Tuesday Tip 008: The One Tool Every Freelancer MUST Have

You went freelance because you love what you do.

Maybe it's diving into a character in scenework, or capping off an article with the perfect closing sentence, or seeing a client "get it" for the first time. These are powerful moments. But the truth is, if you are freelancing, consulting, side gig-ing, or any number of ways you wanna slice self-employed work, you are also your own marketer. 

It doesn't mean you have to rent a billboard or send private messages to every Facebook friend you've ever made (please no), but it does mean that the word won't spread about your ridiculous talent unless you cause it to spread. 

So here is the first thing that you should do:

It's true. Unless you're absolutely not interested in growing your business or charging more (gross!) then you need a website. I'm not even talking some big honking Wordpress monstrosity. I just mean a place online where people can find you if they are looking for you and a place where you can point people to learn more about what you do. Here's a couple of options:

1. Squarespace. This is what I use for my website. It's intuitive and easy to use. I can easily build out landing pages for special products. And I am easily able to take care of my own ticketing for events. It has everything I need. Plus it makes my blog look pretty. :) $8 per month, yall. 

2. Wix. My acting website is over here. There was a little while where I felt like Wix was falling behind its competitors but it appears that lately they have upped their game. You don't want to blog from a Wix website but this may be the easiest site setup of any out there. 

3. About.me. If you are not actively seeking new clients, this is the site I recommend for you. You can let people know who you are, what you do, where they can find you on social media and how they can contact you. You can probably set this up in 10 minutes. Do it! 

4. Wordpress. I use a self-hosted Wordpress site for my side business. It integrates beautifully with about a bazillion plugins. There's just tons of free ways to modify your site on Wordpress. It's the motherload. 

Bottom line: be anywhere online as long as you are somewhere. You are self-sabotaging if you do not have a website of some sort! So own your freelancer identity. Ship it before you really feel like it's "ready." Get out there and get work. You deserve it. 

Have you picked up my free eBook More in Less: 21 Productivity Hacks for Creatives? It is available for FREE download until the end of the month. Grab it here.

10 Pieces of Advice for a Young Theatre Major (That Have Nothing to Do with Acting)

Today's post is a slight detour from the usual. I'm getting specific and giving some advice to young theatre majors. Back to our regularly scheduled programming next week when I come at you with a #TuesdayTip video
advicetheatremajor

If I could do anything differently in my past I would’ve been a theatre major.

I know, some of you may be surprised that I wasn’t one. I wasn’t! (And let me edit that slightly--I would've double majored in theatre and communications.) When I started college I hadn’t been exposed to theatre very much and I really didn’t realize that one could make a career out of stage performance outside of Broadway (I know…). Luckily I was exposed to great theatre training and experience when I was in college so I got the opportunity to embark on this wild ride of a career after all. (When God has plans for you, He makes a way.)

Now I’m entering my 10th(!) year in professional theatre and I'm thinking back on the lessons I've learned along the journey. While I haven't been a full time actor every day of those ten years, I have spent at least part of the year on a professional contract each year since 2006 (with the exception of 2011--grad school.) Here's a few lessons I've learned over the duration that I wish I had known my freshman year of college (if I could do it all over again). 

10 Pieces of Advice for a Young Theatre Major 

1. You’ll never regret getting a second skill. Now, don’t confuse this with a “Plan B.” When you want to become a professional actor you don't have a Plan B. But you should diversify your skills. You'll be able to contribute to society in more than one meaningful way and you won't resent your passion during those times that said passion might not provide for your basic needs. 

2. Don’t look for your creative fulfillment solely in one kind of artistic expression. Disappointments come. Make sure you are finding joy in more than just your "one thing." 

3. Talent is critical, but so is work ethic and kindness. It's not just about who has the "it" factor. An incredibly practical piece of advice I got from Tory Ross has rung in my ears ever since: "be early and over prepared." Go the extra mile. 

4. Don’t be so competitive that upon graduation all you leave college with are a bunch of memories of roles. Invest in friendships. College is where you can make friends for life. Don’t let competition keep you from community.

5. Practice things that help to thicken your skin—whether it’s a new art form, asking for a discount, or traveling alone. Bravery is a critical part of performing. If you don't feel confident pretend to be a confident person. You're an actor after all. (Stolen from the brilliant Lindsley Register.) 

6. Diversify the important voices in your life and career. One person’s opinion is just that. Don’t put too much stock in it (whether he thinks you’re brilliant or hates your work.) 

7. As important as it is to get lots of experience, it’s also incredibly important to see great work. Go to plays. Go to movies. Rent the really good, old movies. See as much as you can. 

8. Build relationships with actors from other programs, technicians at your own school, people older than you, people outside the theatre program, etc. It’s important to not get in a silos where you’re insulated from others’ experiences. Learn all you can about the many artists who contribute to the creation of a show. And make a point to collide with people who are different than you. You'll be a better actor and a better human for it. 

9. Know what your boundaries are and stick to them. And beyond that, know why you have those boundaries in place. Figure that out while you're in a safe, collegiate atmosphere. Once you get out into the professional community it will be much more challenging to make those decisions without the support of your mentors, professors and peers. 

10. Keep at it. The secret to success in this business is going to one more audition. Keep going. Listen to Rocky: “One step. One round at a time.” The reason I continued to book shows throughout my twenties is because I continued to go to auditions. It's as simple as that. 


So there’s my list of advice for someone starting out in a theatre program. There's obviously TONS more to learn. That's what your degree is for! :-) 

Bottom line, remember there’s always another show. And there’s always another audition. It’s up to you to show up and make it count. 

If you're curious about my acting work or if you're like wait, what? You're an actor? Go here to get the scoop.

20 Lessons I Learned in My 20s

20 Lessons I Learned in My Twenties Hilary Sutton
20 Lessons I Learned in My Twenties Hilary Sutton

 

Over the past few days I have received hoards of birthday wishes from friends and family. My husband put together a book of notes from people who have impacted my life along the way. One consistent theme that I saw in what they wrote was that they saw something intentional in me. Someone who goes for it and really seeks to live on purpose. What's funny is, I don't see this as admirable. It is how I'm hard-wired. I can't imagine phoning in life or not consistently checking in to see if there is a way I could be doing things better. Included in that "I can't not think deeply about my direction in life" thing is that I took a lot of time over the last year to reflect on the decade I was wrapping up.

I spent the last year of my twenties looking back on the decade as a whole and aggregating lessons I learned along the way. I actually journaled and blogged through much of my twenties so I had great reference points for looking back and seeing what was on my mind at any given age. Today I want to share with you 20 of the lessons I learned in my twenties. There's more than just this, of course, but these were the game-changers. My hope is that perhaps one of these lessons gets your wheels turning and is somehow helpful to you.

20 Lessons I Learned in My Twenties

1. Everyone has a story.

2. The things I needed in a partner were chemistry, connection and respect. Determining those three things and using them as a measuring stick was really helpful.

3. Pay attention to the cues you are receiving (people will show you how much they value you.)

4. Say "yes." Try new things. That will help you learn what you really love and you won't have to ask "what if?"

5. You can love and pursue more than one career path. It's harder than choosing just one. But some people are not meant for just one thing and that is OK!

6. Getting a second skill is imperative if there is not a huge need for your desired career path. It will help you not live in anguish stressing out about money and it means you'll enjoy contributing to society between gigs.

7. Tell the world who you are --better yet-- tell the world who you want to be.

8. "Funny" may not be one of the most important requirements in a spouse. (But do find someone who gets your jokes.)

9. People can't put you in a bad mood. You control how you experience the world.

10. Look for opportunities to invest in people. Relationships are the only thing in this world built to last.

11. Respect yourself enough to listen to your gut.

12. Education opens doors.

13. Marrying someone just like you is probably not a good idea. Balance is a great thing.

14. We regularly need to zoom out and examine our lives. We should ask ourselves, "Are we doing things on purpose?" Is this the direction I want my life to go?"

15. Internships are career launching pads. Get one. or two. or three.

16. Social media and the web are tools that can be used for good or for bad. Use them for good!

17. You never know what is right around the corner, so be intentional and optimistic. Sometimes bad things are around the corner, but it's not worth bringing the future bad into the present by being negative. And sometimes there is something great around the corner--quite often actually. Life is cyclical that way.

18. The best stuff money can buy are experiences. I'm so glad that when I was young and poor I figured out ways to travel and have great experiences. Caveat: it's also nice to have a warm home and all the necessities of comfort. At some point air mattresses don't match up to beds. ;-)

19. Show up to do the work even if you don't feel inspired. You've gotta show up.

20. If you don't audition you'll never book the part. If you don't write the book it will never be a best-seller. You have to risk rejection and failure. Be brave!

So that's my list of twenty things I learned in my twenties. The prospect of learning so much more in my thirties sounds pretty thrilling to me. But tell me, did this list spark a reminder in your mind of lessons you've learned in your current or last phase of life? I would LOVE to hear them.

Hilary's Social Media Tuesday Tip 001: Keep it PUFI!

This week I thought I'd experiment with sharing a short video blog. I'd love to hear your feedback on this new medium in the comments! It's so easy to go to social media to share when we want to vent our frustrations over something but so often we can creep into the land of oversharing, coming across critical or judgmental, or just plain boring.

Posting less often but keeping it within certain guidelines can ensure that when you have something to say on social media, you have friends and followers who are interested to hear it! See below for the 4 criteria for social media posts.

Do you try to keep it PUFI? Any other criteria you'd add to the list? 

The Connection Between Increased Responsibility and Increased Expectations

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN INCREASED RESPONSIBILITY AND INCREASED EXPECTATIONS
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN INCREASED RESPONSIBILITY AND INCREASED EXPECTATIONS

One of my first assignments for Profile Magazine was to interview the inspiring and no-nonsense Raquel Libman. Raquel is the executive vice president and general counsel for the Miami Heat. Yes--that Miami Heat. In our interview, Raquel shared a few speeches and interviews that really impacted her along the way. I took the liberty of doing the googling for you and included the links. Enjoy!

Raquel Libman's Career Advice

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received? You’ll be happiest and most successful if you learn and work in ways that make the best use of your natural strengths and abilities.

Who do you recommend young female professionals listen to or read? Madeleine Albright. Most recently she was interviewed for a TED Talk—a terrific resource in and of itself—on being a woman and a diplomat. Also, there is a 2007 interview by Laura Liswood, who spoke at the Salzburg Global Seminar, called “Women and Power: Mechanisms to Advance Women’s Leadership,” which is really excellent.

What is one lesson that you share with younger colleagues? Don’t be in too big of a rush to develop professionally, because the higher up the proverbial food chain you move, the harder the job, the greater the pressure, and the higher the expectations. Telling yourself that you are ready to have the buck stop with you is one thing, really being ready is another.

A closing thought from Raquel: "My role within the company is by its very nature the antithesis of ‘front and center,’ and that’s fine with me,” she says. “The truth is that there is a tremendous amount of preparation involved in putting on a game or a show, managing a facility such as the [American Airlines] Arena and everything in between. The trick of it is to make the end product look effortless.”

Libman has worked hard to prove herself in a male-dominated industry and has been rewarded for the great work that she has done.

Do you agree with Raquel's assertion that you'll be happiest and most successful if you make the best use of your natural strengths and abilities? 

Enjoy the full-length version of this article in Profile Magazine.

The 20 Essentials: What Every Solopreneur Needs for Success

20 Essentials Every Solopreneur Needs for Success

20 Essentials Every Solopreneur Needs for Success

Over the years,  I've learned in my work as a solopreneur that success of course takes determination, creativity, guts, faith and talent, but there are also a bunch of other things that every solopreneur should be using or doing to achieve great things. Here's my list.

20 Essentials Every Solopreneur Needs to Succeed

1. Website. If you're a solopreneur, I hate to break it to you, but if you don't have a website, you don't exist. Services like Squarespace and Wix make it possible for you to easily create your own. 

2. Twitter presence. Every solopreneur needs to take advantage of this social media platform. It is an ideal platform for anyone who is seeking to leverage their expertise. 

3. A desk with a ton of space. I got this desk from World Market a few months back . It almost doubled my work space. It's been GREAT. Bonus: it was also easy to put together.

4. Google voice number. If you're a solopreneur this saves you from using your minutes on work-related calls. Get that free Google voice number and let them call your "office line." 

5. Buffer app.This let's you pre-schedule social posts with regularity. I'd skip it for Facebook but it's perfect for Twitter and Linkedin. 

6. Pocket. This digital bookmark lets you save pages you'd like to look at later. If you strive to be a content curator around your given area of expertise, this is a great way to save content that you can share later.

7.Tweetdeck(or Hootsuite if you're into that). Every solopreneur needs a way to manage multiple accounts at once. I like Tweetdeck best to glance at my Twitter feed, notifications, lists and sent posts all at once. 

8. An optimized Linkedin account. If someone is searching for someone like you, will you pop up in their search results? 

9. About.me page. It's too easy not to use. Get one. 

10. Solid headshots (and other professional photos for your website and social media would be great too.) 

11.  Wordpress blog. For SEO purposes, for customization options, for credibility--you need a self-hosted Wordpress site. 

12. A lunch break. Get out of your office. Unplug. Go for a run, heck a walk will do. Get some sunshine. Then get back to work. Solopreneurs can easily never stop working. That's why you need to be intentional about time off.

13. A clear list of what only you can do and what can be outsourced. Are you terrible at bookkeeping? What about answering emails? Scheduling things? What about tending to your plants or housekeeping? Could you plausibly use independent contractors so you can focus on the strategic items on your list? Figure out what you can outsource and outsource it. 

14. A group to connect with on the regular—whether it is a remote team, a book club or a business professionals weekly gathering, you need to be in community. 

15. The 4-Hour WorkweekBuy this book. Read this book. Apply the principles.(See #16.) Your life will be better for it. Guaranteed. 

16. Batch similar tasks. Let's save the decision-making brain power for what really matters. In the meantime, how bout you do all your blog writing at the same time once a week--heck, once a month. How bout you do your grocery shopping only on Sundays? Shifting your focus throughout the day is tough on your brain. Shift less. Focus more.

17. Track your time. Afraid you might be wasting too much time on a given vice? Track your time. It doesn't have to be a complex process. Just jot down how you're spending your time throughout the day on a notebook next to your computer. Do you keep to your schedule or do you diverge? Worth investigating to see if you're maximizing your time.

18. Give yourself a cut off for how much time you will spend on social media (or video games or online shopping or TV or etc etc etc) each day. You know how you're prone to waste your precious time. Be a drill sergeant on yourself. You won't be mad at yourself for it. 

19. Do not disturb button on your iPhone. Find the button. Embrace it. Every text message and email doesn't have to be attended to at the moment that it is received. Be a good steward of your time, energy, attention and brain power. If you're easily distracted, employ the power of "do not disturb."

20. Designated time off. In addition to taking a lunch break or exercise break mid-day, I encourage you to make sure you have long periods of time off each week. A Sabbath was invented for a reason! Give your time to rejuvenate, refresh and recalibrate. You'll be more effective the following week as a result.

Well, there's my list of 20 things every solopreneur must have to be successful. It's not comprehensive though. What would YOU add to the list? 

Hilary is passionate about helping people create work and lives that are wildly fulfilling. To learn how she may be able to help you, contact her here.

10 Ways to Kick This Year in the Pants

Are you one of those mega motivated people who geek out on resolutions? Or maybe you're more of the skeptical, I-don't-want-to-disappoint-myself types who opts out—or maybe you like goals but aren’t into New Year’s resolutions because the date feels arbitrary. Either way, today I want to challenge you with ten ways you can start the year off with a BANG! If you could really do something about it, would you want this year to look different than last year? I have good news for you. YOU CAN!

You have 50 weeks left of this year. What will you do with them?

10 Ways to Kick Your Year in the Pants

1. Establish a Brain Trust. The truth is--you probably already have one. A Brain Trust is that go to personal board of directors who you seek out for advice when you're making big decisions, whose opinions you  weigh heavier than all the rest. Feel like your Brain Trust is a little too small? Seek out building relationships with people who you highly respect and value. You can also read all about the original Brain Trust in Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration.

2. Make a list of things you want to learn this year. You've always wanted to _________. What just popped in your mind? Why not go for it this year? What's stopping you? Ok, at least search for Youtube videos about it, ok?

3. Use this epic process by Christine Hassler to get clear on what you want to co-create this year. There are the goals that you may have already penned (after all we're a solid two weeks into 2015) but then there are deeper hopes and values that you have for this year that you may not have fully articulated yet. I encourage you to walk through Christine's process of what you want to leave in 2014 and what you want to manifest in 2015. This exercise can bring a ton of clarity.

4. Make a list of books you want to read this year. If you're like me your stack of books to read seems like a never-ending tower. This year, make a list--that you can review regularly--of the books that you will read. Plug it in to your calendar like any other activity you highly value. I was so sad when I realized how few books I read last year. I so value reading and have a bookshelf full of books to conquer this year. I know myself. The way to make that happen is to get specific on my to do list. It will happen if I plug this goal into my calendar.

5. Follow 5 inspiring people on Twitter that you aren't already following. Use these incredible tools called social networks to grow your experience. Not sure who to follow? How bout Billy Porter, Greg McKeown, Tanner Christensen, Maria Popova, or C.S. Lewis?

6. Make a vision board on Pinterest. Hat tip to Camryn for making this great suggestion! Take your 2015 goals and find visuals for them on Pinterest. I just did this (after spending Saturday going through #3 on this) and the visual representation of my plans and hopes for the year is pretty exhilarating.

7. Reach out to someone you've admired from afar (whether acquaintance, stranger or other) and ask them to grab coffee or lunch. Worst case scenario, they say no. Best case scenario, you've begun to establish a personal relationship with someone that you would like to know better.

8.Track your social media ROI. Every day take into account how your time on social media was spent, what the payoff was and what might have made you feel not so good. **Adjust accordingly.**

9. Get a pedometer of some kind and track your exercise. It's  so easy to *literally* hibernate in the winter. How bout you use this time where things are quiet and you're not pulled in a million directions to up your health and fitness game?

10. Commit to writing until you fill three pages each morning for 21 days. See how you feel about it afterward. I started doing this last fall when I journeyed through The Artist's Way. Guess what happened? I began to come up with idea after idea. One developed into a series of blogging workshops, and the other resulted in a side hustle that recouped its initial investment in three months. I'm not sure how to better convince you to write every morning.

What are you doing differently in 2015? What is your one big message for the world this year? What do you hope people remember about you?

Hilary is passionate about inspiring people to live their best lives. And if that happens through a performance on stage or through something she wrote, well then, she couldn't be happier.

Top 5 Memories of 2014 & HSL Around the Web: December

My Top 5 Memories of 2014
My Top 5 Memories of 2014

Wow, here I sit writing to you on the last day of 2014. What a year it has been! My top 5 highlights of 2014 that come to mind are: performing in Mary Poppins, attending the Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder after-Tony party with Spotco in Rockefeller Center, visiting Charleston for the first time, running the Virginia 4-Miler, and traveling to California in October.

Work has been incredible this year. I worked a lot of hours but I've seen really solid results. HSL Creative has grown and transformed and so have I. While reflecting on 2014 is fun, I'm way more jazzed about looking forward to 2015. This is a big year. I'll be focusing a lot of my efforts on working as a brand journalist with Pursuant, a fundraising agency. My goal with my work with Pursuant is to help the nonprofit clients we serve share their exciting and moving stories, whether it's through a video, a blog post, a magazine article or even a podcast.

My work with HSL Creative will continue in the form of consulting, strategy and workshops. Our first workshop of the year is Blogging for Business at Toolry on January 17. It's $50--a steal--for the knowledge and practical help you'll walk away with.

More on the excitement of 2015 in my next post. For now a look back on all the places I've been published around the web this month. Happy Holidays!!

The HSL Creative Blog
Announcing the HSL Creative Blogging Workshop
Gift Guide for the Entrepreneur
5 Reasons Every Artist Should Have Two Careers

The Clutch Guide Blog 6 Tips to Avoid Becoming the Grinch This Christmas

Forefront Blog A Leader's Mentor

Lynchburg Business 9 Secrets to Improving Your Website Content

The Digital Drip Pursuant Gives Back: Repairing Wells Through Global Aid Network
Happy Holidays from Pursuant

And I also launched a side project that brings fairytale and superhero characters to life for children's events and parties in Virginia: Enchanting Entertainment Company. Check it out!

Hilary is an entrepreneur, musical theatre performer, and a brand journalist with Pursuant. Connect with her on Twitter

5 Reasons Every Artist Should Have Two Careers

Five Reasons Every Artist Should Have Two Careers
Five Reasons Every Artist Should Have Two Careers

When people find out that I do multiple things (writing, social media, acting) they often sort of shake their heads in bewilderment. I want to take them by both shoulders and say, "you should do more than one thing too!" In lieu of that potentially awkward moment, I'm writing this blog post. Especially for my artist, musician, actor, dreamer friends, I want to encourage you to pursue your craft and consider pursuing something else alongside it. After spending four years as a professional actor, I knew to have the lifestyle I wanted to live and to be inspired and engaged with the work I was doing on a daily basis I would need to pursue a second career. Of course there are the exceptions, but by and large, getting a second skill is only going to improve your life.

Here's why you should have two jobs

1. You don't have to let your dream die. I'm not proposing that you give up the keys to your dream for a life in Office Space. If I'm the first person to tell you this, move in a little closer. Pursuing a second career doesn't mean you're selling out, it means you're opening up more doors for yourself. You don't have to give up the certainty that you'll be making a decent living because you want to be in a band or be an actor. Pursuing a second career gives you the opportunity to pursue your passion without resenting it for making you really, really broke. Pursue a second career so you won't get to that dark place of cursing your career when you can't make rent.

2. You become more marketable. Whether it's a second skill directly tied to your first love (learning how to sew so you can step into the costume, learning how to run sound so you can take over the board if a band needs a sound tech) or one completely different (ie me with journalism and acting), having more than one skill makes you more valuable in the overall marketplace. You never know what open door leads to the next, so simply becoming a more useful worker overall is a very, very good move.

3. It gives you options. You know what the problem is with acquiring only one skill in a tough market? If there's no use for that skill at the moment, then you're out of work--or out of the kind of work that you actually like doing. If the idea of waiting tables between gigs til you're north of 60 sounds kind of awful to you, I urge you to rethink your plan! If you are a passionate, talented person, there's no doubt that other industries would jump at the opportunity to use your talent, passion and heck, charm (cause we know you got it!) for their cause. What about real estate? What about social media? What about yoga? What about entrepreneurship? Draft up a list of things that people have told you you're good at, you feel personally are your strengths and things that you like (*besides* your first love career). Start there.

4. You can make an impact in the lives of more people. If you work across several fields you will be making a greater impact on more people. Not only will "show people" know you but so will marketing people or nonprofit people or real estate people or church people. You get the idea. If you want to do something significant with your life and leave a legacy, consider how you may have an even greater impact if you work in more than one field.

5. When someone says "no" it's not over for you. One of the biggest advantages of having more than one skill is that you're not putting all your eggs in one basket. If that gig that you're really hoping for doesn't pan out it doesn't mean you have to go back to the worst-job-ever. You get to go back to your "in-between-gigs" job that is fulfilling, purposeful and rewarding. Isn't that so much better than going back to your minimum wage job where you're really not using your strengths?

Bottom line: your passion/first love career is your main thing. It's your identifier. But don't let your passion for that career keep you from having a meaningful day to day existence in your work. Reinvention is always acceptable. Adding on a second skill or heck, business, is a good thing! So think about what else sparks your interest, the other things you're good at, and how could you use the skills that you've developed for your art in other marketable ways. Remember, the artists who are at the pinnacle of their careers aren't doing just one thing. Whether they create new companies, (hello Jessica Alba), or invest in startups, or go back and forth between acting and music, your role models aren't just focused on one career. So why should you?

If you found this post interesting or helpful would you do me a solid and share it? 

Gift Guide for the Entrepreneur: 10 things for that person who you fully expect to take over the world one day

Gift Guide for the Entrepreneur
Gift Guide for the Entrepreneur

If you have a hustling, creative, self-starter in your life, my guess is that they would go nuts for any of the following items on this list. Happy Holidays!

1. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. Full disclosure: one of my latest podcast obsessions is #AskGaryVee. The main thesis of JJJRH is that though communication is still key, context matters more than ever. It’s not just about developing great content, it's about developing high-quality content that's perfectly created to blend in on specific social media platforms and mobile devices. Anybody who has something to promote online should read this book.

2. Subscription to Audible.com. We're all busy here. Why not get a subscription for that busy person in your life and let them read while they exercise or drive? The Audible subscription includes one audiobook per month. Perfect!

3. Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. This New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestseller was written by one of my favorite bloggers and podcast hosts, Michael Hyatt. Recently, Forbes magazine named him one of the “Top 10 Online Marketing Experts To Follow In 2014.” In this book Michael unpacks how to let the world know about your incredible message by building a platform that gets you noticed.

4. Premium Skillshare subscriptionSkillshare is an online community where you can take classes from some of the country's leading experts. Topics range from building a logo to starting a business. It is one inspiring place. Plus, Seth Godin even  lectures here.

5. Fast Company. This magazine has gotten my wheels turning about trends in technology and business many a time. Fast Company inspires a new breed of innovative and creative thought leaders who are actively inventing the future of business. When I look through the pages of Fast Company I see role model after role model. This magazine will inspire and challenge your entrepreneur.

6. A photography session. Every aspiring entrepreneur, thought leader or creative needs professional images on his or her website and social profiles. In today's image-focused social landscape, pictures are everything. To say they will enhance your online presence is a gross understatement. (Photographers I've worked with and love: Foster & Asher, Adam Barnes Fine Art Photography, Billy B Photography, Deb Knoske, Ty Hester)

7. The 4-Hour WorkweekThis book has had maybe more of an influence on the way I work than any other book I've read in the last five years. In its pitch the 4-Hour Workweek says Tim Ferris will "teach you how to escape the 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich." Well, I can't say I've quite joined the new rich yet, but Ferris' book is chock full of helpful ideas to help you do more of what matters and less of what gleans you a less valuable pay off. This is a GREAT book.

8. BluehostSo web hosting is not a sexy gift, you say? It IS! I say. Your creative knows he/she needs a self-hosted site to really run with the big dogs and show the world he/she is serious about his/her endeavor. (This very blog is moving to a self-hosted site in January.) Sometimes its hard to make that initial investment. Give them the gift of Bluehost and do it for them.

9. Success MagazineThis subscription was actually not one I sought out for myself; my dad got me a 2-year subscription last Christmas. Oh how I love it. I appreciate that the stories are not dumbed down for the multi-tasking millennial generation. They are long and in-depth. In addition--my favorite part of the magazine--it comes with an audio CD with in-depth interviews based on the focus of the magazine that month. Just last night I was listening to an interview about significance. It has challenged and inspired me on my drives more than once. Well worth it. 

10. Creativity, Inc.  By Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar, Creativity, Inc. was named one of the best books of 2014 by Library Journal. This book takes you behind the curtain at one of the most innovative companies of the 20th & 21st centuries. Forbes said it "just might be the best business book ever written.”Listen to Forbes people.  

There you have it! If you read this and see items that you'd love you might ought to reshare it as a helpful hint.

For more posts like this subscribe, follow on Twitter, like on Facebook and double-tap on Instagram
 

8 Surprising Lessons Running Taught Me about Goal-Setting

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I've never been a runner. In fact some of my earliest memories are of being a 4-year-old on a soccer team at the Y and strongly wanting to just skip to the post-game reward of a Capri Sun and a snack cake.

I have no memory of running an entire mile until I was at least 26. Ironically, my dad was a collegiate track runner. I've always just firmly believed I didn't get that gene.

Last year I stood at the finish line and celebrated my dad and husband when they finished the Virginia 10-Miler. It was so exciting! Over the summer I got the idea that I wanted to run the Virginia 4-Miler, an abbreviated version of the 10-miler course. It would be no easy task as on the same day I'd also be doing two performances of The Little Mermaid. But I knew with months of preparation and planning, I could do it.  I modified a running plan so I'd have no problem with the 4 mile race on a two-show day--even though, at the start, running a mile without stopping was a real challenge.

My training was empowering, thought-provoking and hard. I was away from a screen for at least an hour in the middle of my morning--a big deal for this writer/social media manager. I was forced to unplug regularly. And that time on the trail got me thinking. Over the course of the ten weeks I learned some really valuable lessons.

8 Lessons I Learned on Goal-Setting By Training for the Virginia 4-Miler

1. If you have a goal that only takes you to achieve, the odds are very much in your favor. This goal wasn't up to anyone but me. Sure, things like injuries could have prevented my goal from coming to fruition. But a goal like this one was mainly in my control. It was just me and the road.

2. A big goal broken down bit by bit is not overwhelming. Check off what you need to do that day. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Every week I simply had three days of running I had to accomplish. Whatever the plan said, I did. I just. kept. running.

3. To accomplish any goal you have to intrinsically desire to accomplish it. You can't be motivated by others. If your mom wants you to accomplish it or your boss wants you to accomplish it, that may be some incentive, but it's not going to get you across the finish line. You have to want it.

4. It's necessary to take into account other commitments and who else is affected by your goal. I knew I had to be serious about my training in order to be in good enough shape to run my race and then perform two shows in the same day. If I hadn't trained properly I might have injured myself or exhausted myself--affecting the entire performance. Remember that multiple aspects of your life are impacted by your goals.

5. When mental toughness and discipline are achieved in one area of life, it bleeds into other areas. Studies have proven that committed, disciplined runners also become disciplined in other areas of life. They eat more healthy and spend less. When you start to view yourself as someone you respect, you treat yourself better in other areas.

6. If you run in the morning you face the rest of your day already feeling like a winner. Accomplishing something right away in the morning empowers me to attack the rest of my day and expect great things to happen. I know that on days that I run I am more fully present with others  and invigorated to work with excellence.

7. It is empowering to choose your own label. I was never referred to as a "runner." Nobody ever told me I had my dad's "runner's build." But I trained and I ran a further distance than I ever anticipated that I could. In fact, I ran further. (The week before my race I ran 5 miles.) Deciding to become a runner and then doing it was pretty encouraging. What else could I decide to be or do?

8. A goal needs a specific "end by" date in order to be a goal and not just a dream. Hopes are great, but without a plan and a deadline they don't become a reality. I had to face the music on September 27, the day of the Virginia 4-Miler.

Doing anything challenging can be rewarding. C.S. Lewis said, "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." What lessons have you learned when you've set a goal and accomplished it?

Happy moment with Dad and Juan-Carlos after the race.
Happy moment with Dad and Juan-Carlos after the race.

My Top 12 Posts in Honor of HSL Creative's First Birthday

My 2nd birthday.
My 2nd birthday.

I’ve had a stunning revelation: HSL Creative, in its most recent incarnation, is officially ONE year old!

Cue the streamers, candles, and of course cake (my favorite.) In honor of our first birthday I thought I would share a countdown of the 12 most popular blog posts from the last year. (Get it? 1 for each month?)

Over the past year I’ve shared observations on social media trends, productivity hacks, career advice, information about our services, and even personal reflections about not living in a major city or overextending myself. So I give you the top 12 posts of our first year as voted by your clicks. So take a look, check out the ones you may have missed. And thank you, thank you, thank you for coming on the journey.

CHOCOLATE CAKE ALL AROUND, I SAY!

Here’s to year 2. Cheers.

12. Finding Margin: Confessions of a Wayward Blogger Whether you're an entrepreneur, a stay-at-home parent, or an employee of a giant corporation, there are always priorities and choices to make. And sometimes we have to say "no" to good things in order to say "yes" to great things.

11. 7 Hacks for Shaking off the Blahs and Getting Out of ProcrastiNation I have a war within me: lazy person vs. driven person. That conflict can easily manifest itself in procrastination. Here's some ways I combat it.

10. How to Launch Dual Careers I'm a passionate advocate of kicking the status quo in the face. If you are a soon to be college graduate, an early career professional, or just know in your gut it's time for a change, this post gives you the first steps to making the move to dual careers.

9. 10 Secrets to Getting Started in Freelance Writing If you've wanted to get started freelance writing but you're not sure where to begin, this post gives you tips on how to get paid to write.

8. 6 Reasons Someone You know Did the #ALSIceBucketChallenge Why the heck did the Ice Bucket Challenge raise over $100 million? How did that happen? Here's some reasons it worked amazingly well.

7. 10 Social Media Resolutions to Adopt This Year Need a cheat sheet for social media etiquette and smart habits (like knowing your privacy settings)? Here ya go.

6. 10 Ways I've Made Life Easier for Other Businesses, And How I Can Help You Too Don't really know what all we do here? Here are some of the most practical ways that organizations and individuals have used HSL Creative services in recent months.

5. 9 Surprising Things I Learned When I Met a Client in Person Bottom line: in this incredible digital age where I (and many other people!) make a living by never seeing anyone in person--the face-to-face communication remains irreplaceable.

4. The #1 Reason I Feel Ok Even Though I Don't Live in a Major City My industries are media and the arts. Of COURSE, I have a desire to be in a major city where patrons and potential clients flock. But here's why I think this small city life has been GREAT for me and my career.

3. 6 Ways Grad School Launched Me into the Career of My Dreams Grad school gets a lot of flack in creative fields. "It's not worth the money," they say. "You're avoiding the real world," they say. Well, I say it was the exact right move for me. Here's why.

2. Will You Do Anything Social Media Free This Year? Do you ever feel like you've become a little too attached to your technology? Do you twitch when you accidentally leave your phone in your car? Have you never left your phone in your car because you always make certain it's on your person? This one's for you.

And drumroll please...the most popular post of the last year is....

1. 5 Lessons We Can Learn from the Most Retweeted Selfie of All Time Did you retweet it? Do you know exactly which one I'm talking about? What makes us take part in viral activity online? These are a few of my observations from both academically and professionally studying people and their social media habits.

There ya have it! My 12 most read posts of the 1st year of HSL Creative. Do me a huge favor and comment here or on Facebook or Twitter with some feedback on what kind of posts you'd like to see more of in the future. I'm listening!

HSL Creative Roundup: August

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August is winding down and quite frankly I'm ready for pumpkin EVERYTHING, how bout you? It's been an incredible month of writing, rehearsals, going to weddings, running and of course analyzing our social media practices. This month I had fun curating a list of my favorite places in Lynchburg for the Clutch Guide blog. I had a female college freshman in mind when I was writing it. What do I wish I had known about the Hill City when I first moved here? Boom. I created this list.

I also spent some time on the blog chatting about the different ways I work with other businesses, thought leaders, artists and nonprofits. My purpose is simple: I want to help other people reach their goals by supplying a plethora of services within the writing and social media realm. So here are 10 ways off the top of my head that I do that every day.

And finally I couldn't help but analyze the crazy impactful viral marketing campaign that has raised over $80 million to combat ALS. Here's where I explained why it worked so well.

I hope you've had a great month as well!

HSL Monthly Roundup

HSL

HSL

July came and went in a BLINK. Hello, August! Whether or not August is in fact fall (ok, it's not), it sure feels like it around here. Students are beginning to trickle back to this college town and rehearsals have begun at Alluvion Stage for our fall production of the Little Mermaid. July was a writing filled month over here. I've begun freelancing with Forefront magazine which has me picking the brains of business executives in a variety of industries. Though the articles won't be published until the winter, I wrote four profiles this month in addition to the pieces you can take a look at right now:

HSL Creative Blog 9 Surprising Things I Learned When I Met a Client In Person
10 Secrets to Getting Started Freelance Writing

The Clutch Guide Endstation Theatre Company presents Always, Patsy Cline
3 Tips for Feeling Confident in an Unknown Situation

Kicker Hail the Conquering Hero: Tim Howard!
Kickstarter Potato Salad
Malaysian Airlines Shot Down over Ukraine
Meriam Meets the Pope
Turkish Women Laughing

Have a fantastic month!

10 Secrets to Getting Started in Freelance Writing

Coffee
Coffee

One question I get asked with some frequency is "so how did you get started writing?" You may be interested in pursuing freelance blog or magazine writing but don't exactly know where to start. Though I started with a degree in journalism, I submit that it's certainly not the only way to launch a career writing. Here's ten steps to take that I've seen work:

1. Start a blog. This is your first stop on the road to getting paid to write. Blogging gives you full control of what you will say and how you will say it. Show the world what you can write and what you're passionate about saying! The world is your oyster. The blog is your step one.

2. Get a copy of the Writer's Market. Pore over it. This annual volume is the bible of freelance magazine writing, poetry and writing contests. It also has a collection of great, informative articles all about the business of writing. You can fork over the money for it or just spend some time at your local library.

3. Offer to guest post on other blogs in which you can provide relevant and helpful content. Can you think of a blog or a website that really resonates with you? Look for their contributor guidelines. Some sites won't pay but if you have a good looking blog with compelling content and a great idea for a post, they will give you a shot. Look you're collecting portfolio pieces already.

4. Master the art of the query letter. This is your pitch. The magazine industry has its own nuances. Make sure your ideas are relevant to the magazine. Show you've read it and you like it. Then pitch.

5. Read On Writing Well by William Zinnser.

6. Get YourName.com. I have several friends in the business who regret that some other joker got their name (ie janedoe.com) before they did. This is a just a good rule of thumb for anyone. Buy your name's URL at GoDaddy just in case. My dad always said: "better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it." A website provides a great opportunity to point potential editors to check out several of your clips in one place. You have full control over this corner of the internet that has your name on it.

7. Spiff up your Linkedin page. Make it clear that you're a writer. Add keywords that people who might be in search of a freelance writer would use when looking for one. Consider eliminating positions you've held that don't add helpful or interesting context to your work story. Yes, I left the fact that I once swept hair from the floor of a salon off my Linkedin page. Gasp.

8. Read Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.

9. Do your research on the people in your network that are in the publishing business. And when I say "network" I don't mean "people you follow on Twitter." I mean people who you know that would be glad to pass your name along to the proper person. Let friends and family know this is the direction in which your career is headed.

10. Keep writing.

Have anything to add to the list? Comment away!  

9 Surprising Things I Learned When I Met a Client In Person

My friend Erin and I enjoying the most delicious italian food and conversation.

My friend Erin and I enjoying the most delicious italian food and conversation.

I have one of those mainly-just-me-and-my-computer careers. (My 2nd career, acting, is another story--and another blog post.) On an average month my work demands that I engage with people in person four hours or less.

I, like many people these days, have clients that I've never met in person. Recently I got the chance to meet some face to face for the first time after having worked with them for several months. Connecting with them in person was so refreshing and reminded me of why the face-to-face experience simply can't be replaced by conference calls, emails or Google Hangouts.

1. Eye contact. It powerfully conveys authenticity and intentional listening. When eye contact is avoided our first instinct is to think that someone may not be trustworthy.

2. (Appropriate) physical touch. The occasional touch on a shoulder conveys warmth and amiability. Depending on your culture, this conveys a real sense of friendliness and accessibility.

3. Body language/mannerisms. Expressive gestures can contribute equally to getting a feel for someone's personality as their words do.

4. The comfort and joy of gathering around a table. Many of life's most meaningful moments are experienced when dining or drinking together. Ie Starbucks, Cheers, Thanksgiving, The Last Supper--you get the idea.

5. Veering off topic. Sometimes you just need to let conversation wander into unplanned territory. This can help people gain a better understanding of one another. This rarely happens when you're sticking to an agenda on a conference call.

6. Making a joint memory. Whether it's bearing witness to a disruptive person getting kicked out of a restaurant or simply having an excellent customer service experience from a waiter, going through an actual experience together builds camaraderie.

7. Chiming in without it being mistaken for an interruption. When adding onto something someone else has said it's often misinterpreted as interrupting if they can't see your visual cues that you agree or want to interject. When your eyes light up at something the other person says, they're less surprised that you want to add on to the conversation.

8. Shared experience helps to identify with one another. Clients, employees, contract workers, and agencies all become human when you get stuck in the same traffic, experience the same lovely 72 degree weather, and both get a free frappucino sample at the coffee shop. It's a great equalizer and reminder that after work we're all just humans.

9. Getting back to basics feels authentic. Putting technology away for an hour or two is refreshing. Taking it back old school without notifications, vibrations, and friend requests is a great opportunity to simply connect with other human beings.

Technology should be used as support for the in-person connection. After all, communication at its most basic is one person sending a message to another person. It can be done without anything Steve Jobs invented.

Does engaging with others in person make you nervous? Do you hate how technology has overtaken much of professional communication these days?

Hilary is fascinated by the intersection of social media and live experiences. She even wrote her masters thesis on it. 

6 Ways Grad School Launched Me into the Career of My Dreams

Three and a half years after I finished my bachelor’s degree in journalism I was stuck. My degree could’ve gotten me a job at a fledgling newspaper or perhaps an internship at a magazine. So far it had helped me make about 10% of my income annually. I knew none of that was where I wanted to be. I wanted to have a magical career where I had autonomy and got to help people communicate their stories better. Oh, and I still did not want to give up performing in theatre. I needed more options so I decided to go to grad school. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Here are six surprising ways grad school got me to my dream job.

1. I actually saved money. You read that right. No, graduate school did not leave me $100 Grand in the hole. Quite the contrary--I had a graduate teaching assistantship and got paid (not buckets and buckets but something) to dip my toe into the deep end of teaching while I got an education. By spending 20 hours a week teaching and grading freshmen work, I was able to get a free M.A. and get a stipend that helped me pay my bills and function like a 20-something who was not dependent on her parents. Score. This was an integral next step in the process of getting on my feet and starting my business. No debt!

2. I suddenly got credibility in my field.  Over night, the fact that I had decided to go to graduate school to study communication and media gave me major street cred in my field. Suddenly I was called a social media expert because people saw that I was serious about studying the inner workings of digital media. By studying a subject in graduate school, people saw that I was serious about it. I was no more passionate about learning about how people connect online than I was 6 months before, but now people saw that I meant business, so they listened to me and opted to hire me.

3. I was surrounded by people who got excited about the nerdy things I did. I, perhaps like you, perform better with fierce competition. I didn't know to be grateful for my classmates' commitment to the books at the time (sorry guys) but the fact that I was in small classes with people who were at the top of their classes in undergrad lit a fire under me. We had conversations (for fun!) about marketing, social media, and the digital landscape. We debated advertising techniques and product placement. This not only happened in the classroom, but it happened when we left class and went back to our cubicles, when we went to grab mexican food, and it continues to happen through mediums like Twitter. If I hadn't been surrounded by people who were passionate about this field, I would not be as knowledgeable in my field as I am now.

4. It bought me some time to figure out how my dream and reality could jive. I think this is really the reason a lot of people go to grad school. Not knowing what your next step should be is neither a bad reason or a good reason to go to grad school. For me, going to grad school gave me a little time to better formulate my vision for my future. I knew I couldn't and wouldn't be giving up performing any time soon (or well, ever permanently) but I also knew that during time between performance contracts I could not indefinitely go back to folding sweaters (as much as I LOVED that Anthro discount). I knew I needed a second marketable skill to support my arts habit. Grad school gave me time to figure out exactly what that could be and how I could make it all work.

5. I became a better writer. In elementary school I learned to write imaginatively. In high school I learned how to write a snazzy college essay. At university I learned how to write articles. In grad school I learned how to write a well-researched thesis. All of these different kinds of writing have helped me become a well-rounded writer. The academic writing is no replacement for professional writing but it certainly did not hinder my writing skills. It only helped me improve them. The more ways I know how to connect with an audience, the better.

6. I honed the skill of balancing. By taking classes, teaching classes, and working part-time freelance gigs, I learned the art of managing multiple tasks for multiple "clients" (whether it was 19 year-old students, my graduate school professors, or a client who wanted a press release). This delicate skill of balancing has transferred beautifully into my sole proprietor work. On any given week I knock out work for 8 or more clients. I need to balance deadlines, client personalities and their business goals. Grad school prepared me perfectly for that.

So often today experts are saying not to go to grad school. I know for me it was the absolute right decision. What about you? Did you regret going? Do you have plans to go? What are your concerns? Sound off in the comments.