When building a brand or business with your better half or any family member, you are bound to run into difficult times. We have been running Joy to the Food since January 2021 and have learned some great ways to successfully build a brand and our relationship. We wanted to share some mindset tips and technical resources that we have found incredibly useful when working together.
Yes, communication is the key to everything - a happy marriage, a correct coffee order, and building a business. But, when you are working with your significant other, your typical style of communicating may need to change. Just as you would in an office setting, your communication style should be direct when working on your business. This is not to say you can’t joke around or be goofy (in fact you should!), but it does mean that you should be concise - remember you are working to get the job done effectively and efficiently.
Asking for help is hard. For me, it’s THE hardest part of life. We often think we need to struggle through things on our own. And while that may be the best option at times, we should learn to recognize when we need help and shouldn’t be embarrassed to ask for it. We should also recognize when our partner needs help, and offer assistance without getting on their nerves.
I realized I needed help with my photography skills early on. I would often take food photos on my own when we first started Joy to the Food. While I was proud of them, there was always something missing. It was no surprise that when Dan started having more time to get involved in the food styling, the photos became much better. I didn’t realize this until later when I went to shoot overnight oats and Dan was busy. The photos turned out abysmal. Then, we reshot them together and they were amazing! I’m still learning photography, so asking for help is totally okay!
In a similar way, keep an eye out for when your partner may need help but doesn’t want to ask. You don’t need to tell them they’re doing something wrong and need help. Instead, let them know you’re interested in what they’re doing and want to get more involved by helping them out.
This is my top tip! Being able to laugh at yourself, at your partner, and with each other is CRITICAL. In the corporate world, it is often stated that people don’t leave jobs for money, they leave for people. This is true when working with your partner. So being able to do a task effectively while cracking jokes makes for a wonderfully fun work environment that no one would want to leave. We believe having fun is the number one tip - I mean we are Joy to the Food!
Not every day will be perfect or even good - and that’s okay. Express to your partner when you are frustrated or out of it. You also need to recognize what your insecurities are. When you begin working with someone, that other person is going to give you their perspective and opinion. And at some point, that opinion will touch on an insecurity you have. You may not think you have insecurities, but working with someone will likely bring them to light. So, take stock of how you feel when you are given feedback. Are you accepting of it? Are you defensive? Do you think its just a flat out dumb response? These responses are going to be amplified when dealing with your life’s passion. When you feel that response start, take note of it and vocalize. Say, “hey what you said is making me defensive, so give me a minute to process my thoughts”. People are not mind readers. Typically if you tell a person how you feel, the other person will then react in a constructive way. This is even more true for your partner, because they want you to be happy and they want to help you succeed. The longer you try to push your insecurities to the side, the worse the outcome will be.
When you work with your partner and live with your partner, it can be easy to forget to check in on them. Running a business is stressful. Check in on your partner to ensure they are excited about the project. Do they feel like it’s too time consuming? Do they want a date night tonight instead of another recipe? Do they want to work till the cows come home? A statement as simple as “what do you want to do today” can give you insight into how they are doing without directly asking. Also, be sure to include each other in decisions. In particular, if you are building a business together from the ground up, both parties need to be informed in decisions. No one likes to feel left out. It can also go a long way to ask them their opinion about decisions that they might not otherwise be involved in (social or financial graphics, for example).
KNOW THAT YOU WON’T ALWAYS KNOW
You are building a business, a business that will challenge you, help you grow, and bring you your highest highs and lowest lows. You will never know exactly how to do everything and you will never know exactly how to work with your partner. But that's the point. You should always be learning and growing into the best version of yourself, the best version of working with your partner, and the best version of your business. So, just admit when you don’t know and then go find out!
This is how we collaborate! Google Drive houses nearly everything we do and the beauty of it is that anyone who is added to a folder can access any document at any time, even at the same time as the other person. The additional benefit is that everything is backed up to the cloud. This is up for debate, but our opinion is that we are more likely to spill something on an external hard drive than lose it in the cloud. We keep some data and files elsewhere still (such as on our computers), but everything else is housed on our drive. Google recently launched Google One which allows you to add people to your entire workspace. This collaboration is especially critical when both people work full time jobs beyond the website, meaning their free time to work on the website ebbs and flows with their other work schedule. This also gives all other members access to your storage. Until this release, we were paying for storage separate (dumb move, but live and learn).
Again, the collaboration aspect of Google Sheets is critical to our operation. But, beyond that, I prefer to have everything in one spreadsheet. Yes, there are tons of sites and apps out there that can help you organize different facets of the business. Some examples include Airtable for managing project status, Avana for managing and assigning tasks, and Planoly for drafting and scheduling social media posts. While these are all wonderful on their own, they cost money for the advanced versions and it’s difficult to keep track of all the programs.
With a typical post or project comes many, many steps. Each of our posts requires keyword and SEO research, recipe development, considering potential brand partnerships, photography brainstorming, photography and videography, photo editing, creating graphics, writing the recipe with SEO optimization, drafting social media posts, and google web stories. There’s a lot to keep track of! The information and status of everything in that list above is all housed in different tabs of one master Google Sheet spreadsheet. This does rely on us updating it as we go, but so does any other program. Plus, it’s free!!
Not to repeat myself, but have I mentioned collaboration.. Ha, it’s the best. With Google Docs, we’re able to collaborate easily without sending documents in emails back and forth. Let me explain our typical recipe development and how we use Google Docs to make the process a whole lot smoother:
I typically draft and write the recipe in a Google Doc while I test it. After we film and photograph the final recipe, I then write the full post. Once I am done writing, Dan will jump in to the Doc whenever he has time to review and edit the recipe. As part of this review process, Dan also optimizes the recipe for SEO. If it is still not quite right, I will hop in to the Doc one last time to bring the recipe home. The beauty of the Google Doc is that if Dan needs me to add some information while he’s reviewing, I can work in the Doc at the same time as him!
Google Docs allows us to access everything on our own devices - mobile or desktop - and on our own schedule. By having Dan jump in and review the recipe, he can check the post content to be sure it makes sense to someone who does not regularly cook or bake (his lack of cooking knowledge is a benefit in this situation!). Dan copies and pastes the draft recipe from Google Doc into Rank IQ to ensure it’s optimized for SEO. After he runs it through Rank IQ, he will copy and paste it directly into WordPress. Initially, we had issues with forgetting to include information that was required for posting the recipe (such as time to make the recipe and serving size). So, we wrote out a recipe template. This template is formatted exactly how the post on the website is. For every new recipe, I take that same template and do a save as or create a copy on Google Docs to ensure I am providing Dan with all the information he needs to get the recipe on the site.
Ok, I had used Google Keep for many years before Joy to the Food. But, after seeing another food blogger use Google Keep for grocery lists that can be shared with her husband, I got the idea to use it for our website! Spoiler, it’s fantastic. We use it to create tasks, to make lists of ideas, and for grocery lists that both of us can see. I do love handwritten lists, but since we are often on the road, we are able to add to our various lists from anywhere. Great for people like me who forget what they said two minutes ago! Again, there are other apps that can do this, but having everything in Google is advantageous because it can be shared, and the other person can edit and check tasks off. The information is all in one place with no logging in, and it is accessible on desktop and mobile!
OTHER PROGRAMS WE USE AND PROGRAMS WE HAVE TRIED
PHOTO EDITING TOOLS
- Adobe Lightroom: Adobe products have the same advantage of Google Drive in that the data is stored on their server. This means either one of us can access the photos from wherever we are - great for collaboration! Plus, Lightroom is pretty much the gold standard for editing. Lightroom allows you full control over every detail of a photo along with the lovely healing feature to remove stubborn marks or reflections. Dan primarily uses Lightroom, but I do not. I prefer mobile versions of programs and Lightroom Lite lacks many features so I use Snapseed when editing (see below for more details).
- Snapseed: This is a photo editing software specifically for your phone. It is a wonderful app for editing on the go and offers more features than Lightroom Lite, plus it’s free. While we don’t use this as much anymore, if I need to make any edits after Dan has made initial edits via Lightroom, I will use Snapseed.
VIDEO EDITING TOOLS
- InShot: This is the video editing software I use. InShot is primarily app-based and offers all the functions I currently need. I am much more comfortable functioning on my phone than I am on my desktop so I prefer using a mobile friendly video editing app. And, it’s free! There may be a day when we need a more robust software, but for now InShot is perfect.
- Adobe Rush: This would be an alternate option to InShot. I used this in the beginning but found it to be not very intuitive or mobile friendly. Plus, it costs money so we moved on from it. We may go back to it if Dan starts editing more videos, because of the collaboration ability.
TASK MANAGEMENT TOOLS
- Airtable: This is a prime task management software for managing projects with multiple stages and was my inspiration when creating my task spreadsheet in Google Sheets. They offer a free version that can handle a certain number of tasks, but after that you have to pay for a subscription. When I was using this program, it was impressive and intuitive, but really only available on desktop (annoying), required a paid plan, and was too busy for me. When using a software like this, there will be MANY options and abilities that you will probably never use. The developers have to anticipate how all different types of industries will use their software, so they include far too many options for one person in my opinion. I am sure if used daily, this would be a great task management tool, but it was not for me.
- Asana: Another task management tool. Asana allows you to add tasks to lists and then assign those tasks or lists to a team member. I love the ability to assign tasks and I have not found a way to do it in Google Keep. If you have a larger team or a team that is not made up of the person you live with and see daily, Asana would probably be a better way to manage to do lists and tasks. But, for working with your significant other, Google Keep is everything we need and more!
SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGERS
- Tailwind App: This is what Dan uses to schedule static pins on Pinterest. He will schedule 2 weeks to a month in advance. We love Tailwind since it pins at ideal times, something we could never do on our own. We still manually make and pin all Idea Pins. Tailwind is best used on a desktop, which is a personal preference of Dan, so that may not be best for everyone's style.
- Later: I am sure many of you use Later to schedule Instagram posts. It allows you to draft and schedule posts which is wonderful when you are crazy busy. However, I found that the scheduling feature in the app was glitchy (again, not the most mobile friendly program) and it was difficult and time consuming to research hashtags and ensure I was tagging the correct username in Instagram while flipping back to Later for the draft post. I also like to post to Instagram manually so then I remember to share the recipe graphics and the Instagram post to stories right away.
- Planoly: Similar to Later, Planoly will schedule social media posts to go out at your assigned time. I used this for a while to draft the Instagram posts because it allowed me to preview our images in a grid format. I would then copy the caption to the clipboard and post manually to Instagram. This is a paid software however, so I switched to drafting the captions in Google Keep and then posting the Instagram manually as I previously would.
GRAPHIC DESIGN TOOL
- Canva: Not a productivity software but by far the best way to create graphics. Everything is housed on the server so either one of us can log in from anywhere. This has proven to be very useful as Dan makes more and more graphics. It is also optimized for both mobile and desktop which is ideal for both Dan (desktop) and I (mobile).