WORK SMARTER

The small but meaningful ways that will give me confidence

Photo: Jonny Storey

When Marisa Bate went freelance, it was like jumping into the unknown. But armed with a feel-good wardrobe and a few “power poses”, she is learning how to find her way

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And so I made the leap. After a lot of lists and coffees and emails and Leslie Knope levels of thorough consideration, I told my boss I was leaving the comfort of a full-time contract and jumping head-first into freelance life.

“Be prepared to lose your identity,” said a mentor. This might sound extreme, but I knew what she meant. Firstly, I’ve worked since I was 14, I’ve never had a gap year or a sabbatical and I’m a “side-hustling millennial”, or whatever we’re called these days when you do jobs on top of jobs on top of jobs to make extra cash. In short, I’ve always worked in a place of work – from a pub to an office, I’ve been on someone else's time and premises. Secondly, I’ve also been safely hidden behind the title of a magazine or a newspaper or a website. My name might have been on the byline, but it was under the umbrella of someone else. I belonged to a team; I was part of someone else’s vision. And I had a desk and a solar-powered small model of the Queen that said, “This is where I sit. This is where I belong. This is who I am.” And then I gave that all up.

Marisa in freelance mode
 

So, here I am, finding my way in the world again. And it feels like whereas once I was the commuter at Waterloo station who could weave their way through a crowd with the speed and elegance of a figure skater, I now feel like a tourist: unsure of myself, stumbling along with a map in my hand as those who know better rush past me. And, with every step I take, I’m trying to figure out who I am, just me – without the backup of a boss and a team and an office.

Hands on the hips means business, right? It means you can’t be easily knocked down – that you're determined and focused

And part of that process is telling people who I am. Normally, over coffee in a chic Soho cafe with a lot of wood. I’ve managed to steal an hour of their day and in return I have to sell back who I am – succinctly, confidently. I have to practise talking about myself the way men do – with pride and ease and unashamedly mentioning achievements. I have to pitch ideas that I sound convinced of even if I’m not. Yes, you’d like me to write a column. Yes, I have thoughts on this and that and everything. Yes, I’m fast and reliable. If only I could say it like I’d say it to a mate in the pub. I still say it like I’m talking to a terrifying security guard at LAX whose interrogating questions are making me question my own innocence. I have to learn to not ramble, but say just enough. I have to be professional, but human. I have to figure out who Freelance Marisa is and then present her, jazz hands and all – professional, cool, calm, collected and just the right shade of navy Freelance Marisa.

And that’s why I’m interested in Amy Cuddy’s power poses. The Harvard academic believes that a few simple physical gestures can unlock confidence, and in my case, turn me into a high-flying freelancer extraordinaire. Apparently, in the Wonder Woman pose – feet wide apart, hands on hips, shoulder down and chin up – stress is released and boldness takes its place. Do I look ridiculous? Maybe. But I feel great. It’s an affirmative stance – hands on the hips means business, right? It means you can’t be easily knocked down – that you're determined and focused. The feet apart helps you feel balanced, grounded and stable. A minute of standing like that was somewhere between a stretch, mindfulness and a pep talk.

 

The pose, of course, isn’t enough. I have to be confident that if I caught my reflection I wouldn't wince and be distracted. I have to feel firm on my feet, comfortable with who I am, capable to do what might be asked. I want to feel agile and ready for anything and fully energised. And so I’m building a freelance wardrobe – one that is me, but the professional, reliable, fast, idea-generating me. It’s one that I can hold a cup of coffee in, catch my reflection and think, "Yes, she looks like she’s doing OK." It’s made up of great navy trousers, a flattering waist, anything I can move in and feel comfortable in, plus FitFlop sneakers that have a great print and grown-up black detailing – all these things are building blocks in creating my life-after-the-office identity, a system of signs and codes that tell the world who I am now.

Going out in the world as a freelancer is a daunting job that can feel like jumping without a safety net – a thrilling skydive, but you’re not quite sure if you’ve packed a parachute. Finding small but meaningful ways to help me find the confidence to tell the world who I am goes a long way.

@marisajbate

Want to perfect your own power poses? FitFlop is offering The Pool readers free shipping on all orders placed before 22 December 2017. Simply enter THEPOOL at checkout

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Photo: Jonny Storey
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