Big Ideas

Why I don’t write in my pajamas

By 01/14/2014August 12th, 202231 Comments

Staying positive while working on his laptop

Ah … the writer’s life. Wake up whenever you want, have a leisurely cup or two of coffee, then meander to your keyboard and shift into creative mode.

That’s the beauty of being a freelancer, right? No boss, no commute, no wardrobe requirements. What’s not to like? You can hang out all day in your pajamas if you want, and I know plenty of writers who do.

If it works for you, carry on.

All I know is that if I worked in my pajamas, I’d be a seriously struggling writer.

For me, the discipline of getting up, taking a shower, putting on nice clothes, and then walking down the hall to my office to write is powerful. It’s had a profound effect on my writing business.

Maybe it’s a leftover habit from my days of getting up every day at exactly 5:59 A.M., saying positive affirmations in front of the mirror and in the shower, dressing to the nines to call on high-flying attorneys, and heading out the door by 7:00 sharp.

Now that I operate on my own terms as a copywriter, no one is going to know whether I’m dressed well or not. But I know that when I look good, I feel good. That transfers to my writing, and it definitely transfers to my phone conversations with clients and colleagues. I feel more professional, and that extra boost of self-confidence radiates into everything I do.

I simply cannot imagine working the deals I do and landing the gigs I get if I was lounging around in my pajamas, looking like I just rolled out of bed.

Paradoxically, the more you treat your freelance writer lifestyle like a real business and a corporate job, especially in the beginning, the more real freedom you’ll enjoy later on.

Freedom to travel and work when and where you choose. Freedom to work limited hours and structure your work around your life. Freedom to pursue personal projects in addition to working for clients.

Get disciplined on the little things, to free yourself up for the big things.

Things like what time you get up, what time you get started, what you wear, and even how your desk and office look can have an impact on your performance.

Give it a try. Go professional over pajamas.

What’s your style? Pajamas and sweats, jeans and t-shirts, or suitable for a business meeting? I’m interested to know what works for you in the comments below.

Steve Roller

Author Steve Roller

I'm a business coach, author, copywriter, world traveler (33 countries on five continents so far), and professional speaker. In addition to helping companies get more customers and make more money, I help other writers create profitable businesses. I offer one-on-one coaching, professional copy critiques, and live, in-person business-building workshops. When I'm not writing, coaching, or speaking, I enjoy nothing more than hanging out with my wife and four kids and planning my next adventure.

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Join the discussion 31 Comments

  • Steve, I couldn’t agree more. While I check some emails, journal and read in my “lounging clothes” (different from PJ’s, by the way), once my kids are off to school, I change right into my “working clothes” for the day. I definitely feel more professional and ready to take on anything.

  • Erica says:

    Yes! While I love me some yoga pants, I simply do not function at the same leve as when I’m wearing something nice.

    I don’t have to wear business attire, but just putting on a nice casual outfit does wonders for my confidence…especially if I have client calls that day.

    • Steve Roller says:

      Erica, I have this feeling that clients can see what I’m wearing through the phone (well, sometimes they can, when we Skype). It is a confidence thing for sure.

  • Jerry Bures says:

    I don’t dress up for work at all…hated it when I had a J-O-B too. I know of others who place a lot of emphasis on how you look influences how you perform. Never really gave it much thought myself. Hmmm…maybe that’s why I haven’t “arrived” yet…thanks Steve, not sure how you managed to give that kick in the pants to me when I’m sitting down all day…=:)

    • Steve Roller says:

      I’m not talking shirt and tie stuff, Jerry, so don’t go overboard! (I haven’t worn a tie in years.) But there really is something to looking the part. I’m guessing Mark Ford and Bob Bly don’t lounge around in sweat pants or even jeans and a t-shirt. Here’s an idea: Split-test it for a month or two! Nah, probably too many variables you can’t control …

  • Leanne says:

    It depends.

    When I need to get into “flow” or the zone to write, I am more productive first thing in the morning in pajamas, yoga pants or something loose and comfy.

    When I have client calls or need to do computer work (site audits, keyword research, invoicing, etc) I am definitely more productive when I “dress the part.”

    Although I’ve learned over the last year or so that my husband, my dog and the UPS driver are really my only consistent daily in-person encounters, I’ll even do my hair and make-up, put on nice jewelery, perfume and cute shoes. However, I will not wear anything that requires nylons or pantyhose. Ugh! Just the thought of having to wear pantyhose again is enough to motivate me to churn out a few more pages of copy no matter how tired I may be.

    • Steve Roller says:


      I get what you’re saying about different attire for different tasks.

      I bet the UPS guy appreciates you dressing up, even if it’s without nylons.

  • annjm says:

    I do not work in my nightwear either. While I give the nod to comfy lounge-type pants, my tops are always more professional-looking – that works for Skype calls.

    I may not always wear mascara at my desk (though it certainly does make me look more awake and alert), but I do make sure that my hair looks good – it’s short so that makes it easier.

    As far as when I write the best, I had just stopped reading at about 4:30am the other day (thank goodness I’ve finished that page-turner!), and as I was settling for sleep, my initial paragraph for a find-raising letter I am writing popped into my mind … so I had to get up and write it down.

    Oh, and another thing, I always write at my desk. That is because my desktop is my main computer, and my laptop is my travel computer … even then I work at a table when I can get one. It’s the ergonomics thing.

    • Steve Roller says:

      Ann, you’ve got this writing thing down! I’m impressed. As much as I try to be an early riser, I’m more of a night owl myself. All my best ideas have come in the wee hours of the morning after a long day, not at the break of dawn.

  • Working at home is great! I freelance write, but am also a Board Certified Health Coach and work by phone.

    I usually always get showered and dressed, but I guess that’s just a throw back to when I needed to take my children to school early and then come home to work. However, there are times when I get into the flow as soon as my husband leaves and I don’t shower until mid morning. Those days are few and far between!

    • Steve Roller says:

      I take my kids to school every morning, and the coffee shop on the way home sucks me in like a giant magnet, so I have to look somewhat presentable! I always run into acquaintances, and sometimes clients. Gotta keep up the professional image, you know?

  • Great post Steve! I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Some days it doesn’t seem to matter what I’m wearing when I write but if I’m talking to clients, yes, I like to look more presentable. I’ve been thinking about dressing up more, will let you know how it goes. Thanks!

    • Steve Roller says:

      Keep me posted, Jen! It’s the same when you go out and you put on your absolute best suit or dress versus one that’s so-so. I know I feel way more confident dressing up for nice events in my custom-made suit than in anything else.

  • Zafifi says:

    I assume my style would be sitting in front of computer, listening to ambient music and start writing in shirtless! Sometimes works but most of the time then I ramble to the kitchen, finding food and oh, I’m not having shower yet!

    Yes, I agreed we as writers should dress properly and stick to the appropriate attire like any professional individuals do.

    The surroundings and time are two conditions affect my writing as well. And of course, I have to feed my tummy first before I start writing 🙂

  • Sean McCool says:

    You just need nicer PJs. RoyalHighnies dot com

  • EEstlow says:

    Actually, I don’t do it, but I could easily endorse a shirt and tie while working from home. I love conservative business dress – and I dressed that way for years in Corporate America. It’s the one thing I grieve about no longer being there.

    But I’ve slipped from the more formal faith… it’s jeans & sweatshirt in winter, cargo shorts and a polo in summer. Maybe I too need to get back to the rigors of good business dress.

    • Steve Roller says:

      Ed, for those of us who work from home, I think it helps separate our “off” and “on” times. When I go through a day super casual, not only do I not get as much real work done, since I never dialed it up a notch for the day I also tend to be somewhat “on” all day, slipping in and out of my office and not enjoying the leisure time. Does that make sense?

  • Steve, that is so true for me too. I have to get in the shower and do my hair and makeup. LOL. If I don’t feel like I am presentable then I don’t act it and can’t write the best. Thanks for sharing..

  • DoubleOhDave says:

    Steve, I absolutely agree.. there have been times when my other half arrived home from work to find me in my dressing gown, unwashed and unshaven, but thinking I had a productive day. That changed when I started changing my mental attitude about productivity. Showering and dressing for business at the start of the day that is a ritual. Just like the Tea Ceremony of the Japanese, rituals have a reason for effectiveness. Only problem is – I am here at my laptop at 05:20, which is too early to wake everyone else up with a really noisy shower 🙁

    • Steve Roller says:

      I like the way you put it, David, in terms of a “ritual.” I know what you mean about early morning noise. One reason I do more work late at night instead of getting up super early.

  • I usually write before going to bed, so I have my pajamas on most of my writing time. But I’ll give it a try on weekends when I have no school and see how it goes… 🙂

    • Steve Roller says:

      Let me know how it goes, Marcela. I’ve just become a stickler for looking the part of a successful writer, but I know millionaires who work in their pajamas, too. Whatever works best for you.

  • Genise Caruso says:

    Sorry, this is kind of long.

    Hi Steve,

    Finally! Someone who makes sense. Back in the ’70s, when love, peace, sex and drugs were the only four words people knew, I remember arguing non-stop that it makes no difference what a person wears, to work, as long as they can do the job. Of course, I was very young, rather naive, and don’t believe I really had an opinion of my own, but it was the going rage. We were “hippies,” and no hippy would be caught dead going to work in a navy suit and white shirt. Jeans without holes, a clean t-shirt [minus the obscene sayings] flip-flops, with lots of beaded jewelry, and horrendous makeup were our idea of “dressing up.” Oh, weren’t we cool?

    Many people would have quit a high paying job, rather than “conform.” We stood by principles, regardless how stupid they were, just to argue.

    As I got older, I still held on to belief that I could do just as good a job whether I was wearing $7.99 K-Mart jeans, or a $400 Ann Taylor suit. In fact, I’m sure I even thought I could work much better in the more casual attire.

    Then all during the 1980s, I had my first real “adult” job, with serious responsibilities, and the ability to make my own decisions! That was big. I managed all production for direct mail projects, from concept through mailing. I had my own office, an assistant, could take 3-hour lunches, and was constantly wined and dined by vendors. I truly had it made, and for the first time in my life loved going to work.

    However, something else changed. I no longer wanted to go to work in jeans and sweatshirts. I realized the only reason I was so gung-ho about it before was I never had a ‘professional’ position, but this was, and I wanted to project that impression. I still knew I could work in jeans or a dress, but I sure as hell had more confidence when I dressed up. Yet, I kind of went from one extreme to another, as I rarely even wore pants, wouldn’t be caught taking the garbage out without makeup on, not a hair was out of place, and I began wearing artificial nails. Shoes became another obsession, and at one time I had 200+ pairs, all with at least 4” heels. I’m only 4’ 11”, so suddenly I felt tall, and my entire posture and swagger changed, too. I looked damned good, felt good, and wanted to strut my stuff.

    Then, I got married, quit working when I was 8 months pregnant, moved from Chicago to Madison, had another child, and suddenly I was back in those jeans. I decided to stay home and raise my own kids, so I was out of the workforce for about 8 years. Slowly, but surely, the dresses, suits and “power clothes,” disappeared, and was replaced by child-proof, inexpensive junk. I didn’t like it, but I sure as hell wasn’t June Cleaver, so I wore what was appropriate for a mom, with two young sons.

    It was already about 1999 before I was able to work full time, and once I found a professional position, the professional “me” came back out. By this time I was older and wiser, and became an expert in the practice of deceit. Now don’t get excited. What I mean by that was since I didn’t have much money, but was resourceful, with a very creative mind, I could whip together a million dollar look that cost $25. I realized it took very little money to make myself look maaarvelous.

    Then I lost that job, couldn’t find another one to save my life, and after months, then years passed, spiraled down into a state of depression. I didn’t care what I looked like, because I rarely left the house.

    However, in 2005, I got a bug up my butt, and decided to go back to school, online and get my degree. For five years I sat in this exact spot, and when I finally graduated, made up my mind I was not going back to working for idiots, so I started a home-based, freelance writing business. And, that brings us up to today.

    Once in a great while, I’ll log on before even brushing my teeth, and suddenly realize its noon, and I’m looking for bargains on eBay. I wasn’t working, because without showering, getting dressed (in nothing special, but getting dressed, nevertheless) and putting a bit of makeup on, I couldn’t seem to wrap my head around work. Once I was dressed, I was ready to work. No one saw me, but it made me feel human again. When I saw my reflection in the mirror, I didn’t look like something the cat threw up from the night before.

    However, because I rarely go out socially, and am only running errands, on the few occasions I do meet with friends, etc. I kind of pull out all the stops. I may be meeting with a client, or just going out somewhere beyond walking distance, so I’ll take any opportunity I can to do it up a little more. The makeup will be a bit heavier, ironing will be involved, and I get out the sack of jewelry. My only limitation is the shoes I wear. I wouldn’t get out the door wearing some of my 6” platforms, or I hear “Who are you getting all dolled up for?” For me, that’s who, and nobody else!

    • Steve Roller says:

      Genise, you hit the nail on the head! Thanks for sharing (and you win the award for longest blog comment). I appreciate your insights, especially the difference between the 70s and 80s. Glad to see you’ve joined the freelance revolution! Look forward to connecting with you soon.

      • Genise Caruso says:

        Hi Steve,

        Sorry about the length. I tend to do that! I appreciate your comments, and plan on continuing to put my two cents in, as soon as I can get my head about the water again. I’ve been real busy, so I hope to talk more soon!

  • faye rivkin says:

    hmmm…this is a tough one! several days a week I go to the gym at 7am. I come home and start working right away. the next thing I know, it’s noon and i’m still in my workout clothes. But i’ve also accomplished a ton. That said, if i’m working at a coffee shop, you better believe I’m dressed. And by dressed I mean nice jeans and a top. No t-shirts and shorts for me if i’m leaving the house to work. Who knows who i’ll run into. I’ve landed gigs over coffee around the corner from my house. And first meetings with clients and prospects require heels. Might be wearing them with jeans and a sweater, but i’m sporting heels 🙂

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