Top 10 Traits of People Who Thrive in Work At Home Careers

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I have never gone into an office full-time during my career. 

I recently started consulting with a company in their offices two days a week. One thing I've learned since I started working in an office setting on a part-time basis, is how much most people do not remotely desire to work from home. Wow, am I different from those who prefer to commute into an office. 

This got me thinking: why do I love working from home so much? In my experience, it's a mix of reasons: I love doing my own thing. I love working in spurts and then taking short breaks and totally switching gears. I love having the flexibility to totally rearrange my schedule if something special comes up (flipflopping night and day, starting my work 2 hours later, etc). I love the two+ hours it gives me back in my day that would have been eaten up by getting ready to go to work and driving in. 

Maybe you feel drawn to the work at home lifestyle too. I'm thrilled to share that I'm one of 45+ speakers who have joined together for the Work-At-Home Summit. This free event starts Monday January 29 and for six straight days super smart, successful people will be demystifying their work at home journeys.

This free summit covers it all: goal setting, business plans, tons of work at home careers, advertising on Facebook--the whole nine yards.

Check out the complete schedule and pencil in the sessions that you don't want to miss. Seriously, I've never seen such a high quality virtual conference offered for free. My session on content marketing and personal brand will be on January 31 at 11 am. There will also be a recording available later. 

Maybe you're interested in working from home but you're not totally sure if it's a good fit for you. I put together a top 10 list of characteristics for work at home types. Do any of these resonate with you? 

10 Traits of People Who Would Thriving Working at Home 

1. You value autonomy. You are energized by making your own schedule. The idea of being your own boss feels right to you. When people say "I want to work in-house because I want to be a part of a team" it's kind of difficult for you to understand. 

2. You like non-traditional hours. You don't hold a grudge if you need to work early in the morning or late at night. You actually prefer not to track hours but rather to just work until the work gets done.

3. You're highly organized. You are highly skilled at keeping track of deadlines and workflow. Project management may not be your favorite thing, but you can do it. You're great at keeping up with details whether or not you feel like that's your highest and best use. 

4. You're cool with alone time. If you're a head down "work hard/play hard" kind of person, working at home may make sense for you. 

5. You don't need outer accountability. You can stay on task and check off your to do list even without a boss checking in on you. You are intrinsically motivated. 

6. Freelancing appeals to you. You like the idea of multiple projects for multiple clients. You're not intimidated by invoicing or negotiating contracts. You actually feel like freelancing is beating the system a little bit.  

7. You're fine with sacrificing earning potential or benefits. It's worth it to you to sacrifice promotions or typical benefits like a company matching 401K in order to have the benefits of working at home. 

8. You're very good at connecting with people. If you're a part of a remote team, you know how to connect with people and build rapport. You have to have this special skill because it is more difficult to do without the connection of regular face time. 

9. You have an entrepreneurial spirit. If you've been told you have this--or you just know you do--a work at home gig might make it more possible for you to lean into your entrepreneurial side. 

10. You pursue diverging goals. Working at home may be a good option for you if you want to pursue multiple career paths at once. Want to be a blogger and a caterer? A jewelry designer and a graphic designer? Working at home gives you the opportunity to split up your day however you like. 

Working at home is not for everybody. But for those of us who are drawn to it, man, it really increases our quality of life when we can find an opportunity that is in our sweet spot and also gives us the ability to work from anywhere. Whether you already work at home or are interested in learning about how you can get your work at home gig off the ground, don't miss the free virtual Work-At-Home Summit January 29-February 3. Grab your free ticket here

2018 Goals + 10-Year Plan + My Word for the Year

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Happy January!! It’s the most wonderful time of the year! A natural blank slate. A fresh start. An opportunity to put life on “pause,” reflect, and adjust our sails. 

Some people begrudge January and “resolutions” because it seems to be an arbitrary time to change. But I think when the calendar gives us a good opportunity to designate a starting point, it’s great to take stock in our lives and our choices and adjust so we can have more alignment between our values and our reality. 

This year I’m setting goals in a new way. I’ve been reading Tim Ferriss’ book Tools of Titans and in the book he asks a question: “What might you do to accomplish your 10-year goals in the next 6 months, if you had a gun against your head?” 

While my 10-year goals are not possible to achieve in the next six months (due to the nature of them building on things over time), it did make me ask the question:

What do I want my life to look like in 10 years? 

What do I want to have accomplished when I look back on this decade? Where do I want my career to be? Family to be? Finances to be? Health to be? Where do I want to have spent my time?

As a result I made a bulleted list of what I want to have achieved in 10 years. Then I decided to work backward.

What do I need to accomplish THIS year to get me to where I want to be in 10 years?

Then I worked backward again.

What do I need to accomplish in the next three months to get me to where I want to be in 1 year to get me to where I want to be in 10 years? (Get it?)

Then I worked backward again. What do I need to do in January that leads me to three-month goals > one-year goals > 10-year goals?

And thus I have a list of items to plug into my calendar this month that align with my values and will help move the needle toward where I want to be 10 years from now. 

And let me make a seemingly obvious point: what I want to accomplish over the next 10 years WILL change. And some of it will change as a direct result of the growth I’m experiencing in pursuing my “10-year goals.” So it’s never all for naught. Pursuing something, even if it will change, is the way to find your new goals and to grow. 

So as I was thinking through this 10>1>Q1>Jan process, a word hit me that truly encompasses what I want to do: steward.

I want to make choices that reflect being a good steward of what God has given me: my time, my talents, my health, my money, my relationships. 

So that’s my word for the year and it helps inform every decision I make. 

If I am being a good steward of this aspect of the life God has given me, what choice am I making? The answer is almost always clear.

I’d love to hear—what is YOUR word and why did you choose it? What does it mean to you?  

PS- Enrollment for my eCourse Get Your Dream Off the Ground is open now! And if you register by Friday January 5 you'll get all the 21-day eCourse materials plus a one-on-one coaching session with me! Click here to register. 

Feeling "cuddly as a cactus?" Here are 6 ways to avoid being the Grinch this Christmas.


Harsh reality: the holiday season can be a pressure-filled time where there’s more to do than time to do it.

You have some serious expectations for your holiday experience. You want the mantle just right, the lights on the tree to glow, and to see your loved one's face totally light up when she says "How did you know that this is what I've always wanted?" But the truth is sometimes the holidays leave us feeling more stressed and frazzled than joyous and peaceful. Here are six tips to avoid becoming the Grinch this Christmas and finding your joy:

1. Release yourself from doing things you’re “supposed to do.” I have friends who have a blow up Christmas tree. It was meant to be a giant cartoonish Christmas tree on someone’s lawn but it’s in their living room and they love it. They never got excited about having a real tree, decorating it, taking it back down, etc. They decided that at their house, this is their preference. There are no hard and fast rules about the holiday season. Discover the traditions that you love. Implement those and don’t worry about the rest. Release yourself from what you’re “supposed” to love about the holidays and do it your way.

"There are no hard and fast rules about the holiday season."

2. Set a budget. We can all get carried away with spending this time of year. Oh that plastic just doesn’t feel like it’s real money sometimes! Before getting in the heat of the moment at T.J. Maxx, decide what your maximum amount to spend is based on what your family can afford. Then work backwards. Who needs gifts? How much should be spent on your child’s teacher or your nephew? Stick to your budget so when you get that bill in January you won’t be doubly depressed that the holidays are over and reality has hit.

3. Jot down a “if I could do the holidays over” list ahead of time. Imagine yourself in January. What will you wish you had done differently over the holidays? More baking? Spent less money? Watched more classic movies? Gone caroling around the neighborhood? This ‘imagine being in the future and looking back technique’ can help you get perspective on how you really want to spend your time. 

4. Join in with your loved ones' favorite holiday activities. Do your kids love driving around looking at the Christmas lights? Does your husband get misty watching It’s A Wonderful Life each year? Pay attention to those things that symbolize the holidays to your nearest and dearest. Make sure to include those to make really special memories. Be intentional with your time during this season.

5. Take some “you” time. When you’re the one doing the cooking, the shopping, the wrapping and the planning, you can run out of holiday cheer pretty fast. So delegate some of your to-do's to kids big enough to help or your spouse or other family members. Now make a list of ten activities you would enjoy but tell yourself you don't have time for. Then pick one of those self-nurturing activities and do it.  

6. Remember that there’s no such thing as perfect even if Instagram tells you otherwise. Perfect is a myth. There’s no way to live up to the image that Pinterest, Food Network, Martha Stewart or that girl you went to high school with create. The most important aspect of the holidays is to remember why we are celebrating in the first place and to spend time with the ones we love.

Bottom line: the joy of the holidays can quickly evaporate if we set expectations too high for the things that don't ultimately matter. Slow down and savor time with family and don't sacrifice your sanity just to make sure everyone gets 2 dozen toys on Christmas morning. Pay attention to your happiness meter. If you’re not getting your needs met it’s much harder for you to give to the ones in your life that you love.

Still searching for the perfect gift for someone on your list? Registration for my 21-day goal setting course, Get Your Dream Off the Ground, opens January 1. Contact me to learn how you can gift the course

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


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. 

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!

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.

(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!



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.