There’s an article making the rounds on the Internet with the come-hither title 9 Businesses You Can Start in Your Pajamas. Apparently, a lot of folks think Nirvana means never having to wear real clothes. 

For several years, I’ve been trying to stop the madness that involves coming up with new words for entrepreneurial activity. In my tracking of all the cutsey names businessowners give themselves, one of my least favorite has to be pjpreneur. I have tried to imagine why that would be appealing to potential clients. Why, I wonder, would I be drawn to hiring someone or buying their product when their major marketing focus is they haven’t bothered to get dressed? Haven’t figured it out.

While corporate refugees willingly dispose of their pantyhose and neckties, starting a business from home should not be an invitation to slovenliness. It matters more than you may think.

The other night I happened to see two episodes of What Not To Wear which both featured women who were musicians and music teachers. One was a cellist in New York, the other a jazz singer in Boston. Neither was enthusiastic about fashion, but both were confident in their musical  ability. After a fair amount of reluctance and resistance, they were transformed. To their amazement, they both reported performing better than they had in the past.

Several years I wrote a piece called Staying Motivated When You Work Alone. Here’s point number two:

Dress to accomplish things. Don’t give in to the temptation to schlepp around in your old bathrobe.  Costume yourself for the work to be done. If I’m being a serious writer, I put on jeans and a sweater; if my duties are mostly secretarial, I wear a skirt and blouse; if there are client calls to make, I dress like a tycoon. 

And, of course, if you provide a service, you may very well create a costume that is appropriate and memorable. There’s only one kind of business I can think of where pajamas might meet that criteria.

 The psychological lift you get from dressing appropriately may be subtle, but it’s important.  You just can’t feel like a mogul in your sweats. Keynote speaker Karyn Ruth White concurs. “It’s easier to ask for a big fee when you’re sitting in your home office looking like a pro. It’s much harder if you haven’t gotten out of your pajamas.”

Of course, dressing for success is different when you’re joyfully jobless, but it still starts with getting dressed.

11 Responses to “Really, You Should Get Dressed”

  1. Dixie Darr

    Well, today was PJ day in Denver. Even the mayor wore his pajamas to work.

  2. Janet Vasil

    In my past life, as a TV anchor I had to get gussied up big-time, every day so there was a certain romance to the idea of not caring so much about my image when I started working solo as a media coach. I tried pj’s and sweats on the days when I was alone in my home office but soon realized I felt lazy and sluggish. My productivity was lower, my writing less crisp, my phone voice less energetic, minor aches and pains seemed magnified. There’s something to be said for that old “dress for success” motto. Now I put on a casual outfit for my 30-second commute, but still indulge in a small rebellion – I wear slippers, not shoes!

  3. Pat Peterson

    Bravo and thank you. One’s own self image is sooo…entwined in how one performs–whatever that may be. I cannot really get started if I am schlepping around in an old bathrobe–how ’bout tossing that into the ragbag and finding a new one??? Makeup and earrings are part of my work at home ensemble.


  4. Sue

    I concur, with passion! I would never have worn pj’s to my corporate job, even if it were a Saturday ! Why should I treat my business or myself any less importantly. Definitely notice a productivity impact (so, yes, I have tried bathrobe/pj’s to work — but it doesn’t last long!)

  5. Jane Snell Copes

    Several years ago, when I was confined in a hospital room for several weeks of life-threatening therapy (no, you don’t want more details), my “keepers” suggested that I would feel better if I actually got dressed every day. It was true! My job was to get better, not to be an invalid, and pj’s were not what I needed.

    In less dramatic times, I still get dressed! Thanks, Barbara

  6. Barbara Saunders

    A contrarian view or three:

    I have often had days where I got a writing project completed (or done a final edit on a project finished the previous day) before getting dressed, and then got dressed later for a meeting or other event outside of my home office.

    “Appropriate” dress also depends on your industry and part of the country. I have worked mostly in high-tech, usually in the buildings where the engineers work. It’s a bit of a stereotype, but in some companies, dressing down (or even poorly) is a signal of higher status. I thought California was casual until I interviewed for a job in Boulder where the founder of the company, who held the title Vice President, took me to lunch in his running shorts and a pair of old, dirty sneakers. I was dressed in business casual and actually felt a little uncomfortable.

    Come to think of it, I had a friend – a six-figure consultant – who did, in fact, wear pajamas as work clothes at client sites. She didn’t go to work in clothes she slept in, of course, but she used recognizable pajamas as slacks because they were comfortable.

  7. Candace C. Davenport

    It is amazing how so many little things in our life that we are not even aware of really affect how we see ourselves or how we act. Thanks for pointing out a big one that probably most work-at-homers are not even aware of how it affects them. (Ok, I’m now off to put some real clothes on…)

  8. Patty K

    Oooo. I have to be contrarian here too.

    For me, one of the best things about self-employment is being able to set my own rules about what constitutes “appropriate” dress (and “appropriate” hours and “appropriate” work environment).

    I can totally understand that some (maybe even most) people feel better about themselves if they are dressed to conform with societal norms. In my case, the opposite is true. I can’t think when I’m dressed in a corporate costume. I wear pajamas because I perform better when I’m comfortable. I also feel more confident when I’m being true to myself rather than trying to fit in with what others are doing.

    Thank you, Barbara Saunders for providing the example of the 6-figure-earning-pajama-wearing-consultant (whoever she is, she’s my new hero).

  9. Barbara Winter

    Lest you think I”m advocating a return to corporate attire, let me assure you I think that’s as dangerous for our creative spirit as pajamas. However, I’m in total agreement that we need to thoughtfully consider what attire encourages our best self to be the one running our business. There is, after all, a reason why actors wear costumes to help tell their stories. We’ve got stories to tell, too, but we are also the ones writing them as we go along.

  10. Barbara Saunders

    Patty K – I love it that the very header of your blog is “dressing inappropriately since second grade.” My six-figure-consultant friend delivered trainings on self-care to nonprofit employees. Comfort, assertion, and saying no to other people’s demands were central to her brand.

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