We are not slackers.
My partner and I, both of us translators, work side by side in our home office in Paris. He is an expert in software localization who also does graphic and web design. I am also a technical writer. We both manage projects for an international translation co-op. We do all of our work from home.
Friends and acquaintances say they envy me my lifestyle, but I know most of them don’t respect it. My partner’s ex can’t resist an opportunity to tell him (and, unfortunately, their kids) that she thinks he’s a bum. They all think all we do is play on our computers in our pajamas all day.
The reality is that we’re a working couple like any other. It’s just that we work five feet away from each other in a room off the kitchen for clients we never see. We’re busy. We’re productive. And it gets intense around here sometimes.
But I can see how our nine-to-five friends might resent us. When we’re done with our projects, we aren’t stuck somewhere clock watching and hoping the boss doesn’t catch us killing time on Facebook, or wishing we could leave early to avoid rush hour. We move right along to whatever it is we feel like doing next. And I must confess, sometimes it’s a nap.
We are solitary creatures, my partner and I, and we’re constantly together. Yet we don’t want to strangle each other.
This brings me to what I think may be the key to being a successful Web-working couple: respect for The Bubble—that zone you get into when you’re so intently focused on something that you’ve tuned out the world. To be productive when working at home, you have to be able to get into the bubble. The two of us are almost always working on separate projects. We have different deadlines. One of us is usually under more pressure than the other. Whoever’s got the lightest load or the most distant deadline naturally answers the phone or does the shopping and allows the other one to stay in the bubble.
When your work comes in spurts and your stress levels spike regularly, you need to take your diversion when you can. You need to escape and you need to allow your partner to escape. While one of us might be racing to meet a deadline, the other might be reading or doing something creative, on the computer or not. We recognize that it’s just as important to respect the play bubble as it is the work bubble. Recognizing that you both need your bubbles keeps resentment from building up, and giving each other this kind of space compensates for the lack of solitude when you work so closely together.
Contrary to what some might think, having to change gears constantly and juggle multiple projects doesn’t make our lives chaos.
We gravitated towards this lifestyle because we both get bored very easily. And I’ll tell you another secret, one I would never share with our detractors: the extra leisure time this lifestyle affords us is a major motivation. We generally enjoy the work we do; it can be quite gratifying on many levels. But we’d much rather be playing: blogging, Flashing, Photoshopping. Making music or writing. Working on our own startup projects. Taking a bath together. So we work hard and we’re very efficient. Nothing makes you more productive than wanting to get to the good stuff. Remember how fast you cleaned your room as a kid when Mom said you could go outside and play after it was done?
We wake up early and read our newsreaders over coffee (his) and tea (mine) for about an hour and a half. We read things aloud to each other and send each other links. We start work at around nine. We meet in the kitchen for lunch and talk about what we’re working on, our schedules for the rest of the day. In the evening, we have a normal family life: dinner, kids, the usual.
A life of quality.