Take Sam Howard’s festive freelance quiz to find out. Tot up how many of these apply to you:
1. If you spend longer than six minutes getting ready of a morning, you consider yourself to be ‘faffing’.
2. When it comes to the three minute lunch break, soup bowls seem an unnecessary middle man, and are no longer required.
3. It never occurred to you before, but now, instead of religiously visiting the salon every six weeks, cos you’re so worth it – every so often, you just yank your hair into a big ponytail and lop off the top bit with the bacon scissors.
4. Your City client asks for an 8.30am briefing and you have jet lag for the rest of the day.
5. You get a pair of sheepskin house boots to keep your tootsies warm all winter long, spending over a hundred quid on what are effectively a pair of uggly slippers.
6. When asked what are doing at the weekend you look at people blankly, then reply, ‘working’ I mean what else would you do?
7. Next bank holiday, instead of gallivanting off on a City break, you’re going to re-grout the kitchen tiles as they are looking really grubby – funny you never noticed that when you had a proper job and was out of the house for 60 hours a week.
8. Your City high heels haven’t seen daylight for six months and when you do eventually try them out, you now walk with less grace than a lad in a frock on a stag do.
9. You catch up with a City friend. She regales you with tales of ridiculous internal politics, bodacious power plays and incompetent bosses – but all you can contribute is that the dog ate your Amazon parcel this morning.
10. Dress down Friday has become dress up Friday as that’s the day you go to the supermarket.
If you scored:
5 or less: It’s too late for me, but you must save yourself, book in for a weekend spa retreat, a full make over and hire a personal shopper, so no one need ever know what happened here.
6 and more: Consider yourself utterly unemployable and welcome to our world – we are your people now.
#Is it wrong? Sam Howard shares her frelance ethical ponderings:
1. Just in case he’s the only person you’re going to get to talk to all day, is it wrong to launch in with your most perplexing business issues, work fears, and brilliant new ideas while your 11 year munches on his morning porridge and does up his shoe laces?
2. To wear leg warmers and fingerless gloves indoors?
3. To pretend the web camera on your Skype call isn’t working when in truth it’s cos you look like shit and The Bloody Dog is jumping around in the background, trying to bury his Kong toy in the sofa?
4. To have full blown conversations with the rabbit, cat and dog in an effort to recreate those water cooler moments?
5. To have the fan heater and the central heating on at the same time?
6. To stuff dog treats in your brand new £40 sheepskin slippers, that were a Christmas present from your lovely mum, in an effort to keep The Bloody Dog amused for ten minutes, so you can reach your copy-writing deadline?
7. To eat your soup straight out of the pan and then give the carton and the pan to The Bloody Dog to keep him quiet for another five minutes?
8. To hang up on a conference call because you’ve just spotted The Bloody Dog has got the rabbit’s head in his mouth?
9. To top up your afternoon coffee with a large dose of Tia Maria? And then put its purchase against your tax expenses as ‘office beverages’?
10. To open the door to your child as he comes home from school, starving hungry, freezing cold and soaked through, with the greeting:
“Can you PLEASE take The Bloody Dog out! I have had him all day and he’s driving me frickin crazy. GO! NOW! GO!”
Sam Howard on why actually it does matter what you wear even if no one is watching.
The day I turned freelance was marked by a ceremonial trip to the loft where I deposited my dry clean onlys, anything with cuffs or collars and my entire collection of 40 denier. As for the suits I gleefully deposited the lot at Oxfam with a note of apology.
On the way home I popped into M&S for several pairs of their finest tracky bottoms, (first time I have ever considered velour as a valid option) and tatty Ts. ‘That’s me.’ I thought, ‘I’m a proper freelancer now, all chill and unassuming with an elasticated waist’.
Over time this basic uniform was added to with several layers of indeterminate styling but always including leg warmers, hiking socks and sheepskin slippers as my tootsies were in a perpetual state of perma-frost. Looking back, it was about this time that Elliot said I need not pick him up from school any more.
There was also a weird side effect of looking a tad casual by day in that I possibly over compensated of an evening: rocking up to watch the match on the neighbour’s HD in full vintage;, an early evening showing of Rio sporting a doorframe-bashing bouffant; and mincing to Asda in killer heels, full make up & ‘no photos please’ sunnies. Again Elli seemed to be dawdling somewhat when it came to accompanying his mama with the trolley.I’m not sure where it might have ended, (what is the female equivalent of a wife-beater vest?) if it hadn’t have been for the very lovely Cherry Chappell, who recently gave an inspiring chat on the joys of freelance at the CIPR.
“The thing is,” she began solemnly, “One is never to wear slippers,” and I felt her eyes bore into mine, as if she knew! “It’s very, very important.” she said slowly for the slowest of us to catch up.
The reason why it was so important, she explained, was because I was very important now too. Indeed I was the CEO and the President of My Own Company. And as the CEO and President of My Own Company I should dress accordingly, affording myself the respect I deserved for being so very brave and clever. “And that starts,” she said making her hands into a steeple, “By how you chose to dress.”And the thing is I can see she has a point. One of the trickiest things I have noticed in these early months, is to stay consistent in your self-belief. You no longer have the job title, the rank and recognition that you had in the ‘real world’, nor do you have the support and sense of perspective your cronies gave you, cackling around the water cooler swapping ‘you think you’re having a bad day’ horror stories. You can only look to yourself for courage and encouragement. But if ‘yourself’ looks unemployable, then it’s not really going to give you that boost you need. Because in freelance as much as there isn’t anyone to rain on your parade, there’s no one to tell you you’re a little superstar either. That’s your job now. You need to look in the mirror and feel quietly confident – not like calling NHS Direct.
So thanks to Cherry’s fashion fix, these days I put a decent level of care into my appearance, even the flip flops are colour coordinated. Best of all, Elliot said if I keep this up he’ll let me come and watch his school play. Though part of me still hopes it’s the Rocky Horror Picture Show.