Working Together As a Couple: 16 Tips on Elevating Your Business And Your RelationshipHow to be partners in romance and business at the same time
Couple or colleagues?
We love working together as a couple.
But we would lie if we said that it’s always as fun and harmonious as it might look from the outside.
When all is good, it’s the most beautiful thing to be able to share in the biggest successes.
When it’s less good, it’s difficult to put work aside and remember to be a couple first and foremost.
Here’s an overview of our 16 tips:
Table of contents
- 1. Be a couple first
- 2. Define your roles
- 3. Be professional
- 4. Be your own best boss
- 5. Know your partner
- 6. Manage your energy
- 7. Set work hours
- 8. Take time off
- 9. Have systems and routines
- 10. Hold status meetings
- 11. Excel at task management
- 12. Listen to each other
- 13. Don’t mix business and pleasure… Too much
- 14. Have fun
- 15. Have individual time
- 16. Consider having personal projects
Working together while being in a relationship
The first big work project we did collaboratively was the documentary film Shade Grown Coffee.
Though we had travelled together before on multiple occasions, this was the first time we travelled and worked at the same time.
It presented several different challenges, many of which continued once we started full-time travelling together …while simultaneously working on finishing the film and building up Nordombord and Northabroad – our Danish and English websites.
And posting on Instagram. And Alex still had freelance clients from time to time…
So yeah, not overwhelming yourself is most likely the best tip we can give you!
But if you’re working together as a couple, we also have a few additional pointers that will hopefully help you to elevate both your business and your relationship.
Here we go.
1. Be a couple first
If you’re ever in a position where you feel like you have to choose between being in a romantic relationship or being colleagues, be a couple first.
You might still have a working relationship without your business, but what is the business worth if you haven’t got each other?
We can never know exactly why you have chosen to work together.
But a good bet is because you really enjoy spending time together and having mutual experiences.
Savour this and put your relationship before your work.
2. Define your roles
It’s very helpful to define your work roles right from the start of working together as a couple.
You most likely have gotten into your current work situation by assessing how you can both contribute in a meaningful way.
Even if you’re completely 50/50 when it comes to skills and experience, it can still be a good idea to put some words on paper about what it is that you do.
Work your strengths, know your weaknesses
Here’s a simple example:
Alex is the one who primarily edits our photos and Victoria primarily takes care of our email communication.
Alex has worked with Photoshop and Lightroom for most of his life and Victoria really enjoys some of the more administrative and planning aspects of our business (that Alex doesn’t find as naturally fun to take care of).
So it makes great sense for us to ”split up” in this regard; even though we can both do both things.
We have found that it’s a great idea to have default roles like that.
It means that when a photo needs to be edited or we receive an email, we don’t have to discuss who does what or when.
You can’t do everything together.
And even if you can, you can conserve a lot of energy or at least work more effectively by using your individual strengths and knowing your weaknesses.
Turning weaknesses into strengths is wonderful too, of course, but there’s a time and a place for everything.
3. Be professional
Working with the love of your life is amazing in so many ways.
For it to work long-time, you need to treat it like that: work.
That means you have to be professional. At least some of the time!
Being professional means to take your work seriously and to treat it with respect.
It also means than when you’re working, it might be beneficial for you and your partner to have a different general tone between you than when you’re on a date.
You still need to have fun, but some parts of managing a business just aren’t.
Taxes, annoying emails, lousy clients… All need to be taken care of. Not fun, but necessary.
It is sometimes said that what defines you is how you handle failures and hard times. It’s much the same with business.
Being professional means to show up and do what needs to be done; whether you like it or not.
It also means to (sometimes) leave your personal relationship at the door once you ”go to work”.
If something personal comes up early in the day, we often try to get work things done before delving into what might become a long session of talking and cuddling – after which it can be very hard to work again on the same day.
4. Be your own best boss
You’re the boss of your own work. And you’re both 50% the boss of each other.
That gives you the opportunity to be an awesome boss.
Bring the most epic of bosses to mind and you’ll quickly realise that you’re most likely not treating yourself or your partner like those bosses would.
Try to incorporate at least some of the things that truly cool bosses are good at (many of which we have tried to include in this article).
If you ever find yourself working way too late or feeling miserable in any way, think about how the best boss in the world would handle the issue and then try to align your actions.
5. Know your partner
There are lots of upsides to working together as a couple.
One of them is the fact that you know your partner better than most people. Better than they know themselves, perhaps!
This can be a huge strength as you’ll be able to tell when they need space, when they need encouragement, when they need silence and when they need feedback etc.
If something goes wrong, having that knowledge is hugely beneficial to both of you.
When you just start working with each other, these things may not be clear right from the start as you need to get to know each other in whole new ways.
But over time you’ll learn so much about your partner – and about yourself.
6. Manage your energy
If you’re running on fumes you’re no good to anyone.
Managing your energy is crucial to all kinds of work – be it with your partner or on your own.
But as problems (and wins) seem to multiply when you’re working together as a couple, it becomes even more important to balance your energy throughout the day.
Sleep, food and movement
You have already heard it at least a million times before, but if you don’t take care of sleep, food and movement, nothing else matters much.
We can all do better in all three departments. But where do you begin?
Any place is good as improvement quickly compounds and builds momentum when it comes to health.
Don’t make ”starting” too complicated. Pick something you know you can do better and go at it little by little.
Even improving just 1% per week will have you improved more than 50% over a year.
Eating 1% more greens or working out 1% more per week is very do-able, don’t you think?
Go to bed earlier and shut off your screens well before tucking in.
It’s difficult (especially for smartphone-addicted nomad workaholics that want to stay on top of their social media accounts), but if you want to get more quality work done over time and improve pretty much every health marker, this is just something you have to learn.
A great tip for good sleep hygiene is to get up at the same time every day. Preferably also at the weekends.
Have your last meal earlier in the evening (also helps with better sleep) and generally make better food choices.
Cooking for yourself instead of eating out or getting takeaway is a big one.
So is getting more vegetables and fruits.
If you haven’t already, why not try going fully plant-based for a week and see how it feels?
All kinds of movement fit the bill. Sit less is another way of viewing it.
Walk, run, dance, do the hula hoop… As long as you find it fun.
Some people need a social aspect to keep going (like going to a spinning class at a set hour) while others need more scheduling flexibility.
Few things will make your life better in all regards like incorporating more movement.
Energy throughout the day
Taking regular breaks from the screen to walk, stretch and grab a glass of water is a really good idea.
While caffeine can be great for jolts of energy, be careful not to overdo it as it will make you need bigger and bigger dosages for the caffeine to be effective.
Cycling your coffee intake might sound crazy but it’s actually sound advice.
Also, be mindful that it doesn’t interfere with your sleep. We try to stop drinking caffeine after noon and switch to tea or decaf.
Managing your blood sugar is equivalent to managing your energy for many people.
You generally want slow carbs, fibre and healthy fats instead of white carbs and sugar. But you already knew this, right?
Know that when you’re working for yourself, more stable energy = better work = more income and more freedom.
If the health benefits of cutting down on processed foods don’t persuade you, maybe that simple equation will.
7. Set work hours
A mistake we have made countless times is avoiding setting work hours.
When you’re working for yourselves, it’s easy to fill every waking minute with something work-related.
But it’s a sure-fire to burn yourself out over time.
And it’s usually not the most effective way to get actual difficult work stuff done anyway.
Setting work hours has benefits for both of you on several different levels.
First of all, it can help you focus and prioritise your tasks. Spending quality hours on the most important things will elevate your business like nothing else.
Setting your work hours can help synchronize your work efforts.
And it can also make you feel much better about leaving your work behind you at the end of the day.
Once you’re no longer working, put in an effort to really switch off your job mentality.
8. Take time off
If you heard about someone working from morning to late evening every day of the year, you would probably think that they need a break and that they have a horrible boss.
When was the last time you took time off?
Not just from doing the actual work, but completely forgetting about your work?
Taking time off is so important to keep a sustainable output and to enjoy what you do without burning out.
How often to take time off and in which format you wish to do so is entirely at your discretion and very much a big part of the awesomeness of working for yourselves.
Also, if ”missing” just one or two days of work will do damage to your business, you’ve got a structural problem that you need to take care off. Consider outsourcing – or setting better expectations with your clients.
9. Have systems and routines
We feel like this is not always talked about so much in the digital nomad/freelancer space, but building robust systems and getting into healthy work routines is something you shouldn’t overlook if you want to have success working together.
Everyone’s systems and routines will look completely different according to what kind of work you’re doing and what suits your personalities.
The thing with systems and routines is that there are no specific rules for building good ones.
If it works for you, it works. That’s the main thing.
A system is only as good as what you use it for (and you have to keep using it!)
Routines that don’t feel natural to you after a few weeks should perhaps be revised.
For us, it really helps to keep lots of spreadsheets.
Victoria is the spreadsheet queen (she did go to Copenhagen Business School after all…) and she loves to write down details about all kinds of things in neatly sorted columns with differently coloured rows.
We also hold a weekly meeting, which we’ll go into detail about below.
10. Hold status meetings
Every Sunday we hold a status meeting.
We sit down for about two hours and go through a template of questions while referring to and writing stuff down in our physical notebooks.
We’re doing a mix of our personal lives and our professional projects as they’re often so closely intertwined.
It works for us but for some people mixing those two things might not work so well.
Here are some of the questions we try to answer from the past week:
- What have we done/achieved?
- How are we feeling?
- What have we learned?
- Is there anything we need to do about our current situation? (Often related to practical travel-related stuff).
And then for each of our projects, we ask ourselves:
- Where are we right now?
- Where do we want to go?
- What tasks should we prioritise in the following week?
- What do we know might come up that haven’t yet?
11. Excel at task management
We each have our own personal note/to-do systems where we keep track of our tasks.
Alex really likes bullet journaling.
He has created his own version of it to keep track of his daily tasks and weekly priorities mixed with notetaking and details about bedtime, training etc.
The key for him is to have a physical notebook.
Victoria also thrives best with to-do lists on paper.
To keep track of our articles and tasks on a broader scale, we use ClickUp.
ClickUp is a super flexible online task manager.
It’s easy to get started and if you put in a slight effort to build your own system it’s a truly powerful tool.
Best of all? It’s free.
We’re not in any way affiliated with ClickUp and simply like their product.
12. Listen to each other
Your needs and wants will change over time.
They even might change on a weekly or daily basis.
To optimize how you work together, you need to take this into account by truly listening to each other.
The questions that make you both a little uncomfortable are often the ones you need to spend more time answering.
Listening to each other is a big part of doing that.
Understanding your partner’s perspective is crucial to everything you do. Try to learn all about it.
Everyone can become a better listener.
The first step is to shut up for a moment yourself.
There’s that thing about having two ears and one mouth…
Notice your partner’s energy
Your energies can also be highly dynamic.
Don’t just listen for obvious stuff like your partner saying he or she is too tired to work well today.
Try to notice other signs like yawning, a slouched posture, tired eyes or a tendency to drink more coffee than usual.
If you pick up those signs, be a good boss and tell your partner that it’s OK to take a rest, work on something easy or take the rest of the day off.
13. Don’t mix business and pleasure… Too much
Finding the balance between business and pleasure is a difficult thing indeed.
Too much pleasure and you might not have a business and vice-versa.
Over time, you will figure out your own recipe for balancing your life with your work roles.
Try to be patient and gentle with yourselves as it might take a while.
After years of working closely together, this is something that we’re still struggling with.
On some days we work so hard that we almost forget that we’re lovers. And on others, we leave our work behind and only focus on each other and the present moment.
Our best tip is to make room for both.
Balance isn’t about 50/50 or equilibrium. It’s about the whole spectrum.
14. Have fun
Life is supposed to be enjoyed.
And while work can sometimes feel like work, you should still generally have fun.
Working with your boyfriend/husband or girlfriend/wife is a great gift in that you can share all of the best moments with the love of your life.
- Laugh. Especially when everything looks grim.
- Dance. No better cure for regaining intimacy and having a laugh amidst it all.
- Sing. At times you need to keep silent and get the work done while being very concentrated. At other times you need to sing to your heart’s content. Duets are the best, especially if you’re both relatively bad singers (like us).
Also, try to take on tasks that feel fun to you.
It doesn’t have to be ”haha” fun.
Fun can also just mean ”interesting” or ”challenging in a good way”.
15. Have individual time
When you’re working together, you will invariably spend a lot of time together.
Having some individual time once in a while can be very beneficial to keeping you both sane.
What you do exactly with that time is beside the point. The point is that you prioritise yourselves individually even though you’re partners.
Alex spends a lot of time working out outdoors.
While we often go on hikes together, Victoria isn’t really interested in running long distances… So when Alex goes out running for a few hours, that gives us both plenty of time by ourselves, for example.
While it can certainly be helpful to rebalance yourselves away from each other, it’s certainly possible to have individual time while being in the same room.
Individually putting on headphones and listening to music or audiobooks, for example, is a good way to spend time with yourself while still being together.
16. Consider having personal projects
In the same spirit as having individual time, we have found that having personal projects besides our work helps us tremendously.
Having mutual hobbies is awesome too, of course, but if you work together it can sometimes be needed to do things that don’t have any consequences for your partner.
In your mutual work projects, your actions will have an effect on your partner whether good or bad.
This kind of responsibility is beautiful as it will make your work much more meaningful. But it can also be stressful at times.
This is where having a personal project can be super beneficial to unwind.
A personal project can quite literally be any project that you get value from doing by yourself.
Personal projects can help challenge you to learn new things.
They can help motivate you to stay on top of your game.
And they can inspire you tremendously, energize you and provide an added sense of purpose.
We hope that these 16 tips on growing your business while working together with your partner and having a healthy relationship have been useful.
Even after years of working with each other, we’re still learning new things about ourselves every single day. No one is perfect at this!
It’s all about the process. And we know that we can keep elevating both our business and our relationship if we focus on good communication and taking care of each other while being healthy ourselves.
If you’re working with your partner, it would be super interesting to hear what you do that you think works well for you – and perhaps even more interesting what doesn’t?
Thanks for reading this far. See you in the comments or head on over to Instagram (@northabroad) and connect with us there.