Just as your appearance matters when you report to work in the “outside” world, so too, does it matter when your commute is just down the hall.
What should you wear when you work from home?
It’s a question I’m asked frequently in my image consultant business, and one that bears thoughtful consideration. For just as your appearance matters when you report to work in the “outside” world, so too, does it matter when your commute is just down the hall.
Now before you snicker at this notion, let’s get a bird’s eye view of the matter.
If you work from home, your credibility is suspect. While more than 90% of the population worked from home prior to the industrial revolution, people who work from home today are viewed as less serious than their commuting counterparts. Even with the number of home-based businesses expanding at an incredible rate, the question of legitimacy still remains.
So how do you combat this bias? By always being professional. One of the easiest ways to convey this is by simply dressing the part.
Of all the home-based businesses I’ve dealt with in my life, most of the successful ones understand this basic concept. The ones who struggle or fail, don’t. It’s such a simple element—but one that can have a huge impact on your bottom line. And I mean huge.
So how should you dress when you work from home? It depends on two critical factors:
- Your line of work.
- Your customer contact.
If you work in a business with little or no customer contact, such as writing, assembling products, composing music, running a mail order business, etc., your primary concern should be comfort. Jeans, shorts, sweats, in drag–if no one sees you, you can pretty much dress as you please.
But the instant you come into contact with others, you influence their opinion of you. Even if you’re just dropping off or picking up something or you conduct all of your business at your front door, how you’re dressed can influence your bottom line. If you want your business to grow and prosper, you’ll dress to meet your customer’s expectations. If you want your business to remain small and expand at a snail’s pace, you can dress to please yourself.
Here are some basic guidelines:
- If you’re a professional, such as a lawyer, doctor, accountant, business consultant, financial planner, etc., you need to dress the same as your commuting counterparts dress in your community. Why? Because people expect professionals to dress professionally, whether they engage them at the local office park or at the big yellow house that faces the park.You and I both know that your skills don’t improve by simply putting on a suit jacket. But try to negotiate a big money deal wearing a t-shirt and jeans with your client in the room, and see how far you get. If the deal falls through, you’ll be blamed for your lack of professionalism. Why set yourself up like that? Dress like others in your profession dress—at least when you’re meeting with clients–and save yourself the headache.
- If you’re in a service-oriented business, like hairdressing, catering, tailoring, personal shopping, etc., dress in business casual. This includes long pants and collared shirt, if you’re a man, and a skirt, slacks, or dress, if you’re a woman. Business casual denotes the seriousness of the work environment yet offers you something comfortable to wear.
- If you’re in a labor-intensive business, like housekeeping, auto repair, yard maintenance, or handy man, consider wearing an easy-to-clean uniform. You could buy them at the local uniform supply company in your town, or you can create your own by simply pairing work pants (jeans, khakis) or shorts with a polo shirt or t-shirt. You could even add a logo to the shirt, if you like, and insist that everyone in your employ wear them. It’s an inexpensive way to add instant credibility.
So, do you still doubt the importance of dressing appropriately when you work from home? Stop for a moment and think of all the home-based businesses you’ve dealt with over the years. Who got your business more than once? Who sent you running in the other direction? Why?
The biggest offenders on my list have two things in common: a filthy workspace, and a complete disregard for personal appearance. Is my criticism based solely on the fact that I’m an image consultant? No. It’s because as a home-based entrepreneur myself, I’ve always taken the time and effort to make my office and myself presentable before conducting business. At the very least, I expect others to do the same for me.
So what should you wear when you work from home? Clothes that instantly convey your professionalism and establish your credibility. Your client is already leery of doing business with you–don’t give her another reason to go elsewhere. Dress appropriately!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Diana Pemberton-Sikes is a wardrobe and image consultant and author of “Wardrobe Magic.” More recently she has started a new site, Fashion For Real Women, which is focused on helping woman with business image.