no weekends away, no eating out, no treating themselves to some new clothes or technology. To you, these might be small sacrifices because you’re consumed with this vision you’re working towards. But if they’re not involved in that vision then these sacrifices sting a good bit more.
But their frustration can be run much deeper than just sacrificing the luxuries in life. Maybe you pursuing your photography business dream means that just covering the mortgage and bills each month is a worry - let alone buying groceries and other essentials. Perhaps they have to work more and more hours to make up for the fact that you’re not earning or they’re awake at night worrying about the future and how to make ends meet.
Going into business for yourself is all-consuming. Not only do you have no spare time to spend with your loved ones but you have no space in your head for anything else either. You’re working all the hours trying to learn everything you can and putting it into action. Even when you’re not working on your business, you’re thinking about it.
Your partner’s going to feel this. The time you used to have for them is reduced or non-existent. Don’t underestimate the effect this can have on someone. We’re all pretty needy when it comes to love and attention and when the person we love starts showing us less and less, it can play havoc with our insecurities.
Not only that, they probably have to do much more around the house and with the kids and they have less time to relax, doing the things they used to love doing. The routine they were settled into has been upended.
Let’s say you used to cook dinner almost every night of the week. But now you lose track of time and get so engrossed in the business that your wife is now having to step into that role. She’s tired from a hard day, she hates cooking and she used to use that time to do other stuff. Of course she’s going to feel it. She might even resent it.
Or let’s say you used to take the kids to their swimming lessons every Sunday whilst your husband played golf. Now your Sundays involve shooting and editing and he hasn’t played golf in months. Of course he’ll miss it, and if there’s no money coming in to show for it, he also might end up resenting it (and maybe you).
Your partner didn’t ask for their life to change so dramatically. They didn’t ask for a new role in the relationship. They also have no control over it. You’re in the driving seat. We have to cut them some slack for feeling a bit put out.
You’ve started a business. This means you’ve acted on your dream and your ambition. This is pretty rare in the grand scheme of things. Most people don’t follow their dream. Yes, they might daydream about how amazing it would be to run a vineyard in the South of France but not for a single second do they consider taking action towards making that a reality. It’s a dream for God’s sake! They have their health, their home and their loved ones and that’s enough for them.
And then there’s you and I. The ones who think, “Well I might as well give it a try!’’
So we do. We go for it. Sometimes forgetting how much that decision can affect others.
If your partner is someone who would never dream of giving up a secure and stable life to start a business with, let’s face it, less than 10% chance of success then it’s highly likely they think you’re crazy. You’ve chosen a path that they feel is unsafe and irresponsible - and you’re taking them with you!
There’s also the possibility that deep down inside they’re envious or even jealous. They work every day doing something they don’t like. Why shouldn’t you? Why should you get to go chasing the dream? They have dreams too but they don’t just do a u-turn on life to selfishly run after them no matter how much they would secretly love to.
In their head this just isn’t what you do. You choose security, stability, salaries and pensions over dreams. You know, the safe road. Any why not? If you want them to understand you then you have to try to understand them too, right?
And if you have a partner who’s like this, don’t knock it too much. There’s a reason they say that opposites attract!
Ok, enough talk about why your partner might be unsupportive of your efforts to build a photography business. Now that you’ve tried to analyse and understand where it’s coming from, let’s get started on what you can do about it.
Most businesses fail. That’s a known fact. Your partner knows it and you know it. However, you have this burning desire inside you and you know you can make your business work. Do you think that’s going to be enough for your partner to go on?
You can’t expect anyone to take you seriously as a business person if you do zero planning and strategising. All you’re doing is proving to your partner that you have absolutely no clue what you’re doing. You’re supposed to be trying to instill them with confidence in you!
So let them see that you have a business plan. Make sure you share the goals you’ve set for yourself and the strategy you have for achieving them. Don’t forget to talk about timescales. When do you realistically expect to become profitable? Remember this always takes way longer than most photographers think.
Be prepared and honest about what this is all going to cost. Show them that you’ve done your sums and you’ve thought about how you can make this work financially (download your ‘Cost of Doing Business’ workbook right here). Be upfront if you’ll need to spend money from the joint account to make business purchases and show them how you think you can make this possible.
Be straight about what you’re going to need from them if this is to work. If they’re prepared for it then it won’t be such a shock. Will you need them to do some of your share of the housework and will they have to accept that you won’t be around so much at weekends?
Make sure they know what to expect.
If you already have a job but you know that you could achieve things faster without it, or by reducing your hours, ask your partner if they’d be willing to live on a much tighter budget for a certain amount of time so that you can focus on your business. Explain what the long term benefits of this would be, considering your financial goals.
Consider how confidently you’re presenting all of this. I know you suffer from a lack of self belief and you’re scared stiff about your business failing. That’s ok. It’s normal. However, if you believe more in your fear and doubt than you believe in your ability then you have a problem. This is going to be clear as day to your partner who knows you better than anyone. Make sure that your confidence outweighs your fears and let them see that. This will settle their own doubts.
Discuss the ‘what ifs’. For example, what if you’re still not profitable after 18 months? What do you both agree will have to happen at that point?
Something like this should be a planned discussion when you both have time and you both agree to listen. So make a date and come mega prepared! If you went to the bank looking for a loan for your business, would you turn up with a few sheets of scribbles? No - act like a business person if that’s what you want your partner to see you as.
As a business person you must have a great vision and passion for what you want to achieve. Articulating this is hugely important when you’re trying to compete for the attention of photography clients in a saturated industry. If you can’t convey this vision and passion to your partner then how are you going to communicate it to the rest of the world?
Dig deep and think about your reasons for pursuing this and how much it means to you. Instead of arguing, talk to them like the business person you want to be, in language they understand. Share your vision and tell them how much their support will help you to achieve it and how much their encouragement will mean to you.
If you’ve managed to negotiate well and your partner has agreed to lifestyle changes and budget restraints then it’s only fair that you show them how much you appreciate their support by keeping your side of the bargain.
Follow that plan and work towards your goals whenever possible. Manage your time as well as you can and be as productive as possible. If by the time your partner gets home from work you’ve spent more time scrolling Instagram than working on your website, you’re not being fair.
I’m definitely not saying work yourself into the ground. Just work hard and work smart. And let them see what you’re working on.
Which leads me nicely to my last tip…
You’re on an incredibly exciting (and scary) journey. You’re learning something new every single day. Things that are blowing your mind. You’re having experiences within your business that are broadening your mind and changing you as a person.
Don’t leave your partner behind. Bring them along with you!
If you’ve just had a terrible experience with a client that’s been a huge learning moment for you - tell them all about it. Share what changes you’re going to implement that will stop this from happening again and ask them what they think.
If you’ve just listened to a really eye-opening podcast episode - let them listen to it too. Or share a blog post, a YouTube video or a book that you’ve found interesting. Chances are they’ll find it interesting too and they’ll understand more and more the journey that you’re on.
Can you truly say that you’ve done this for your partner? Have you made it easy for them to be supportive? If so and you still find yourself with an unsupportive partner then perhaps the relationship you’re in needs some attention and work. Unfortunately, that’s definitely not something I can help you with.
However, something I can help you with is support in taking this business of yours forwards. If you’re ready to take the necessary action to make a success of your photography business by levelling up your marketing and client experience and fine-tuning your business skills then you need some accountability.
It’s HARD to do this alone.
The Togs in Business membership is for photographers like you who want to do something every single day that takes them closer to a successful and profitable photography business. That’s what we help you to do.
This has been a long one today. And maybe an emotional one if you’ve identified with the topic. I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Is this something you’re struggling with? Let me know your experiences.