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Photography, Video Production

Starting a video or photo company with a loved one

Let’s address the elephant behind the camera lens – being a photographer or videographer is lonely work.

You work weekends. You work evenings. You miss events … and when you do get to attend a friend or family member’s wedding, it’s often with camera in hand (so even then, work takes priority over your social life).

Is the answer going into business with your spouse, life partner or best friend? Or is it better to separate life and work and do it alone, or partner with someone who is more of an acquaintance? Sure they’d help address the issues of isolation, stress (both financial and emotional) work overload and overwhelm that occurs when you start out or scale up… but is it right for you?

Before you plunge in feet first, work through our checklist:

Relationship Impacts: are you set up to separate work life and family life? If you’re working from home, you need to delineate work and after work time. If that means being brutal with your best friend and kicking them out when the working day ends, so you can have family time, then you need to set your boundaries at the beginning. Working with a spouse will highlight this even further. From the onset, you need to treat work as a business transaction and ensure you are both comfortable with whatever your work persona is. Clearly setting roles and accountabilities that complement rather than compete will reduce your chance of clashing. Close your home office at the end of the day and check in with your spouse (as a spouse). A simple “how was your day?” may sound unauthentic when you’ve spent 12 hours with them, but can actually help you reconnect as a family when you down tools for the day. If you have a family, set expectations on who will be the primary caregiver (noting this could be different for every family and could flip from day to day)

Write a business plan and set goals: Do you have a goal set for when that happens (as in a certain number of clients, or events booked)? How long will one or both of you work part time while you are establishing your business? If you are putting equity into your business, make sure it’s documented and equitable.

Consider your legal business structure: (Disclaimer: we are not a legal company and you should seek independent legal advice). Make sure any contracts are set up so you have a dissolution clause and you agree what will happen in the event one of you wants to leave the company or dissolve it entirely. Include a dispute resolution process. When you start a business, you don’t have the stresses behind you that conflict can create. If you have a solid process documented, it will ease the ambiguity and stress, should the need ever arise. Present a united front when talking with customers, suppliers and the public. Expect lots of disagreements and arguing, but make sure when dealing with clients you are only in agreement and don’t show any indecision.

Carve out me time. Working on a daily basis with someone can make you become incredibly close, but also can make you lose your sense of self. Find something you love and put it into your schedule no matter how busy life gets. Three sessions of Pilates or a swim every morning will give you a chance to recharge.

Work out what your are outsourcing: whilst it’s tempting to try to do it all, it’s not sustainable in the long run. From the on set, get an accountant, invest in software that can help you grow and sustain your business and work out what functions need to stay in your joint control (sales/marketing to name a few). While you’re bootstrapping at the beginning, you may have to do it all, but work out what you will outsource and when you are able to. If editing takes up your evenings, think about how you can standardise your processes so eventually you can hand it over to another business without losing your style or quality.

Have a backup plan. Life happens. You want to go on a holiday with your family (but you’re a family business). Your kids are in childcare so your whole family comes down with gastro. You want to get your weekends back. Consider building your network of trusted contractors so they step in when life takes a front seat. Find someone who has a complementary style and a passion for the craft. Someone who will go above and beyond as if your clients are their own. Clearly set your expectations of your requirements, always have documented processes and ensure any contractor has a supplier contract set up.

 While being your own boss is incredible, and working with a friend or loved one will help you share the burden as well as celebrate success, remember to:

– Plan, plan and plan some more

– Treat it as a business and clearly delineate work from personal life

– Have a legal business structure in place as well as clearly set out roles and responsibilities

– Think about what happens when things go wrong and plan accordingly, hoping you never have to use them

– Outsource non core activities from the beginning and have a shared approach to which elements you will keep in-house

– Document and standardise your processes so you can eventually scale and bring on employees or contractors

– Be flexible. And remember at the end of the day, your relationships are more important than your business.

Are you ready to join the Zu Crew?