Shoes – yes, shoes – are a freelancer’s most important tool

Freelancer tools: Dog, shoes, gas heater

A freelancer’s essentials: a dog, a heater and pair of sturdy boots.

Years ago, when I both a freelancer and immersed in the chaotic life induced by having a small child in the house, I complained to a friend about how I couldn’t find something in my kitchen (or, in fact, anything in my home, most of the time).

Flylady, she said. You need Flylady.

So I looked up Flylady, signed up for her emails and slowly, slowly, regained my organised life.

Most South Africans have never heard of Flylady. She is Marla Cilley, who lives in the United States, and runs an email service aimed at helping people deal with clutter and getting their homes more organised. Her business model is based on selling cleaning tools and organising aids, like a fabulous calendar, so that her website and emails remain free. She offers gently bossy advice, systems thinking and a sense of humour. (FLY stands for Finally Loving Yourself).

One of Flylady’s unbreakable rules is that you should get dressed to your shoes every morning. She says: “Several years ago I sold Mary Kay Skin Care Products. One main rule for that company was that you could not make a single phone call in the morning unless you were totally dressed, and I mean really dressed! All the way to dress shoes. The reason… was that you act different when you have clothes and shoes on. You are more professional. The customer can tell when you don’t feel good about the way you look; even when you think you do. So if getting dressed makes that big of an impression on someone who can’t even see you, then what is going to happen to those that can see you; mainly yourself?”

Her point is that getting dressed properly is a mark of self-respect. While a large part of Flylady’s market is stay-at-home moms – her rule works for freelancers too.

In one of the best humour pieces ever written about those who work from home, writer Colin Nissan has this exchange happen between a fictional freelancer called Robert and a 911 emergency operator who Robert has called for help:

OPERATOR: …. I need you to tell me what you’re wearing, O.K.?

ROBERT: You know… just regular clothes.

OPERATOR: Outside clothes or inside clothes?

ROBERT: Hold on, I’ll check. (Pause.) Pajamas. I’m wearing my pajamas. I could swear I’d changed into regular… I thought these were jeans!

OPERATOR: It’s O.K., sir. Calm down.

ROBERT: Wait, this isn’t even a shirt. It’s just my skin! Goddammit.

OPERATOR: So just pajama bottoms, then. Can we assume that you haven’t showered today?

ROBERT: I don’t know.

And therein lies the peril of freelancing. Thinking that if you don’t have to leave the house it doesn’t matter what you look like can lead to dipping slices of green pepper in peach yogurt (just go read the rest of Robert’s call!).

And that’s why I shower, get dressed to my shoes and eat breakfast, first thing, every single working day. It makes me feel professional, organised and ready for anything. And as they say in those dreadful cosmetic ads, I am worth it.

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