Your Wardrobe Matters as a Freelancer and Here’s Why

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Most people assume that remote work of any kind counts as “pajama” or “café” work: provided you engage with your computer rather than clients in the unbounded space of your home, there is no reason to dress to impress anyone save yourself.

I have to admit that the mystique of freelancing initially lay in this principle: attending online meetings and conference calls wearing pajama bottoms, crafting blog posts while reclining on my couch. I was relieved that I no longer had to build my professional wardrobe via quarterly splurges at The Gap.

While I don’t begrudge the freelance world its laxity in these terms, I’ve actually come to learn that what I wear still plays a powerful role in how I navigate the remote work world.

In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that your  freelancer wardrobe matters even more than it matters in a traditional, brick-and-mortar, nine-to-five office space. Here’s why.

Studies indicate that fashion can inform performance. 

That’s right: what you wear may influence how you perform, even if you aren’t necessarily competing or performing in front of others.

In a Northwestern University study by Adam Galinsky and Hajo Adam, participants who wore a doctor’s coat (an emblem of authority) performed better on a specific task than those who wore painters’ clothes. This study is on the heels of other research suggesting that what we wear can powerfully inform how we think.

Naturally, these concepts still beg more research, but think about it: do you feel capable of performing like a Rockstar in your sweatpants or a nice blazer?

I’m not saying that you should glean your confidence from your clothes. But dressing professionally even for a freelance task—where no one is observing you—may help you treat this work more seriously. It can also boost performance if you are struggling to stay on task.

Tossing on a pencil skirt and heels before heading to your home office can also signal that it’s time to transition out of “home mode” into “work mode.” If you struggle with setting boundaries between your professional engagements and your personal life as a freelancer, your clothing may hold the key to establishing effective barriers.

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Freelancing sometimes doesn’t feel like a “real” job.

Whenever I tell my family and friends that I’m a freelance writer, I often get the same response: “Cool….So what else do you do?”

My loved ones often assume that freelance writing is a “get-by” kind of job, something all English majors inevitably flounder through on their way back to academia. Although most freelancers (just like most business owners) are self-employed, a lot of people don’t equate freelancing with stability—or even reality.

I confess I often submit to this stereotype myself. I have often felt in-between as a freelancer, isolated between traditional work communities. Even if my work does feel valuable, I tell myself that “real employment” is on the horizon more often than I care to admit.

Enter fashion! Give your work the honor it deserves by dressing up for it. Prove the reality of your work and its demands by wearing that button-down or those silky slacks. Dress up for your professional performance the same way you dress up for an important occasion to solidify the reality of your workday.

You may need to be on camera.

Even if most of your freelance work is private, you may have to set up a Skype call with a prospective client or FaceTime a colleague. In fact, if you’re looking to grow your business in any way, video interaction is essential.

Having a wardrobe for such occasions can make or break client relationships; it can indicate your seriousness and commitment to your own brand (if you have a brand). Plus, if you have to have a quick Zoom meeting with a client, there’s no need to dash to your closet to make a change—you’ll already be dressed for such a conversation.

I am also an online educator, so my appearance does matter. Soon after I started teaching online, I found myself investing in some cute teacher clothes, even if most of my students FaceTime me from Starbucks or their bedrooms—and even if my clients don’t mind too much about my attire.

I’ve actually learned that my students are more likely to take me seriously when I dress the part. As much as I like to think that students can assess authority in other ways, we are very visual creatures after all!

You never know when you may need professional attire.

Last but not least, professional attire is always a necessity for the confident career woman, even if your career is self-directed. I turn to my trusted blazers when attending community gatherings of female professionals. Even though I am a full-time freelancer, I still have a job interview every now and then.

A wise freelancer is a prepared freelancer. Why not accomplish some level of that preparation with an excellent jumpsuit?


About the Author: Kate King is a writer, artist, and insatiable wanderer. Her work focuses on mindful living, awareness, and power. When not keeping up with her blog (A Lighter Earth), Kate is a freelance editor, professional tutor, and digital marketer. Follow her on Instagram.

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