Redefining Togetherness: The Web Working Couple


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.



Coming to this thread late…sorry. But I was very inspired reading about you and your “web worker” family. Oh how I wish I could get my girlfriend to understand (and comply with) my own Bubble!

I’ve just gone solo, after working in-house for 14 years; so it’s important to me that my home office feel as “official” as possible–that’s the only way I can get into a ‘work’ mindset.

Also, I can be a very scattered, unfocused person at times; and various distractions during the workday–in the form of loved-ones–does not help! Even so, it’s very hard to turn down Amanda when she asks for my help, or wants to come over, or in some other way needs my time. Time that I would/should otherwise be spending in front of my computer…

(I’m sure you understand what kind of uncomfortable frustration that can bring on. Especially for someone like me, who’s brand-new to the “solo” life.)

Anyhow, thanks for the great post, and I wish you both continued success in your business…

Trina Roach

Hi Pamela,

Same here! In a village of not quite 4000, we are (almost) always home, and drop in the shop across the street for our veggies, wine/beer and puppy snacks at the oddest hours. Because I sometimes prefer to work late into the night, our shades may not go up the next day till around noon. You better believe that gets noticed around here – as well as when there is a taxi at our door at 5.30 am to get me to the airport/train station in Duesseldorf on time for an early trip.

I find that I have to do (a lot) more to generate less income than my partner, because I am still starting out. While he’s taking a leisurely break to fiddle with Google Earth or wants to read me the latest news off one of his feeds, I’m busy multitasking to transform a blog entry into an article, recording a podcast for a cooperation partner, or prepping for my next client session. That’s when I miss having my own office and a nice assistant who’ll bring me a coffee (though my sweety does that sometimes, too)!

Though I know there are still some adjustments to be made to my/our time management, I wouldn’t turn back the clock for anything!

Pamela Poole

Hi Trina. It’s so funny you should mention your neighbors wondering what you live on. We do our errands in the neighborhood at whatever time of day works, and I often think the owners of our little local businesses must believe we’re either rich or unemployed…

Our situation is the same as yours. My partner’s been at this a lot longer and has his workflow down. Plus he sticks pretty much to translation/localization, while I have a lot of different things going on. So I’m a bit more scattered at times!

And yes to saying no to face time!

Pamela Poole

Oтлично! Спасибо большое, Володимыр! Я говарю немного по русски, но я забыла почти всё…

Trina Roach

A great article on a subject I can really empathize with! Both my partner and I are (partial) web workers who live and work from our home office in a small German town near the Dutch border. I’m sure many of our neighbors wonder what we do here all day, and what the heck we live on.

I also liked what you said about The Bubble. I think I need it more (and need to spend more time in it) than my partner. As a coach and trainer, I spend more time doing all the peripheral things that need doing to build my business like preparing/debriefing my sessions with clients, blogging, writing newsletters and articles, doing podcasts, etc. He’s been working independently longer and – as a TQM consultant – has long-standing clients and processes that he can basically oversee in his sleep. So – though things have gotten a lot better – there still is some residual resentment when our schedules don’t overlap as much (or as little) as one or the other of us would like.

On the other hand, we both like the idea of not having to put in face time somewhere anymore. We get the work out on schedule and the rest of our lives belongs to us. Playing (i.e. weeding the garden or walking/playing with our doxies) just revs up our engines and keeps it running smoothly.

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