Aural ambiance

ONE of the fears of those who work at home is unprofessional background noise while they are on the phone with a boss or client. A baby may squall. A child may pick up the extension phone to report that a sibling has just said a rude word. It gets worse if the child then provides a direct quotation.

When Laura Newman started a home office in Kingston, N.Y., last year, with four little ones around, she thought about this aspect of her professional image, or, to use an audio rather than visual metaphor, professional resonance.

She went to a recording studio to have a tape made of office sounds - ringing phone, file drawers pulled open and pushed shut - and then played this tape as an audible ambiance while working at home. She started marketing it - $14.95 retail - to other workers-at-home, then branched out into a higher-tech version including the computer sounds (punching keys, chattering printer) she had omitted from the original.

She's done so well with these two products that she's no longer working at home; she has her own office.

The imitation brings on the real thing.

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