Four Rules for a Successful Freelance Life: №4 of 4

…in which we discuss apparel and the importance of personal hygiene. The final installment in a four-part series of self-help for the self-employed.

Rule №4: Always brush your teeth.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this, but freelancers, you know what I’m talking about here, and the rest of you can stop your snickering.

It’s only natural for those of us who spend the vast majority of our time at home alone to occasionally forget to comb our hair or take all day to put in our contact lenses. Since turning freelance, my wardrobe has gone from dress pants and designer shoes to consisting almost exclusively of yoga clothes, the slightly more stylish version of sweats, which I wear whether I’m doing yoga or not. The point is comfort, and unless I’m going out, or until video conferencing becomes an all-day, every day reality, I just don’t see any reason to put on fixed-waist pants or hard-soled shoes when I could just wear yoga clothes and slippers instead.

My husband calls them my “day pajamas,” meant to differentiate them from my night pajamas, which tend to have more print in the pants. He pretends not to notice when I sometimes fall asleep at night still clothed in the day version, and luckily he’s not around to see me on those days when I finally take a break at noon only to realize I’m still wearing the night version. In adhering to Rule №2’s “be here now” principle, I’ve abandoned all hope of ever having a routine, and it seems this applies not only to what I do but to what I wear as well.

But there is one thing I’m a stickler about. One thing I know it’s not okay to stop doing, no matter how few people I see in a week or how often I actually leave the house. I can wear the same clothes four days in a row, wash my hair only once in a week, but I will always always brush my teeth.

The day I forget to brush my teeth is the day I start looking for a full-time job, and I encourage you to think about it the same way. You want other people to take your work seriously, right? So you need to take yourself seriously. Me, I can do this even if I’m in yoga clothes and my hair is falling out of the ponytail I put it in at 7 a.m., but I can’t do it if I haven’t brushed my teeth. You’ll feel better about yourself, I promise, and it will mean fewer trips to the dentist, which is a good thing since you’re probably paying for that out of pocket now.

Once you’re established, freelancing really is a joy. You may work some weekends, but you’ll have lots of random afternoons off. You may worry about money from time to time, but you’ll have lots of months where you’ll feel excessively flush. You may long for clients in the beginning, but eventually you’ll have the privilege of choosing for whom and how much you work. You can manage your money and your time any way you see fit. You can take work from the clients you like and leave the rest. And you can do it all in your day pajamas or your night ones, and only you and the cat will know.

Just please, brush your teeth.


A longer piece that included this and my three other freelance rules was originally published on Medium last Friday 9/16/16. But with an 11-minute read time it garnered zero views by end of day Monday, so I’m republishing the four rules now, each as separate posts.

When I figure out my rules for success on Medium, I’ll have to remember to include the one about keeping things short.