Getting married and having children means taking on a partner for life.
But even though you and your spouse work well together to raise a family, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’d make good business partners.
With so many parents considering a side hustle to make extra money, it’s natural to want to get a husband or wife involved.
You can live together but can you work together?
Jen Miller is an author and journalist. She’s written three previous books – most recently a novel called The Heart You Carry Home – and contributes regularly to the New York Times and Washington Post.
Jason Feifer is the editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur magazine.
Together, the couple has one child and another on the way. The newest addition to their family…of work…is a book they co-authored together – Mr. Nice Guy.
“My wife and I spent three years writing a novel together,” explains Jason. “It’s a romantic comedy set in the world of New York magazines. It’s about being consumed by ambition, and the perils of total honesty.”
Jason took a moment to answer a few questions about the process of writing and how he and his wife managed a home, a child and writing a book without driving each other mad.
How did you come with the idea for this book?
I came up with it in my 20s, long before I met Jen.
A sex columnist had reached out to me asking for freelance writing advice, and during our correspondence, the premise of a story hit me: What would happen if each week, two people slept together and then critically reviewed each other’s performance in a magazine?
I tried and failed to write it a few times, and then, many years later, after Jen had sold The Heart You Carry Home, she was looking for a new project and asked what I thought she should do. I told her to just write my novel idea because I’d never do it myself.
She suggested we do it together.
And that’s how it began, more than four years ago.
How did you delegate responsibilities?
We split the work up by writing style.
Jen is great with narrative and character development. As a magazine writer, I was great with the characters’ columns—all the columns written by our two characters are in the book.
So we plotted the story out together, and then Jen wrote the narrative and I wrote the columns.
What happened when you didn’t see eye-to-eye on the direction of the project?
We treated each other as the CEOs of our respective roles. If there was a disagreement related to narrative, I tended to defer to Jen.
If there was a disagreement about the columns or something related to the magazine world we set the book in, she deferred to me.
We both think it’s important to give someone the final say, otherwise, it can be impossible to move forward.
How did you work through issues as a couple?
Trust. Simple as that.
We knew that although we’d sometimes disagree on a point, we both had the same ultimate goal.
You have to remember that when working together with your partner: You both share the same goal. It’s all about getting to that shared place.
How did you prevent the project from creeping into the marriage and vice versa?
Honestly, I think we were just built for a project like this. We’re both very career-oriented and work a lot. Having this project gave us a way to work together—spending our nights, weekends, vacations, road trips, and more talking and thinking and working on the book.
Sometimes it definitely became exhausting; there were times I had to draw a line because I just needed a break from the book.
But mostly, we felt like it brought a fun project to the relationship—and it’s more fun than just talking about our kid all the time!
What advice would you give to couples who are considering working on a business, project, side hustle together?
- Set up designated roles and responsibilities.
- At all times, you want to know what you’re expected to do, and what you can expect your partner to do. There should be no confusion about that—because confusion leads to resentment, and that leads to damage to the core relationship.
- And then, once you’ve split up the work properly, prioritize the project in the same way. You both need to be on board with the same level of commitment. That’s the only way to get through it with your relationship unharmed—and, in fact, even stronger.
How did you manage the responsibilities with both the book AND the kid and your wife being pregnant?
Well, pregnancy played only a small role. This book project spanned four-plus years, from conception to release, and a lot of life happened in between. We had one child with another on the way, two employer changes for me, some major projects coming and going for Jen, and so on.
There’s no magic secret to keeping a book project alive throughout all of this.
It just comes down to three words: Make the time.
No matter the circumstance, no matter the life stage, we set aside time to work on the book.
And when one of us slacked (and it was pretty much always me slacking on this project), the other would get them back on track.
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