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.

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.

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
 

How to Write a Blog Post That Actually Gets Read

How to write a blog post that actually gets read
How to write a blog post that actually gets read

Picture this: a friend shares an article on Facebook. The title sounds interesting so you click on it. About a paragraph in you realize it sounds familiar. Wait--this post was circulating around the Internet a solid year ago. And you clicked on it then too! Here it is making the rounds on news feeds all over again. Has this happened to you?

This is a prime example of why blogging is arguably the most effective online marketing tool a company can use. A well-written, engaging, informative post can live on and attract new readers (and maybe some who've already read it once), new site visitors and potential customers for months and even years after it has been written.

So how do you write a compelling post that gets shared again and again?

How To Write a Blog Post People Want to Read

1. Make it digestable. Keep paragraphs short; three or four sentences are perfect. A reader should be able to glance over the entire post and not feel bogged down in any given paragraph. They should feel like they can read the entire post in two minutes or less.

2. Keep it between 300 and 700 words. Shorter is not always better but longer is almost always worse. There is no more distracting technological medium than the web so make sure your posts are concise so the user actually reads it from start to finish. If it’s not incredibly sharp they will move on to the next article before finishing yours.

3. Include an image. Photos draw readers into the story you are telling. The image should help you tell your story better. You can get stock images online or grab your smartphone and take them yourself.

4. Make the purpose of the post clear from the start. Being coy does not work in online writing. If you do not make the point crystal clear in the first few sentences you’ve lost your readers.

5. Don’t throw away your headline. The most important part of the post is the headline. Make your title compelling. This is your chance to draw your reader in with a tantalizing question or a promise. Pay attention to the kind of headlines that catch your eye online and adopt similar habits.

6. Get comfortable in your voice. Your blog posts need to sound like you at your most polished, well-organized, and confident. Include personal stories. Be authentic. Your blog will resonate with people when you write with honesty and candor.

7. Finish with a question or call to action. Give your readers an opportunity to respond whether it’s by answering a question or clicking through to your website. Never simply end a post with a concluding thought. Give your audience an opportunity to engage. That is the beauty of this technology: the two-way conversation.

Blogging is one of the greatest opportunities to create lasting content on the web. When done well, blogging is an incredible tool to use to establish credibility, build a personal brand, and increase web traffic.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to blogging?

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. 

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.

10 Quick Tips to Increase Productivity

Increasing productivity is beneficial to any worker. Maybe it means you get to leave right at 5 pm, maybe it means you add more value to your company, maybe it means you get a 4-day work week instead of a 5. (Wouldn't that be nice!)  As a freelancer who only gets paid when I complete a project, productivity is everything for me. So today I'm sharing 10 ways to boost your productivity to get more done.

1. Minimize alerts. Put your phone on sleep mode and close out unnecessary tabs on your browser. The fewer alerts you receive the less likely you are to get sidetracked onto social media, an email or a text message. 

2. Batch similar tasks. Don't try to do three or four items on your to do list at once. Group similar tasks and knock em out together.

3. Have set days for lunches and meetings with colleagues and friends. It's easy for me to accidentally zap the productivity out of my day by scheduling an off site meeting or lunch several days out of the week. Instead, identify certain days for these meetings. This is a huge time saver.

4. Set certain times to check email throughout the day. Instead of stopping every 5 to 10 minutes to read a new email keep your email browser closed and check it at certain times of the day. This is a guaranteed way to minimize distractions. 

5. Plot out 3 or less important tasks to get done each day at the end of the day before. Keep this list ambitious but practical.This gives you a game plan at the start of each day. You know what's most important and it's plausible to get it done. 

6. After a phone call or a meeting with a manager or client shoot them a quick summary email to make sure you’re both on the same page regarding action items, next steps and deadlines. It can be very frustrating to have stalled progress because team members are not on the same page. Keep the momentum moving forward by creating an action list. 

7. Use the Pomodoro Technique. Work in 25 minute increments with a five minute break in between. Use a physical timer, stopwatch or even the digital version on your smartphone or computer.

8. Don’t go to inbox zero just for the sake of being at inbox zero. This can be a real time waster.

9. Live and die on deadlines. Take a cue from the efficient world of journalism. Assign deadlines to everything. An item without a deadline becomes a zombie project--a project that's not exactly dead but not exactly alive. Keep that ball rolling by giving yourself a deadline. 

10. Keep a birds eye view 3 week calendar accessible and a 7-day detailed calendar accessible on your desktop. This shows you what's coming down the pipe so you're not surprised by any deadlines in a week or two while simultaneously showing you how you're going to execute your work over the next week. I've found this to be the most productive calendar views.

If you like this kind of post you may also like a previous post I wrote: 7 Hacks for Shaking off the Blahs and Getting Out of ProcrastiNation.

Exciting Announcement: HSL Creative is Expanding!

I’ve gotten the opportunity lately to share all of the exciting services that we offer at HSL Creative with several groups. When I’ve told people that I write, refresh and offer a fresh eye to companies looking to better communicate their messages online I inevitably get two responses: Oh that’s perfect! I really need a writer and/or social media help! That’s amazing! 

or

Oh that’s awesome! Do you also do design? 

Well as of November 1 the answer to that is YES. I’m expanding the team to include several of the best designers and also, hardest workers, I’ve ever met.

Introducing Briana and Casey. I went to grad school with these two and have partnered with them on several projects already. They are both incredibly talented, very creative and great additions to the HSL team.

Briana specializes in web design including Wordpress front-end development and HTML. She also has a knack for telling stories with images through infographic creation.

Casey is a jack of all trades who is our go-to for identity packages, logos, and print ads.

Whatever your content and design needs may be, we are the team to do it. You start with an idea and we'll help create the content and images that represent you best.

Welcome Briana and Casey!

Need design, social media, or writing help? Shoot us a message and we'll get to making your dreams a reality.