DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been working freelance for the past 10 years or so, and it has been a rocky road. Sometimes I've had great contracts. Other times, not so much. This year has been especially tough, and I am broke. Really broke. I have credit card debt, and I feel like my whole world is collapsing on me. What I have done is not good, I'm sure. I have stopped answering the phone, and I see my credit score plummeting. I don't know what to do. I am looking for work, but without some projects, I do not have the money to pay my bills. — Up Against the Wall, PittsburghDEAR UP AGAINST THE WALL: As hard as it may seem right now, the best thing for you to do is to be upfront with your creditors. Contact each one directly, and explain your situation. Ask for leniency. Promise to pay them something the moment income begins to flow again. Ask if they would be willing to suspend late fees and negative reporting to the credit card bureaus for a couple of months while you search for work. Since the credit card company's job is to recoup its money, it will likely try to work with you. Getting some (or ideally, all) of its money back over time is its goal. Generally, if you approach the company with a positive attitude, you will get some kind of support.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I work in a typical "millennial office." We have beer in the fridge, a frequently used table tennis table and no dress code. Most of the employees are men in their mid-20s, so shorts and a T-shirt is the go-to work look for them. As a woman, I feel like I would look silly if I started wearing dresses and more formal wear to the office even though I want to, since I usually have plans after work. I don't want to look stuffy at work, but I don't want to look like a slob when I'm out with my friends. Is there any in-between? — No Tees in the Bar, New York City
DEAR NO TEES IN THE BAR: Get creative. You can develop a personal style that stays casual but is more dressed up than the average guy at your office. Look around. There's bound to be someone who dresses a notch above the norm. You can also choose to dress up on occasion when you have after-work events. If somebody ribs you, tell them you have an event to attend and leave it at that. You can also bring a change of clothes to work and slip into your dress just before you head out. Most important is for you to feel confident in your appearance and clear that you can make personal choices that extend beyond the casual norm.Lifestylist and author Harriette Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. You can send questions to email@example.com or C/O Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.