When my wife and I began dating, I remember the picture I painted for her. We were standing on a rooftop in San Francisco when I whispered to her, “Imagine sitting on a beach far, far away. The royalties I collect on my products are supporting us. We can live anywhere! We won’t be constrained by a typical nine to five.”
We were married soon after. She bought it! I thought. I couldn’t believe it. At the time, I was still employed, but I had my dream. I knew I wanted to do everything in my power to start licensing my ideas for products to powerful companies that could bring them to market far faster and more efficiently than I could. I wanted to start collecting passive income. I told myself over and over again, “Fake it until you make it.” Eventually, I succeeded.
Looking back, getting to that point was far from simple. Like anything else worth doing, it took twice as long as I thought it would. But it wasn’t just that I was working hard. Breaking out on my own was stressful for both Janice and me. It challenged our bond, but she supported me and stuck it out. She committed to succeeding at her job, even though she didn’t necessarily love it. Meanwhile, my head was in the clouds, dreaming. At times I think things felt very one-sided.
I’m happy to report that Janice and I are going strong after more than a quarter-century together. This is how we make it work:
1. Act like a team.
You can’t achieve your dreams without the support of your spouse. I cannot thank Janice enough. In the beginning, I could be pig-headed. I let my ego get in the way. For example, I was adamant about doing things my own way. Finding a mentor really would have shortened my learning curve. I didn’t take the time to seek one out. I should have, because becoming a successful entrepreneur is all about investing in yourself.
2. Craft a plan together.
What are your long-term goals? How are you going to get there? When I quit my job to start freelancing, my wife agreed to pay the bills. That was really essential. I was under less stress as a result. But at some point, it became clear that we also needed to create some deadlines. What are you going to mark success by? Planning ahead means being realistic about your finances. Things can get tight.
3. Set goals.
Your spouse will want to see your progress, so show it. Don’t make the mistake of assuming you’re working harder than he or she is. Do your part. I didn’t contribute to our home nearly as much as she did for a long time, and I regret that.
4. Be flexible.
You can’t do everything at once, so maybe you take on a freelance job for a while. Maybe you accept a job in a related field for a period. It might not be exactly what you want, but can you find the value in it? There most likely is some, if you’re willing to latch on to it.
The experiences I had before I became an entrepreneur were priceless. I learned so much. I made important relationships that helped me. So if you do find yourself sitting at a desk, make the most of it. There’s a reason why the expression “pay your dues” exists.
Janice has always been patient. We were both dedicated to making it work, but I’m not sure I could have done what she did. She took a leap of faith. I think it takes even more courage to marry an entrepreneur than it does to become one.