Why the Freelance Dream of Working in P.J.s is Total B.S.

Carol Tice

Freelance writer working on computer in bedDid you get into freelance writing for the freedom?

The freelance lifestyle sounds great — keeping your own hours, doing as you please.

I hear this from a lot of would-be freelancers:

“I got laid off, so I’m going to try living the dream, working in my pajamas!”

I worry when I hear that.

Because here’s the thing: I don’t know any successful freelance writers who lie around in their P.J.s.

Why P.J.s don’t work

When you work in an office, you get up, get dressed, and leave the house. As you drive away or ride that bus, you create a transition from your home life into your work life.

Arriving at your office signals, ‘Time to work.’

When you work from home, you need to create a similar transition. Except you have nowhere to go.

Staying in bed and not getting dressed = no transition.

Lots of hanging out on Facebook often follows.

I know writers who, a year or two after quitting to freelance, are still asking me for tips on how to make money writing and whether they can finally manage to get focused and start really doing this freelance writing thing, already!

Tip: Begin by getting dressed for work.

Flipping on the computer when you’re still in the comfy, teddy-bear-print P.J.s visually signals your body that this is part of your leisure time. You’re still half-asleep.

You might even consider going back to sleep, if you’ve had a bad night! After all, you’re dressed for it.

You might also pad around the house washing dishes or starting laundry. After all, you’re not in ‘work’ mode — c’mon. You’re in your pajamas!

How to switch to serious freelance mode

Successful freelancing requires the opposite of pajama mode.

You have to be highly alert, thinking, creating, marketing, networking. Ready for anything.

And you might think working from home means nobody will see you, but that’s increasingly not true.

At a moment’s notice, you could find yourself hopping on a Skype call or Google+ Hangout with collaborators or a new prospect. Want to have to pass on that opportunity, or have them see you haven’t bothered to get dressed or brush your hair? Not good.

Do you feel comfortable interviewing the CEO of a major corporation over the phone while you’re in P.J.s? I don’t.

If you’re having trouble taking your freelance dreams seriously (or maybe your friends or spouse is), begin by taking a professional attitude toward how you work.

Every work day, I get out of my pajamas and get dressed. I eat, hopefully get in a walk. I try to do a little inspirational reading. I’m creating a transition into my work day.

My clothes may be fairly casual, but they aren’t sloppy, mismatched, or stained, and they are definitely not pajamas.

Because I know business is war. It’s tough. Competitive.

It requires showing up. And being available, at least some of the time, when editors and other businesspeople are working — during regular business hours.

When 9 am rolls round, it’s time to shut off the snooze button and get to work.

Choosing your battle wardrobe

Even if I’m not going to see anyone else all day, I get dressed for work.

Because freelancing is hard. It’s serious. It’s running a BUSINESS.

And if you’re not on your toes, that business will fail.

When I first started freelancing, I knew I wouldn’t want to wear my old reporter suit-and-jacket outfits. A little formal for around the house!

I was happy to skip the dry-cleaning bills. But I still needed some attire that said, “it’s work time.”

At first, I bought several well-made, casual-Friday knitwear pants-and-jacket outfits in my favorite colors. They were super-comfortable, but made me feel happy — and dressed for work.

These days, this time of year mostly finds me in a long-sleeved, stretch-cotton shirt, chinos, and a nice sweater.

My goal is to be dressed so that I’d feel comfortable jumping in the car for a last-minute meeting, or chatting on Skype. In fact, when I go to a co-working place, I’m wearing the exact same clothes I wear to work at home.

It’s a big mental shift, from thinking “I’m a writer” to “I’m in business.” That’s a shift I recommend you make ASAP.

My attitude is, I’m in business. I’m serious about it. So I’m dressed and ready.

What do you wear to work as a freelancer? Tell us how you get in work mode in the comments.

Freelance Business Bootcamp


  1. Sarah L. Webb

    I never work in pajamas, even when I’m at home. I usually wear nice jeans and a nice top. For me, though, getting dressed is my first creative act of the day. I’ve always been expressive with my clothing, and that carries over into the rest of my work day (at least until I hit my afternoon wall). It is a psychological thing that helps me transition and “wake up” and be ready for work.

    • Carol Tice

      Right on! I like jewel tones and put on one of my tops in my favorite colors, and feel ready for the world, and my work.

  2. Renia Carsillo

    Call it a little neurotic, but I tend to dress in “theme” clothes. On Mondays and Thursdays I write for an ecommerce company and wear trendy colorful fair. The other days of the week, when I’m working on freelance stuff or my own books I tend to be a fan of dresses and heals. It amuses my sweetheart to no end. He still can’t figure out why I get dressed up to work at home every day, but it works for my mental state.

  3. Bonita

    I totally agree that getting dressed and setting regular work hours are big keys to productivity. Most days I work in casual comfortable clothes like jeans, or sweats if I’m going to exercise a lot that day. When I go out I dress up a little bit. But on the days when I really need to concentrate and work on a big project I wear scrubs. I worked for years as a nurse so scrubs signify “work” in my brain, but they are also really comfy. And if I want to go to the library or coffee shop, I can still wear them and everyone just assumes I just got off work and haven’t had time to change.

    • Carol Tice

      Ha! I love that.

      You know, when I was on drill team in high school, our uniform had all these parts. Undergarment, fringed uniform, matching socks, shoes, headband, gloves…and then the laces had these jingle-bells on them. When I got those on and started to hear myself go “Jing! Jing!” every time my right foot hit the floor…I was ready to perform.

      We all need these rituals to put us in the right place to get to work. I do have a set of scrubs…maybe I’ll use this angle sometime. Only problem is I sometimes use them as…pajamas. So might not work for me!


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