Have you ever given thought to how your appearance plays into getting work as a freelancer? Maybe you should. Even though graphic designers, photographers and writers have fallen into a more casual style of dress, today’s business world demands a professional attitude as well as aptitude.
If your idea of dressing for success includes a clean pair of holey jeans and a T-shirt spouting the latest rock band, chances are you need to reexamine your wardrobe. Unless you never get out of the house?
Many graphic designers, photographers and writers make a living working from the comfort of our own little corner of the world in comfortable clothes and drinking way too much coffee. We do our best work in our pajamas with no one to interfere with the creative process at three in the morning.
The Luxury Of Working From Home
This is a luxury that some of us become all too comfortable in. This is especially true of us girls. The hair pulled back in a quick pony tail, no makeup and a comfortable pair of sweats and tennis shoes.
And some of you guys aren’t any better by grabbing the cleanest dirty shirt and jeans lying crumpled in the corner. Is this really how we want the world to see us? Just like our graphic design projects we have to plan how we want our physical appearance and our professional persona to be exemplified when we walk out the front door. You just never know who you will run into at the corner grocery store!
Look and Smell Good :)
The use of personal hygiene products is not a voluntary item on this list. Brush your teeth, take a regular shower and use deodorant. You may not notice it but everyone around you will.
Don’t take a bath in colognes or perfumes. Like the Brilcream commercials, a little dab will do ya’. Some people, me included, are sensitive to strong perfumes and can even suffer asthma attacks in rare cases. If I get near someone swimming in perfume, I have to get away from them immediately. As you can see, this could cause a severe problem with a potential client. Apply sparingly and only once.
Science has proven your senses become desensitized because they smell it all the time. Re-applying so you can smell it can prove disastrous.
Dressing For Success
Get dressed every day in something besides sweats. Make sure your clothes are neat and clean. No wrinkles, those will come soon enough to other areas of your life. You don’t need them here and now. Wash your clothes and hang or neatly fold and put them away. It doesn’t count if the cat lays on them after you get them in the basket.
If you don’t have the time or the inclination, send them to the cleaners.
Do you own a business suite? This applies to both men and women. This is reserved for business meetings or official functions, but is a staple in dressing for success. If you have gone to a meeting where there are strong odors such as food, cigarette smoke, or stale perfume, get the suit cleaned immediately afterwards. You never know when a business meeting with a new client will happen and being prepared is Key!
That First Impression
You are competing in the world of business people and a certain protocol is necessary. Dress accordingly. Flashy, off the wall color schemes, flip flops or open toed casual sandals, in a business meeting portray you as casual or flippant (though it may work in some situations), and not to be taken too seriously. Put a pair of decent shoes on and consider subdued grays and blues for that first impression.
If you really feel the need to be more casual and wear blue jeans, get a pair that fits around your waist. I understand the trends right now have a much more low slung profile, but no one really wants to admire your latest pair of boxers, or wonder how you are really keeping that pair of pants up with no visible means of support.
There is a time and a place, and if you really want people to take you seriously, dress like it.
What About Jewelry?
Use jewelry as an accessory not a statement.
Does your jewelry compliment your outfit? Or is your attention drawn to your jewelry first? If it is, there is a problem. Tone it down a little. I love bling-bling as much as the next girl, but too much of a good thing gets old.
This applies to guys wearing fifteen gold chains around their neck and rings on every finger too. Less is more. Use jewelry like white space. Make it work for you instead of against you.
Do you get manicures and pedicures? Well groomed hands and feet can take years off and make you feel wonderful too. One of the first things you do when you meet a new client is shake their hand. And if it’s not, it should be. If your hands especially are ratty looking with hang nails and broken edges, what image are you portraying? Here again if money is tight, go to the dollar store and get the stuff to do it yourself. It can be as simple as an emery board and a new pair of clippers.
Got A Briefcase?
Do you have a briefcase or attaché and is it in good repair? Even if you have to invest $20 in one, get it. This gives you a place to carry folders in an organized fashion, and usually has a place for a notepad and ink pen for taking notes during the meeting. Thrift stores carry some nice ones too if you watch for them. Stick to black, dark blue or brown leather. This will complement any business suite you may have or acquire.
Always carry extra business cards in your right inside jacket pocket. That way as you are shaking hands with a new acquaintance or prospective client, you can conveniently reach in and know what you are grabbing. When you receive a business card, put it in another pocket so you don’t get confused.
What do you think?
About the author: Lois Knight has been a freelance writer and graphic designer for the last two years. She designs predominantly for small start up companies and non profits in need of design services that could not afford them otherwise. She has a background as an entrepreneur for over twenty years and has dedicated herself to educating people interested in graphics as a career. She also write on All Graphic Design.