This is part one in The Photo Life Blog Series, True Life: I’m Married to My Business Partner. This series will explore how husband and wife photography teams find success when their business and personal lives collide.

photographers the youngrens

Jeff and I are big believers in closed systems. By sticking to this kind of internal organization within our business, we’ve been able to avoid contention and frustration on several levels – business and personal.

What do I mean by closed systems?

A closed system means that our roles in the business are completely separate from each other, and we don’t have to rely or wait on each other to get a job done.

For example, I am in charge of the blog for our business, so that means that I edit the images that go on the blog, I write the posts, I schedule the blog calendar, I promote the posts via social media, and I approve anything that relates to the blog.

In fact, my job title is Chief Deputy of the Blogosphere and Blogosphere Relations. (It makes me feel super official.)

This kind of autonomy means that I don’t ever have to rely on my husband in order to do my job well. I don’t have to pester, nag, or generally harass him over job tasks, which builds an atmosphere of trust, confidence, and faith in the office. We avoid tons of fights this way – BUH-LEIVE me. I don’t have to wait on him, and he doesn’t have to wait on me. We just get stuff done.

By the way, I had to learn how to color correct our images in order to manage the blog, so don’t be afraid to learn new skills in order to close a system. Jeff was the person that was naturally skilled at editing and image management, but if we were going to close the blog system, I had to step out of my natural skill zone early on and take over a new role of photo editor, which is a role that I hold to this day (and yes, that role is a closed system too).

Many times, the biggest objection that I hear from married photographers when I talk about closed systems is that learning a brand new skill set (like editing) in order to close a system will take too much work and will be time consuming. My answer? Stop making excuses. You’re a business owner. If you’re in this for the long haul, then you need to do whatever it takes to build an efficient, flexible internal structure that will be able to expand along with your workload.

So maybe closing a system doesn’t mean that one person has to learn how to edit, but one person will have to learn how to write for the blog. Or perhaps it means that you need to rethink the blog so that it doesn’t focus on writing, but focuses only on images.

There are a lot of ways to get creative when it comes to separating your job roles, so don’t feel like you have to structure your business exactly how we do.  We’ve just found that a big part of our success – both in our business and in our marriage – has been closing our systems. And the best part about keeping functions so isolated? If you decide hire employees or outsource a certain piece of your business, each job role detaches itself so easily that you’ll be amazed.

Hugs,
Erin

Written by Erin Youngren

photographer erin youngren

Jeff and Erin Youngren are international wedding and lifestyle photographers running one of the fastest growing boutique studios in the competitive Southern California market. Although based in San Diego, their deeply emotional style and passionate partnership has taken them from the streets of San Francisco to the canals of Venice to the family suburbs of Chicago to photograph extraordinary weddings and incredible couples. As leaders in the photographic community, they are passionate about helping other photographers build viable, authentic businesses, while building a photography community built on integrity and honest leadership.

11 Comments

  • Crystal says:

    Thank you! I too am in business with my husband and it is a constant juggling act!

  • MacKenzie says:

    i found this so helpful! My husband and I are both going “full time” with our wedding cinematography business this year so we’ve been searching for mentors to help us stay proactive in managing our roles as partners in business and in life. Just today I was discussing with someone the importance of defining roles but your article about “closed systems” makes it much more tangible and understandable. Thanks so much for you help and I look forward to more posts on the topic.

  • Megan Clouse says:

    Ooh, I love this series! Can’t wait for more.

  • Great write Erin! I guess I could relate….if I had a partner.. =( j/k. It was nice meeting u ‘n Jeff at FEO mtg @ Jen’s house. See ya around!

  • Sarah says:

    I just decided to add my husband this week, to the Photography business I started 3 years ago. Thank you for this advice! Just today, I saw how he had to wait on me to create a list so he could call people. So, this may mean that we have to get another computer so we can both work at the same time.
    Just thinking..is this just about roles? What about when it comes to Finances in the business..if you decide to outsource, don’t you have to discuss it before making the choice to use company money or do you have a budget set for each area?
    I’d appreciate if you could list different job roles and what it entails so I can see how it might work for us.
    When I think about it, my husband may be better with sales and errands..but I don’t know what to give to him other than that. I teach, I photograph, I blog, I FB. I don’t think he would want to things I hate like update listings on different sites and enhance images…maybe he could oversee outsourcing that?

  • Jen Stewart says:

    Great post!!! My husband Chris and I work our business together, and we’ve had defined roles for a while now, but your closed systems makes so much sense (and was encouraging to realize we’ve already done that naturally in our business!)

  • This is a great post, Erin. Thank you very much for sharing! =) Your post just came in perfect timing. The hubby and I are currently in the process of finding that good balance with our roles. We may end up practicing some closed systems and some dependent systems.

    THANK YOU again for writing this and more power to you and your husband! =)

  • @Sarah You’re not alone! So many husband/wife teams have one person that began the business and one that has joined into it with them. I was the one that “married into it” with Jeff, and yet, I’m now the photo editor. Even though I began with no photo skills whatsoever, I had to learn how to become a master at editing and image management.

    And Jeff had to let all of that go and teach me, which wasn’t easy.

    Why did we do it that way? Because we created an org chart of our business and figured out where to place ourselves according to our strengths. We figured out that I was most talented at blogging, client communications, and product workflows, and that he was most skilled at marketing, finances, and business development. The photo editor role went to me because I was dealing with the images for the blog and products. It was just a natural progression as we closed our systems.

  • Nice notes. We defined our specific roles earlier this year and it was super helpful. But I like your terminology with the closed systems. That makes it helpful and will help us define things more. =)

  • Scott says:

    Aloha!

    My wife started her business several years ago and I have slowly integrated into it. At first it was mastering Photoshop and learning new practices for workflow for me. Now, I hardly get to edit photos anymore because my wife is the more creative one and she knows more about Lightroom than I do now, and I was the one that got her using it!

    Balancing the line between partnerships both with life and business can be very challenging, but in order to make it work and be successful, there has to be compromise somewhere. In our, I mean her business, she has the final say on everything. We each have our roles that we do, like marketing, editing, blogging, client contact, etc…, but in the end, one person has to be the final authority line. I could write more about this but the boss, I mean my wife is coming and I have to get back to work!

    Scott

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