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Freelancing: Dressing Up for the Occasion


Two years ago, Whitney Matusiak offered some good advice on BoldFace about wardrobe considerations for freelancers. Today I’m going to sing the praises of dressing up for working (mostly) at home. I am amazed at those who work in their jammies. Amazed in wonder, not judgment. The only things I can accomplish in my nightwear are scrolling through Facebook and drinking my first coffee.

My POV is about preparation, discipline, and focus. I am hyper-organized. I love lists. They are my modus operandi for life and work. In order to be productive, though, I must be “ready for my day,” and the physical must precede the psychological. (See the first point on Emma Gannon’s blog post about being self-employed.)

My dressing up for work at home is admittedly facilitated by having a largely neutral (read: black and grey) palette of similarly styled clothes: no hemming and hawing about what to wear. Once I know the forecast for the next day—our old apartment isn’t climatically smart—it’s easy to select tomorrow’s outfit. Boom—done!

My days-off wardrobe is what my husband would call urban bohemian, and my work clothes also focus on adaptable comfort. I even have a uniform that consists of a little black dress, a grey cardigan that was my mum’s, black stockings, and lace-up Doc Martens. This is my gettin’ ’er done go-to. My morning toilette includes hair product, eye makeup, and some jewellery.

If I dress as if I will be meeting clients and online colleagues in person, I find that I approach my at-desk work with more discipline and tenacity. Feeling pulled together allows me to interact with clients, even electronically, with confidence. It helps my presentation of self in everyday life as a business owner and not a hobbyist—as many of us freelancers are so often (annoyingly) characterized. Some days, I am only interacting with the snail-mail carrier, but if I am suddenly called out to an onsite client meeting or am needed for a Skype consultation, I’m ready.

And what about work at a client’s office? I might out-dress some folks in my formality, but with my walk-forever oxfords, some funky earrings, a scarf, and a hobo bag, my style keeps me approachable, comfortable, and adaptable to any curve balls the day might throw my way. I’d rather look overdressed than convey the wrong impression about my business practices. And I don’t leave the house without a purse-sized lint roller.

Of course, there are days when my work wardrobe model goes out the window, like if I’m feeling sick or have an appointment or a volunteer commitment requiring other types of clothes. But generally, if I show up to my desk in my uniform before nine, I’m likely to have a productive and satisfying day. If nothing else, my self-imposed sartorial strictness mirrors my ridiculously neat desk and organized office supplies. Minus the cat hair, that is. (See lint roller note above.)

Uptight, inflexible, over-the-top? Perhaps. That’s what 12 years in a school uniform will do to you. I wish I could still wear a St. Trinian tunic, but that might inspire literary shenanigans, rather than editorial clarity, consistency, and correctness.


This article appeared on the EAC Toronto Branch’s blog, BoldFace.

An Explanation of Various Types of Printers, Publishers and Packagers

If you’d like to self-publish but you’re getting confused about all the different types of printing and publishing companies vying for your project, here is a primer from Dick Margulis:

REGARDLESS OF WHAT COMPANIES CALL THEMSELVES OR SAY THEY OFFER, what we’re interested in is what the are and whether they provide the services we need. So let’s use our own bafflegab-free definitions and ignore the marketing materials.

A publisher is someone who puts money at risk to produce and market a book.

A publishing services company is someone who provides services such as editing, design, indexing, or proofreading to publishers.

A book packager is a company that prepares books for publication on behalf of a publisher.

A printer is someone who owns printing equipment and accepts customer files for printing.

A book manufacturer is someone who prints and binds books under one roof.

Offset printing is printing from metal plates hung on a press and is typically used for 300 or more copies of a book.

Short-run digital printing is using digital printing equipment to produce one or more copies of a book for delivery to the publisher (or to a fulfillment warehouse).

On-demand printing is using digital printing equipment to produce a single copy of a book for direct delivery to a retail customer on behalf of the publisher.

A print broker is someone who accepts a job from a publisher and then forwards it to selected vendors for the required services.

A vanity press is a company that combines the services of a publishing services provider and a print broker and overcharges for both, making it impossible for a publisher that contracts with them to make a reasonable profit. Otherwise known as pond scum.

Now, WITHIN A CATEGORY, it is possible to compare companies and evaluate whether one provides better quality or better services than another, and that can be a productive exercise.

There are book manufacturers who specialize in working with amateur publishers (high school yearbook staffs, for example) and have customer service reps (CSRs) who are adept at hand-holding. Some of these companies also do a superb job of book manufacturing. Others tend to cut corners.

In contrast, there are book manufacturers whose CSRs are nothing more than traffic managers (friendly, competent, polite traffic managers). Any technical questions are forwarded to a technician, and the answer that eventually comes back may or may not be clear. These companies work directly with professional print buyers at publishing companies and with professional book designers, customers who are expected to provide trouble-free files for printing and clear specifications for the job. Within this subgroup of book manufacturers, some companies focus on quality and some focus on price.

Similarly, with short-run digital printers, there are companies that specialize in book manufacturing for publishers, and there are others that specialize in church cookbooks, machinery service manuals, and programs for the local high school football awards banquets. And, oh yeah, if you have a book of your weekly newspaper columns from the local shopper, they’ll throw that together for you too. So, again, you can compare on quality and price.

You can read more about Dick’s creative services here.

CD Review: Noravank

02 Shoujounian   Noravank: Petros Shoujounian – String Quartets 3-6     Quatuor Molinari     ATMA ACD2 2737

Composed to mark the centenary of the Armenian genocide, Noravank’s title is derived from a homeland monastery that was Petros Shoujounian’s inspiration. Its 14 sections, divided into string quartets of three, three, three and five movements, are symbolically named after rivers and are based on liturgical chants.

Quartet No.3 was the most affecting for me, through its tiny echoes of melodies and treatments heard in Morricone’s Gabriel’s Oboe and Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel; it concludes with the provocative Dzoraget. The contradictions of Quartet No.4’s depressive second movement, the energetic third and Quartet No.5’s lamentoso first movement brought to mind the power of nature and the current plight of evacuated Fort McMurray folks – if that’s not the musical equivalent of theological proof-texting. The balance of Quartet No.5 and all of No.6 more overtly reflect the influence of eastern folk songs, both in the keys and the lilts they comprise. Another memory of song, from Chopin’s “Raindrop” Prelude in D-Flat Major No.15 Op.28, is heard in the onomatopoeic burbling waters of the Vedi.

This CD was suggested to me, a Pärt fanatic, as a possibly similarly contemplative recording. While these aren’t tracks for mindful meditation, there is an introspective quality to all the movements. Maybe the invoked theme of migration is apt, after all: fires, oppression, the liturgical life – these all involve movement and change. But this introvert was soothed rather than discomfited via the talent of the Quatuor Molinari, who commissioned this work that is ultimately about renewal. Fine liner-note editing and the eponymous cover photograph round out a very marketable product.


This article appeared in the June-August 2016 issue of The WholeNote magazine.

Tom Allen At JMO/ NYOC Benefit

Tom_Allen_1.jpgJeunesses Musicales Ontario (JMO) and the National Youth Orchestra (NYO) Canada have orchestrated Raise the Bar, a fundraiser on June 8, as part of their continued support of the next generation of professional classical musicians. Tom Allen will be hosting the intimate evening of music, cocktails and hors d’œuvres, and he’ll be joined by fellow alumni James Ehnes, Russell Braun and other award-winners in performance in the elegant Great Hall of U of T’s Hart House.

Since 1979, Jeunesses Musicales Ontario has provided emerging Canadian artists with concert tours as well as educational concerts for young audiences. Since 1960, NYO Canada has held an iconic reputation as Canada’s pre-eminent orchestral and chamber music training institute, providing the most comprehensive and in-depth training program available to our best young classical musicians.

We asked Tom Allen to comment on the organizations’ shared values, both as an observer and as the recipient of many advantages as a result of his involvement with them as a youth.

He noted that “…the work being done by Jeunesses Musicales and the NYO Canada doesn’t only nurture musical talent – it nurtures a benevolent and caring and enlightened society.”

His own experiences included the honour of being bass trombonist in the NYO in 1982 and 1985, and part of a resident brass quintet in 1984. That quintet went on to a professional career as the Great Lakes Brass, which he toured with from 1984 to 1990. He notes that “during those years we were helped considerably by JMC, who sent us on a couple of tours and helped us find rehearsal space in Toronto, as well” and that there were other benefits to him as a young musician: there was generosity in support and career guidance, as well as lessons not only in artistry and musicianship but also the universal and transferable life skills needed by emerging professionals.

He is still grateful for the connections and experiences he gleaned. Despite a climate of arts-funding restraint, he didn’t miss out on invaluable recording and performance opportunities. JMO and NYOC still nurture high-level playing and professional development. The NYO offers that experience and, likewise, “…because of those same economic forces, classical musicians in Canada (and everywhere else) must be more adaptable, more flexible, more inventive and quick-on-their-feet than ever before, and JMC supports and nurtures that approach. The two are both sides of a (more and more hard-to-come-by) coin.”

For more information visit


This article appeared in the May 2016 issue of The WholeNote magazine.