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How we couplepreneur: keep the flame alive and travel the world. Page’s story.

I talk about my significant other in a lot of the articles that I write. He’s sometimes embarrassing, boisterous, and goofy—but most of all, he’s my sole entrepreneurial support network at home. For the last three years, Mars and I have managed to live and work from home together. We navigate our 700 square-feet of shared space in Austin, Texas with minimal fighting, even without a microwave, dishwasher, and, until three months ago, a TV.

I won’t claim that either of us are experts, but, as self-proclaimed “couplepreneurs,” we’re making it work. Here’s what we’ve learned along the way—but before the tips and stories, here’s a glimpse at who we are as individuals, and as a couplepreneur.

Mars: Mars owns and operates (with his parents) a snowball stand here in Austin called Casey’s New Orleans Snowballs. The business is seasonal, meaning he works 10-hour days, 7-days a week in the summer and is semi-retired in the winter when it’s closed. Mars periodically serves snowballs at the window, but does a lot of the day-to-day management of the business from the standing desk in our spare room or from his favorite spot on our couch.

Page: I’m a freelance intentional lifestyle writer. I ghostblog for various online companies and write articles helping people to design the life they want to live by changing their health, fitness, finance, travel, and entrepreneurial habits. I work at my kitchen table (attempting to ignore the dirty dishes that sometimes pile up) and sometimes from coffee shops with friends who also work from home.

Mage: This is our couple name. We met in college in 2010, but didn’t begin dating until 2014. We’ve now been together for almost four years and have lived together for three of those. Mars and I both own and manage our own businesses from our small home and when Mars’ business is closed, we travel. Mars plans and books a lot of the travel so that I can continue to work while we’re abroad. Though we don’t work full-time within the same business, we cross into the other lane from time-to-time and therefore define ourselves as a “couplepreneur”.

Without further ado, here are my 10 tips that help us get our work done.

1. Have shared priorities. We share many things, but among the most important, we tell each other what our priorities are and, as a couple, agree on similar values. In general, Mars and I both value saving money and working hard. We are both workaholics, sometimes to the detriment of ourselves and our relationship. Neither of us minds getting up early to work, working evenings, or even working on the weekends. Neither of us keep traditional schedules, so we may work on the weekend, but take Monday off.

Frugality is also important to us. We earn money for a purpose: traveling. We pay bills, contribute to our retirement funds, and funnel excess money to the travel account. This means that we invite friends over for dinner instead of going out, and we rarely buy cocktails. If we’re out and want a drink, it’s draft beer for us. These lifestyle choices—because we try not to call them sacrifices—have made it possible to spend three months in Southeast Asia, three months in Europe, and to buy a home. (Which may not count as traveling, but is an adventure in its own right.) With shared priorities,

2. Ask to interrupt. One of the most important rules in our house during work hours is to bid. Because we’re often in the same room while working, conversation and interruptions happen. Too often though, and you’ll go crazy. So we instituted the bidding system. If you want the other’s attention, you have to ask to bid. If the other person doesn’t respond, or responds curtly, you wait. When the person who’s working finds a stopping place, they answer the bid. Having a system allows us both to focus when we need to. When I’m in the zone, I don’t want to be interrupted, even for the cutest possible cat photo.

3. Seek to understand your partner’s work. My work is creative, Mars’ isn’t. The need for creative energy in my work has created a learning curve for us both. There are days when I don’t work at all and instead sit on the couch reading or watching Friends on Netflix. There are days when I work only a few hours. Creative energy isn’t limitless and must be replenished, so there are times when it looks like I’m being unproductive, but I’m actually rebuilding my stores.

Creative energy isn't limitless and must be replenished, so there are times when it looks like I'm being unproductive, but I'm actually rebuilding my stores.

On the other hand, I have to respect that Mars’ work is seasonal. That means he might be working 12-hour days and be out of the house until 10 p.m., which means I pick up more housework. Understanding your partner’s work helps you to have empathy for their actions and choices.

4. Make time for date night. When you work from home with your partner, you see them all day every day. We eat the majority of our meals together. We make coffee together in the morning. We share tea in the afternoon. We unwind with a glass of wine together in the evening. But just because we spend 24-hours a day together doesn’t mean we’re spending quality time with one another. We still have to make time to go on dates—even if that’s on our couch with stovetop popcorn and an episode of PBS’ Poirot. (Just think: lots of butter, garlic salt, brewer’s yeast, and Cholula. Spicy, fatty, and salty. So much yumminess.)

5. Aim for zero. In our home, getting to zero means that we wash the dishes, prep the coffee pot, tidy the living room, put away the detritus, clean off the chairobes, and write an actionable to-do list for the next day before we go to bed—all so that there’s less distraction during the workday. In the morning, we make the bed. When we don’t get to zero the night before, neither of us function as effectively or as efficiently the next day.

In our home, getting to zero means that we wash the dishes, prep the coffee pot, tidy the living room, put away the detritus, clean off the chariobes, and write an actionable to-do list for the next day before we go to bed.

6. Accept that life isn’t a 50/50 split. Throughout our three years dating, Mars and I have frequently shifted the division of paying bills and doing chores. We don’t aim for a 50/50 split day-to-day, but instead focus on an equal split over the long stretch of our relationship, even if there are daily inequalities.

During the summer, Mars works a lot. Sometimes he’s at home, sometimes out of the house. So, I take on grocery shopping, planning social engagements, doing the dishes, and tidying up. As soon as he “retires” for the winter, I turn the majority of those tasks over to him, which opens up my time to be creative and produce more content.

When I first started out, the money wasn’t quite rolling in. I taught yoga as a side hustle to help pull in a steady paycheck. The first two years were pretty lean, and from time-to-time I couldn’t pay my share of our bills. Sometimes the finances aren’t split 50/50, or the chores aren’t evenly shared. It can be frustrating in the moment, but it’s part of the give-and-take of being self-employed and working from home. (And of being a couple.)

Sometimes the finances aren’t split 50/50, or the chores aren’t evenly shared. It can be frustrating in the moment, but it’s part of the give-and-take of being self-employed and working from home.

7. Create boundaries between work and personal spaces. Mars and I refer to our bedroom as “our nest” and it’s a technology-free zone. There’s no TV, no one works from bed, and at night our phones charge in another room. We need a physical boundary between work and personal space. We may discuss work problems and brainstorm in the bedroom, but the paperwork, writing, and finances stay out. Every once in awhile we watch a movie in bed, but in general, we read magazines or books on Internet-free e-readers.

Boundaries are essential. Sometimes one of us may request “only child time,” which means that we don’t want to be disturbed and need some space and quiet.

8. Express gratitude. There are two major ways that Mars and I strive to keep gratitude present in our relationship. The first is that we don’t apologize to each other. Instead, we tell the other person, “Thank you.” So, instead of, “I’m sorry I forgot to buy eggs,” you would say, “Thank you for understanding that I forgot to buy eggs.” It’s a small but powerful change.

Each night, Mars and I also ask each other: “What are three things you’re grateful for today?” This practice has massively changed my life. Instead of falling into bed with a whirring brain checking a mental to-do list and feeling frustrated by all the things I didn’t get done,

9. Invest in what makes working together better. As frugal people, we limit the amount we spend… to the extreme. But there are things that we invest in that just make life easier and better when spending the whole day home together.

Spotify is one of these things. A crockpot is the second.

Being able to listen to good music and prepare meals that can be reheated throughout the week limits our stresses and keeps our personal lives from intruding on our work lives. Our next investment will be a dishwasher.

10. Get out of the house. Mars and I are total happy homebodies. There are days-long stretches when neither of us leaves the house. But then there are times when I feel constrained by being at home. On those days, I work from a coffee shop, and if Mars is around, he comes with me. A change of scenery can make all the difference in your ability to get things done, which offsets the cost of a meal or coffee.

At the very least, I like to make myself get up and move every hour or so to do squats, countertop push-ups, and handstands. Getting your blood flowing can really make the ideas come faster.

We’re not alone

A Gallup poll from 2016 found that 43 percent of Americans work from home some of the time. And predictions from Intuit state that 40 percent of the workforce will be contractors by 2020. As our situation becomes less rare, it’s good to be more aware of the pitfalls and benefits. There are times when it isn’t easy, but there are also massive benefits to being a couplepreneur and we highly recommend it. There’s no morning commute, there’s no peck on the cheek goodbye, and there’s always someone you like to talk to at the coffeepot when you go for a refill.

Page Grossman became an entrepreneur at 22, knowing that she never wanted to settle down in a cubicle. With a degree in journalism, some money in a savings account, and Millennial-spirit, Page founded her own freelance writing business. Page writes about creating an intentional lifestyle through travel, finances, entrepreneurship, health, fitness, and nutrition. Depending on the day, you can find her writing for various blogs, slaying SEO, researching grammar questions, banishing the Lorem Ipsum, fostering kittens, and traveling the world on Instagram.