The Entrepreneur Chronicles: What I Learned from Starting a Business in One Month

whatilearnedfromstartingabusinessinonemonth

Yes, it was rash. But was it too soon? I argue that it wasn't.

Here's how it happened.

The Entrepreneur Chronicles: What I Learned from Starting a Business in One Month

Back before my days of social media strategist/writer/consultant, I mainly did just one thing: acting. And when I say "mainly" I don't mean like "most of the time." I mean that was what I viewed as my career even though I'd spend anywhere between three months and nine months out of the year not doing the thing I loved. 

During one such period of working survival jobs I got a quirky gig as a princess with a character performing company in Nashville. Yes, I literally dressed up in costumes, brought my own soundtrack and sang Disney songs to sweet little girls wearing plastic tiaras and lip gloss. They loved it. I loved it. Everyone was happy*. :-)

*(Except when I was tasked with portraying Hannah Montana. Couldn't escape the skeptical side eye I got at those parties.)

I moved away from Nashville at the end of 2009 and spent another year performing in dinner theatre (while lightly freelance writing on the side) before embarking on a new parallel path to performing: the business side of show business which led to social media for live experiences which led to grad school which led to launching my full-time freelance career as a writer/social media strategist. All along I was still performing professionally when a good opportunity came along. 

Cut to fall 2014. (5 years since I had retired my glass slippers). It was Halloween. I was the candy passer-outer at our abode. 

And my mind was blown.

*Ding dong.*

Aren't you a pretty Elsa!

*Ding dong.*

Oh! Queen Elsa!

*Ding dong.*

Oh look! Elsa.

I began to feel a bit like Bill Murray in that film about February 2. How many Elsas could come to one door on one night?

That's when ideas began to come together in my mind. Einstein called this "combinatory play"--when you begin to piece together ideas that didn't necessarily originate with you and you create a new idea out of them. 

I set about researching. Were there any princess-type companies in Lynchburg? How about Roanoke? Charlottesville? Was this actually legal to do? (Lucky me--I've got a lawyer sibling!) I had a slew of actress friends who would be perfect to hire. Would they be interested? Available? I could use independent contractors. Pay roll wouldn't be a worry. I had experience performing at princess parties before. I could train the performers. I knew how to create a website. Marketing is my sweet spot. 

So all I needed to know was how to conduct research, make a website, get some friends on board and buy costumes? 

I needed a name. I needed some friends to say it was a good idea. And I needed those costumes by December 7--the date of a big public event where we could make a splash. 

I crunched some numbers and figured out that if all went well I could make back my investment by early March. It was low risk. It was exciting. Why not give it a try? 

Perhaps it wasn't as easy as all that. Did I oversimplify it? Would it have all gone better if I had created a long-term business plan, got funding, launched a perfect product?

The answer is "no." I didn't oversimplify it. You know what would have happened if I hadn't just gone for it?

Nothing at all, dear friends. 

In short, I would've over-thought it. I would've talked myself out of it. But instead, in this instance, in this low-risk instance, I just gave it a shot. What's the worst that could happen? 

I'd be out a grand and I'd fail in front of my friends, family and community. 

Worth the risk.

So on December 7, 2014 Enchanting Entertainment was born. A cool five weeks after the idea popped into my head. 

You may be toying with an idea. You may have a dream passion project or have thought "somebody should really do that." What if it's you? What if you're that somebody?

It may be worth the risk. As one of my favorite authors, Gretchen Rubin says, "Choose the bigger life"--whatever that means to you. 

Go do it. And sprinkle some fairy dust while you're at it. 

The snow Queen and friends on december 7, 2014

The snow Queen and friends on december 7, 2014

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Hilary's Tuesday Social Media Tip 003: Why are you on social media?

This week I'm back with another quick video with a social media tip and a challenge! 

It's so easy to get bogged down and focused on things like number of likes, number of followers, or how often we are posting. But let's not get distracted.

The real name of the game is lead generation, growing our email list, increasing brand awareness, or fill in the blank with your goal of choice.

We'll never know if we hit it out of the park if we don't know what we're aiming for. Why are you on Linkedin? Instagram? Twitter? Facebook? Periscope? Having a lot of followers is great. Posting regularly is great. But do you know what you want to achieve? Get crystal clear on who you want to reach and what action you want them to take. That is Step 1 in achieving your goals on social media. 

Do you ever feel a little confused about your purpose on any given platform? 

The Secret Power of Nice

The Secret Power of Nice
The Secret Power of Nice

One of the most pleasant leaders I've ever interviewed is Ron Andrews, head of HR for Prudential Financial. Ron is one of those people who makes you feel like you have his full and undivided attention. Today I want to pull back the curtain on how Ron's "nice" personality led him to be the head of HR for a company that has more than $1.1 trillion in assets under management and approximately $3.5 trillion of gross life insurance in force worldwide.

Ron on consistency:

“I relate very effectively to the most senior people as well as people who take out the trash in my office. I can say things to leaders a lot of people can’t because I try to be very consistent. I don’t have a different persona or approach to different people. That adds to credibility."

How Ron stays connected: 

That accessibility has contributed to the horizontal sense of connectedness he focuses on implementing at Prudential. Andrews prioritizes staying connected with the HR leaders for all five major businesses within the company. Not only does he meet with them regularly, he also communicates with team members across the globe through a regularly updated blog and video messages. “It’s all designed to build a greater sense of connectedness,” he said.

The Secret Power of Nice

Andrews was not always sure that his personality would serve him in corporate America. Early in his career at Prudential, he encountered a group of cutthroat young professionals. “They were not nice. They had huge egos. And I wasn’t like that at all,” Andrews said. “I began to get concerned that I was out of place—that I would have to be like that if I was going to be successful. It worried me.”

The “cutthroat” colleagues made Andrews doubt his future at Prudential. Then he was charged with working with John Strangfeld, who now serves as Prudential’s Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President. Strangfeld was a breath of fresh air for Andrews.

“He was thoughtful, caring, low-key, and he was doing really well,” Andrews said. “That gave me hope that I could still be myself and be successful in this firm. I committed from that point on that I was not going to not be myself.”

Have you ever had doubts about your career because of your personality? I'd love to hear about how you overcame it or are working through it. Share in the comments! 

Enjoy the full-length version of this article here.

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Linkedin

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of LinkedinOk show of hands. Who here is on Linkedin but doesn’t really get why? Anyone? Bueller?

Today I want to  explore the benefits of this career-focused social network and provide you with a few tips on how to get the most out of it.

Linkedin is a place to establish your credibility in your field. Whether your post-college career is launching in two months or if you’re entering your 4th decade in the workforce, Linkedin can be useful to you. It’s more than an online resume. Linkedin gives you the opportunity to make your accomplishments and expertise readily accessible to people in your network who need it.

So how can you get the most out of Linkedin?

1. Fully optimize your Linkedin profile. That means have a professional headshot as your profile photo, include a header image, give some thought to your headline, include descriptions for each position on your page and sprinkle in keywords. If someone was searching for someone with your expertise and experience which keywords would they be searching for? These are a dead giveaway. They need to be front and center.

2. Publish posts on Linkedin. Linkedin publishing has not been around long. Now is an excellent time to begin publishing content here. You’ll reach an audience who won’t necessarily frequent your blog or other article links you may be posting.

3. Write recommendations for others. You have the option to write a recommendation for every person you have a connection with on Linkedin. Why not take five minutes and write a kind review on someone’s profile who has impressed you or given you excellent customer service? This is an opportunity to add value. And kind words are not quickly forgotten.

4. Include a personal note when you request a connection. If you’re really seeking to invest in a relationship by connecting with someone on Linkedin, what better way than including a brief message in your invitation? What a simple way to begin to build a bridge.

5. Remember that most users do not log on to Linkedin every day. Perhaps you post content more frequently because you are reaching different people on different days. Perhaps this means you use Linkedin as a resource to find further contact information for a connection rather than just sending a message through Linkedin. Draw your own conclusions on how this impacts your use of this social tool. 

Linkedin is a useful tool for professionals who run the gamut. If you’re a stay at home mom who is taking a few years off from your profession, a fully optimized Linkedin profile reminds the world of your expertise and experience. If you’re a freelancer it’s a constant source of clients. If you’re an early career professional looking for an internship, your industry-related post could impress someone who decides you’re worth taking on as an intern or entry-level employee.

Bottom line: Linkedin is a free tool that can help your career today and potentially years down the road. Why not take a few minutes and use it well?

The Secret to Success for Remote Teams

How to Succeed with a Remote TeamStarting this week I'm going to be sharing some of my favorite slices of my freelance writing work with you. I've gotten to interview over 30 executives in large national corporations and I'd love to pass on some of the nuggets of wisdom they've shared with me.  First up is Kirsten Mellor. Kirsten is VP and GC of CafePress, the Internet mecca for on-demand printing of products through user-generated and licensed content platforms. As of 2014, more than 700 million unique virtual products exist on CafePress, with an average of 100,000 new images added by users weekly. CafePress has 20 million-plus members worldwide and a staggering 11 million unique visitors each month.

Mellor works closely with a team of lawyers who are in her Bay Area offices as well as a team in Louisville. So, how does she keep things running smoothly?

“Over-communication,” Mellor said with a laugh. “The tools of the modern workplace—Skype, IM, email—make it easy to connect with each other.”

According to Mellor, face-to-face meetings also remain important. “I fly out [to Louisville] a couple times a year. The Kentucky people come here several times a year. The camaraderie of my team is very important to me. They need to meet and enjoy the folks they work with to produce at their highest level. We try to do some out-of-office team-building things whenever we get the opportunity.”

In my own work I've found project management tools like Basecamp, Todoist and Igloo incredibly helpful.

Do you work with a remote team? What are your tips for making a remote team wildly successful? 

You can enjoy the full-length original article in Forefront Magazine here.

 

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.

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

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.

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On “The Internet of Things” and 10 other actionable items I heard at #ISUM14

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 8.11.19 PM
On "the Internet of Things" and 10 Other Actionable Items I Learned at #ISUM14
On "the Internet of Things" and 10 Other Actionable Items I Learned at #ISUM14

Last week I got to attend the Internet Summit in Raleigh, North Carolina where I got two days chock full of the latest in digital strategies, content marketing, social media, SEO, email marketing, and analytics. A week later and my mind is still spinning with all the awesome advice I heard and all the ideas I’m ready to implement. Today I want to share with you ten of the best actionable items I heard.

1. Since Google Authorship went away, use Linkedin publishing for credibility & thought leadership. -Cara Rousseau, Duke University (Tweet that!

2. Find someone like me, tell about how you solved a problem like mine, I’ll trust you. -Chris Moody, Oracle (Tweet that!)

3. Websites that blog receive 55% more traffic than those that don’t. -Matthew Capala, Search Decoder (Tweet that!)

4. You have to be as good on social media as Amazon, Walmart ,etc—that’s where your customers are. -Heidi Cohen (Tweet that!)

5. Instead of making it about you, make it about your audience and your customers and what they care about. -Leigh George, PhD (Tweet that!)

6. 80% of people delete an email if it doesn’t look good on their mobile device. -Jodi Wearn, SilverPop (Tweet that!)

7. Asking for and getting money from customers is the best form of feedback on an idea! -Eric Morrow, Google (Tweet that!)

8. 80% of people who open your email are only scanning it. Capture the big idea of your email with a bold image and strong headline. -Christopher Lester, Emma (Tweet that!)

9. The average consumer unlocks their phone 110 times a day. -Robin Wheeler (Tweet that!)

10. The “Internet of Things” is where technology is going. Every item in your home will be connected to the Internet. Your printer will be able to order its own paper. Your car will drive itself. Autonomous everything. -David Pogue, Yahoo (Tweet that!)

11. “What motivates you to do your best? Being personally excited and motivated internally.” -Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder (Tweet that!)

Guys, this was only a portion of the great information I received last week. I’m so energized to implement this stuff for all of my HSL Creative clients.

Be honest with me—have you heard of “The Internet of Things” before this post?

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!

10 Ways I've Made Life Easier for Other Businesses, And How I Can Help You Too

Photo by Foster & Asher
Photo by Foster & Asher

Here in my one-person studio, I do a lot of different things for a variety of other businesses. Today I want to share with you some real-world examples of what I do for my clients. I'm sharing this because it's not unusual for someone to ask me, so what is it exactly that you do?

I'm sharing this today because I'd love to meet a need for you and to simplify or enhance your work.

1. Creating or revamping web copy for freelancers, entrepreneurs and other start-ups. I've helped make website copy sparkle for several individuals and businesses who don't view themselves as "writers." 

2. Outsourcing press releases. These businesses have needed to get news out about the exciting things happening at their organization. They didn't have a full-time staff member dedicated to communication so they opted to hire me to do basic PR. This has been a really great value for them as they don't pay someone a full-time salary but they get what they value most.

3. Brand strategy consulting. Setting up several rut-busting brainstorming sessions has helped clients bounce ideas off of a creative mind and get an outside perspective. I love rolling up my sleeves and figuring out how to solve problems. 

4. Outsourcing company e-newsletter production. Again, companies who prefer to hire out their communication needs on an a la carte basis have utilized this service. 

5. Writing company annual reports. I tap into my journalism roots when helping a company craft its annual narrative to share with its constituents. I love crafting short articles and stories that tell the story of what has happened in an organization over the last year. 

6. Writing a one-page biography for a professional. I've done this for singers, actors, people with political aspirations, and even people who are embarking on a motivational speaking career. They've told me again and again "it's just so hard to write about yourself." So I step in. 

7. Social content scheduling, maintenance. Some businesses just don't have the bandwidth to create, schedule and maintain their social media presence themselves. I've done this at various levels--from just uploading and scheduling pre-created content to crafting new messaging and scheduling it. 

8. Social brand engagement. Some brands get so much engagement from fans they can't keep up with it all on their own. I step in and make sure the "two-way" communication between customers and brands is happening. 

9. Outsourcing blog writing. I have a few clients who simply don't have the time to write blogs every week. I help them craft excellent communication that lives on and continues to bring traffic back to their website long after we hit "publish." 

10. Editing important letters to constituents. Some correspondence needs a professional writer's touch. When an organization was undergoing some changes that had a sweeping impact, I helped craft positive messaging.

Those are just ten ways that HSL Creative has helped meet the needs of other businesses over the past six months. Whether you need help simplifying your load or you need help enhancing your output, HSL Creative may be just what you need to tell your story.  

Drop her a line if you'd like to make your life easier by outsourcing your communication or social media needs. 

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!

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. 

Dichotomies in Career and the Craft

I've noticed several dichotomies in my approach to work lately. I wanted to share them with you because perhaps you can relate. Stream of conscious-style here they are: Hustle and Margin.I'm passionate about hustling to make an impact but I'm passionate about making sure I have margin in my life. How do I work hard to make an impact and also have breathing room? 

Thriving on working with others. Thriving on working alone. I absolutely love creating a story on stage with a creative team and cast but spending my days alone in my sunny home office are irreplaceable. So am I a person who likes to work on a team or work alone? 

Energized by working hard all day. Energized by doing nothing productive all day. Lately I've worked so hard for so many days in a row nothing has been sweeter than watching 3 episodes of the Today Show *in a row.* (God bless that DVR.) Why is it that sometimes doing nothing productive at all makes me just as happy as having a killer day executing my passion? 

Aspiring to influence. Aspiring to seclusion. Part of me wants to leave a widespread legacy. Part of me wants to live acres away from my closest neighbor. Is it possible to be both influential and enjoy privacy in this reality show/social media platform era? 

Being moved by the roar of an audience. Wanting to avoid the crowd after the show. Nothing is more moving than an audience that shows appreciation at the end of a performance. But sometimes nothing can be more uncomfortable than milling about amidst the audience afterward. Why is it that chatting with patrons and taking in their kind words can be so uncomfortable after I've just braved looking like a fool in front of them en masse on stage? 

Do you have dichotomies in your work? Does any of this resonate with you? I'd love to hear your perspective.

5 Steps to Blogging Consistently

Perhaps one of your new year’s resolutions looks something like this:

I resolve to blog more than 17 times this year (even though it’s time-consuming and I feel dry of great ideas and no one is paying me to do it.) 

I feel you on all accounts.

Regular blogging is hard and time and energy consuming. And yet, catch-22---if you don’t do it regularly you don’t build an audience. So you can’t wait for inspiration to strike. You have to go and make inspiration happen. So what can you do to make the regular habit of blogging become a little more seamless?

1. Set up an editorial calendar. The editorial calendar for this blog is set up on a quarterly basis. So I know the exact dates I’m blogging for the next three months. I know when I’m writing, when I’m posting and when it goes live. This takes the guesswork out of my schedule. And seeing the exact dates that I’m posting over the next few months actually makes the process feel less daunting.

2. Determine your blog’s key concepts. The topic of your blog can be hyper specific but it doesn’t have to be. I blog here about a range of categories that fit somewhere within social media, impactful messaging, goal setting and creativity. After determining the key concepts of my blog, I then plug those into the dates that I know I’m going to blog. So, the 3rd Tuesday of this month I know I will be producing a piece that fits within the category of “impactful messaging.” This narrows the scope in a big way. Now I just have to determine what I want to tackle within that category.

3. Crank out some headlines within those categories and plug them into your editorial calendar. But know that these aren’t the 10 commandments--you can reschedule or revise later. The most important aspect of this step is just coming up with an idea (or two or three) that you can flesh out later. It’s much easier to come up with a headline within a specific category than to completely start from scratch.

4. Go ahead and draft an outline before you start fleshing out your post. I often write a headline for a blog post a few weeks out, then an outline a few days out, then finally flesh out the entire post the day before it goes live. By working in steps I don’t feel drained of creativity when it’s time to produce a post. And working in these steps gives me a framework for where I’m headed.

5. Determine a regular time that you have a date with your keyboard. Know when it’s time to write. When you sit down to write your blog post you’ve already given yourself the upper hand. You know when you’re writing, what your topic is generally about, your title for the blog post and you’ve even come up with a rough outline. This is the part where you take the ideas that have been buzzing through your mind and give them focused attention. By marinating on your ideas for several days or weeks this part of the process becomes easy. You just connect the dots.

Blogging more consistently is an incredibly worth goal. It’s well-known that content marketing and adding value to your tribe aside from a sales pitch is instrumental in today’s economy. Do you have your own blogging tips? Share below!

10 Social Media Resolutions to Adopt This Year

The new year is upon us and with it is the opportunity to turn around some of our bad habits regarding our health, time, money and even social media. Yes, staggering numbers of people around the world have social media profiles but many of those people don’t have any kind of social strategy.

Social media just becomes one big time zapper when we don’t have any intention behind it.

So here are ten suggested social media resolutions for the year ahead.

1. I will know my privacy settings and make sure I’m sharing with the appropriate audience. As of last year 13 million people in the US had never touched their privacy settings on Facebook. That means you may be one of those people who is sharing content that is public for any identity thief, bot or creep to see. Get familiar with your privacy settings on all your social networks.

2. I will decide my intent for each social media platform I’m on whether it is growing my business network, staying connected to old friends, or increasing my platform as a thought leader.

3. I will only post content that is useful, uplifting or fun. Enough of the snark and the angry political posts. In many ways what I post on social media will be my legacy long after I’m gone. I want those messages to be inspiring. I will not use social media as a platform to be condescending, hurtful or whiny.

4. I will not overshare on social media. Whether it’s a family argument, details of an illness or my nephew’s bodily functions, I will not share anything that will gross out or embarrass anyone on social media.

5. I will not take myself too seriously on social media. Social media is the place to show the human side of my business. It’s also the place where I can share news about my business with my personal acquaintances. I will balance each business-esque post with other posts that show that I’m a human just like you.

6. I will be open to trying new platforms but I will stay focused. I will spend the bulk of my precious time focusing on one or two platforms that have proven to give me return on investment for my business but I will stay up to speed on popular apps and platforms. There’s nothing like being the last of your friends to log in to MySpace.

7. I will engage with others and respond when people communicate with me. Every comment on every photo posted to Facebook doesn’t necessarily merit a response but if someone wants to dialogue on Twitter it’s not beneficial to ignore him or her. Responses are a great way to show people you value them.

8. I will use social media to connect to leaders in my field and people who I admire. Social provides an incomparable opportunity to connect with thought leaders and great writers. This is an opportunity not to be wasted.

9. I will use apps like Buffer and Pocket to aggregate and share content that is useful to people who follow my accounts. So much interesting and helpful content is pumped through social media every day. With the right tools I can share the best of it with my tribe.

10. I will make private content more private and public content more public. I’ve decided to make my Instagram account private and be intentional about sharing photos through Twitter and Facebook when I want to share them with people I both know and don’t know. On the other hand my Twitter posts continue to be public and I’m hoping to increase my presence there by 30% this year.

Social media is all about being intentional with your time and the messages you send out into the world. In 2014 consider the value you want to add to society through your social media presence.

So here you have 10 suggested resolutions for the new year.

Tell me, what would you add to the list?

5 Easy Things You Can Do Today to Improve Your Business’ Social Media Presence

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It’s a given that your business needs to have a social media presence. And you’ve probably got one. But what can you do to make it just a little better today without spending a lot of extra time and energy? Here’s five tips you can implement today to improve your company’s social media presence.

1. Ask questions. Social media is about starting conversations. When was the last time your business to consumer brand asked a question of your audience online? Even on a business page, you don’t have to be “all business.” You can recognize a current event or national holiday and ask people about their plans. ie: "Anybody out there got a case of the Mondays? Comment on this post and come in before 9 AM for a free drip coffee. We want to make your week a little better."

2. Put a face with a name. When it comes to a social media presence for a small business a logo is good but a face is better. Go ahead and put an image of the owner or an employee as the profile picture for your business’ social media account. This brings accessibility and a personal touch to your online engagement.

3. Respond within 24 hours. Have you ever tried to get answers from a brand via Twitter or Facebook only to never hear from them? Not exactly sparkling customer service. Commit to responding to messages, comments and @ replies within 24 hours. The sooner the better.

4. Add photos. With the popularity of apps like Snapchat, Instagram and even the social media giant Pinterest, there’s no denying that images are everything. Post photos from time to time that exude your company culture.

5. Show some personality. Feel free to express excitement over a new product line. Post an article that has a controversial perspective on a business trend. Do anything but be all self-promotey all the time. Contribute value to the online conversation and avoid being confused for a robot.

What about you? Do you have any easy solutions for stepping up a company’s social media game?

5 Commitments to Finish Strong for the 4th Quarter

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There are only 3 months left of the year! Where did the time go? Today marks the first day of the final thirteen weeks of this calendar year. While some people may lose a bit of motivation this time of year, fall and winter are a fantastic time to make sure you’re finishing up on some solid efforts for your annual goals. You have 13 weeks left in the year. What are you going to do with them?

Here are five commitments I’m making for the fourth quarter.

1. Make decisions based on priority. Franklin Covey’s concept for regular goal setting starts with values. What do you value most? Your values should dictate your priorities which should dictate how you make decisions with your time, money and hard work. I’m going to take stock of my values and apply those values to my calendar, my bank account, and my brain power.

2. Pay more attention to importance than urgency. For the last quarter of the year I want to focus more on what is important and less on what is seemingly “urgent.” For example, instantly answering text messages, checking emails, and replying on social media feels urgent but is not as important as my work agenda or time with my husband.

3. Zoom out. I recently read Sheryl Sandberg’s best seller Lean In. Sheryl recommends setting goals on an 18-month schedule. I like that idea. Goals make me 100 times more productive than I would be if I didn’t articulate what I want to achieve. By keeping the big picture in mind I make better choices now that will get me where I want to be in 18 months or 5 years (which if you’re curious includes writing books, a consistent acting career, a thriving business, and becoming a homeowner.)

Question to ask:

What am I doing in these last 3 months of the year that contribute to those long-term goals? 

4. Hustle. It’s easy to go slow-mo with intentional living as the days get shorter and the mornings get colder. But in order to accomplish my goals I know I can’t let up during these months. In fact, it’s a great time to really focus and make some solid ground. I can do this through determining what I want to accomplish on a weekly basis and breaking that down to a list of five things or less.

5. Be consistent. Whether it's my investment of time in the lives of the people who are most important to me, consistency in giving something useful to people like you who happen across this blog, or consistency with clients to give them a wow experience, one of my five commitments for the fourth quarter of the year is to be consistent.

What about you? What are you focusing on this 4th quarter?

HSL Creative: a story about discovering your purpose


"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

And thus begins the launch of HSL Creative. After 13 years of school, 4 years of college, 4 years of living all over, 2 years of grad school, and finally supporting myself as a freelance writer, social media specialist and actor, this day has come. I'm not starting a new job this week but I am finally embracing what I do and sharing it with the world.

I’ve always been a person who was curious. I’ve liked lots of things and had trouble narrowing down my interests. Choosing one major and one minor in college was challenging. (I ended up with 3 minors. Who does that?) Saint-Exupéry’s quote above resonates with me because I’ve finally gotten to the point where I know what my life’s work is:

My passion is to tell stories. Whether they're ones that I've made up, ones other people have lived, ones I perform on a stage or ones I share in a magazine article, telling stories is what I know I'm meant to do.

So with the launch of HSL Creative, there is nothing left to take away. This is the next step in living a life on purpose. I'm a storyteller. And I look forward to continuing on this journey of sharing humanity with you through the written word.