Not long ago, I accepted a friend's invitation for a direct sales makeup party she was hosting at her home. I looked forward to seeing the makeup line, but as soon as I met the sales rep, I knew we were in trouble.
Instead of the direct sales “uniform”, she should have been wearing, the rep was in a t-shirt and jeans. She'd kicked off her shoes and was drinking a glass of wine as the other guests wandered in and sat down.
The next hour was torture.
The rep didn't know her makeup line, she couldn't answer questions, and after another glass of wine, she could barely stand up. Turns out it was her first show, she was nervous, and she just wanted to relax and be comfortable. So she dressed down and got drunk. Then she tried to sell us makeup. It was her one and only show.
Sadly, it's not the first time I've seen this.
There are lots of great benefits to working from home, including being able to set your own hours and forge your own path. But while you can usually dress however you want, that ends the instant you have visual contact with your clients, be it in person or by a video camera.
Because how you dress conveys your professionalism. You may have given up the 9-5 routine, but your clients still expect you to dress professionally. If you don't — you sabotage your credibility.
Your goal should always be to provide goods and services at the same level – or above – as any of your office-going or store-front competitors. In fact, unless you have clients coming to your house, there's really no reason for your customers to even know you work-from-home. Your level of professionalism should be the same regardless of where you work.
Your clients don't care if you walk the dog or start the dishwasher between coaching calls; they care that you look like a business coach and give them sound advice.
But if you look like a beach bum? Or like you just rolled out of bed? THEN they're going to have a problem. Especially if you work in a sterile environment or charge a lot for your services.
So what's the easiest way to dress professionally when you work from home? It depends on your industry.
Here's a Work-From-Home Dress For Success Guide for Different Types of Industries:
Physically Demanding Jobs:
For physically demanding jobs like a ballet teacher, yoga instructor, or personal trainer, opt for industry-specific apparel like yoga pants or workout gear. For an added touch of professionalism, wear apparel in your business colors and/or have your name or logo embroidered on your gear.
Physically Demanding Jobs that Require Cohesiveness:
For physically demanding jobs that require a sense of cohesiveness, like a house painting service, housekeeping service, or child care service, consider wearing t-shirts shirts in your business colors with your business name or logo on them, along with khakis or jeans. The business name instantly identifies you to your clients and makes you look like part of a team, while the t-shirt allows for physical activity plus easy laundering afterward.
Professional Jobs that Require Cohesiveness:
For less physically demanding jobs that require cohesiveness but more professionalism than a t-shirt, consider wearing a polo shirt in your business colors with your name or logo on them, along with khakis or jeans. I've seen home health care services, stables and horseback riding instruction, and catering companies use this with great success.
For industries that require you to be trustworthy and relatable, like a tailor, tutor, online instruction, direct sales, and the like, opt for a shirt or blouse with a collar and a skirt or trousers. The collar gives you gravitas while the skirt or trousers add polish. Forgo the jeans.
For creative industries like hairstyling, interior design, or fashion styling, also wear a shirt or blouse with a collar and a skirt or trousers. But make them interesting colors or textures, and add a jacket or other third layer. You want to look stylish and creative but also professional. But don't overdo it. The focus should always be on your client, not your clothes.
Traditional Business and Professional Jobs:
For traditional industries like business consulting, accounting, and law, wear traditional business attire: a business dress or a matching suit. This is the industry standard. No need to reinvent the wheel.
Now again, this is what to wear when you're interacting with your clients in person or on camera.
What do I mean by on camera? Video instruction, video conferencing, or any photographs you put on your website, blog, or social media. Also any on-camera interviews you do. You want to maintain a consistent image for your clients. Wearing your industry “uniform” will help.
But what if you decided to work-from-home specifically because you hated the office uniform?
Again, wear whatever you want when you're alone. But switch to your industry “uniform” once you're with clients.
And if you don't?
Then you'll lose credibility – and sales. Just like the direct sales makeup rep I told you about at the beginning of this article.
Her price point competition was department store makeup counters. How do department store makeup ladies dress? In white lab coats and heels. They don't wear t-shirts and jeans, go barefoot and get drunk.
That's what amateurs do.
Amateurs put themselves first. Professionals put their clients first.
So if you want to have a lucrative professional career while enjoying the benefits of working from home, then dress and act like a professional when you're with your clients. They'll hire you whatever your business address.
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Diana Pemberton-Sikes is an author and image consultant who shows women how to increase their income by dressing correctly for their industry and position. Thousands have used her Business Wear Magic ebook to land jobs and get promotions, and it's become required reading at several colleges and staffing companies. Sign up for her free weekly fashion tips ezine at FashionForRealWomen.com.