Making a home office work can be a challenge for even the most resourceful entrepreneur. That challenge is intensified when more than one entrepreneur works at home. Judy Proudfoot, 45, went into business for herself in 1995, designing and selling handpainted clothing items that she produces in her house. Her husband, Mark, launched a homebased advertising business at nearly the same time, meaning that both husband and wife now work daily in adjacent work areas in the basement of their home in Alexandria, Minnesota.
"Mark produces advertising brochures for a handful of resorts in our area, does promotion for four different banks, and puts together an 80-page magazine for the Chamber of Commerce of Alexandria, among other things," Judy explains. "I produce my handpainted T-shirts and sweatshirts. As for our basement offices, he ended up with our furnished guest bedroom, which is fully carpeted and resembles a quaint `executive office.' I ended up with his old workroom area, right next to it, which is unfinished and has a cement floor. It only makes sense, though, because I'm the one doing all the paint work."
Judy says her workplace is far from elegant, but is ideal for her needs. "We were able to find a used work table that's about the length of three card tables pushed together, and it's got shelving underneath where I can keep all my paints and supplies," she states. "My important paperwork and designs are filed away in four big cardboard boxes. I pounded a bunch of nails all over the walls so I can hang my designs while I work on them, which gives them a place to dry. Our laundry-room area is only steps away, providing easy access to our clothes drier so I can heat-treat my creations when they're done. I've even got a window that faces south, so I've got a lot of natural light that comes in, which is helpful when I'm painting."
One reason why the Proudfoots have been able to make their dual-entrepreneur situation work so well is that they understand the value of separating the professional areas of their home from the personal areas. Another is that they stick to a consistent work schedule.
"We thought it would be best to keep all business-related items down in the basement, so it would be easier to remove ourselves from our work. Upstairs, ours is just like any other normal household," Judy explains. "One thing we agreed on when we decided to start our businesses, however, was that we would stick to a regular work schedule. We're usually both down in the basement by 8 a.m., we take coffee breaks and stop for lunch just like anybody else, and by about 4:30 in the afternoon, we're done. During busy periods, we'll sometimes go back down to the basement after dinner to work awhile longer. But we have a rule in our household that no matter what's happening, we have to be done by 9 p.m., which gives us another hour or so of time together to do whatever we choose.
"We're very disciplined. We have to be," Judy says. "Because once we start to let things slide a bit, that's when the stress level goes up in our house."