How I Overcame the Challenges of Starting a Company With My Spouse

By Alycia Hawkins

Some may call me crazy for choosing to work with my husband Chance Hawkins, but that is the easy part. My husband and I worked together these past two years at an online marketing company and it was actually great! The crazy part came when we decided to start our own online marketing company called Digital Hawkins 3 weeks ago. I guess we thought it would be just as easy as working together…boy were we wrong. I could write a novel on the ups and downs of our short venture so far into starting our own company, but for your sake I am summing it up into my top three struggles of starting a company with my spouse and how I overcame them:

1. Financial instability

The scariest part of starting a company is always money related. Not having enough to invest, not producing enough to be worth it, worrying about paying the bills, etc. When you start a company with your spouse it is DOUBLE the instability and risk. Here are a few things we did to help lessen our expenses in the beginning stages.

  • Utilize trades. Go back to the way of elementary school thinking and trade your Jell-O for a Snackpack (or in our case online marketing for business cards, beautiful graphics, etc.).
  • Get crafty. Now that we traded for our business cards, we had to get our name out. I am no sales person and cold calling just will not do for me. Since we didnt’t have money to hire sales people, we got a little creative. It was right around Christmas time, so I went to Dollar General and bought small christmas boxes and lots of chocolate goodies. I found local businesses that I knew I could help and created personalized Christmas gift boxes with our business cards stuffed inside and offered a free site analysis. This paid off greatly and gave people a positive and personal experience associated with our name.
  • DIY as much as possible. This may require learning a new skill. The amount of graphics we needed for our site was insane and we didn’t have the money to pay our designer for everyone. So I started to watch photoshop tutorials and do them myself. Not only does this save money, but who doesn’t like learning something new?

Even though we found a lot of ways to save money, there are some things you just have to pay for. But it was so hard for me to let myself invest any money into our company knowing it might not pay off. To overcome this it took a small obvious revelation. If I didn’t believe in my own business’s success, no one else would. But having to believe in my own capabilities lead to a deeper struggle my husband and I had to face…

2. My OWN insecurities

As embarrassing as this is to reveal, starting this company made me realize how insecure I really was. It is so easy to portray being strong, independent, and having it all together when you’re working for someone else and they take all of the risks…not you. I hate the idea that so many have about woman being weak, incapable of owning a business, not entrepreneur material and so on, but when the pressure was on me, that was all I could think! My poor husband would ask me questions like what I had done that day or what my next plan/strategy was, and I would suddenly lash out at him. The problem with starting a company with your spouse is keeping work problems and marriage problems separate. It took numerous arguments before we both realized the real issue. I was insecure and overwhelmed. This was by far the hardest struggle to overcome and it is a process of overcoming it daily (or just on those bad days). Here are a few things that helped me.

  • Reading inspiring articles on other women business leaders.
  • Setting reasonable goals, timelines, and daily tasks.
  • Praising small accomplishments and learning from failures rather than beating myself up about them.
  • Learn something new every day. Whether it was by reading an article on the latest online marketing practices, or learning a new trick in Google Analytics, it’s harder to feel insecure when you are continuing to grow.
  • Making sure my husband and I are always on the same page.

3. Time management

Because we are relying on our business to pay the bills, it is very important that we spend our time wisely. In the beginning stages it is easy to get lost in the never ending to do list. We both found ourselves bouncing around from one project to the next and not knowing who was working on what, instead of setting daily tasks for each other. I found this great article on time management that helped us overcome this obstacle. It talks about being productive instead of busy, focusing on one task at a time, reducing interruptions, and more. Once we started following these tips, we saw an improvement on productivity, insecurities, and were on a road to quicker financial stability.

Even though there were both pros and cons to having my husband by my side through each of these struggles, I would do it all over again. I love my husband being my business partner. It has been a short journey so far, but I have learned so much and cannot wait to learn more (knock on wood).

Author’s Bio: Alycia Hawkins writes about online marketing at digitalhawkins.com/blog. She is the Co-Founder of Digital Hawkins and Online School of Dance. You can find her on twitter as @Alycia_Hawkins.

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