Things Are Stressful Enough. For God’s Sake, Don’t Put On a Suit to Work From Home.

Let’s get real, people: all those “dress professionally for your home office” posts are missing the point. I’ve been working remotely for the past five years and haven’t been near a dry cleaner since I left my corporate job. If I wanted to wear pants to work, I wouldn’t have started a company. 

Here are some tips to help you embrace the work-from-home lifestyle as it should be lived:

  1. Work wherever you are comfortable. If lying in bed with a laptop balanced on your stomach makes you happy, please go for it. I have a home office, but you’ll find me on the couch as often as you will at my desk. In my professional opinion, some emails should only be sent while prone.
  2. Wear anything you wish. Right now, I am resplendently attired in fluffy socks, striped pajama bottoms, and an “Electable” t-shirt. Does this affect the quality of my work? Only in that I don’t spend a single minute thinking about how how much my feet hurt. I’m focused on my writing, not my wardrobe. It’s a nice change.
  3. Gussy up for meetings, but don’t go crazy. A friend of mine drapes a colorful scarf over her t-shirt before firing up the Zoom app. I go for clunky statement necklaces. Brush your hair and make sure the room behind you doesn’t look like that hotel suite in The Hangover. Done.
  4. Enjoy your co-workers. Productivity coaches recommend taking regular breaks to decompress and spark creativity. Instead of walking around the block or joining the line at Starbucks, use the time to annoy your cat (I keep a laser pointer handy) or take the dog for a jog.
  5. Understand that sh#@t happens. Doorbells ring, your spouse asks you to pick up dinner (or order it from Door Dash in these troubled times), your toddler spills juice on the router. All of these interruptions are less distracting than having your boss appear at your office door at 5:30 p.m., as you are shoving your heels in the desk drawer, with major changes to a report due first thing tomorrow.

Yes, working at home can be isolating (although not if everyone’s doing it), and yes, it takes discipline to be productive. But it’s also easier, more fun, and for many of us, more humane than commuting to an office — if you let yourself enjoy it.

Deb Gaines is the president of Deborah Gaines Associates, a communications consultancy serving law firms and universities. 




Send Us Money ‘Cause We’re Cool, and Other Great Business Ideas

Jowtfamireadingb hunters, start your resumes: a new digital travel publication is looking for a senior producer. According to the ad on, the successful candidate will “run point on all things digital, with full accountability for every phase of the production cycle.”

Sound good?  There’s just one catch – you have to pay yourself.

To quote the ad, “To join the running, send us 1) a cover letter explaining why you’re the perfect match; 2) a CV; and 3) a proposal/action plan on how you would go about fundraising for your compensation package” (emphasis mine).

In other words, you are invited to kick-start your own salary in support of someone else’s publication. If you get the job.

I’m no stranger to the capitalist system. I know we’re all here to make money (although this organization,, unaccountably has  501(c)3 status).   I’m fine with showing ROI — in the form of sales, new customers, a higher profile, awards, whatever — to the people who hire me.

But “fundraising for my compensation package?” Isn’t that just freelancing?

I’ve got an idea: I’d like to hire some writers for my consulting firm, To show your interest, please send me three writing samples, a check for $1,000 and a photo of your living room (which we’ll be using as our corporate headquarters).

May the best decor win.




Is Your Boss a Business Baby?


According to, Business Baby made his first appearance on Reddit in 2014. Since then, the tough-talking toddler on the red plastic phone has become a poster child for disfunctional bosses everywhere.

He’s abusive:business-baby-meme-5He’s a bully:0fdHe’s clueless: business-baby-meme-4He’s unreasonable: 873He’s sexist: 
Knowyourmeme claims that there are more than 200,000 versions of Business Baby floating around. Which ones ring true for you?

From Bio Breaks to Sugar Boogers: The Definitive List of Corporate Cliches

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A friend of mine works in the legal department of a Fortune 25 company where, apparently, they communicate entirely in bullspeak. Here, alphabetized for your convenience, is the best list I have ever seen of corporate metaphors, catchphrases and cliches you would be embarrassed to utter outside a teak-paneled boardroom. Bonus points to anyone who can use three or more of these in a single sentence:

A head shaker
A lot of people are in new chairs
A lot of tentacles
Act like you’ve been there before
Add things to the bag / give a bigger bag
Adding value
Air cover
Air time
Albatross around our neck
An “N” of one
Ankle biters
Another bite at the apple
Apple orange banana
Are we playing baseball or cricket
Are you on suicide watch? You don’t have any shoelaces.
At the end of the day
Back of the envelope/napkin
Ball of wax
Bandwidth / capacity
Bastardize what I was told
Beat that up
Beauty contest
Belly buttons and door knobs
Best horse to ride
Bio break
Blow smoke up your dress/ass
Boil the ocean
Boiler plate
Booger in the sugar
Boogeyman in the closet
Bubble gum and duct tape
Buttoned up
Cake in the face
Call a spade a spade
Calling his baby ugly
Can’t put the horse back in the barn
Carrying the water
Caught with our pants down
Causing heartburn
Caveman math
Caveman view
Cheap-seat perspective
Circle back/up
Circling the drain
Closer shave
Controlling the thermometer
Corral the cats
Critical path
Cross to bear
Crossing the goal line
Cube rats
Daisy chain
Damn the torpedoes
Dead cat bounce
Dipping your pen in the company ink
Directionally correct
Do the brain damage
Do you guys work for [Head of Corporate Foundation]? Because all you do is give money away
Do you hear that sucking sound?
Dog and pony show
Don’t paint ourselves into a corner when we don’t yet know what the room looks like
Don’t shit where you eat
Don’t spend too many calories
Don’t spike the ball
Don’t take your foot off the gas
Double hatting/wearing multiple hats
Dressing the pig
Drinking the Kool-aid
Dry powder
Dumpster fire
Eat what you kill
Elvis has left the building
Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while
Everyone’s had all their itches scratched
Finding the right dance partner
Fire drill
Fireside chat
Flag that for you
Fly wheel
Fog a mirror
From a macro perspective
Get a piece of the action
Get our arms around this
Get some more color around this
Getting legs
Getting to the altar is one thing but saying your vows is another
Give away the farm
Give someone the Heisman
Glide path
Go pound sand
Good enough for government work
Good guy vs. bad guy
Good hustle
Got out over their skis
Got undressed
Great white whale category
Ham and eggs
Hands are going to come out
He won’t get out of bed for that
Hearts and minds
Herding cats
Hockey stick
Holding pattern
How big is a breadbox/bread train
How big is the nut we have to crack
How does he mesh with the brass?
I didn’t catch the license plate of the bus you just threw me under
I don’t think they’re going to let us do a proctology exam on all of their customers
I don’t want there to be any space between the lip and the cup
I just want to milk the cow, not own it.
If my grandmother had balls, she’d be my grandfather
If the queen had balls, she’d be king
If they’re showing up to the party armed, we should too
If you’re gonna buy a sinking ship, you better be good at plugging holes
In his shop
In my back pocket
In the windshield, not the rearview mirror
In this volley
Invited to the party
I’ve got an appointment with the rest of my life
Jump on a call
Just masturbate me for a minute
Katie bar the door
Keep my neck out of the noose
Kick the can down the road
Kill the goose that lays the golden egg
Land grab
Lay the sewers and power lines
Lead with your chin
Left pocket/right pocket
Leg of the stool
Let’s punt this one
Lift and shift
Lipstick on the pig
Lock arms
Long in the teeth
Long run for a short slide
Longest poles in the tent
Lots of moving parts
Make hay while the sun shines
Melting ice cube
Mental masturbation
Missionary work
Monday morning quarterbacking
Moral high ground
More ants at the picnic
Move the ball
Move the needle
Mowing a lawn in Iraq
My fellow American, I feel your pain
My name is above yours on the org chart
My voice fluctuates depending on my level of interest in what you’re saying.
Nasty gram
No brackets
No sacred cows
Not a heavy lift
Not a stray cat
Not married to that approach
Not willing to expend the political capital
Open the kimono
Opine on that
Opportunistic opportunity
Over a barrel
Pass the baton
Peanut butter spreading
Pick a scab
Pick your horse
Pie in the sky
Pile of shit to shovel, hope no one turns on the fan
Poke holes in this
Poke them in the eye
Pole vaulting mouse turds
Polish the turd
Pounding the table
Pressure test
Put something out there
Putting out fires
Raked over the coals
Razor/razor blade
Reallyyyyy now fleabag?
Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic
Reduce windshield time
Riding shotgun
Riding the horses as hard and as long as you can
Rubber stamp this
Saber rattling
Say grace over this
See what sticks
Sell this up the food chain
Separate the ant shit from the pepper
Sharpen our pencils
Shit the bed
Showing a little leg
Singing from the same hymnal
Sniff test
Socialize this
Somewhere between the mafia and black water mercenaries
Spitting bubbles
Squeeze the stone
Stalking horse
Stick a fork in it
String of pearls
Sucking wind
SWAG (scientific wild-ass guess)
Swim lane
Table stakes
Take a first pass
Take a quick dive
Take a step back
Take this offline
Taken to the woodshed
Talking the same language
Tell someone who cares.
That ain’t my circus and those aren’t my monkeys
That could be a real turd in the punch bowl
That dog will/won’t hunt
That has (no) legs
The harvest is ripe, the workers are few
The juice isn’t worth the squeeze
The laboring oar
The nice carpet people
The shit runs downhill
The shit that doesn’t flush
Things on fire
Throw cold water on it
Throw up on it
Treading water
Trench warfare
Trigger pulls
Two elephants dancing
Two trick pony
Value grab
Vomit on it
Walk around money
War room
Wave the white flag
We have them by the short hairs / by the short and curlies
We want to be Switzerland
We’re down to the short strokes
We’re getting out of the blocks with a running start
Wet behind the ears
Wet my beak
Wheel house
Where the bodies are buried
Whipped cream on shit
Whose neck gets choked
Whose ox is getting gored?
Wind down
Window dressing
Wizard of Oz approach
Working off the same song sheet
Wrapped around the axle

You’re the Boss – Now Don’t Screw it Up

event_198250242What’s the biggest threat to a freelance or entrepreneurial business? Hint: It’s not unreasonable clients, slow pay rates or competition. It’s the big kahuna – you.

Here are three ways – learned from experience – that small business owners screw things up.

Lack of a business concept. I’m not talking about five-year plans, projections, or other doorstop-sized documents (although you may eventually need these). I mean a concept that can be written on a napkin.

Here’s mine: Provide exceptional content to clients who won’t compromise on quality.  These ten words direct everything I do. Provide:  I provide copy — I don’t necessarily write it. This makes my business scalable and gives me the capability to handle large projects. Exceptional content:  Not every project requires highly intelligent, beautifully crafted language. I offer a premium product that commands a premium price. Clients who won’t compromise on quality: Rather than marketing to a specific sector, I target the top-tier players in industries where I have experience and contacts.

Poor pricing. I know a talented medical copywriter who freelances for academic publications. She charges $30 an hour “because that’s what the market will bear.” Another writer friend, with a similar background, charges $125 an hour working for pharmaceutical companies. When he heard about the academic writer, he called and offered to outsource his overflow to her for twice her current rate. She refused because “It felt like a sell-out” and “I want to control my own client relationships.”

The moral is, maybe it’s your pricing structure – maybe it’s your market – or maybe it’s your attitude. If you are charging less than you should, chances are you’re self-sabotaging.

Failure to build the appropriate pipeline. Most of us market our services to some extent. But are you “fishing where the fish are biting” – reaching out to prospective clients who a) need your services and b) are willing to pay for them?  In my case, joining the local chamber of commerce might be fun, but most small businesses won’t be able to afford my services. I’m better off attending major conferences and building connections at well-funded, status-conscious organizations.

Are you getting in your own way as you try to build your business?

Copyright 2015 by Deborah Gaines






On Choosing Your Battles

Are you charging in the wrong direction?

Are you charging in the wrong direction?

Marketers, here’s a hard fact: You will never have enough resources to promote every new product, program or hire with the vigor its advocates think it deserves.  Instead, learn to choose your battles. Here are three I would avoid:

The Battle of New Orleans.  Remember the last skirmish in the War of 1812 — the one that was fought after the war was won? Don’t engage in the marketing equivalent. I once worked for a university that started life as a teacher training program. We were tasked with “debunking the teachers college stereotype” to a generation that had never heard the words normal school.

Pickett’s Charge.  Robert E. Lee’s classic case of hubris during the Battle of Gettysburg sent the Confederate Army — fresh off victories in Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg — stampeding into disaster.  Since then, overconfidence has sunk many a marketing initiative, from Zune to Crystal Pepsi.

The Battle of Zama.  The Romans turned Hannibal’s secret weapon — his elephants — against him in this humiliating defeat. Kind of like the Internet turned the #AskJPMorgan Twitter campaign into a bloodstained rout.

Like most disasters, these could have been avoided through a combination of research, planning, and a good long look in the mirror. Make sure your clients do all three.

Twitter for the Fearful

Let it go.

Let it go.

Twitter is the East Village of social media platforms, a once-cool locale that has been deserted by its hipster denizens and left to the well-heeled wannabes. Which means, of course, that it’s prime ground for business development.

With nearly 300 million active users (Statista 2/2015) who can be segmented by interest, location, and a dozen other criteria, there will never be lower fruit for marketers to pick. Yet, while everyone has some presence on Twitter, practically no one in the corporate world is doing it right.

There are a few good reasons for this. First and foremost, social media is the province of the young, and young people are rarely intentionally strategic. They are the world’s greatest connectors, building enormous and vibrant networks, but these pulsating masses of virtual humanity are often ends in themselves.

Second, older people are afraid of social media. “It can’t be controlled.” “It gets out of hand.” “We don’t have the resources to deal with it.” Sounds like any establishment figure talking about any youth movement, doesn’t it?

Well, get over it. We’re going to have to find a way to exist in this brave new world (which is 20-plus years old already). And that means partnering with younger people, charting a strategic course, and letting the connectors do their stuff.

Next up: Developing a Twitter Strategy, or “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for This”

Follow me @DebGainesAssoc

You Only Need One Word to Succeed in Business

It’s “Yes.”

Virgin Airways founder Richard Branson famously said, “If somebody offers you an opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes — then learn how to do it later.”  Great advice, as far as it goes. But not knowing how to do something is only one reason we turn away work. Here are three others:

I don’t have time. How many times have you shot yourself in the foot with this one? If you’re too busy to do a job yourself, subcontract it out. Recommend someone and take a finder’s fee. Or recommend someone and build a network of people who will promote you later.

It won’t pay enough.” You have nothing to lose by naming a price that works for you.  Instead of asking “What’s your budget?” try leading with, “I’d love to do it. My rate is [amount that would feel really prosperous].”

“It’s not my wheelhouse.”  Ten years ago, someone offered me the opportunity to write a legal brochure. The material intimidated me, but freelance travel writing wasn’t making me rich as quickly as I had hoped so I took the job. And actually enjoyed it. Law firm work now accounts for a substantial part of my income. Travel writing, not so much.

So next time someone makes you an offer that’s outside your comfort zone, try saying yes. (And let me know how it goes.)

5 Reasons You Can’t Find Freelance Work

My company hires home-based freelancers for corporate writing projects, so I spend a lot of time sorting through resumes and talking to people on the phone. It turns out that the freelance market is not as competitive as you might think. In fact, at least 80 percent of the candidates disqualify themselves, often in a single email or conversation. Here are some pitfalls to avoid.

  1. Don’t lead with your personal life. Just because many writers (including me) choose the freelance or entrepreneurial lifestyle in order to prioritize things other than work – such as time with our kids, writing a novel or spending winters in Mexico – doesn’t mean prospective employers need to know the gory details. One writer sent me, as her writing sample, a link to a Mommy blog entitled “So Long Suckers! Why I’ll never be on Deadline Again.” (Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration. But only slight.) Another noted that he wasn’t available in February because “The powder’s waist-deep in Park City.”
  2.  Get the chip off your shoulder. Freelancers often spend years fighting their internal or external naysayers before striking out on their own. This can give you a certain edge, as though you need to shout, “Take that, corporate slime! I’m doing it my way!” to everyone you meet. This is what friends are for. Clients are fine with, “The next couple of months are blocked out, but I’ll be available March 1.”
  3.  Let go of the past. The past five years have been one long wake for the publishing industry. You don’t need to explain that you were the last man standing at the Times-Picayune or spend two paragraphs of your cover letter describing your depression when the Star-Ledger let you go. Nor are other sectors immune. I’ll back my former employer, LeBoeuf, Lamb Greene & MacRae, against anyone out there for Titanic stories, but the only relevant takeaway is that I’m good at crisis communications.
  4.  Don’t act like you’re slumming. I receive frequent variations on the following theme: “After 35 years in my dream job as Gardening Editor for Country Living, I find myself looking for corporate work.” Is anything about that pitch appealing?
  5. Showcase the benefits, not the background. One of my most skilled and successful legal marketing writers spent 20 years doing obituaries for a major newspaper. He started his cover letter, “After profiling hundreds of complex personalities from virtually every field, I believe I am well-suited to writing for law firms.”

Finally, one piece of advice: Don’t devalue yourself. Set a fee that reflects your worth and experience, even if it costs you assignments. Then give every client who pays it your absolute best work. Exceed expectations for professionalism, responsiveness and work quality.

You’ll do just fine.

Want to reprint this post? It’s all yours. But please include this credit: Deborah Gaines spent 25 years as a freelance copywriter, journalist and chief marketing officer. Her company, Deborah Gaines Associates, manages editorial projects for law firms and other corporate clients. Follow her @DebGainesAssoc