One of the great attractions of working for yourself is that you’re immune from all the petty office politics and seemingly arbitrary rules. In an office with dozens of people, those rules are what’s used to maintain a set of standards to ensure that the “corporate image” is maintained. But when you’re self-employed you can set your own rules. One of the first rules to go is the idea of an office dress code.
When you’re working for yourself from a home office, it can be a challenge to remain motivated to do some of the less enjoyable tasks required when running your own business. Things like reconciling bank accounts, chasing slow payers and other administration are an important part of running a business but are rarely a focus when your real job is about putting words on paper, taking great photos or selling some other part of your experience and expertise.
Dress for a business office – even at home
One of the most surprising things I’ve learned is that the clothes I wear make a difference. On the days I’m more casual my productivity is invariably lower than days when I get dressed up. Also, being dressed more “businessy” helos me when dealing with other folks and it means I can be ready faster if something comes up - like a press conference or media event – at short notice.
I’m not suggesting that you put a suit on to work at home, but a decent shirt and shoes might be enough to get your brain thinking it’s a work day and not a play day.
Dress up for meetings
When you attend meetings with clients, networking events and other out-of-office functions - dress up.
For me, this means a decent pair of dress trousers, a nice shirt and clean shoes. I’ve shown up to events in both casual and more dressy clothes and I always get better networking opportunities when I’m less casual. By dressing up, it shows the organisers and other attendees that you’re serious about what’s going on and not just there for the free food and drinks.
The safest bet for men is to wear a decent suit. Current fashion seems to suggest that it’s OK to wear an open shirt and no tie. There’s no need to spend thousands on the latest Armani. A decent, fashionable suit can be purchased for around $200 on sale.
For ladies – the rules are less clear as women’s fashion seems to be far more variable than men’s. However, I’d suggest super-mini skirts, exposed mid-riffs and really deep, plunging necklines are probably not “serious business” attire.
Read the invitation and do your research
Often, event invitations include some dress code advice. I recently was invited on a tour to Japan. The event itinerary included a dress code for each session in the tour. In some cultures - and this can be either corporate or local – what you wear is a big deal.
On that tour, many of the attendees didn’t follow the advice. I did and was quietly complimented by the organisers. I’m certain that this little bit of attention has made a positive difference to the relationship I have with the organisers.
What’s your advice?
So – what do you think? Does dressing up in the home office matter? Is what you wear with clients important? What’s your freelance dress code? Let me know by commenting.