Why Your Spouse Should be Your First Client

One of the biggest worries for new freelancers is how to get from a lead to closing the deal. How do you create a credible proposal to convince the client you are the right fit? Before even getting to the proposal you’ve got to practice your Listening and Compromising.

And who else better to practice with than your spouse.

Why Your Spouse?

Your spouse is the first person you’re going to tell about your plans to start freelancing.1 To do this, you don’t just tell them “I’m going to start freelancing tomorrow” and expect everyone to be happy. Just like closing a deal with a client, you’ve got to follow a process to get everyone on the same page.

Step 1: Listening

When you bring up the idea of wanting to freelance, your spouse will have concerns. How does this affect our income? If you’re doing this part time, when will you have time for family? What about chores and errands?

As a developer, I understand the urge to shout out answers and solutions. Fight it! Paying attention to what your spouse is saying. Check out the following video if you need an extreme/hilarious example.

In the video all the partner is looking for is sympathy. Your potential client is no different, they want to feel you understand the problem at hand. The most direct way to do this is to identify their fears and values through listening.

Step 2: Compromising

You told your spouse you wanted to freelance, causing an eruption of emotions and concerns. You listened and discovered that your spouse’s vision of  freelancing is much different than your own. When you encounter this scenario in every kind of relationship the best step forward is compromise.

By definition compromise is

an agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.

How can you compromise to ensure everyone is happy with you freelancing? Maybe you should limit the number of hours a week you do freelancing. Maybe even the days. The goal here is to compromise to get your spouse 100% on board with you freelancing.

This Isn’t Marriage Counseling

So far we’ve talked about working on listening and compromising. These skills transfer directly into closing that first deal with a client. From the first time you meet, you’ve got to fish out what they find valuable. As we found in step 1 a great way to do this is by listening.

Setup an initial client interview. At the interview learn about what they need help with, while also trying to probe what they find valuable. Ask them about their family, their hobbies, and conversely things that may be stressing them out. Maybe they’re feeling a ton of pressure from a deadline and they need an extra dev to speed things up.2

Once you’ve got notes from the first meeting, try to make a list of everything they find valuable. Then compare their list of values to your own list (i.e. your rate, your availability, etc). How can you maximize your value to them? Will you have to compromise your own values to move forward? Will it be worth it?

Finally, use this information to come up with a proposal. Congrats you’ve sent over your first proposal!


  1. You don’t really need to use your spouse. You just need to pick a person who will be affected by your decision.
  2. Yes, I read the Mythical Man-Month. I used this example because listening isn’t about providing answers up front. Gotcha!