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.  

Currently Reading/Listening To/Thinking About...

Honesty hour: I've been hitting it HARD and I don't have a lengthy article today full of take-aways.

Can I go totally off the beaten path and just talk about some of the things I'm taking in, enjoying, working on, and chewing on? I'd love to hear what's on your list too, so please be generous and share!

(Me in the middle of trying to film a video about Get Your Dream Off the Ground and just deciding a selfie with deuces was easier...)

(Me in the middle of trying to film a video about Get Your Dream Off the Ground and just deciding a selfie with deuces was easier...)

Reading: Grit by Angela Duckworth and For the Love by Jen Hatmaker

Humming Along To: the La La Land soundtrack and the Hamilton Mix Tape

Listening to: the Happier Podcast and How I Built This 

Trying: Barre class 

                               (Ouch my CALVES) 

                               (Ouch my CALVES) 

Hustling Toward: launching the Get Your Dream Off the Ground eCourse. Sooooo amped about how it is shaping up! 

Excited About: Writing my first piece for USA TODAY (In process!!)

Grateful For: The encouragement of my inner circle to try new and scary things

Nervous About: Getting new short hair headshots this weekend

Thinking About: This quote from my yoga instructor, "The master has failed more times than the beginner has tried."  

Now I'd love to hear what's on YOUR list! Share in a comment here on the blog or on Facebook or Insta!  

In case you missed my official invite video, here's 45 seconds of me getting crazy-eyed and excited about seeing creatives burst through ruts and live out their calling. Would love for you to join us starting Wednesday. Register here.

4-Week Update on New Goal-Setting Strategy

Right before the new year I shared some new strategies I would be using to work toward achieving my goals in 2017.

Quick recap:

  • No more than 3-5 goals at any given time. (I have just 3 this quarter!)
  • Quarterly goals--not annual goals. (So while I have a vision for some goals I want to achieve later in the year, I'm focusing on now through March 31.) 
  • Start small and build up. (For me: french fry free weekdays are step 1 to a healthier diet.) 

Full post over here

So far it's going well! One additional thing that I've implemented is jotting down a quick list of 3-5 important things I need to accomplish each week to help me achieve my 3 goals. This helps me make sure I'm moving the needle day by day. 

I've seen in my own life that my goals become so. much. more. achievable when I have a clear, strategy, accountability, encouragement, and a coach. That's why I'm thrilled to share with you that on February 8, I'm launching the Get Your Dream Off the Ground eCourse. Over 21 days a small cohort of motivated creatives will be walking through a 10-lesson class to get their dream off the ground.

If you have a fire within your and you need a little help crystalizing your goals, making a game plan, and launching, this eCourse is the best next step. 

This class is designed to help you:

  • Identify concrete stepping stones to achieve your goals
  • Establish a personal brand that will help you increase brand awareness
  • Give you a tool kit for sharing your story and growing your audience
  • Provide an inside look at how I've grown HSL Enterprises 

Registration is now open. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the class and answer any questions you might have about it. Feel free to drop a comment below! 

 

Your story is begging to be told.

Today on the blog I want to revisit my tagline: “your story is begging to be told.” I first chose it when I started HSL Enterprises in 2013. Since the start, I’ve been passionate about helping individuals and organizations tell their story in the best possible way. Everyone has a story. YOU have a story. And the world needs to hear it. No one can offer exactly what you can offer to the world. We need YOU. 

I think this mission is even more relevant now. We live in a culture in which we ingest perfect photo after perfect photo on social media. People don’t post the mundane parts of their lives. They post the best, most impressive parts. Seeing this over and over, day in and day out, can easily lead to comparison and perfectionism paralysis. It’s easy to feel like our own content, message, and story are never quite ready to share with the world. But I encourage you to go ahead and ship it anyway! You never know who needs your encouragement, honesty, and work.

We’ve only got one life, so I encourage you not to become paralyzed by a culture of perfectionism. Put your passion out there. The world is aching for authenticity. Let this be the year that you do that thing that you’ve always wanted to. Let this be the year that you share your purpose with the world. Tell your story. 

And to serve as a little reminder, my intern Nikki and I have worked on 5 different wallpaper designs so you can get that extra nudge every day. Visit this page to download “Your story is begging to be told” wallpaper for your computer and phone. 

What I Learned from My 2017 New Year’s Survey

The week before New Year’s I launched my first reader survey. Many of you took the time to provide feedback and it’s invaluable! Thank you! Ultimately, I believe it also benefits you, because it helps me improve the content I create, whether on this blog, on social media, or elsewhere.

I mentioned last week that I'd be sharing the results with you. I also want to share how I plan on using the feedback to meet your needs and exceed your expectations in the coming year.

1. Posts that fit into the category of “goals and personal development” resonate most with you. So I commit to giving you more content around personal development, inspiration, goals, balance, and productivity. This topic rose to the top of almost all my content-related questions. You find these types of posts most helpful, you want more of it, and it’s the topic you’d most like to see an online community develop around. 

2. Your biggest career challenges are extremely varied but there was one common surprising theme in the write-ins: balance. My readers have a variety of career goals but a common theme is that people want more resources on how to find a balance between success at work and success in their personal lives.

3. One of the biggest surprises of the survey: people want a podcast. I added this option on a whim when I was listing out potential new modes of sharing content. I’ll be frank, I have not delved into the world of creating a podcast. I’ll research this and come back to you soon with updates! 

4. I learned a lot about what you want to take a deeper dive into. Half of survey takers are interested in an eCourse on personal brand. Most people are attracted to the title “from Passion to Profit” while “Monetize Your Passion” comes in second. A third title with a totally different topic came in third, “Blogging: Grow Your Business with Content.” 58% of survey takers are interested in an eCourse where they don’t feel pressure to complete each task during a specific window. They want access to all the content and want to move at their own pace.

5. My assumptions were confirmed that my most engaged readers are my email subscribers and Facebookers. This means I’m going to continue to invest in the blog itself, email subscribers, and my Facebook community. My greatest engagement comes from those sources.

If you participated in the survey, thank you for taking the time to do it. It’s the most important picture I have of what concerns and motivates you. I really consider it a gift. Most of all, thank you for entrusting me with your time and attention.

So what are my take-aways from the survey?

Ever since I had people contact me from out of state (and sometimes, out of country) who were interested in the Blogging Workshop and the Going Freelance Workshop, I’ve been brainstorming ways to make those experiences available to people no matter where they are located. What would it take to bring my in-person workshop experiences online? The truth is before launching those previous workshops I didn’t do a large poll, I just asked a couple friends if the topics sounded helpful and then I pulled the trigger. This survey told me a lot about the needs and interests of readers. And it also told me about which readers want to take a deeper dive into the topics I write about. Because of this, I’m crafting a brand new experience that combines lessons on goal-setting, personal development, personal brand building, time management and marketing. This new class will be coming next month and it’s perfect for solopreneurs, freelancers, artists, coaches, and creatives. If you want to be among the first to learn about the upcoming online class then go ahead and sign up here. Seats will be limited because the class includes a 1 on 1 consultation call with me and I haven’t figured out how to clone myself yet*. Those on the list will have first dibs on seats in the class. 

Again, thanks for taking the survey if you were able to. I’ll be back next week with official information about the upcoming class and a new content download chock full of inspiration.

*maybe eventually? 

Tuesday Tip 009: Will you take the QZO Challenge?

New year, new background for Tuesday Tip videos! ;-) Isn't the first week of the year kind of a thrilling time? The turning of the calendar year comes after we've taken a breather over the holidays. Hopefully your holiday vacation gave you time to reflect, recharge, and think about what you want 2017 to look like.

Now's the time to move into 2017 with clarity about what you want to accomplish. As I mentioned last week, I'm starting off 2017 with just three goals that I want to achieve in Q1 (January 1-March 31). At the end of that period I'll have another QZO and set goals for Q2.

Today I want to challenge you to block off 4 dates in 2017 for your QZO--your "Quarterly Zoom Out." This is a day once per quarter that you put life on pause and reflect, reexamine your goals, and readjust your direction for the next quarter. 

It's so easy to get caught up in whatever is demanding our attention each day. You blink and a year has gone by. Implementing a QZO forces you to take stock in how you're spending your time, energy, and brains. And if you go ahead and block off the dates now, then you can protect that time in the future. It's already accounted for. 

Will you take the QZO challenge? Give me a shout in the comments and let me know if you're doing it. And I'd love an update after your first one. I'm taking one this weekend and I've got another one scheduled for April, the day after my birthday. I'd love to hear about yours.

And if you haven't done it yet, it would mean a lot if you'd take 3 minutes and take the New Year's Survey. I'll be sharing results next week! Can't wait to get your thoughts and advice. You can take it here.

2 New Strategies to Achieve Your 2017 Goals + New Year's Survey

IMG_3365.JPG

Ahh, the winds of change are upon us friends. This year is soon to be in the past and a new year is on the horizon. This week between Christmas and New Year's is prime time to reflect and adjust your sails for 2017. A few questions to consider:

What worked really well in your life over the last year? Which commitments? Which habits? Which relationships?
What needs adjusting? What needs to be minimized, removed, or improved? 

This year I'm adopting two new strategies as I tackle my goals.

First, I'm committing to just three goals per quarter. I was recently listening to Michael Hyatt's podcast and he pointed out that setting more than 3-4 goals at any given time is setting yourself up for failure. So, as a strategy for success, I'm focusing on just 3 goals for the next 90 days. It's so tempting for me to make a laundry list of goals to achieve at the beginning of each year. But by pairing down, getting specific, and aiming for achievability, I'm more likely to succeed. 

Second, I'm starting small. Just yesterday I was reading this article in Fast Company and the author made a point that made total sense. Want to implement a big habit into your life? Start by repeating a tiny habit daily. This is what she said: 

"I started by reading just one page of a book every night before bed. Often I would read more, but if all I could manage was one page, I would count that as a win.
Later, when the habit was already strong, I would put on a timer and read for 15 minutes, and eventually I was reading for 30 minutes before bed and another 30 minutes most mornings.
Just starting with one page added up: In 2013 I read seven books. In 2014, 22. In 2015, 33. That’s almost five times what I read in 2013."

This year, as a practical tactic for aiming at achievability, try starting with some super small goals. If you want to improve your eating habits in 2017, instead of eliminating sugar or carbs on January 1, you're more likely to find success and change your habit if you start small. You can start with no sweets after 7 PM or no french fries on weekdays. Start small. Start simple. And adjust as you adapt to your new habits. 

For me, one of my first quarter goals is to launch a new product on this website. Exciting stuff! As I prepare to launch, it would be a huge help to me if you'd take 3 minutes and take a 10-question survey. I want to make sure that whatever I'm producing here is of value to you. So I'd really love your advice. Here's the link to the survey

I hope you're able to take some time this week to reflect on the past, refresh your spirit through rest and community, and plan toward the future. Happy New Year! 

 

You Are More Than Your Art: 5 Practices to Implement to Separate Your Identity from Your Output

Ok, tell me if you relate: I have a hard time disassociating my creative work from my value as a person. 

I know, when you put it like that, it sounds kind of clear that I’m off. After all, people who have a disability or young children or elderly people who are no longer able to create or whoever, all have intrinsic value whether or not they make something cool to give to others, but it’s a struggle I have. I love my work. It’s freaking meaningful. And after I’m long gone, it’s what remains of me, right? So here’s something I’m currently wrestling with:

My work may be my legacy, but my work is not the ultimate gauge of my value. 

This is a truth that is hard for a lot of people to reconcile, I think. We are incredibly passionate about our work, so how can we separate our value from it? 

You are so much more than who you are as an artist, innovator or entrepreneur. You are someone’s child, someone’s sibling, someone’s significant other, but aside from all that, you are someone. If you spend all your time and energy focusing on the output in your life, your self-worth will be rocked consistently. Just ask any teen heartthrob a decade after his peak in popularity. Accolades, inspiration, and output can and will wane. It’s important to deconstruct where we find our own value and implement a healthy perspective. 

So what are some practical ways we can work to separate our identities from our output? 

1. Pray for others. Pray for your family. Pray for your significant other. Pray for your friends, neighbors, co-workers and leaders. Consciously articulate the needs, desires, and goals of others. It is so easy to get engrossed in our own work and become self-focused. Praying for people is a conscious exercise to focus on the needs of others.

2. Read non-industry related content. I’m a non-fiction junkie and I’m constantly reading in order to learn new strategies to grow my business and improve my work. But reading content that has nothing to do with making my work next level is a good thing. I need to consciously spend time taking a break from all of that. So grab Better Homes & Gardens or Anna Kendrick’s new biography, anything to free your mind from the usual suspects.

3. Journal. Feel anxiety? Flesh out exactly what it is you are worried about. Maybe you need to make an action plan or a to do list or maybe you just need to flesh out what you are worried about. Quite often when you articulate your worries and put them on paper (or on iPhone notes app), you are able to get them off your mind and they do not loom so large.

4. Express gratitude. Thank God for the provisions He has made in your life. He’s blessed you with a calling that lights you up, with work that you love, and with, no doubt, lots of other things you're grateful for. Gratitude is a critical part of finding your value outside of how you perform.

5. Spend time with people who value you apart from your creative work. Maybe they are friends that knew you before you ever had any noteworthy accomplishments. Maybe it’s your family. Maybe it's friends from a service organization. Keep your life full of people who do not only know you and value you for your work. That balance will bring refreshment. 

I’ll be honest with you here. Separating my identity from my output has been one of my biggest struggles. Legacy is important to me. Excellence is important to me. What I do is important to me. But it’s also important to remember that my value does not solely lie in what I create. Sometimes it’s a hard truth to accept, but when we do accept it, we’re free to risk, to fail, and to rest. 

Conversation with a Creative: Meet Jason Gotay

Today I'm thrilled to share an interview with Broadway actor, Jason Gotay, as a part of the Conversation with a Creative series.

Jason has one of those resumes a lot of young actors would kill for--on Broadway: Bring It On: the Musical, Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark, on television: Peter Pan Live! on NBC, original productions of A Bronx Tale and Freaky Friday, among many, many others. 
I met Jason years ago before all those credits and it's been such a treat to watch his career flourish. Today Jason's giving us a behind the scenes look at what it's like to originate a Disney Theatricals role, his approach to handling career disappointments and the best piece of career advice he's been given yet. Let's dive in! 

HS: What does creativity mean to you?

JG: Creativity is the expression of a thought, a message, or an idea that is presented in a way that is unexpected, out-of-the-box, unique, authentic. For me, there's no definitive explanation of what it means to be creative, other than the idea that thinking "creatively" is a way of exploring something differently than you may have explored it before. The root of the word "Creativity," of course, is "create" which implies making something new, unique, fresh, different, and authentically YOURS. Your creativity is your way of expressing your unique view or perspective. It's what makes us individuals!

HS: I think most people know you as a Broadway actor. Can you pull back the curtain on what your life looks like on a regular basis? Whether you’re in a show on Broadway or not? What does the day to day grind look like?  

JG: Like anything else, life outside of performing is a range of things that has certainly changed over time. When I first graduated school and started performing professionally, the grind consisted of auditioning, concerts, workshops, readings, rehearsals. But to be honest, it also consisted of quality time spent with friends, loved ones. I've learned over the years that building your career is just as important as cultivating a personal life that is just as rich as you'd like your professional career to be. Tending to the important relationships in your life should remain a priority, and it's part of being a well-rounded human. 

Nowadays, I'm spending my free time building a different career. For the past five years, I've also become a Teaching Artist and Director, working with young artists and performers in my hometown of Brooklyn, New York. I've returned to my roots in Community Theater and have been working closely with the community to provide opportunities for young actors and students to train and perform.

HS: You’re primarily a performer, but you’re involved with teaching and directing children as well. Can you tell me about your interest there and why that is important to you? 

JG: Growing up in Brooklyn, working with kids was always a constant in my life, regardless of whether I noticed it or not. For years, I worked at a summer camp for the Performing Arts, and I was always performing with people of all ages in the Community Theater world. My theater family was always a home base for me, and I love kids. After my first Broadway show closed (Bring It On: the Musical), I went to the local community theater at home and proposed a Musical Theater Workshop for kids and teens. It was a huge success, and since then I've gone on to do six workshops and have directed three productions through various companies in my home town. I fell completely in love with teaching and the idea of giving back to kids like me who were passionate about theater and creating with their friends. Their enthusiasm, their passion, their willingness to learn, and the opportunity to mentor and instill in them positive values has become one of the greatest joys of my life. And I've just started! I'm excited to pursue it further and continue working with these kids and families who have had a huge impact on my life. 

HS: Your current project is Freaky Friday. What is it like working on an original piece that is being produced by Disney? Has there been a lot of changes throughout the process since it is a new piece? What has it been like working with the creative team and cast? 

JG: Freaky Friday has been a great experience, due largely in part to the amazing people who have brought it to life. I've gotten reunite with some people I've worked with before, and I've also met and collaborated with people I've never met but have been dying to work with. Tom Kitt, the composer of Freaky Friday has been a huge inspiration for me, and along with Brian Yorkey, has created a really exciting score. Bridget Carpenter, our bookwriter, has adapted this story and made it contemporary and relevant for new audiences. Our director Chris Ashley is incredibly accomplished and has been a great team player, allowing us to create these roles and find ways to make them personal to us, and Sergio Trujillo's choreography totally elevates the story and makes it exciting for audiences to watch. Along with our supportive and encouraging producers at Disney, the creative team has created an environment where we feel free to play, try new things, and have fun with one another. And our cast, led by the exquisite Heidi Blickenstaff and Emma Hunton, is incredibly talented and diverse. Our group is representative of all shapes, sizes, ages, colors...it's a joy to be a part of a cast that represents the world as we see it offstage. 

HS: You’ve had your share of big breaks and a few big heartbreaks in the world of Broadway and stage performing. I noticed recently when you announced you were no longer attached to a project, you did it with the utmost class and integrity while other performers might have taken a different approach. What’s your philosophy on handling disappointments in show business with grace?

JG: This is a big one. I've been acting professionally for five years and have only just begun to understand just how much of a rollercoaster this business can be. I've experienced tremendously high highs and have also had some big disappointments, one of which occurred this past year. My philosophy on handling disappointments like this is to really focus on the positive and take stock of all that you have to be grateful for. In this specific instance, I wasn't able to move forward with a project that I cared deeply about, that I had poured a lot of myself into, that I felt was going to help move my career forward in a huge way. Although I didn't get to move forward, I was grateful to have been a part of that project at all. I had to focus on the fact that I was gifted the opportunity to work on it, to collaborate with an incredible cast and creative team, and to learn more about what I was capable of as an actor. The experience taught me so much and challenged me to push myself to places I had never been before. I had to spend a lot of time thinking about how much GOOD came out of that experience, and that made me feel grateful, humbled to have gotten the opportunity in the first place. 

Also, I'm a firm believer that (as cliche as it sounds) everything happens the way it's supposed to. I trust how things fall into place and I let go of the things I can't control. Unfortunately, as actors, we're not given the power to control the way certain decisions are made. What we CAN control is how we handle ourselves and our response to these decisions. And I choose to respond with gratitude and optimism for what the future holds. 

HS: What are your creative habits? How do you continue to “sharpen the saw?”

JG :The two things that keep me creative and inspired are seeing good work and getting in the room with my students. 

Seeing good theater is huge for me. It allows me to be inspired by the work that my peers are doing, to push myself to meet them at that level and to strive for more. I love seeing theater that surprises me, makes me ask questions, reminds me why I love doing this for a living! I try to see as much theater as I can. 

In terms of "sharpening the saw," working with my students keeps me thinking, communicating, and forces me to go back to the basics. When I'm coaching my students, I have to articulate ideas and communicate my thoughts clearly. I have to go back to the beginning and ask "why" a lot. This is really healthy! Being in the room with them reminds me to ask the important questions. And seeing their enthusiasm and watching them grow gets me excited and keeps me grounded as I have to navigate my own career. It reminds me why what we do is so special. 

HS: You’re so young for having experienced so much. What does the future look like for you? What are your career goals at this point? 

JG: I want to keep telling stories that I'm passionate about. If this falls under the umbrella of theater, musical theater, television, film, that's fine by me! I want to continue to do good work, to tell stories that are important and relevant. I want to play roles that challenge and excite me, regardless of if they're new/original, or in shows that have been done before.

I also want to continue to pursue my passion for teaching/directing. I definitely see it being a huge part of my future as an artist, and I'm excited to see where that takes me!

HS: Let's have an advice lightning round!
-What advice would you give to someone who may be in college who’d like to be where you are in a few years?
-What career advice would you give your younger self?
-What is the best career advice you've ever been given?

JG: Advice to young artists: Stay the course. Keep finding opportunities to do what you love. And while you should work as hard as you possibly can, do what makes you happy. Keep that at the forefront always. Your life is about more than just being onstage. Make sure that you continue to discover what keeps you happy, keeps you grounded. This is important.

JG: Advice I would give to my younger self: Don't worry about TYPE. Trust yourself. Your big break is going to be in a role that requires you to be exactly who you are. Don't try to be the leading man, or the quirky sidekick, or any other IDEA of who you should be. Harness what makes you YOU and embrace it. 

JG: Best career advice I've been given: I've been given a lot of advice over the years, but something that has stuck with me recently came from none other than Heidi Blickenstaff. She talked about always leading with kindness. You can be strong and kind at the same time. Treat people well and be nice! Kindness and respect will always serve you!

Huge thanks to Jason for taking the time to chat today. Freaky Friday runs at the Signature Theatre in Washington DC until November 20. Grab your tickets here. And connect with Jason on Twitter and Instagram
And if you liked this interview be sure to check out the Conversation with a Creative interview with Jennifer Ashley Tepper whose Untold Stories of Broadway Volume 3 comes out today! 

What Every Creative Needs to Know About Personal Brand

Alright, let's start on something we can all agree upon. “Personal brand” really isn’t a super sexy term.

Maybe you associate it with shameless self-promotion or a guy in a suit forcing a business card into your hand. But the truth is, personal brands can be awesome and everyone already has one—even, scratch that, ESPECIALLY creatives.

In this digital age, we are all putting out some sort of message about who we are. And even before the digital age we did the same thing. We told the world how we wanted to be experienced—by how we dressed, the non-verbals we used, and how we presented ourselves in public.

Now, we present ourselves in public in front of hundreds, even thousands of people every day via social and digital media. The content you post, the responses you post on other people’s updates, the photos you share and even the grammar and spelling habits you have all reflect your personal brand.

No pressure, right? 

Before you decide to close up shop on all your social media accounts and move to Fiji, I gotta tell you—this online persona is GREAT for you as a creative. 

Why? 

You get to control the narrative of who you are online. Want people to think of you first when they think of graphic designers? Want to come to mind as a hard-working, hustling actor? Or how bout a sought-after writer? You can establish any of these narratives by being intentional with your personal brand online.  

So where do you begin in the quest to be intentional with your personal brand? 

    1.    Determine your UVP. If you’re a creative, or a freelancer, or a solopreneur, you need to flesh out your unique value proposition (UVP). What is your ‘unfair advantage?’ If you were an investor in your career (which—you are, by the way) how would you pitch yourself as a worthwhile investment? Why should an investor put their eggs in your basket as opposed to someone else’s? These are incredibly important ideas to flesh out. They affect everything: how you spend your time, money and brain power. How does your UVP impact how you present yourself online? How does it change your website? Your social media presence? Which social channels you spend time on? The tone of your posts? 

2.    Polish your schpeel. Pop quiz: can you stop right now and verbally explain what you do and how you serve the world in 30 seconds or less? You need to be able to clearly, confidently and unapologetically tell the world what you have to offer. Why? You make a lasting impression when you can confidently share who you are and what you do. And the better you can get at explaining who you are and what you do, the easier it will be for other people to understand your work and think of you first when they need someone just like you for a project. 

    3.    Decide your approach to social and digital media. Your public persona should support your personal brand. Do you know why you’re on the various social media channels you are on? A few years ago, I decided to get intentional with my social media. I have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram for work. And I have accounts on Pinterest and SnapChat for personal use. Anything that I post publicly online has been created with my personal brand in mind. It is consistent with how I present myself on my websites and in the public sphere. I encourage you to take some time to think through your purpose for each social network that you are on. Why are you there? What do you want to accomplish through it? What can you accomplish through it? Adjust your approach accordingly. 

4.     Start now. It takes a little while for a personal brand to catch on so be consistent and go ahead and dive in. If you are “rebranding” yourself in a new line of work or thought, know that it takes some time for people to connect you with your new “thing.” So go ahead and put the time in. Be consistent and when people need someone with your skillset they will think of you.

Your online presence gives you an incredible opportunity to share exactly what you want to share with the world. With an intentional approach you can craft a personal brand that will help connect you with the kind of opportunities that inspire and fulfill you. The world of online personas can be kind of weird, but if handled with care, digital media can provide you with the potential to create incredible opportunities. Remember, your story is begging to be told. 

If you’re in central Virginia, I’m giving a two-hour workshop tomorrow night on all things freelance—including diving head first into personal brand. If you have a passion that you want to earn a living from, but you’re not sure where to go next, this workshop is for you. Grab your ticket here

My Surprising Secret Weapon for a Flourishing Career: My Marriage

4 years ago today JuanCarlos and I got married. And while it may seem like marriage and work have nothing to do with one another, I have to tell you, they totally do. 

It’s no coincidence that my career began to blossom after JuanCarlos and I tied the knot. And sure, part of it is because I got into a more focused phase of life after my gypsy years. But why was I more focused? In part? Because of JC. Let me explain.

My Surprising Secret Weapon for a Flourishing Career: My Marriage

I have so much more mental space now that I’m not on the dating scene. Constantly trying to figure out dead-end relationships takes up a lot of mental energy. Now I have the space and energy to focus in on work, to take risks and to be creative because I’m not obsessing over relationship problems or a crush. I don’t have anxiety about “finding the one.” He’s here. I had no idea how much mental energy I spent on the opposite sex until I was married. Man, talk about simplification. I sincerely believe when the dial was turned down on that part of life, I had more brain waves to put toward my life’s work. 

I have a built-in cheerleader. JC believes the best in me. That empowers me to do great things, to do hard things. Whether or not you’re married, I encourage you, surround yourself with people who believe not only in your potential but also in who you are deep down. You need people who get you and encourage you on your path toward becoming better. 

I have peace that comes with someone knowing all of my quirks and flaws and loving me any way. There is something to be said for someone choosing to love you even when you are being…challenging. JC is in it with me not because I constantly make him happy but because he chooses day in and day out to be in it. And I don’t ever doubt that he’s there. That sense of safety and belonging gives me more confidence to go big in my work and risk failure

I have a home to retreat to at the end of good days and bad. At the end of every work day that’s hard, draining, or frustrating, I’ve got a “home” to go home to. I’m not duking it out in the cold world on my own. And the inverse—when things are really good at work, I have someone who celebrates with me, that proudly tells his co-workers about all my random projects. Having him as a teammate brings peace into my own life. 

I have a built-in brain trust member. I’ve got someone in my corner who is wired nothing like me. I have someone who is not hungry for world domination and who is not constantly reading between the lines (ah, the dark side of the ENFP!) giving me his take on my work challenges. I can pick his brain about any situation and he’s going to give me perspective. And he loves to play devil’s advocate. He’s constantly challenging my thinking. This makes me a better leader and a better team member.

I have someone in my life every day that is loving and service-oriented. Not only is JC committing his career to helping people (he’s beginning a career in professional counseling) but every single day he goes out of his way for me. Whether it’s bringing me a cup of coffee as I’m waking up, or mowing the lawn or doing the dishes, every day JuanCarlos is happy to make me some eggs or even help out with a work event if I’m in a pinch. Now, not only is that just nice to have, but it’s also a challenge to me every single day: do for others. Don’t keep a record of every nice thing you do for someone else. Give. Go out of your way. Serve. This makes me a better freelancer. This makes me a better co-worker. This makes me a better boss. Uh, and this makes me a better human.

I'm wired to passionately pursue a meaningful life and in so, a meaningful career. But being married to JuanCarlos has shown me the incredible benefits of having a dependable partner, a real "home," consistent encouragement, and an example of service right here in my own home. All of these things have helped my career grow massively in four years.

I had no idea when I got married four years ago that marrying the right person would not only tremendously affect my personal life, but also my work life. It’s incredible how the people you’re closest to have such an impact on every area of your life. 

Can you relate? Do you have a spouse that inadvertently has helped your career flourish? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment!

4 Reasons Creatives Must Be in Community

I’m an extroverted, independent, creative type.

And somehow, when it came to work, my independent nature beat out my extroverted nature and I became one of those people who work from home.

I love the autonomy and freedom that comes with not clocking in at an office each day, but I also have to confess—I miss people! 

While writing and social media (irony) are solitary activities, one other aspect of my career is far from solitary and for that I am grateful. 

There is almost no work more collaborative than acting.

When I take part in acting projects I experience the antithesis of my daily life alone in my home office. I am surrounded by people. I am emoting tons of energy at people. I am even forced to smell people when I sometimes would rather not. ;-)

It’s gritty and it’s exhilarating.

When I complete a fulfilling acting project I’m reminded of the importance of community. Every creative needs to actively seek out collaboration—even if your work is ultimately a solo endeavor. We are not meant to do life in a vacuum. And we are not meant to create art in a vacuum.

No matter what kind of work lights you up, here’s why collaboration is essential:

  1. Accountability. For the first time in my life this year I’ve begun working on some writing projects with a partner. Arguably the best part of the collaboration has been that there is someone who is expecting something of me by a certain date. It’s different than a boss with a deadline. It’s someone who is holding me accountable for creative output. We’re a team. We’re creating something together. Whether you want to collaborate on a project with someone or just need accountability, I encourage you to join a creative group. Maybe it’s a writers group or illustrators or musicians. Whatever it is, create a group (2 or more people count in my book) and get some accountability. Assign deadlines. It will bring a new sense of motivation and duty to completion. 
  2. Encouragement. Whether it’s positive feedback on the work you’ve created or just encouragement to keep going, we all need support in our lives and creative work. Don’t dismiss your innate desire for encouragement as narcissistic. It’s natural to get energized by encouragement. In the same way that it brings you joy to lift someone else up, let others lift you up. Creating work alongside others can be encouraging as you work together and see progress being made. Whether working on a piece collectively or working on separate projects, collaboration and community foster encouragement. 
  3. Inspiration. Enthusiasm is contagious. Gathering around a table with people who are doing work that is exciting and interesting to them never fails to inspire me. Maybe I’m feeling creatively stunted or burnt out. Simply being around others who are not is energizing. And what about the refreshment that comes from simply getting a fresh pair of eyes on your project? Let others in on your creative process and get inspired to go in new directions. 
  4. Connection. C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship is born at the moment when one man says to another ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…’” No matter what kind of “creative” you are, no matter if you’re an introvert or extrovert, we all need that connection. It can be scary to be vulnerable but on the other side of that fear is a place where you are actually known. It’s worth the risk. 

So I challenge you today to build community. Foster connection. You can even begin by shooting someone an email and asking him to review something you’ve written or seeing if a fellow creative is free to grab lunch. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of isolation but life and art-making is a much richer experience in community. 

Have you found community enriching in your own life? I’d love to hear about it! Share in the comments. 

Embracing Change and Maybe Even Going Freelance...

Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk with an old friend. And when I say "old friend" I mean like, buddy from the early elementary to high school years. This girl was in my life a solid 6 days out of the week for all my formative years. She was a social butterfly/loud laugher/people person kind of girl. And she was telling me (15 years later) that she loves living in the country now as an adult because people don't just 'drop in' to visit unannounced. Somehow over the 13 years or so that have transpired since we saw each other day in and day out she had become an introvert.

Isn't it incredible how we change as humans?

Another friend of mine who I've known for about 10 years (but haven't seen but a handful of times in the past five) was telling me that he doesn't have any weird feelings about turning 30 next year. "I'm all the ages I've ever been," he said. 

We change. We grow. But we can still access who we have been in the past. Those past experiences, thoughts, and ways of looking at life are just under the surface.

I've always been a person who thrives on change. At one point that meant that I lived out of a suitcase and lived nowhere longer than 6 months at a time (ah, my gypsy youth). But now it means that I spend my evenings performing in professional theatre or managing social media accounts for Broadway shows while spending my days writing marketing copy for a fundraising agency or teaching college communication courses. 

Change is a part of life and, I believe, it's to be embraced. Maybe "change" for you, looks like exploring new ways of creating a life for yourself that is fulfilling to you.

I'm excited to announce that on November 3 I'm going to be leading the workshop that I created last spring, Going Freelance. When I launched it earlier this year it was clear that it's a topic that resonates with a lot of people. The thing is, it's really not about business. It's not about money or working in your pajamas. 

It's about taking a leap and making changes so you can live a fulfilling life. Learning about the freelance world may be as unexpected as an extra-extrovert who's gone introverted. But it may be the right next step for you. Maybe it's not time to take the leap and quit your job, but it is time to get educated about your options. 

Tickets for Going Freelance are now on sale and there's even an early bird rate that's good until the end of September. $24. 2 hours. And a toolkit that will give you the information you need to potentially create something new and deeply fulfilling for you.

Grab your ticket to Going Freelance here. 

5 Questions You Must Answer Before Crafting Your Brand Strategy

Everyone has a story— every human and in fact, every business. 

My story starts with the fact that as a kid I was always telling stories. I wrote “books” from the second pew of my dad’s church while he was preaching. I turned every group setting into a performance opportunity—Thanksgiving, my car seat, recess—didn’t matter. 

I bring every experience I’ve ever had into who I am now as an adult. It informs how I approach the art that I create and how I help my clients. 

You have a story too. Can you think back on the hints throughout your childhood that led you to where you are today? Maybe you were constantly tending to your “sick” dolls or hiring your brother to work at your “McDonalds.” The hints were there. 

It’s important for us to know our stories as people and as freelancers, solopreneurs, and marketers. 

Before you market a thing about your business, you’ve got to get crystal clear on the story of your company. Before you can strategize how to get the goods and/or services into the hands of the people who need and want them, you’ve got to get clear on how you will communicate the essence of your business’ story to the world.

My definition of brand strategy is a game plan that you put in place that clearly articulates what you do, who it’s for, what makes you stand out from the pack, and how you intend on reaching the people who need and want the stuff you sell.

When business owners hire me to help them craft their approach as they go to market, I start by asking them five questions. These all tell me a lot about your unique company. Get clear on the answers to these questions before you try to market your products. 

  1. What is your unfair advantage? What’s your secret sauce? Why are you absolutely the best to do what you do? This needs to be articulated. 
  2. Who are you trying to reach? Who is your target audience? Who has a pain point that you can eliminate? 
  3. What are three words that describe your company culture? This should come through on your website design, in your copy, and on your social channels. Flesh out how you would describe the “personality” of your business.  
  4. What solution are you providing to the world? You may not be able to encapsulate it as easily as Donald Trump’s “make America great again,” but try. Brainstorm until you can say it in a sentence. 
  5. What is the heartbeat of your mission? What is your “why”? How are you changing the world? At the end of the day, aside from the money, why does your business exist? 

The baseline of all marketing is storytelling. Get clear on your company’s story and figuring out how to market your products and services will be much easier. 

If you could use a boost to your productivity or creativity, download my free eBook, More in Less: 21 Productivity Hacks for Creatives. It's chock full of my best tips and tricks for doing more in less time.