More than once in my career, I’ve heard the advice to dress for the job you want, not the job you have. This somewhat confusing statement had me in business-appropriate attire the majority of my professional life. Even when I began working from home, I still made sure the part of me that would show up on video conferences looked just as put together as the rest of me would have if I was actually in the office.
With this statement mulling around in my head, imagine my confusion when I decided to go freelance. How does one dress for that? No more business travel, very few video conferences, and the majority of my day spent in mom mode rather than at my desk working. This was the job I wanted, but what did dressing for success look like? I had no idea, so I did the one thing I could think of…I dyed my hair purple.
I had wanted to dye my hair since I was a junior in college, but something always held me back. I was in a wedding and purple hair wouldn’t have been appreciated, I didn’t want to look too funky on interviews, and then I started working in an office and felt like it might not be appropriate.
Then one day, I just did it. It was liberating and wonderful and I loved it. I had finally gotten to a place where I could comfortably make the changes to my appearance I’d always wanted to make because I was my own boss and my boss didn’t have a dress code.
Purple hair didn’t change how well I did my work or what my freelance clients thought of me since most of them have hardly seen my face in the first place. The bigger impact came on my personal life. Once you make a statement like purple hair, people automatically think it’s now your thing. They’ll start telling you what color to do next, or assume every time you go for a haircut you’ll come out with an unnatural hair color. I dyed my hair purple once. It faded. Now, I’m done. My hair is a “normal” color again, although still not my natural color. I love that I had a few months of purple. I hated that the color dyed my neck for about a week and covered my pillowcase, but I finally got the bit of funky that was always on the inside, out.
The freedoms of a freelancer
Changing my hair color is just one example of the freedom that being a freelancer can provide. I’m not only free to look and dress however I want, but I have the freedom to do the work that most engages and inspires me. Leaving a more formal corporate environment took me away from attending daily meetings and traveling for work - two things which have dress requirements - and moved me into a project-based career. Most of my time is dedicated to working independently and corresponding over email - two faceless activities that give me the freedom to dye my hair (should I want to do it again.)
It has been such a wonderful transition for me, to get back to producing content full-time rather than managing the work of others and focusing on big-picture concepts. I not only get to do what I love every day — write, but I feel like the door to self-expression has opened just a bit wider.
Freedom is truly a broad-reaching gift given to freelancers. I have the freedom to decide how I’ll spend my time, the freedom to pick what work I do, and the freedom to look how I want without fear of it sending an unprofessional message. It has been a surprising perk of this directional, professional change.