How to Set Yourself Up for Success in 2018

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I have a confession: my favorite month is not December. It's not even October or April or July...

It's January. I know, potentially the most depressing month of the year as it is cold and dark and no longer filled with all things merry and bright but go with me-- it's the fresh-start-of-it-all. The blank slate. The new beginning. The infinite possibility.

I love the beginning of the year and I love starting it after having done some reflection and planning. If you want to enter 2018 with intention, I invite you to download my brand new free resource:  the Get Your Dream Off the Ground New Year's Goal Setting Workbook. In this workbook you'll walk through questions that will give you clarity on exactly what needs to happen in your life in order to achieve your goals in the new year. And if you're curious about my eCourse, Get Your Dream Off the Ground, this is the ideal appetizer to that main course.

If you're ready for this to be the year that your aspirations become a part of your real life, start by downloading the workbook. 

And don't forget to enter Hilary's Holiday Giveaway! The contest closes Thursday December 14! There are six ways to earn entries and you can earn a new entry every day! Enter here.

How the Enneagram Helped Me Battle Anxiety

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I think we all know at this point that what you see on the Internet is not the whole story.

Here’s what you’ve seen from me this year: a big move, commitment to get out of my comfort zone, a lovely trip to Europe, and resources to help you maximize your time and reach your goals. 

But there’s a lot more to my life than what you see on social media or here on my blog. I want to pull back the curtain a little bit today.

This has been one of the most challenging years of my life. My typically plucky, optimistic self was anxious, worried, maybe even depressed.

(Caveat: I don't typically want to share this side of things in part because it's just not as fun, and also in part because I know you may deal with much bigger demons than I do. Today I just want to share a bit of where I am and I hope it encourages you, no matter where you are on your journey.)

This year I experienced some big life transitions, some disappointments, and a lot of uncertainty. For months at a time I didn’t go a whole week without crying at some point. (Not at all normal for me.) I felt fragile and worried. The fog has begun to lift, but I haven’t felt solidly like myself for longer than the past four weeks or so. So while I’m doing pretty good now, I can’t say for certain how long this “feeling normal” will last. It still feels new.

Today I want to share what I think has been particularly instrumental in helping that fog to lift. Earlier this year I was introduced to something that has been nothing short of transformative for me: the Enneagram. And while I must admit that I’m a sucker for just about any personality explanation (Please let’s figure me out and everyone else!!), this one in particular has been helpful to me more than any other. Not only because it has helped me identify my strengths, but because it has also helped me see my weaknesses and how both my strengths and weaknesses stem from the same thing in me: a focus on rich experiences and the future. 

I’m an Enneagram 7: the Enthusiast. Here’s the gist, stolen from Eclectic Energies:

“People of this personality type are essentially concerned that their lives be an exciting adventure. Sevens are future oriented, restless people who are generally convinced that something better is just around the corner. They are quick thinkers who have a great deal of energy and who make lots of plans. They tend to be extroverted, multi-talented, creative and open minded. They are enthusiasts who enjoy the pleasures of the senses and who don't believe in any form of self-denial.” 

Prior to reading about my type in the Enneagram books that I’ve read (this one and this one), I didn’t realize that the primary thing that I try to avoid at all costs is pain. Well, I actually did know that, but I didn’t realize that it was a unique quality to my type. Not everyone avoids it quite like Sevens. We don’t like confrontation. And we’re quick to look on the bright side of any situation. That sunny disposition is good until it’s time to deal with some real life stuff—in which case, well, we hate that and avoid it like the plague. Not only is every type not quite avoiding pain like Sevens, but not everyone is constantly striving toward excitement, fulfillment, and the best experiences in life quite like Sevens either. 

Through studying the Enneagram, I’ve learned that the Sevens’ biggest challenge as well as our biggest driver is that we are constantly looking toward creating a new and better future. This, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. It can be a wonderful thing. It can help change the world. But at the same time, if we are only looking toward the future and expecting fulfillment there, in short, we are missing our one precious life today. 

So how do you decide to change your ways? To not miss today? Well, lucky for me, the books I read gave me advice on the matter and it’s that advice that seems so obvious but is so transformative: gratitude. 

(And yes, if you’re reading this in November then we’ve got a beautiful Thanksgiving tie-in, don’t we? ;-))

Implementing an intentional gratitude practice has transformed my life.

And the research on gratitude is truly stunning. Studies have shown that people who implement a practice of gratitude in their lives are more optimistic, sleep better, and those that are sick have fewer symptoms

If you’re like me and you struggle with the fear of missing out, need to have something exciting to look forward to, and are constantly planning exciting adventures, I have to tell you—satisfaction is not in the future. A life focused solely on the future will leave you constantly wanting something new or something more.

Here are a few ideas you can implement today to build your Gratitude Practice:

  • Get a journal that is meant solely for gratitude. Before bed each evening, jot down three things you’re thankful for.
  • Start the day with a prayer of thanksgiving
  • Throughout the day, look for sights, smells, and sounds that you can include in your gratitude journal at the end of the day.
  • Write a note to someone who has helped you in your life. Maybe it’s a quick Facebook message or maybe it’s a handwritten letter. Take the time to express your gratitude to him or her. 
  • Every other month, choose one close friend or family member in your life to express gratitude to. Try to do this on an unsuspecting month—not a birthday month. Devise something special that you can do for them to show appreciation. 

Satisfaction and fulfillment are in today. And the best way to renew your mind is to stop, look around, and express gratitude for what is in your life right now. It’s great to have something to look forward to, but it’s incredibly powerful to express thanks for what is already here. Don’t miss it.

Giveaway: Win Everything In Hilary's Holiday Gift Guide!

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It feels like Christmas morning. 

And it's not just because we're talking about perfect holiday gifts and stocking stuffers, but it's because I am ecstatic to finally be launching my first Holiday Giveaway!

Nikki and I have been dreaming, scheming, and working on this giveaway for months and now the day is finally here! We are giving away a collection of some of my favorite gifts. I've done gift guides before (you can see the one for multi-hyphenates here and the one for entrepreneurs here) but this is my first time to actually give items away! I am WAY here for this. 

(If you're in a rush and want to skip to entering the contest, I get it. You can do that here.)

While each item here is adorable and/or amazing in and of itself, my favorite part about this list is that you can pick up each item at a local small business or small online startup. Let me do a run-through for you.

Hilary's Holiday Gift Guide Giveaway 

1. Art Print from the Honeysuckle Shop. Shelby Goodman is a designer, Mama to two, and a blogger. I love her inspiring, heartfelt designs. I have this one hanging in my home and I gave another to my sister. Our winner will get to choose between this one and this one

2. 1 lb of Ethiopian Blend from Blackwater Coffee CoIf you ever make your way through Lynchburg, Virginia, a city staple is the Whitehart Cafe on Main Street. They roast their own beans and sell them in a few shops around town and online. I dare say I've had more rich, ethereal conversations at this coffee shop than any other in the world. This coffee is perfect for sipping (which is exactly how I drink it.) 

3. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I had to add this book to the giveaway because I absolutely loved it. Every creative needs to read this book! I'm so into it, I wrote a summary and discussion guide your book club can use when you read it. Enjoy.

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4. Cozy Plaid Scarf from 3just3. The temperature has officially dropped over here on the east coast so that means I'm wearing scarves every. day. This one is a perfect statement. 3just3 is an adorable family-owned online shop. If you're stumped for a gift for a woman in your life--when in doubt, an accessory does the trick. And the prices at 3just3 are just right! 

5. "Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti" pencils, desk pad, and notebook from the Conscious Mercantile. The products in this Lynchburg, VA shop ooze with personality. You'll see what I mean if you check out their Instagram. The cards are hilarious, the knickknacks adorable, and the paper products will make your desk the envy of all in the office. My favorite part is that the Conscious Mercantile gives a home to local makers. 

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6. "I <2 Typos" Tee from Radish Apparel. This is for my writer friends, english nerds, everyone who wants to throw a shoe at the Internet when someone incorrectly writes "there" instead of "their." As those closest to me know I have too many coffee mugs, Playbills, and graphic tees. But I LOVE them, so let me live! If you need a chuckle, head over to Radish Apparel's site and peruse their tees. They are hilarious (especially if there's anything inside you that is even a tiny bit nerdy). And bonus: 5% of every purchase is donated to a charity of your choice. 

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Details: The giveaway runs until December 14. There are multiple ways to enter and you can improve your chances by entering all six ways (and you can even tweet a message every day between now and 12/14 for an extra entry each day! If you're really serious about winning those pencils, that's a good strategy.) May the odds be ever in your favor!

Here's what I've been up to lately...

Have you heard of a "Ta Da" List? Instead of a "To Do" List, you write what you've accomplished, after the fact. (I must be honest--I've been known to make both lists!) Well this week, I wanted to share with you a list that is somewhere between "To Do" and "Ta Da." It's a "What I'm Up To" List, but that doesn't quite have the same ring to it. 

I want to start by sharing this gorgeous illustration that Abby Hogle created to publish in our #notetoself✒️ collaboration series on Instagram. I've been partnering up with artists who've put their own unique interpretation on quotations from my writing. The illustration below originates from this blog post. I absolutely love what Abby and the other incredibly talented artists have created! Check out the whole series and connect with me on Instagram

Illustration by Abby Hogle

Illustration by Abby Hogle

  • I'm finishing up my first 90 days as content marketing consultant at McKinley Marketing Partners. I’ve gotten to do a ton of research and writing on all things careers and I'm having a blast. A few of my favorite pieces I've worked on are 6 Habits Every Telecommuter Should Implement to Build Rapport, 5 Best Kept Secrets to Get a Recruiter's Attention on LinkedIn, and 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Marketing to Generation Z.
     
  • I'm in the homestretch of my fourth year teaching social media and communication classes at SNHU and it's been the best year yet. SNHU was recently named most innovative university in the north for the third time!
     
  • I’ve got a brand new book proposal that is undergoing the finishing touches and will soon be going out to publishers. 
     
  • This month we published the Social Media Audit Checklist! (You can download that bad boy right now!)
     
  • Nikki and I have been prepping for the first epic Favorite Things-esque Giveaway on my blog. We’ve aggregated items from several different shops that I'm very excited about. I wish I could enter the contest! The list of the goodies and the giveaway will go live in mid-November! Keep an eye out for it.
     
  • I'm preparing for my talk on actor side hustles at the Virginia Theatre Conference next week. I took a trip down memory lane as I was working on the talk and found this photo from when I went to VTA back in college. I think this was taken on a disposable camera!
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On a personal note my husband and I are celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary this weekend and I cannot believe how time truly flies. It's been the best, best, best five years. 

Hilary's Tuesday Tip 014: How to Shave 3 Hours Off Your Work Week

In this week's Tuesday Tip, I'm sharing two strategies that I use every single week to maximize my time. Whether you have one full-time job and are balancing work and home life, or are a multi-hat wearing multi-gig-er, or an entrepreneur who is selling, managing, and innovating--these two strategies will help you get more done in less time

Have you downloaded the free Social Media Audit Checklist yet? If you want to make sure your social media strategy is effective and efficient, download it today.

New Free Resource: Social Media Audit Checklist

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I’m thrilled to share a brand new resource free to download: the Social Media Audit Checklist.

If you know you should be on social media and you’re consistently posting but you’re not really sure how you’re progressing or which platform holds the most potential, this printable is for you. 

While I’ll be the first to raise my hand as a loyal member of the “Data and Analytics Make My Eyes Glaze Over” Club, I am a big fan of knowing how to best use my most finite resource: time.

By walking through the social media audit checklist you’ll do some reflecting on why your business is on social media in the first place, how you’ve been doing thus far, and what you need to do differently to move in the direction of your goals. It's just one way to do More in Less

Grab the social media audit checklist free here

5 Personal Finance Tips Every Freelancer Needs to Know

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Going freelance is awesome. You can work from anywhere in the world. You don’t have office drama. You can clock in as frequently or as infrequently as you want. And you can shape your business in whatever way lines up with your values.

But some aspects of freelancing can get a little complicated. How do you find clients? How can you make sure you work enough to pay your bills? What do you do about taxes?

One area that may seem daunting if you’re just starting out in freelancing or if you’re considering making the leap to the freelance world is personal finances.

I’ve been freelancing for about ten years and doing these five things helps me make sure not only that I don’t go into debt, but also that I’m living within my means and making more than I spend.

Money does not have to be a point of stress for freelancers. Here are five habits to employ to make sure you stay on top of your finances. 

5 Personal Finance Tips for Freelancers

1. Track every dollar you’re earning each month. I keep a spreadsheet that includes the date I received payment, the name of the client, and how much I earned. At the end of each month I tally up my earnings. This gives me a ball park view of my earnings (which is helpful to know) and preps me for #2. 

2. Create a budget based on how much you earned last month. About 5 years ago I started making a monthly budget the Dave Ramsey way. Every month I do Step #1. Then the following month I make a budget based on how much I made the month before. This is called a Zero-Based Budget. I allocate every dollar earned to a portion of my budget. I never have anything “left over.” If I have allocated money to every spending category and I still have some left over then I add it to the “savings” category. Here's a template. Because I make sure I allocate every dollar I’ve earned, I don’t live beyond my means and I’ve been able to invest, put money away for retirement, and save. I also use a spreadsheet to keep track of expense due dates. 

3. Have a separate credit card for business expenses. Whether you have a LLC or work as an independent       contractor, if you ever make any work-related purchases, it’s much easier to keep track of them and write them off on your taxes if you make those payments on a separate card than you use for your personal expenses. You will have to itemize those expenses for next year’s taxes so rather than having to go through every single transaction in your monthly statement each year, use a separate card and then you’ll know that every purchase made on that card is work-related. I also keep a document of any work-related expenses that I did not use my card for. Future me is already saying “thank you!”

4. Keep track of all work-related expenses. You’ve got a ton of deductions that you can make from your taxes. You just need to make sure you’re keeping track of them and that you’re aware of them. This includes deductions that you can make for a home office, mileage to and from meetings with clients, and professional development. For example, actors--you can write-off the cost of headshots, tap shoes, and the mileage to go to that callback 200 miles away! This is money back in your pocket. So keep track of it.

5. Figure out a system for tracking your invoices. Whether you use Freshbooks, Square invoicing, or just do it the old(er)-fashioned way and manually send invoices, figure out a system that works for you, number your invoices and make sure that when you send an invoice you jot it down and then check it off the list when you get paid. There’s nothing sadder than a freelancer who is convinced she hasn’t gotten paid yet but has no way to prove it because she never invoiced her client.

Bonus: hire an accountant to do your taxes. You’ve got W2s and I-9s and invoices and donations and work expenses and mileage. It’s a lot. Do yourself a favor and use a CPA to file your taxes. He or she can get you set up with quarterly payments so you do not owe at the end of the year. It’s a great feeling to stay on top of it and know that your relationship with Uncle Sam is in good hands.

Going into the freelance world is exciting and the nitty gritty business side of things can be daunting but it doesn’t have to be! If you’re ready to move to the next level of your freelance career, I’d love to spend some time one-on-one with you coaching you through this season so you can achieve the bigger and better that you’re meant for. Learn more about freelance coaching here.

And sign up here for a chance to win a free hour of consulting with me. Deadline to enter is August 31, 2017.

(Reminder: opinions are my own. I am not a financial services professional.) 

Announcing An August Giveaway!

Andy Warhol said this: "When I think about what sort of person I would most like to have on a retainer, I think it would be a boss. A boss who could tell me what to do, because that makes everything easy when you're working."

Now, I don't think a boss makes everything easy but sometimes I would just love an outside perspective from someone I trust and respect to give me feedback on the direction of my business and career. And maybe even give me some new ideas and insights I hadn't yet considered. Maybe you feel the same way.  

Of all the things that I do, the work that perhaps energizes me most is consulting and coaching. There’s nothing like the energy that manifests in a situation where we’re brainstorming together to work on creating a new and better future. 

Today I shared an announcement on Facebook Live that has to do with just that.

I'm thrilled to launch the Consulting and Coaching Giveaway today! If you’d like to rent my brain for an hour (for FREE) just head over here, enter your name, email address and the problem you could use help solving.

 

 

HSL Creative Retreat Week Reflections

Last week I got that rare opportunity to take time off from work without traveling. My family laughed because my “week off” still consisted of about 20 hours of side-gig work but in comparison to the 55-60 I’ve been averaging, this week was incredibly quiet. 

The refreshment and peace I've experienced from taking a week off and not filling it to the brim with busyness is astounding to me. I’m so passionate about life and the things in it that I love: writing, connecting with people, helping others reach their goals, acting, performing, creativity, strategizing, pursuing goals. It’s difficult to slow down when I feel like there is more that I want to do than I ever have time for. 

This year has consisted of a lot of change for me in my work and life after experiencing a couple of years of consistency. I launched the eCourse, Get Your Dream Off the Ground. I sunsetted Enchanting Entertainment. Left SpotCo. Joined RPM. Left Lynchburg. Moved to Washington D.C. Left Pursuant. And just this week joined McKinley Marketing Partners. My life had been solidly consistent the past three years and incredibly consistent for the past two and I just jumbled it up and changed my ‘normal’ a whole lot. 

I’m finally beginning to feel a sense of “normalcy” in DC. Getting a bit of a rhythm and reprogramming my brain to think of it as “home.” But I haven’t really come up for air yet. So when my husband suggested I take time off between Pursuant and McKinley, while it was the furthest idea from my mind, when I sat with it a bit, I knew it was exactly what I needed to do.

In recent years I have given myself periodic #HSLCreativeRetreatDays where once every quarter or so I power down and set aside a day to reflect, set goals, think and write. I first started it when I was building up to turning the big 3-0. I knew I needed regular check-ins to make sure I was on track to reach the goals I had set by the time I turned 30. This was easier to accomplish before I started the 60 hours a week thing (I think that came into play in 2015 or 16—all a blur TBH). And somehow, in the past year I haven’t done a #HSLCreativeRetreatDay at all. That song ‘he writes like he’s running out of time’ has felt like it’s been on loop in my mind for far too long. I am dangerously close to being Jessie Spano. “There’s never enough time to study. I’m not going to get into Stanford….”

I needed a reality check. Would life go on if I wasn’t putting in a 60 hour work week? Would we be able to pay rent? 

Yes and yes. 

Then that settles that. I need to take the dang week off. Over the weekend I punched out a laundry list of things I wanted to accomplish during my “time off.” I needed to give some love to my company, HSL Enterprises. I needed to do some reflecting on my priorities and what life realistically needs to look like in this new season. And I wanted to do some intentional resting. Something that I, well…I don’t do. 

Here’s a little recap of my week that I bullet journaled over on Twitter each day. 

Moving into a totally new routine that included about 4-5 hours of commute each week meant that I had to reorganize my days in order to make sure my personal priorities weren't going out the window. So in my 'ideal week' I figured out where workouts would fit in, new evening and morning routines, and how to best use that commute time to where it was refreshing (not just a huge time waste). I definitely recommend using the Ideal Week method to allot your time like you would a financial budget. You won't always be able to honor it perfectly but at least you have goals. 

This is an example of an Ideal Week from Michael Hyatt. 

This is an example of an Ideal Week from Michael Hyatt. 

I've learned a lot from my time working inside marketing teams, not least of which is how to marry an editorial calendar and overall goals of a company. In years past my goals for this website have been mainly around consistency of producing. This week I've been able to map out a plan for the content with more clear and strategic goals. Now I can measure progress. 

I could've easily just kept hustling this week but I knew that a big piece of the purpose of the week was to actually chill out. So on Wednesday I got a massage and spent time in the afternoon reading a magazine by the pool. No agenda. Nothing in the magazine I could learn and apply to my work. Just intentional de-stress time. My shoulders haven't felt this loose in months. 

By Thursday I had really wanted to make some progress in completing some goals: a fully fleshed out editorial calendar for the site, a book proposal that was nearly ready to go, clear set of goals for the rest of the year, but my brain was still marinating on a lot of that. So I gave myself a bit of a break to just think and let my brain work these things out. Related: we've got to put our phones down and let our brains get bored enough to be creative. Now that I'm no longer 'on call' for one of my jobs 24/7, I'm putting my phone in a drawer on Saturdays. #PhoneFreeSaturdays. Who's with me?!

This space gives me a magical level of focus and inspiration. It's my secret weapon.

This space gives me a magical level of focus and inspiration. It's my secret weapon.

Over the past 9 months I worked my way through 8 seasons of Gilmore Girls and now there is a Lorelai Gilmore shaped hole in my heart. So what do I do? Check out Lauren Graham's memoir from the library, of course. Didn't know I would get an incredible writing productivity hack mid-book. Used it on Friday afternoon and really made some progress on my new proposal. #GIlmoreGiftThatKeepsOnGiving

One thing that became apparent as I was planning out my new "Ideal Week" is that I couldn't cook on week nights like I had grown accustomed to doing. I'd need to partner with JC some, cook simpler meals, and cook more on the weekends, unless we wanted to get used to eating at bedtime. (No thanks.) So on Saturday I got ingredients to make a few different meals that were freezable and similar enough in ingredients to merit batching together. Over the course of about an hour I prepped two Sour Cream Noodle Bakes (via the Pioneer Woman who never lets me down), my mom's lasagna, and spaghetti sauce. We ate the lasagna over the next few days. The other three went into the freezer. Now I can thaw out the spaghetti sauce one night when all I'll have to do is make pasta. And the sour cream noodle bakes can go straight from freezer to oven. That's two more meals ready to go this month and one for September. Future Hil is definitely thanking me. Also, this felt wildly efficient and satisfying. It was harder than making one meal alone but considering the planning, shopping, cooking and clean up, it was much easier than cooking on 4 separate occasions. I will be doing this more often. It made total sense. Plus I got to get into the vibe and pretend I was Julia Child or something. 

Sunday was a little sad as it felt too soon to say goodbye to #HSLCreativeRetreatWeek. I hadn't completed every single thing on my to do wish list and I just knew I could if I took one more week. ;-) But also the anticipation of the new routine and new job was killing me so I was ready to get going. 

Reflections overall: 

With increased work stress and overall stress that comes from big life change and adulting, I've experienced a lot of anxiety over the past six months. There's different ways to handle it. I recommend counseling, exercise, eating healthy, getting sleep, and journaling. For me, taking a week off and really minimizing commitments for a week in between gigs made a big dent in my anxiety. I'm an optimistic person and sometimes optimism leads to overcommitment which can lead to anxiety and burnout. I encourage you to do periodic gut checks and invest in self-care in whatever ways you can. And also, give yourself a break. Some seasons are harder than others. If you need to simplify during a hard season or cry a lot or call your mom every day or whatever, DO IT. Not every season will be so challenging. So give yourself a break during the ones that are tough.

If you'd like to create your own HSL Creative Retreat Week, here are 7 elements I recommend:

1. Make a list of all the things you've been wanting or needing to do but haven't had time.

2. Make a list of all the things you'd like to do if you had time.

3. Create a list of 3-5 "Big Rocks" that mean success for the week. If you accomplish only these 3-5 things, your week will be a success. Plug these into your schedule.

4. Flesh out themes for each day using words that inspire you. Think "relaxaton, rejuvenation, inspiration, exploration." 

5. Don't overload each day!! Be realistic about what you can accomplish

6. Make sure anything you schedule contributes to your well-being. Yes, for me, a trip to the dentist was included because it made me feel more calm knowing I was getting it done. 

7. Journal as you go. Pay attention to how you feel mentally and physically each day. Look for insights.

If you are able to do your own Retreat Week, I would LOVE to hear about it. Drop me a line via the comments here or email! 

Want other tips from creatives on the rise in their careers? Download my latest eBook, 5-Minute Mentor for free! 

2 months in D.C. Here's what I've learned...

I moved to D.C. almost two months ago and it’s been a bit of a whirlwind.

Part of why my husband and I chose D.C. was because it really is a cultural epicenter and that’s where I’ve longed to be for quite some time. Now I’m here with a world of arts journalism, auditions, and classes at my fingertips. Some opportunities that are opening up feel like they are coming right on time. I’m ready for these. Other opportunities—well I’m a bit green or rusty (yes, apparently you can be both) on them. And these opportunities, a lot of them, have a common theme: I’m not an expert.

I remember in college, wanting to audition for the best choir on campus. I knew it was a long shot but I have a distinct memory of wanting to be surrounded by people who were better than me. I told my vocal teacher I wanted to be “the worst one in the room.” I’ve auditioned for shows that I might not be qualified for, shown up at networking events with people far more impressive than me, and pursued opportunities where I’d simply be stretched.

But I haven’t done a lot of that lately. 

Spending several years building a career in my smaller central Virginia city (I’d say it’s one notch up from a college town, it’s a fair size, but still—the community is really collegiate heavy), I got used to having similar or slightly more experience than many of my contemporaries. Call it being a “big fish” or call it living somewhere where 30 feels “old,” but it was the unique situation I found myself in.

Now I’m where I want to be. A place where people my age are more advanced in their careers than I am and have been living and working in a highly competitive landscape for ten years. And I’m here to catch up. It’s like the semester where Rory is trying to pack a year’s worth of school into a semester so she can catch up and graduate on time after taking a semester off. 

But I’m learning something in all of this: embrace not being the expert. 

I signed up for an advanced scene study class at the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Thrilled to take it, I’m getting to absorb teaching from Nancy Robinette, a former cast member of the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime on Broadway. I saw the production and it was one of the most meaningful theatrical experiences I’ve ever had. 

I waited til the eleventh hour to sign up for the class (literally—the day of the class about 6 hours before it would begin.) I vacillated on the choice because some of my commitments lately have brought me anxiety. I haven’t felt like I had the mental space and time to give to my commitments 100%. I know I can say “yes” to writing reviews for an arts publication. I can say “yes” to this class. I can say “yes” to many auditions. I can say “yes” to shows and industry events. I can say “yes” to dance classes and exercise classes. I can say “yes” to lots of out of town visitors. But I can’t say “yes” to all of these things plus my workload and my goal of getting a book published and expect not to end up in the hospital. 

In short, I didn’t want this class to be a source of stress.

But then I knew, even in my anxious place, that spending Monday nights in the world of the theatre would be life-giving. It would be joyful. And I’d probably regret not taking the plunge now.

So I signed up for the class. And as I was walking the 8-minute walk from my car to the rehearsal space in Eastern Market I examined my thoughts. What was I worried about?

-Not being good enough. Did I really have the experience and talent to be in an advanced class? What an assumption!

-Overcommitting. My life and work in DC is a lot like my life and work in Lynchburg, but now I have so much more I can add to it. And I don’t really have extra space in the “closet of life” for extra things. Some things have to come out if other things are going to be put in.  

-Lack of education. If we take a deep dive into theatre history and great playwrights, or if the teacher asks me what I think about Samuel Beckett, I may look foolish. I don't have a BFA or a MFA in this stuff. Will I still be respected? 

Worried about being overcommitted and under qualified.

Embrace not being the expert.

There was a time in my life where I didn’t know enough about great work to automatically rate performances in my mind immediately. I wanted to be “the worst person in the room.” Now I not only read between the lines and analyze other people’s performances—I give a great deal of thought to how other people are receiving me. 

But isn’t something like a class an opportunity to release those worries and just try? Soak it in. Listen. Learn.

Embrace not being the expert.  

Embrace a season of learning, of growing, of admitting when I’ve made an error. Pay attention and watch those that are ahead. Embrace the season of newness, of growth. 

So I’m doing that. I may not be a fresh-faced 18-year-old giddy to simply be included in the spring musical. But I’m still eager to learn. I know that if I fail, I’ll still be ok. And I’m willing to try. Because I’ll never get anywhere if I don’t start walking. And you can't be challenged and be the best in class. So I’ll keep reminding myself to

Embrace not being the expert.
 

Hilary's Tuesday Tip 012: 4 Productivity Tools You Need to Download

I'm back with another Tuesday Tip! Today I'm sharing four of my favorite online productivity tools that help me work smarter, not harder. 

1. Wunderlist. Perfect for: putting all of your different to do lists in one place and organizing your brain!
2. Canva. Perfect for: non-graphic designers who need good graphics made quickly! 
3. Nuzzel. Perfect for: people who don't have time to sift through a newsfeed to get the most important stories. 
4. Buffer. Perfect for: Content curators and social media users who want to simplify the post scheduling process.

I fully recommend each of these. Let me know if you give these a try and how you like them! For more practical productivity hacks and tools, grab my eBook, More in Less

Infographic: 8 Steps to Combat Fear in the Creative Process

“What is creative living? Any life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.” -Elizabeth Gilbert

When it comes to our creativity, often our biggest enemy is the fear that stops us before we even start. We can get so wrapped up in our heads about why not to make the thing that we end up never doing anything at all. 

I'm very excited to share a new free infographic my team created that not only breaks down the fascinating physiological effects of fear on your body, but also tells you how to combat those feelings of fear in your creative process.

Whether you are a performer, a maker, an innovator, or someone whose brain is just wired to see better ways of doing things, consider implementing a few of these ideas to move past the “idea” phase and on to the implementation and creation phase. Grab the free infographic here: 

How to Launch Your Side Hustle + Going Freelance News!

ILLUSTRATION BY HANNAH LYNCH OF @HANNAHHANDLETTERS & @INNERAFFIRMATIONS

ILLUSTRATION BY HANNAH LYNCH OF @HANNAHHANDLETTERS & @INNERAFFIRMATIONS

Today I want to share with you two noteworthy items:
  • The Going Freelance online workshop is less than two weeks away! I'm thrilled to bring this workshop online and do it in webinar format. If you can't make it on Monday April 24 at 8 PM, sign up anyway. I'll send you the video recording and a PDF of the slide deck. Grab your ticket here.
  • What the heck, guys. USA Today published another one of my articles. This one is on side hustles (go figure!). Read on for the article! 

The Great Recession forced a generation of college graduates to get creative in how they made a living. The concept of a 40-year career with the same company has been antiquated for a decade or so and the Great Recession put the final nail in that coffin. A perfect storm of the end of the “traditional career path,” coupled with the advent of technology that makes it easy to connect with potential customers, and the side hustle finally got its star turn.

Now, according to Career Builder, 29 percent of workers in the United States have a side hustle of some sort. And 44 percent of those side-hustlers are between the ages of 25 and 34.

So, you’re up. If you dream about opening an Etsy shop, freelance writing on the weekends, or creating an app that you just know will be the next Instagram, here are five things to do to launch your side hustle dream. Read more.

5 Must Do's If You Want to Launch a Freelance Business

So you have a skill, you have a passion, and you have a desire to go freelance, but there’s just one thing missing—clients!

How do you launch a freelance business and get those first customers? Here are five things you can implement right away. 

  1. Start with who you know. When you’re launching a freelance career, it’s easy to assume that your ideal client is far away somewhere on the far flung throes of the Internet. But the truth is your first clients are probably going to be people in your own personal network. Think neighbors, friends, friends of friends, people who are friends of your relatives, people in your community.
  2. You may have to start out working for free (or cheap.) In the beginning you’ll need to get paid in some way—and you may get paid in value. Maybe you receive value by building up your portfolio outside of college homework assignments so you volunteer to do some pro bono work for a nonprofit or maybe you offer to help an influencer who can expose your work to a whole new audience. I still get freelance work today from connections I built in internships from 7 years ago. You’ve got to have a long-game mentality.
  3. Research. Research. Research. You can find out gobs of information about your target audience. Research partnership opportunities. Find people who have the problem that you are ready and willing to solve. Utilize this great opportunity that is called the Internet. :)
  4. Reach out. Reach out. Reach out. I’ve grown my personal brand by being thoughtful with who I connect with online. Between Facebook and LinkedIn you have a great deal of information about people in your personal network. Who do you know who may have an opportunity to hire a freelancer? You can make a list of every single person you know that is in any given industry. Figure out who you want to reach out to. Research. Then reach out.
  5. Show up. Be supportive to others. When you’re an artist, you notice who takes the time to show up to a show or who takes the time to help you promote your project on their social media pages. You can probably think of someone right now who shared your “thing” online or gave you a retweet. These are easy ways to be generous to others. And they’re not quickly forgotten. 

Launching and growing a freelance business is about a lot more than just finding clients. You need to have a marketable skill, a fair pricing structure and you need to be able to deliver work in a timely manner. But to get your freelance career off the ground, you’ve got to spread the word that you’re freelancing and you’ve got to get clients (sooner or later!) 

If you want more tips on going freelance, join me on April 24 at 8 PM on your couch (ok, I’ll be on my couch, not yours) where I’ll share what I’ve learned about launching and growing a creative, autonomous career. Earliest Bird tickets are on sale now through March 26. At just $24 you’ll want to go ahead and get yours and not kick yourself when you’ve missed this cheapy cheap window! Grab yours here

New Free eBook Download: 5-Minute Mentor for Creatives

I’m thrilled to share with you that today I’m launching a brand new eBook called 5-Minute Mentor for Creatives

The eBook contains over 20 pieces of advice from ten creatives on a range of topics including time management, bravery, balance, inspiration, collaboration, comparison, handling disappointment, combating perfectionism, minimizing stress and of course, creativity.

 I named the book 5-Minute Mentor for Creatives because you can read a chapter in just five minutes and then put that advice into practice right away as you go about your day.

Over the course of a year I got to sit down with ten different creatives who run the gamut: social entrepreneur, playwright, filmmaker, composer, young adult fiction author, Broadway actor, memoirist, calligrapher, producer…the list goes on. The book centers around practical advice they have learned throughout their creative careers. In my interviews with them there was just so. much. good. stuff. I wanted to aggregate the advice they gave that I believe is most actionable and put it into a quick read format for you.

I believe that sometimes mentors come in the form of a professor, someone you work with, or someone you can sit down with for a cup of coffee. And sometimes they are people that you may not even know personally that you're able to connect with via media and technology. Both types of mentors are helpful in life. We should always be looking for opportunities to learn from those who have moved the ball just a little further down the field than we have. 

I hope you’ll download it, glean some practical strategies that you can apply to your own work, and walk away just a bit more inspired.

Download it here.

And be sure to let me know what you think of the book! I always appreciate feedback.  

4 Pieces of News!

It's been a big week over here. A few updates:

I got published on USA TODAY College! Check out the article here. And if you could take a second and share it via social media, that would mean a lot. I've got another piece coming down the pike soon. I will keep you updated about the date of publication. 

This is a screenshot from Monday when my article was rotating on the usatoday.com home screen banner. My article = bottom left! 😱

This is a screenshot from Monday when my article was rotating on the usatoday.com home screen banner. My article = bottom left! 😱

My eCourse, Get Your Dream Off the Ground, launched on Wednesday. I'm so thrilled about the awesome cohort of creative, driven people in the group. Members hail from Virginia, Missouri, North Carolina, Kentucky, New York, and Washington DC. I'm so energized by all the possibilities that technology affords us to connect with people no matter where they are in the world. It really is a game-changer for connections and education. 

Last year I wrote a short play with Jonathan Kafoure and it's going to be produced as part of a new works festival in Lynchburg, Virginia on March 10. So excited to see it on stage! Auditions are Monday February 13 in Lynchburg at 5:30 PM at the White Hart Cafe.

And the online store here on HilarySutton.com has officially launched. If you have yet to download your copy of my eBook, More in Less, or need help fleshing out an editorial calendar, I've got you covered over there. I'll be adding more products in the future. I'm excited to have my own little virtual storefront! 

All in all, it's been a really good, albeit busy week. Hope you get a weekend full of exactly what you want it to be.