5 Personal Finance Tips Every Freelancer Needs to Know

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Going freelance is awesome. You can work from anywhere in the world. You don’t have office drama. You can clock in as frequently or as infrequently as you want. And you can shape your business in whatever way lines up with your values.

But some aspects of freelancing can get a little complicated. How do you find clients? How can you make sure you work enough to pay your bills? What do you do about taxes?

One area that may seem daunting if you’re just starting out in freelancing or if you’re considering making the leap to the freelance world is personal finances.

I’ve been freelancing for about ten years and doing these five things helps me make sure not only that I don’t go into debt, but also that I’m living within my means and making more than I spend.

Money does not have to be a point of stress for freelancers. Here are five habits to employ to make sure you stay on top of your finances. 

5 Personal Finance Tips for Freelancers

1. Track every dollar you’re earning each month. I keep a spreadsheet that includes the date I received payment, the name of the client, and how much I earned. At the end of each month I tally up my earnings. This gives me a ball park view of my earnings (which is helpful to know) and preps me for #2. 

2. Create a budget based on how much you earned last month. About 5 years ago I started making a monthly budget the Dave Ramsey way. Every month I do Step #1. Then the following month I make a budget based on how much I made the month before. This is called a Zero-Based Budget. I allocate every dollar earned to a portion of my budget. I never have anything “left over.” If I have allocated money to every spending category and I still have some left over then I add it to the “savings” category. Here's a template. Because I make sure I allocate every dollar I’ve earned, I don’t live beyond my means and I’ve been able to invest, put money away for retirement, and save. I also use a spreadsheet to keep track of expense due dates. 

3. Have a separate credit card for business expenses. Whether you have a LLC or work as an independent       contractor, if you ever make any work-related purchases, it’s much easier to keep track of them and write them off on your taxes if you make those payments on a separate card than you use for your personal expenses. You will have to itemize those expenses for next year’s taxes so rather than having to go through every single transaction in your monthly statement each year, use a separate card and then you’ll know that every purchase made on that card is work-related. I also keep a document of any work-related expenses that I did not use my card for. Future me is already saying “thank you!”

4. Keep track of all work-related expenses. You’ve got a ton of deductions that you can make from your taxes. You just need to make sure you’re keeping track of them and that you’re aware of them. This includes deductions that you can make for a home office, mileage to and from meetings with clients, and professional development. For example, actors--you can write-off the cost of headshots, tap shoes, and the mileage to go to that callback 200 miles away! This is money back in your pocket. So keep track of it.

5. Figure out a system for tracking your invoices. Whether you use Freshbooks, Square invoicing, or just do it the old(er)-fashioned way and manually send invoices, figure out a system that works for you, number your invoices and make sure that when you send an invoice you jot it down and then check it off the list when you get paid. There’s nothing sadder than a freelancer who is convinced she hasn’t gotten paid yet but has no way to prove it because she never invoiced her client.

Bonus: hire an accountant to do your taxes. You’ve got W2s and I-9s and invoices and donations and work expenses and mileage. It’s a lot. Do yourself a favor and use a CPA to file your taxes. He or she can get you set up with quarterly payments so you do not owe at the end of the year. It’s a great feeling to stay on top of it and know that your relationship with Uncle Sam is in good hands.

Going into the freelance world is exciting and the nitty gritty business side of things can be daunting but it doesn’t have to be! If you’re ready to move to the next level of your freelance career, I’d love to spend some time one-on-one with you coaching you through this season so you can achieve the bigger and better that you’re meant for. Learn more about freelance coaching here.

(Reminder: opinions are my own. I am not a financial services professional.) 

Announcing An August Giveaway!

Andy Warhol said this: "When I think about what sort of person I would most like to have on a retainer, I think it would be a boss. A boss who could tell me what to do, because that makes everything easy when you're working."

Now, I don't think a boss makes everything easy but sometimes I would just love an outside perspective from someone I trust and respect to give me feedback on the direction of my business and career. And maybe even give me some new ideas and insights I hadn't yet considered. Maybe you feel the same way.  

Of all the things that I do, the work that perhaps energizes me most is consulting and coaching. There’s nothing like the energy that manifests in a situation where we’re brainstorming together to work on creating a new and better future. 

Today I shared an announcement on Facebook Live that has to do with just that.

I'm thrilled to launch the Consulting and Coaching Giveaway today! If you’d like to rent my brain for an hour (for FREE) just head over here, enter your name, email address and the problem you could use help solving.



HSL Creative Retreat Week Reflections

Last week I got that rare opportunity to take time off from work without traveling. My family laughed because my “week off” still consisted of about 20 hours of side-gig work but in comparison to the 55-60 I’ve been averaging, this week was incredibly quiet. 

The refreshment and peace I've experienced from taking a week off and not filling it to the brim with busyness is astounding to me. I’m so passionate about life and the things in it that I love: writing, connecting with people, helping others reach their goals, acting, performing, creativity, strategizing, pursuing goals. It’s difficult to slow down when I feel like there is more that I want to do than I ever have time for. 

This year has consisted of a lot of change for me in my work and life after experiencing a couple of years of consistency. I launched the eCourse, Get Your Dream Off the Ground. I sunsetted Enchanting Entertainment. Left SpotCo. Joined RPM. Left Lynchburg. Moved to Washington D.C. Left Pursuant. And just this week joined McKinley Marketing Partners. My life had been solidly consistent the past three years and incredibly consistent for the past two and I just jumbled it up and changed my ‘normal’ a whole lot. 

I’m finally beginning to feel a sense of “normalcy” in DC. Getting a bit of a rhythm and reprogramming my brain to think of it as “home.” But I haven’t really come up for air yet. So when my husband suggested I take time off between Pursuant and McKinley, while it was the furthest idea from my mind, when I sat with it a bit, I knew it was exactly what I needed to do.

In recent years I have given myself periodic #HSLCreativeRetreatDays where once every quarter or so I power down and set aside a day to reflect, set goals, think and write. I first started it when I was building up to turning the big 3-0. I knew I needed regular check-ins to make sure I was on track to reach the goals I had set by the time I turned 30. This was easier to accomplish before I started the 60 hours a week thing (I think that came into play in 2015 or 16—all a blur TBH). And somehow, in the past year I haven’t done a #HSLCreativeRetreatDay at all. That song ‘he writes like he’s running out of time’ has felt like it’s been on loop in my mind for far too long. I am dangerously close to being Jessie Spano. “There’s never enough time to study. I’m not going to get into Stanford….”

I needed a reality check. Would life go on if I wasn’t putting in a 60 hour work week? Would we be able to pay rent? 

Yes and yes. 

Then that settles that. I need to take the dang week off. Over the weekend I punched out a laundry list of things I wanted to accomplish during my “time off.” I needed to give some love to my company, HSL Enterprises. I needed to do some reflecting on my priorities and what life realistically needs to look like in this new season. And I wanted to do some intentional resting. Something that I, well…I don’t do. 

Here’s a little recap of my week that I bullet journaled over on Twitter each day. 

Moving into a totally new routine that included about 4-5 hours of commute each week meant that I had to reorganize my days in order to make sure my personal priorities weren't going out the window. So in my 'ideal week' I figured out where workouts would fit in, new evening and morning routines, and how to best use that commute time to where it was refreshing (not just a huge time waste). I definitely recommend using the Ideal Week method to allot your time like you would a financial budget. You won't always be able to honor it perfectly but at least you have goals. 

This is an example of an Ideal Week from Michael Hyatt. 

This is an example of an Ideal Week from Michael Hyatt. 

I've learned a lot from my time working inside marketing teams, not least of which is how to marry an editorial calendar and overall goals of a company. In years past my goals for this website have been mainly around consistency of producing. This week I've been able to map out a plan for the content with more clear and strategic goals. Now I can measure progress. 

I could've easily just kept hustling this week but I knew that a big piece of the purpose of the week was to actually chill out. So on Wednesday I got a massage and spent time in the afternoon reading a magazine by the pool. No agenda. Nothing in the magazine I could learn and apply to my work. Just intentional de-stress time. My shoulders haven't felt this loose in months. 

By Thursday I had really wanted to make some progress in completing some goals: a fully fleshed out editorial calendar for the site, a book proposal that was nearly ready to go, clear set of goals for the rest of the year, but my brain was still marinating on a lot of that. So I gave myself a bit of a break to just think and let my brain work these things out. Related: we've got to put our phones down and let our brains get bored enough to be creative. Now that I'm no longer 'on call' for one of my jobs 24/7, I'm putting my phone in a drawer on Saturdays. #PhoneFreeSaturdays. Who's with me?!

This space gives me a magical level of focus and inspiration. It's my secret weapon.

This space gives me a magical level of focus and inspiration. It's my secret weapon.

Over the past 9 months I worked my way through 8 seasons of Gilmore Girls and now there is a Lorelai Gilmore shaped hole in my heart. So what do I do? Check out Lauren Graham's memoir from the library, of course. Didn't know I would get an incredible writing productivity hack mid-book. Used it on Friday afternoon and really made some progress on my new proposal. #GIlmoreGiftThatKeepsOnGiving

One thing that became apparent as I was planning out my new "Ideal Week" is that I couldn't cook on week nights like I had grown accustomed to doing. I'd need to partner with JC some, cook simpler meals, and cook more on the weekends, unless we wanted to get used to eating at bedtime. (No thanks.) So on Saturday I got ingredients to make a few different meals that were freezable and similar enough in ingredients to merit batching together. Over the course of about an hour I prepped two Sour Cream Noodle Bakes (via the Pioneer Woman who never lets me down), my mom's lasagna, and spaghetti sauce. We ate the lasagna over the next few days. The other three went into the freezer. Now I can thaw out the spaghetti sauce one night when all I'll have to do is make pasta. And the sour cream noodle bakes can go straight from freezer to oven. That's two more meals ready to go this month and one for September. Future Hil is definitely thanking me. Also, this felt wildly efficient and satisfying. It was harder than making one meal alone but considering the planning, shopping, cooking and clean up, it was much easier than cooking on 4 separate occasions. I will be doing this more often. It made total sense. Plus I got to get into the vibe and pretend I was Julia Child or something. 

Sunday was a little sad as it felt too soon to say goodbye to #HSLCreativeRetreatWeek. I hadn't completed every single thing on my to do wish list and I just knew I could if I took one more week. ;-) But also the anticipation of the new routine and new job was killing me so I was ready to get going. 

Reflections overall: 

With increased work stress and overall stress that comes from big life change and adulting, I've experienced a lot of anxiety over the past six months. There's different ways to handle it. I recommend counseling, exercise, eating healthy, getting sleep, and journaling. For me, taking a week off and really minimizing commitments for a week in between gigs made a big dent in my anxiety. I'm an optimistic person and sometimes optimism leads to overcommitment which can lead to anxiety and burnout. I encourage you to do periodic gut checks and invest in self-care in whatever ways you can. And also, give yourself a break. Some seasons are harder than others. If you need to simplify during a hard season or cry a lot or call your mom every day or whatever, DO IT. Not every season will be so challenging. So give yourself a break during the ones that are tough.

If you'd like to create your own HSL Creative Retreat Week, here are 7 elements I recommend:

1. Make a list of all the things you've been wanting or needing to do but haven't had time.

2. Make a list of all the things you'd like to do if you had time.

3. Create a list of 3-5 "Big Rocks" that mean success for the week. If you accomplish only these 3-5 things, your week will be a success. Plug these into your schedule.

4. Flesh out themes for each day using words that inspire you. Think "relaxaton, rejuvenation, inspiration, exploration." 

5. Don't overload each day!! Be realistic about what you can accomplish

6. Make sure anything you schedule contributes to your well-being. Yes, for me, a trip to the dentist was included because it made me feel more calm knowing I was getting it done. 

7. Journal as you go. Pay attention to how you feel mentally and physically each day. Look for insights.

If you are able to do your own Retreat Week, I would LOVE to hear about it. Drop me a line via the comments here or email! 

Want other tips from creatives on the rise in their careers? Download my latest eBook, 5-Minute Mentor for free! 

2 months in D.C. Here's what I've learned...

I moved to D.C. almost two months ago and it’s been a bit of a whirlwind.

Part of why my husband and I chose D.C. was because it really is a cultural epicenter and that’s where I’ve longed to be for quite some time. Now I’m here with a world of arts journalism, auditions, and classes at my fingertips. Some opportunities that are opening up feel like they are coming right on time. I’m ready for these. Other opportunities—well I’m a bit green or rusty (yes, apparently you can be both) on them. And these opportunities, a lot of them, have a common theme: I’m not an expert.

I remember in college, wanting to audition for the best choir on campus. I knew it was a long shot but I have a distinct memory of wanting to be surrounded by people who were better than me. I told my vocal teacher I wanted to be “the worst one in the room.” I’ve auditioned for shows that I might not be qualified for, shown up at networking events with people far more impressive than me, and pursued opportunities where I’d simply be stretched.

But I haven’t done a lot of that lately. 

Spending several years building a career in my smaller central Virginia city (I’d say it’s one notch up from a college town, it’s a fair size, but still—the community is really collegiate heavy), I got used to having similar or slightly more experience than many of my contemporaries. Call it being a “big fish” or call it living somewhere where 30 feels “old,” but it was the unique situation I found myself in.

Now I’m where I want to be. A place where people my age are more advanced in their careers than I am and have been living and working in a highly competitive landscape for ten years. And I’m here to catch up. It’s like the semester where Rory is trying to pack a year’s worth of school into a semester so she can catch up and graduate on time after taking a semester off. 

But I’m learning something in all of this: embrace not being the expert. 

I signed up for an advanced scene study class at the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Thrilled to take it, I’m getting to absorb teaching from Nancy Robinette, a former cast member of the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime on Broadway. I saw the production and it was one of the most meaningful theatrical experiences I’ve ever had. 

I waited til the eleventh hour to sign up for the class (literally—the day of the class about 6 hours before it would begin.) I vacillated on the choice because some of my commitments lately have brought me anxiety. I haven’t felt like I had the mental space and time to give to my commitments 100%. I know I can say “yes” to writing reviews for an arts publication. I can say “yes” to this class. I can say “yes” to many auditions. I can say “yes” to shows and industry events. I can say “yes” to dance classes and exercise classes. I can say “yes” to lots of out of town visitors. But I can’t say “yes” to all of these things plus my workload and my goal of getting a book published and expect not to end up in the hospital. 

In short, I didn’t want this class to be a source of stress.

But then I knew, even in my anxious place, that spending Monday nights in the world of the theatre would be life-giving. It would be joyful. And I’d probably regret not taking the plunge now.

So I signed up for the class. And as I was walking the 8-minute walk from my car to the rehearsal space in Eastern Market I examined my thoughts. What was I worried about?

-Not being good enough. Did I really have the experience and talent to be in an advanced class? What an assumption!

-Overcommitting. My life and work in DC is a lot like my life and work in Lynchburg, but now I have so much more I can add to it. And I don’t really have extra space in the “closet of life” for extra things. Some things have to come out if other things are going to be put in.  

-Lack of education. If we take a deep dive into theatre history and great playwrights, or if the teacher asks me what I think about Samuel Beckett, I may look foolish. I don't have a BFA or a MFA in this stuff. Will I still be respected? 

Worried about being overcommitted and under qualified.

Embrace not being the expert.

There was a time in my life where I didn’t know enough about great work to automatically rate performances in my mind immediately. I wanted to be “the worst person in the room.” Now I not only read between the lines and analyze other people’s performances—I give a great deal of thought to how other people are receiving me. 

But isn’t something like a class an opportunity to release those worries and just try? Soak it in. Listen. Learn.

Embrace not being the expert.  

Embrace a season of learning, of growing, of admitting when I’ve made an error. Pay attention and watch those that are ahead. Embrace the season of newness, of growth. 

So I’m doing that. I may not be a fresh-faced 18-year-old giddy to simply be included in the spring musical. But I’m still eager to learn. I know that if I fail, I’ll still be ok. And I’m willing to try. Because I’ll never get anywhere if I don’t start walking. And you can't be challenged and be the best in class. So I’ll keep reminding myself to

Embrace not being the expert.

Hilary's Tuesday Tip 012: 4 Productivity Tools You Need to Download

I'm back with another Tuesday Tip! Today I'm sharing four of my favorite online productivity tools that help me work smarter, not harder. 

1. Wunderlist. Perfect for: putting all of your different to do lists in one place and organizing your brain!
2. Canva. Perfect for: non-graphic designers who need good graphics made quickly! 
3. Nuzzel. Perfect for: people who don't have time to sift through a newsfeed to get the most important stories. 
4. Buffer. Perfect for: Content curators and social media users who want to simplify the post scheduling process.

I fully recommend each of these. Let me know if you give these a try and how you like them! For more practical productivity hacks and tools, grab my eBook, More in Less

Infographic: 8 Steps to Combat Fear in the Creative Process

“What is creative living? Any life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.” -Elizabeth Gilbert

When it comes to our creativity, often our biggest enemy is the fear that stops us before we even start. We can get so wrapped up in our heads about why not to make the thing that we end up never doing anything at all. 

I'm very excited to share a new free infographic my team created that not only breaks down the fascinating physiological effects of fear on your body, but also tells you how to combat those feelings of fear in your creative process.

Whether you are a performer, a maker, an innovator, or someone whose brain is just wired to see better ways of doing things, consider implementing a few of these ideas to move past the “idea” phase and on to the implementation and creation phase. Grab the free infographic here: 

How to Launch Your Side Hustle + Going Freelance News!



Today I want to share with you two noteworthy items:
  • The Going Freelance online workshop is less than two weeks away! I'm thrilled to bring this workshop online and do it in webinar format. If you can't make it on Monday April 24 at 8 PM, sign up anyway. I'll send you the video recording and a PDF of the slide deck. Grab your ticket here.
  • What the heck, guys. USA Today published another one of my articles. This one is on side hustles (go figure!). Read on for the article! 

The Great Recession forced a generation of college graduates to get creative in how they made a living. The concept of a 40-year career with the same company has been antiquated for a decade or so and the Great Recession put the final nail in that coffin. A perfect storm of the end of the “traditional career path,” coupled with the advent of technology that makes it easy to connect with potential customers, and the side hustle finally got its star turn.

Now, according to Career Builder, 29 percent of workers in the United States have a side hustle of some sort. And 44 percent of those side-hustlers are between the ages of 25 and 34.

So, you’re up. If you dream about opening an Etsy shop, freelance writing on the weekends, or creating an app that you just know will be the next Instagram, here are five things to do to launch your side hustle dream. Read more.

5 Must Do's If You Want to Launch a Freelance Business

So you have a skill, you have a passion, and you have a desire to go freelance, but there’s just one thing missing—clients!

How do you launch a freelance business and get those first customers? Here are five things you can implement right away. 

  1. Start with who you know. When you’re launching a freelance career, it’s easy to assume that your ideal client is far away somewhere on the far flung throes of the Internet. But the truth is your first clients are probably going to be people in your own personal network. Think neighbors, friends, friends of friends, people who are friends of your relatives, people in your community.
  2. You may have to start out working for free (or cheap.) In the beginning you’ll need to get paid in some way—and you may get paid in value. Maybe you receive value by building up your portfolio outside of college homework assignments so you volunteer to do some pro bono work for a nonprofit or maybe you offer to help an influencer who can expose your work to a whole new audience. I still get freelance work today from connections I built in internships from 7 years ago. You’ve got to have a long-game mentality.
  3. Research. Research. Research. You can find out gobs of information about your target audience. Research partnership opportunities. Find people who have the problem that you are ready and willing to solve. Utilize this great opportunity that is called the Internet. :)
  4. Reach out. Reach out. Reach out. I’ve grown my personal brand by being thoughtful with who I connect with online. Between Facebook and LinkedIn you have a great deal of information about people in your personal network. Who do you know who may have an opportunity to hire a freelancer? You can make a list of every single person you know that is in any given industry. Figure out who you want to reach out to. Research. Then reach out.
  5. Show up. Be supportive to others. When you’re an artist, you notice who takes the time to show up to a show or who takes the time to help you promote your project on their social media pages. You can probably think of someone right now who shared your “thing” online or gave you a retweet. These are easy ways to be generous to others. And they’re not quickly forgotten. 

Launching and growing a freelance business is about a lot more than just finding clients. You need to have a marketable skill, a fair pricing structure and you need to be able to deliver work in a timely manner. But to get your freelance career off the ground, you’ve got to spread the word that you’re freelancing and you’ve got to get clients (sooner or later!) 

If you want more tips on going freelance or starting your side hustle, check out my on demand webinar: Going Freelance where I share what I’ve learned about launching and growing a creative, autonomous career.

New Free eBook Download: 5-Minute Mentor for Creatives

I’m thrilled to share with you that today I’m launching a brand new eBook called 5-Minute Mentor for Creatives

The eBook contains over 20 pieces of advice from ten creatives on a range of topics including time management, bravery, balance, inspiration, collaboration, comparison, handling disappointment, combating perfectionism, minimizing stress and of course, creativity.

 I named the book 5-Minute Mentor for Creatives because you can read a chapter in just five minutes and then put that advice into practice right away as you go about your day.

Over the course of a year I got to sit down with ten different creatives who run the gamut: social entrepreneur, playwright, filmmaker, composer, young adult fiction author, Broadway actor, memoirist, calligrapher, producer…the list goes on. The book centers around practical advice they have learned throughout their creative careers. In my interviews with them there was just so. much. good. stuff. I wanted to aggregate the advice they gave that I believe is most actionable and put it into a quick read format for you.

I believe that sometimes mentors come in the form of a professor, someone you work with, or someone you can sit down with for a cup of coffee. And sometimes they are people that you may not even know personally that you're able to connect with via media and technology. Both types of mentors are helpful in life. We should always be looking for opportunities to learn from those who have moved the ball just a little further down the field than we have. 

I hope you’ll download it, glean some practical strategies that you can apply to your own work, and walk away just a bit more inspired.

Download it here.

And be sure to let me know what you think of the book! I always appreciate feedback.  

4 Pieces of News!

It's been a big week over here. A few updates:

I got published on USA TODAY College! Check out the article here. And if you could take a second and share it via social media, that would mean a lot. I've got another piece coming down the pike soon. I will keep you updated about the date of publication. 

This is a screenshot from Monday when my article was rotating on the usatoday.com home screen banner. My article = bottom left! 😱

This is a screenshot from Monday when my article was rotating on the usatoday.com home screen banner. My article = bottom left! 😱

My eCourse, Get Your Dream Off the Ground, launched on Wednesday. I'm so thrilled about the awesome cohort of creative, driven people in the group. Members hail from Virginia, Missouri, North Carolina, Kentucky, New York, and Washington DC. I'm so energized by all the possibilities that technology affords us to connect with people no matter where they are in the world. It really is a game-changer for connections and education. 

Last year I wrote a short play with Jonathan Kafoure and it's going to be produced as part of a new works festival in Lynchburg, Virginia on March 10. So excited to see it on stage! Auditions are Monday February 13 in Lynchburg at 5:30 PM at the White Hart Cafe.

And the online store here on HilarySutton.com has officially launched. If you have yet to download your copy of my eBook, More in Less, or need help fleshing out an editorial calendar, I've got you covered over there. I'll be adding more products in the future. I'm excited to have my own little virtual storefront! 

All in all, it's been a really good, albeit busy week. Hope you get a weekend full of exactly what you want it to be.  

Currently Reading/Listening To/Thinking About...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listening to: the Happier Podcast and How I Built This 

Trying: Barre class 

                               (Ouch my CALVES) 

                               (Ouch my CALVES) 

Hustling Toward: launching the Get Your Dream Off the Ground eCourse. Sooooo amped about how it is shaping up! If you want to be the first to hear when we open up access to the course again, sign up here!

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

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

Nervous About: Getting new short hair headshots this weekend

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

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

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

4-Week Update on New Goal-Setting Strategy

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

Quick recap:

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

Full post over here

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

I've seen in my own life that my goals become so. much. more. achievable when I have a clear, strategy, accountability, encouragement, and a coach. That's why I'm thrilled to share with you that I'm launching the Get Your Dream Off the Ground eCourse.

Over 21 days a small cohort of motivated creatives will be walking through a 10-lesson class to get their dream off the ground.

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

This class is designed to help you:

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

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the class and answer any questions you might have about it. Feel free to drop a comment below! Stay tuned for when we open doors again to new students!


Your story is begging to be told.

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

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

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

What I Learned from My 2017 New Year’s Survey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what are my take-aways from the survey?

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

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

*maybe eventually? 

Tuesday Tip 009: Will you take the QZO Challenge?

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Strategies to Achieve Your New Year's Goals


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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