People think the life of a freelancer or someone who works remotely to be full of glamour and free time – lingering lunches, mid-day pedicures, relaxing naps. Such is not the case. If a freelancer wants to stay competitive, they need to be working 24/7, and probably have a lot less free time than their friends who work in offices.
However, they do find some ways to save time – such as forgetting to eat. Or shower. Or get dressed. It's not pretty out there. Some of our self-employed friends share their honest truths about working from home…
Bryce Gruber-Hermon, freelance writer
Even if you write about makeup, it's pretty standard to go days without wearing any.
Dara Avenius, publicist
Oh god...all the delivery guys know my froggy robe.
Wendy Rose Gould, freelance writer
My cats always think phone interviews are an invitation to have a full-fledged conversation with me and will sit outside my closed door meowing profusely as if the world is about to end. Also, my boyfriend (who I live with) also works from home and I love having him as a "co-worker." We get to hang out during the day (hello 3pm hugs and shared lunches) and keep each other motivated!
Megan Zander, freelance writer
Lunch is never the same meal or at the same time. Some days I'm so busy I forget to eat, other days I make a super healthy salad and declare myself a real adult, sometimes I'm stress eating frosting with a spoon as I try to make deadline.
Kate Winick, writer
My biggest occupational hazard is sitting cross-legged on my couch so long that my foot falls asleep without me realizing, and then when I stand up I nearly fall over my coffee table. It's happened...more than once.
Sue Campbell, freelance travel writer
I've been working from home for 30 years. I forget what it's like to dress up to go to an office or commute. I'm happy that the only time I dress well is when I have to go on a press trip.
I've biked to the corner store and realized I was still wearing my slippers when I got there!
Also, looking up at the clock at 5 pm and not remembering whether I had a shower or not, that happens a lot.
Gloria Yang, publicist
I don't always work from home, but when I do, I follow the same schedule. I sit my butt down in front of the computer at 9. If I feel unmotivated, I put makeup on—red lipstick to be exact.
Michele Herrmann, freelance writer
Sometimes my lunch break involves taking a 30-minute nap at about 3 or 4 in the afternoon. It's been a big help.
Patricia Dixon, journalist
My sins cannot be revealed here- alas, there are many. I'm still gainfully and sinfully self-employed.
Rachelle Pachtman, publicist
Your dog barks while you are on important conference call because FedEx is at door. Used to be more of an issue. Not quite as much any more.
Julia Dellitt, marketing expert
I have to really watch the urge to do things around the house instead of work. I'm not a clean freak, but when I work from home, all of sudden it feels like I have *so much free time* to do the dishes, throw in some laundry, organize a drawer.. all those "little" chores end up stealing work time slowly but surely and I always regret it later.
Joanna Fantozzi, food writer
You have no one to blame on getting distracted but yourself, sadly (if you live alone).
Jane Daly, beauty writer
Defiantly 2-3 pm in my robe. I feel a sense of shame every time. Also, my UPS guy added me on FB and I've run into other couriers out and about who usually yell “sorry don't have anything for you today!"
Emily Farris, writer
On the days I don't go out for coffee and make it at home, sometimes I forget to brush my teeth until 4 pm. Because it's so much a part of my getting-ready routine. And yes, I realize how disgusting this is.
Stacey Rene Russell, publicist
Sometimes I get dressed just to feel "normal." But getting dressed is PJs to LuLu Lemon.
Jayne Morehouse, publicist
I get dressed and do hair and makeup before I even come downstairs. But...the cats have been known to jump into a Skype call every now and then. They want to see who else is talking.
Kaitlin Menza, writer
Sometimes my iPhone pedometer app shows under 100 steps because, well, you know. If someone cancels evening plans, like drinks or dinner, it's actually an immense bummer because that means I'm not going outside today (or showering) after all. Those memes about it being such a relief when someone cancels plans no longer apply to me!
Esti Berkowitz, blogger
I get all dressed for motivation purposes and get to work (my laptop on the dining room table) as soon as kids get to school. I barely leave my desk and often forget to make lunch and drink enough water.
Bradley Tuck, publicist
I actually have a rule. I don't do any work until I've showered, had coffee, and then dressed properly in a button down shirt, so that I feel that I'm 'at work'. At weekends, lord, I look like a hot mess , but Monday to Friday I dress as if I work at an agency. In my office with dog hair all over the floor. Go figure.
Amber Browning-Coyle , Executive Producer and Host of Spotlight on Giving and Spotlight on TV
I have been working on my computer in my underwear and when Amazon comes to deliver I'll throw on my big wool coat that hangs next to the door. They totally know I'm almost naked, but thankfully don't say much.
Maureen Pollack, inventor of the Water Slyde
I've done video podcasts with no pants on. I'm so not saying which ones.
Harper Spero, business coach and consultant
Having a Skype call with a client where my hair is done, makeup is on, nice shirt and no pants.
When I worked from home my lunch hour was the gym and I can't tell you how many conference calls I have been on and went to the loo and put the phone on mute. Sometimes I would forget it was on mute and be asked to weigh in on a strategy and heard, Oh, I guess she dropped the call. Yikes. The worst is having to video con when you are lazy. Having to brush hair and put on lipstick whilst still in sweats or nighty.
Candice Kilpatrick Brathwaite, social media expert
The highlight of my workday is when my coworkers in Finland are awake to chat on slack. Also I'm usually both pantless and under an electric blanket. I have done a call in the bathtub.
Traci Coulter, publicist
There are days when I get home from a run or a Soul Cycle class only to realize eight hours later I forgot to shower. And there have been days when the building manager would knock on my door for something and say “sorry, didn't think you'd still be in bed" because I'm wearing pjs, at 1 pm. The whole thing about being more productive with office clothes on is a theory I definitely don't believe anymore.
Debra Locker Griffin, publicist
Both of my huge dogs - because one polar bear is not enough - appeared on a group Skype last week.
Sarah Haynes Heath, beauty expert
Things I often do on conference calls: pluck eye brows, cut toenails, inspect for nose hairs, clean kitty litter, make faces in the mirror, get distracted by dirty dishes in the sink, roll my eyes, thank God I can run to Target at any time for things I don't need.
Bonnie Winston, matchmaker
I eat like no one's watching because no one is. A lot of time I eat standing up and sometimes over the sink. I drink straight out of the water bottles and put them back in.
Kaeli Conforti, travel writer
Most of the time, my lunch hours were really shower time followed by a power nap. The hardest part for me was (and still is) having an end time when I work from home. It's always so easy to just say, oh, let me finish this up, and before I know it, it's 10pm!
Samantha Slaven-Bick, publicist
Sometimes I work from the bed in the afternoons while simultaneously binge watching Netflix or Amazon shows. I've been known to pick my son up from assorted classes and extracurricular in pajamas. And then I just do errands like that before heading home.
Beate Chelette, author
Sometimes I only look good up to the waist and what's under the desk is yoga pants and dirty feet
Jason Jepson, publicist
My feet are in my pool and a beer is in my hand at noon almost everyday.
Vicki Winters, blogger and content creator
Sometimes I think about showering and try to remember “when was the last time?"
Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.
When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.
2016: What rules?
Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.
Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.
And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.
And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?
Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.
Digital policies for 2020 and beyond
While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.
Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy
Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:
- If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
- While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
- If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
- Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
- Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?
Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.
Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply
The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:
- Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
- Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
- Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
- Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
- Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
- Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
- Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
- Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.
Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles
Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.