Today’s guest is Courtney Chaal. Courtney is an American now living in Vancouver in Canada.
Courtney helps creatives, coaches and consultants stop being broke and start getting more clients by creating an irresistible service that they can eventually turn into a scalable offer. End goal? Freedom!
Courtney is a copywriter turned business coach obsessed with making complex concepts (like business models and sales copy) simple and tangible to help regular people get big results.
Over the past 10 years, her business has evolved from her writing custom proposals to now launching digital products and programs, including her high-ticket coaching program, called Yay for 100K.
Courtney was diagnosed in July 2020 with ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder). Before her diagnosis, she was struggling with managing her business: “I was dropping a lot of balls; I thought I was really organized and I just kept forgetting things. I was struggling with feeling like I should be more on top of things than I was.”
Some ways ADHD manifested in Courtney was that her house was messy, she would forget things—one time, she bought two plane tickets to the same conference.
When her mom first suggested she might have ADHD in 2020, Courtney first took a short online quiz, which found she had a high correlation with ADHD.
One she was formally diagnosed, she said, “I never felt so validated in my entire life. … I thought I had 100 different small problems and what this showed me was that every single thing I was struggling with in my life was one thing.”
Melanie shares that her husband also has ADHD and was only diagnosed a few years ago in his 40s.
Courtney believes the name of ADHD is misleading because people with ADHD don’t often have a lack of attention; they have a lack of control over where their attention goes. In fact, people with ADHD often hyper-focus on something they are interested in at the moment, forgetting many other responsibilities.
Courtney also doesn’t like the word “disorder.” Her ADHD is just a neutral quality of how her brain functions, with both pros and cons.
As Courtney explains, an ADHD brain is wired for interest over importance. Until something becomes an emergency, it’s not important for ADHDers to deal with.
Courtney long knew there were certain things she wasn’t good at in her business—following through, organization—but her diagnosis allowed her to let go of trying to be good at those things. It gave her permission to hire a full-time operations manager.
ADHD has both negatives and positives. Courtney sees her ADHD as her superpower. If she didn’t have ADHD, she would also be giving up her creativity, her out-of-the-box thinking, her problem-solving, her big picture thinking skills, her humor and being quick on her feet. No one person gets to have all the good qualities and none of the challenges.
Instead of developing “coping” strategies, Courtney lets go of other people’s strategies. For example, she tries not to buy the planners at the beginning of the year because she knows that she won’t use a planner.
Outsourcing has helped her tremendously with areas of friction. She outsources her laundry, orders groceries online, hires a cleaning person and uses meal prep services.
You can also find smaller, simpler strategies to help in areas of friction for you. For example, whenever Courtney prepares to leave the house, she always says the mantra “wallet, keys, phone,” so she can be sure not to forget one of those things. She also recently had keyless entry installed on her apartment. She also hates hanging up coats on hangars, so she makes sure to have hooks instead, which she’ll use, and that they’re in the right place.
Biz Bite: Do a brain dump: When you fall into an overwhelming “pit of despair,” stop and write down everything swirling in your brain that you have to get done.
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#124: How to Create Better Habits (and my Word of the Year)
39:46On today’s show, I talk about my word (phrase) of the year and what I’m hoping to do in 2022. Then, I talk about the importance of habit formation and give several strategies to build better habits. As I begin to work on developing better habits this year, I want to point out that if you try to introduce too much change into your daily life, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Humans are not great at reorganizing their entire day all at once. We have to start small (so don’t make 10 New Year’s resolutions and expect success). You know those people who talk about willpower? Well, willpower is a crock. Willpower does not often get you to where you want to go. It’s habit formation that gets you to your goals, and willpower only causes most of us to feel like failures. Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project” and co-host of the Happier podcast, developed a concept and wrote a book about it a few years ago called “The Four Tendencies.” This framework is based on how a person meets inner and outer expectations. The four types are Upholders, Questioners, Obligers and Rebels. (Take the free quiz to learn what type you are.) I’m a questioner, which means I have questions and need justifications before I’ll commit to doing something. It also means outer accountability doesn’t matter to me. It’s why I don’t care about joining a mastermind group or having an accountability partner. And I won’t stick with a class just because I paid for. But that type of accountability works well for obligers, who need accountability to meet inner and outer expectations. These are the people who, when they pay for that yoga class or tell a friend they’ll exercise with them, it works. They do not want to let anyone down so they will show up. You can see how knowing your tendency will help figure out what you need as you start to create habits and try to commit to better habits or new goals. In his book “Atomic Habits,” James Clear talks about making tiny, tiny habits, just a 1% change each day. So, want to start running? On that first day, just run around the block and come home. Don’t push yourself. Don’t go farther. It’ll take 2 minutes. That may sound ridiculous, but you need to focus on the process, routine and the change in your routine. Don’t focus on the running; focus on the habit creation. Starting is the hardest part. Katy Milkman is an economist who studies change behavior at the Wharton School. She was on Dan Harris’ podcast Ten Percent Happier about how to change your habits. Katy talks about this problem of getting started. It’s not about willpower. It’s about the struggle to get started. And that requires habit formation. Katy also talks about something called the “fresh start” effect—that time when we start a new job, or move to a new city, or when the school year starts in September when it feels like a fresh start. That’s the perfect time to implement new habits. January and the new year also feels like a “fresh start” to people and can be a perfect time to start new habits. We just have to be careful not to try to start too many at one time. Gretchen Rubin would say before you start thinking about techniques to use to develop new habits you need to know yourself. That’s why I recommend taking her Four Tendencies quiz. But, in addition, think about the kind of person you are. Are you a night owl? Then, you’re never going to get up at 5 a.m. to exercise! Accept it and aim for a better habit that works for you. A few habit formation strategies to try: Pairing Pair the new habit with something you’re already doing, preferably something you like. For me, that is walking while listening to podcasts—what I like to call Bod and Pod. Accountability As I mentioned earlier, it doesn’t work for everyone, but if works for you, try to build more accountability into your daily life. Maybe find an accountability partner who is also a freelance business owner. Scheduling it Sounds obvious, but sometimes we just forget to work on our new habits, so put it on your calendar and to-do list and set timers. Commit to a streak Start a 30-day challenge where you’re going to do the new habit every day for 30 days. Make it difficult or inconvenient Delete apps. Use the Freedom app to block social media websites. Hide bad cues and display good cues. Put your phone in another room. Hide junk food. Keep your vitamin bottle visible. Put your water bottle near the front door. Think about your future self. Future Melanie will be happy this summer if I already have a regular exercise routine established. Biz Bite: Embrace hygge The Bookshelf: “How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America” by Clint Smith Resources: Join the Deliberate Freelancer Facebook group. Support Deliberate Freelancer at Buy Me a Coffee. Subscribe to the Deliberate Freelancer newsletter. “Respair” tweet by Susie Dent Book “The Four Tendencies” by Gretchen Rubin Take The Four Tendencies quiz Book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear Katy Milkman and her book “How to Change” and podcast “Choiceology” Katy Milkman on Ten Percent Happier podcast: How to Change Your Habits Yoga with Adriene National Novel Writing Month “A 180 in 365: My Year of Walking” by Alicia Chantal (blog post) Episode #78 of Deliberate Freelancer: Building Your Community as a Newish Freelancer, with Alicia Chantal
#123: My 2021 Business Review and Questions to Help You
39:05FACEBOOK UPDATE: The Deliberate Freelancer Facebook group is now live! Please join at www.facebook.com/groups/deliberatefreelancer. In today’s episode, I look back at my time tracking for 2021’s Q4 briefly and then I dive into analyzing the entire year. At the end, I share some questions that can help you evaluate last year and plan for this year. My average weekly time in Q4 was similar to the previous quarters. I was really proud of myself that I stuck to my “absolutely no work” plan Dec. 23-Jan. 3. And I took at a four-week podcast hiatus. All of that was restorative and rejuvenated my creativity. The biggest surprise for me was I earned more money last year than I ever had in the past—by a wide margin! I do track my money each month, but I wasn’t really adding up those monthly figures to see what I was making for the year. While I’m thrilled with how much I earned last year, I’m not sure it’s sustainable. That’s not just pessimism talking. Two big projects I landed in 2020 continued into 2021, but ended or were cut back before the end of the year, and I cannot expect that income this year. I analyzed where my work came from in 2021. Referrals are always my biggest source of work. In 2021, 37% of my income came from referrals. These percentages are based on income, not number of clients. I want to know where I’m earning the most money. After referrals, 21% of my income was from my involvement in the group Associations, Media & Publishing Network, specifically the Associations Council. The majority of my clients are associations, so I’ve gone where my clients are. Where are your clients? There’s probably an organization out there where you can start to get involved and subtly show your expertise in the industry that you serve. Next up, 17% of my income came from cold networking; 13% from letters of introduction; 12% from former jobs. I also analyzed the type of organization I worked for. I want to focus on membership associations, but did my income reflect that? Yes, it did. I’m pleased to say that 77% of my work came from membership associations last year. I also analyzed if what I want to do matches up with the services that bring in the most money. It hasn’t always matched up in the past, but I’ve been more purposeful about going after the work I love—managing editing—versus the work I “like”—copy editing and proofreading. I’m happy to say my numbers in 2021 did match what I had tried to do. 59% of my income came from managing editing work, while 29% came from writing and only 12% came from editing and proofreading. I encourage you to consider time tracking. I consider it a game changer. Analyzing your time tracking at the end of a big project—that you charged a project rate for—can tell you whether you met your secret hourly rate or whether you undercharged. Questions to ask yourself: What services do you love to do? Is that where you’re focusing your marketing? How can you take your business in a new direction? What can you improve upon in your business in 2022? What did you learn in 2021? What worked really well for you and your business? What didn’t work for you last year? Do you need to drop clients, raise your rates, change your services? And be honest with yourself: Did you do anything last year that you’re frustrated by or disappointed by? What do you need to work on personally? Where have you felt stuck in your business? How can you start to make a plan to get unstuck? A solo business retreat in January is a great way to reflect on these questions and work ON your business, setting yourself up for success this year. Biz Bite: Create a Success Jar The Bookshelf: “Miracle Creek” by Angie Kim Resources: Support Deliberate Freelancer at Buy Me a Coffee Subscribe to the Deliberate Freelancer newsletter. 50 Powerful Questions To Help You Reflect Episode #65 of Deliberate Freelancer: The No. 1 Way I Find New Clients Episode #119 of Deliberate Freelancer: Why and How to Pare Down Your Network Episode #113 of Deliberate Freelancer: How to Build Relationships, Not a Network, with Anna Hetzel Episode #3 of Deliberate Freelancer: Host a Solo Business Retreat Episode #42 of Deliberate Freelancer: Tips from My First Solo Business Retreat of 2020 Episode #115 of Deliberate Freelancer: Time Tracking Lessons from Deliberate Freelancer Listeners Episode #86 of Deliberate Freelancer: What I Wish for Your Freelance Business in 2021 Episode #76 of Deliberate Freelancer: Embrace These 7 Core Principles for a Successful Freelance Business Episode #40 of Deliberate Freelancer: Reflect, Analyze and Plan Now for the New Year Episode #26 of Deliberate Freelancer: Delegate, Automate and Terminate to Improve Your Business Episode #23 of Deliberate Freelancer: Five Questions to Evaluate and Diversify Your Services Episode #19 of Deliberate Freelancer: Visualize Your Perfect Work Day—Then Create It
#122: My Best Books of 2021 (and Anticipated 2022 Releases)
37:53This episode is all about books! And it’s the last episode of the year. My next episode will be January 6, 2022. Happy holidays! As of December 5, I read 51 books this year. I will likely finish book #52 this week, but I probably won’t hit my goal of 60 books in 2021, which is OK. I set a goal just because I have fun tracking my books along the way. In this week’s episode, I rank my top 10 books of the year — all were published in 2021. I then give you two extras that I loved this year that were published in 2020. I also mention a few other 2021 books that I haven’t read and that don’t seem like my cup of tea but that you might want to check out. And, I mention a few 2021 books that I really want to read but haven’t gotten to yet. Then I finish up by listing a few 2022 books that I’m looking forward to. Listen to the episode to hear my top books of the year in ranked order — what will be my #1?! However, all of the books I mentioned in this episode are in the list below. Fiction Writers & Lovers by Lily King The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson 56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave What Comes After by Joanne Tompkins Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir The Martian by Andy Weir The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain What Could be Saved by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell The Push by Ashley Audrain The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams Matrix by Lauren Groff Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff Hell of a Book by Jason Mott My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle The Family Plot by Megan Collins Non-fiction The Promised Land by Barack Obama Once I Was You by Maria Hinojosa (memoir) Know My Name by Chanel Miller (memoir) All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung (memoir) The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch (memoir) Four-Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain The Premonition by Michael Lewis The Big Short by Michael Lewis Moneyball by Michael Lewis The Blind Side by Michael Lewis Paradise: One Town’s Struggle to Survive an American Wildfire by Lizzie Johnson Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner (memoir) How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith 2022 Books I’m Anticipating: Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades (publishes January 4) A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham (publishes January 11) Nine Lives by Peter Swanson (publishes March 15) The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James (publishes March 15) Resources: Support Deliberate Freelancer at Buy Me a Coffee. Subscribe to the Deliberate Freelancer newsletter. Episode #104 of Deliberate Freelancer: Best Books of 2021 So Far—and New Releases This Fall Episode #87 of Deliberate Freelancer: My Most Anticipated 2021 Books (and Fave 2020 Books) Episode #69 of Deliberate Freelancer: 9 Nonfiction Books that Improved My Freelance Business Episode #17 of Deliberate Freelancer: My Favorite Books of the Year So Far (2019) American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) fall membership drive. Use the code: 2021FALLDRIVE ASJA Membership FAQs
#121: Identify the Right Clients with Value-Based Decision-Making, with Ashlee Sang
35:06On today’s episode, Ashlee Sang talks about how you can work with purpose-driven solopreneurs and service providers. She also explains how you can base everything you do in your freelance businesses around a set of core values—and how that will help you make decisions, find the right clients and grow your business. Ashlee lives in Central Illinois. She owns Ashlee Sang Consulting, where she works with visionary founders who want to grow their impact and their business in a way that’s rooted in values and propelled by purpose. Before doing brand messaging strategy and consulting, she worked with a variety of nonprofit organizations, including a human rights education non-governmental organization (NGO) in Senegal and a local branch of Habitat for Humanity. The common thread has been sharing messages that matter. Ashlee began working with purpose-driven founders after learning about the conscious consumerism movement. She wants to work with businesses that have a mission and impact in the world. Ashlee always keeps that goal in mind as she selects clients. She has taken plenty of projects in the past that didn’t align with her values and she realized she always dreaded the work and the client. Now she focuses on attraction marketing—walking the talk and standing up for her values as a way to set herself apart. Before living in Illinois, Ashlee lived in Senegal for four years. Moving there was the most formative decision of her life. She was studying anthropology, French and linguistics as a study-abroad student and ended up meeting her future husband. So, after graduation, she moved to Senegal and landed a job with an NGO. In Senegal, she learned a lot about herself, about interpersonal and organizational communications, and about viewing different cultures from various perspectives. The years in Senegal shaped how she now views the world and supports her goal to provide empathetic accountability because she has met and spoken to so many different types of people. For example, it has helped her develop clients’ audience personas because she can better get into other people’s heads and hearts. Ashlee believes in making value-based decisions. She has a set of core values that she operates from. The list includes intentionality, progress, open-mindedness. They guide who she works with as well as her offerings. Making value-based decisions impacts both your marketing and your operations. For example, it helps with knowing what to post on social media, who to pitch to, how much to charge and who to hire. Ashlee recommends sitting down and creating a list of values and periodically reevaluating that list. This way of working supports prioritization and hedges “shiny object syndrome.” It shows up in the everyday work and in the big decisions. The benefit of basing decisions on your values is alignment: If it feels better for you, it feels better for your clients. Ashlee supports the nonprofit 1% for the Planet and highlights this on her website. As part of this, she has committed to giving 1% of her revenue to an environmental nonprofit of her choice. She also lists her brand values on her website, but living your values is more important than just listing them. When you take the time to do this foundational work—your personal vision, your business mission, your list of values—it makes decision-making throughout your life and business easier. Biz Bite: Turn Off Email Notifications Resources: Support Deliberate Freelancer at Buy Me a Coffee. Subscribe to the Deliberate Freelancer newsletter. To help you get clear on your values and how to apply them to your marketing and decision-making, download Ashlee’s free book “Stand Up To Stand Out Workbook.” AshleeSang.com Ashlee Sang on LinkedIn Ashlee Sang on Instagram 1% for the Planet American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) fall membership drive. Use the code: 2021FALLDRIVE ASJA Membership FAQs
#120: 7 Things I’m Thankful for in My Business
40:07On today’s episode, I’m leaning in to the theme of the Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S. and sharing seven things I am thankful for in my business. Beyond just telling you about these things, I’m sharing why I’m thankful and asking questions to you that I hope will prompt you to think about how to improve your business life. Thinking about my business this way got me thinking about how I should be building a joyful business in all things that I do. So, as I go through my list, I hope it helps you think about things you are thankful for and perhaps want to change moving forward so you can build a more joyful business. #1. Complete freedom. When I decided to go freelance, I looked forward to being my own boss more than anything, but I didn’t fully grasp the complete freedom I would have as a freelancer. Work is still work. But, I have a lot of control over my business—who I work with, when I work, how I work, where I work and what I work on. I worry that some freelancers haven’t fully embraced this freedom or forget about it every now and then. I see way too many people working too many hours. Why are we freelancing if not for the freedom in it? You are in charge of your business, for the most part. Shouldn’t freedom be the goal in everything we do? Are you working with clients you want to work with? Are you working on projects you enjoy? If not, why not? If you are working with clients you don’t love or in an area that doesn’t fascinate you, maybe it’s time to at least start planning on how to find better clients or change your services or niche. Freedom! That’s what I’m really, truly thankful for. #2. My clients. I am at a place where I’m really happy with the mix of clients I have. It has always been my goal to work with kind people, fun people, people I respect and who respect me. That is really important to me. I have no time for people who are passive-aggressive, make snide remarks, throw me under the bus, demand unreasonable requests. Again, freedom. Why would I want to work with those people? Maybe kindness is important to you, but maybe there are other aspects of clients that are really important to you. What types of clients would you like to work with? What is it about your greatest clients that you really love? Now is also a good time to think about how to thank your clients. Do you send holiday cards or gifts to your best clients? I’ve done this from time to time, and though I usually do it at this time of year, I also love the idea of doing it at surprising times, like sending a thank-you gift after a big project or just randomly in mid-summer—Christmas in July! If you can find out a bit about your client, you can find more personalized gifts, but I have a few go-tos when I’m not sure what to get people. See the links in Resources below. #3. Great sources or subject matter experts. Because I’ve really honed in on my niche and I love my niche, I love the sources I get to interview. I’m almost always interested in what they have to say and often quite fascinated. #4. Interviewing. I’m very thankful that my job requires me to interview people. I can’t believe I get paid to talk to people and have the honor of telling their stories! I absolutely love the process of interviewing. I love the discovery process of when a source says something that leads me to ask a new question or go down a different path or ask them to expound or explain. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of having fascinating conversations with medical professionals so I can then write great stories. I’m thankful every day that interviewing is a large part of my work. What do you absolutely love to do in your work? Do you get to do enough of it? How can you make changes in your business so you get to do more of that? #5. The ability to change my mind and to scale back. As an employee, projects or new ideas were often thrusted upon me, and I couldn’t just quit them whenever I wanted. But in my business, I can change my mind all the time! I didn’t fully appreciate this when I started out. I had this idea that I was going to offer these certain services and that was it. And while I stopped providing social media services early on, I still don’t think I realized at that time that my business could have multiple evolutions over the years. I can do whatever I want! At some point, I also realized I could scale back. It’s OK to be a “company of one,” as author Paul Jarvis calls it in his book. His book and podcast really validated the fact that I didn’t want to have employees or multiple subcontractors. I didn’t want to become an agency. It also helped me this past year as I thought it was time to create courses. I realized I really don’t want to create courses right now. Maybe in the future, but I’m not feeling that urge right now. I’m just not interested. And that’s OK! I can change my mind, scale back, stay at status quote, not push myself to grow and grow. I’m really thankful for that. I think it’s important for freelancers to realize we don’t have to work all the time and constantly add new services. #6. This entrepreneurial mindset. I never anticipated this when I went freelance, but I love that I’m constantly brainstorming, analyzing and thinking of new ideas for my business. I never imagined or thought of myself as an entrepreneur before I launched my own business. But I absolutely love the business side and entrepreneurial side of freelancing. I love considering where I want my business to go and how I’m going to make it happen. I love coming up with new ideas and trying them out. I’m thankful that I have such wide parameters that give me the freedom to go in almost any direction. I love being an entrepreneur. It sparks my creativity and keeps me energized. #7 My freelance community. Thank you to my podcast listeners. Thank you to my larger community of writers, editors and other freelancers. Perhaps I could still be a successful freelancer without my community, but it would be much harder and very, very lonely. My community is there when I have questions, need to vent with people who will understand or want to run ideas by them. I get to nerd out with other editors and share great moments in writing with other writers. When I became a freelancer, I didn’t fully grasp how important relationship-building and having my community would be. It has been important both to my work—people send me referrals and give me great advice—but it has also been important to my spirit and my mental health. So, I am very thankful for you. Biz Bite: Schedule breaks for 2022 The Bookshelf: “Never Saw Me Coming” by Vera Kurian Resources: Support Deliberate Freelancer at Buy Me a Coffee. Subscribe to the Deliberate Freelancer newsletter. American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) fall membership drive. Use the code: 2021FALLDRIVE ASJA Membership FAQs Episode #98 of Deliberate Freelancer: Six-Figure Freelancing: The Benefits of Selling Strategy and Outcomes, with Austin Church Austin Church’s Fix Your Pricing Masterclass Fairytale Brownies Bookshop.org Sugarwish.com Company of One, the podcast “Company of One” by Paul Jarvis (book)
#119: Why and How to Pare Down Your Network
29:53On today’s show, I want to talk about simplicity and how to pare down your network. I talk a lot about building business relationships, which is a different way of considering how to build your network. Former podcast guest Anna Hetzel talked about this also, how to build community intentionally. By definition, a community will be smaller than a network. A network is often vast and you can’t make personal connections with everyone in your network. A community should be made up of people you actually know and who are invested in your success—and you are invested in theirs. There have been times in my freelance journey where that large network is overwhelming. I’ve done things related to that network that are exhausting or a waste of time. So, as my business became more successful, I saw what was helpful and were I wanted to invest. I started to intentionally set the rest of it aside. And every now and again, after I try new things and new groups and new resources, I have to remind myself again to pare back. Here are some examples of potential overwhelm where you might need to pare back: LinkedIn I purposely started using LinkedIn more and also more strategically this year. I know my client base is more likely to be on LinkedIn than Twitter, where I usually live. However, I was noticing that a lot of the posts I was seeing were from people I didn’t remember ever connecting with. And when I would look at my list of connections, there was image after image of someone I didn’t remember. I might have met this person once at a social gathering or a conference, but if we’ve never really communicated since, why am I connected with them? I had over 900 connections on LinkedIn! I felt like they were cluttering my feed and preventing me from truly making connections. After two rounds of culling my list to people I actually know and actually communicate with now and again, I am down to about 400 connections. Since then, I have noticed a definite difference in my feed. The posts now relate to my business in some way, and I recognize the original posters. Online community groups This may mean Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, Slack channels, tweet chats or private forums. I think a lot of us looked for new groups to join, or even started our own online communities, when the pandemic hit, so we could feel connected to other humans while in lockdown. But most of us aren’t in full lockdown anymore, and either way there are probably some groups you outgrew. It’s OK to join groups and leave them later. These don’t have to be a permanent fixture in your life. What online communities are you a part of? Where do you spend the most of your time? Two more questions: What groups are you in that you just don’t participate in? You can easily leave or delete those. Next: How do those groups make you feel? Are you overwhelmed? Do they create anxiety? Do they contribute to your imposter syndrome? If these groups are creating negative emotions, I highly recommend cutting back or eliminating them from your life. Ask yourself: What if you could only be a part of three online communities? What would they be? Rank what you love and stick with those. And delete the rest. Smaller, more intimate groups Maybe these are ongoing text chains or regular Zoom chats with small groups. These can be amazing for your business, your mental health, for getting support and having camaraderie. I’m not encouraging you to get rid of all these smaller communities, but it’s worth at least considering each one individually and asking yourself: What do you get out of them? Do they lift your spirits or do they overwhelm you? Also, please remember that you should never feel obligated to be a part of these communities. You can tell people, at any time, that you are feeling overwhelmed by your responsibilities and the amount of time available in each day and that you need to cut back on some things. A few more things to consider: Email newsletters Magazine and newspaper subscriptions. Membership organizations and committee involvement. Biz Bite: Put subscription deadlines on your calendar. The Bookshelf: “The Thursday Murder Club” by Richard Osman. Resources: Jennifer Duann Fultz's Hope You Get Rich course. Subscribe to the Deliberate Freelancer newsletter. Episode #113 of Deliberate Freelancer: How to Build Relationships, Not a Network, with Anna Hetzel Episode #91 of Deliberate Freelancer: All Things Pricing: Project Rates, Day Rates, Retainers and More, with Jennifer Duann Fultz Episode #112 of Deliberate Freelancer: How and When to Say No Amy Knightly tweet
#118: Crash Landing and Being Forced to Restart Your Business, with Danna Lorch
42:29Today’s guest is Danna Lorch from Brookline, Massachusetts. Danna has been a freelance writer for 11 years, mostly focusing on journalism. She has covered the visual arts, design, architecture, the trades and parenting. She has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Architectural Digest and many other publications. Before becoming a writer, she managed nonprofits in the Middle East and Africa. Then, she covered the emerging art scene in the United Arab Emirates for seven years before “crash landing” back in the U.S. for health reasons, with her husband and young son. Most recently, Danna pivoted to working for higher education clients and now does about 30% journalism, 70% higher ed. About four years ago, Danna’s husband became really sick and they had to quickly leave their home in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to move to the U.S. so he could get the treatment he needed. (He is now stable but with some lingering health issues.) Soon after, Danna discovered she had an autoimmune disorder. All of this has led her to restart her freelance business five times. The current iteration, which she restarted after the pandemic affected her business, has been her most successful. In the past, she’s felt embarrassed to talk about the need to stop and start her freelance journey, especially with so many people sharing their successes on social media. But now, she’s very public about how her personal challenges have affected her business. After landing an essay in The New York Times after the pandemic hit in 2020, she aimed for several more prestigious bylines to build a strong portfolio. Then, she used that to pivot to higher education. She used the articles she’d written about design, art and architecture as a “bridge” to focus on higher ed clients that have strong niches in those areas. Danna shifted her mindset to thinking of herself as a business owner. She set values and goals for her business. Now she values finding recurring, reliable work and working with kind clients. She would like her work to be meaningful. And if it can’t be meaningful, it has to pay well. Danna’s imposter syndrome is often high. She’s had a lot of challenges and taken adventurous leaps and says “when you live your life like that, it’s pretty hard not to sometimes question yourself and feel incompetent.” Imposter syndrome as a freelancer pops up when people ask, “Oh, are you still writing?” as if it’s a hobby. Danna is also the mom of a young child and says people don’t take “mom businesses” as seriously. She was also scared to share some of her personal challenges because she didn’t want to be seen as unreliable. Danna also talks about needing to set boundaries, which she didn’t do in business much before having a child. Now, she sets boundaries as a mom, as an observant Jew and as someone managing an autoimmune disease. She recommends a “tech Sabbath” for everyone! Biz Bite: Send Handwritten Thank You Notes Resources: Episode #45 of Deliberate Freelancer: You Need to Set Boundaries Episode #14 of Deliberate Freelancer: Freelancing with a Chronic Illness, with Christy Batta Episode #67 of Deliberate Freelancer: How to Fight Imposter Syndrome, with Kristen Hicks www.dannalorch.com Danna on LinkedIn Danna on Twitter Danna on Instagram Writers’ Co-op podcast SCORE.org and free business coaching Y Combinator Startup School
#117: My Time Tracking, Money and Client Audit for Q3
26:01It’s time for my third quarter roundup. Each quarter I review and analyze my time tracking, hours worked, money earned and client mix. My hours in Q3 were similar to Q2. I worked an average of 28 hours a week in Q2 and an average of 27 hours a week in Q3 when you take out my vacation. However, I made less money, so I have to analyze that a bit more. Nothing like time tracking to show you when you are not committing to being unplugged during a vacation. I really wanted to take a full week or two off from work when I visited my parents at the end of August. But, like so many times before, I had a few projects I had to finish or things I had to check in with. Sometimes it’s just easier to finish up a couple of projects when I’m at my parents’ house, rather than stress myself out by finishing them before my trip or waiting until after. So, while visiting my parents for 11 days, I worked for three of those days. During my last week there, I only worked for four hours. Then, when I returned home, I took off the entire Labor Day weekend. So, not too bad. One of my goals in the near future is to figure out a better system to manage and create my podcast on time. Time tracking showed me that I work, on average, four hours a week on my podcast. That was 18% of my time in the third quarter, larger than any one project. The next closest chunk was administrative work at 13%. As I said earlier, Q3 was my slowest and lowest-paying quarter, even though I was working more hours. But, a lot of those hours were volunteering to speak at conferences, networking and, again, my podcast. All unpaid. I am definitely rethinking what speaking gigs I accept. It’s ridiculous that most of the opportunities that come my way are unpaid. So, I have vowed to be more strategic about what I say yes to. Either pay me or put me directly in front of my ideal client base. In Q3, I didn’t do as much marketing or networking as I usually do. In fact, I spent 30 hours networking and marketing in Q2. That dropped to only 17 hours this past quarter. I definitely felt the buzz word of this past year: “languishing.” I’m sure a lot of you can relate. This is one of the reasons I researched and found a marketing strategist that I hired for a full VIP day. It was a great investment. It helped me regain some inspiration and excitement with my business, and I walked away with a personalized marketing strategy. I’ll talk more about what I learned and what I am implementing in future episodes. Back to money. So, May remains my highest-grossing month. August came in second highest, but that’s misleading because the month before, in July, I only earned $3900. So, I really have to combine those months and take the average of the two. This is where cash flow is critical. You can’t always count on projects and payments working out to your timeline. Projects get delayed; payments get delayed and lost. Building up a client base, and focusing on getting anchor clients, so that you can build up a savings and have a consistent cash flow is critical to running a successful freelance business. One of the things that is frustrating about my business in 2021 is the lack of consistency. People aren’t sure about their budgets or when they might be able to start a project; they’re taking baby steps into projects, not committing to big things or long term. This is happening everywhere during the pandemic as it’s hard to plan ahead, and I feel that in my business too. Besides implementing my marketing strategy and figuring out a better podcast system, I’m working on two other goals for this fourth quarter: doing better with my goal to only work half-days on Fridays and getting back on the healthy eating wagon. Biz Bite: Schedule an admin week The Bookshelf: “Once I Was You: A Memoir of Love and Hate in a Torn America” by María Hinojosa Resources: Subscribe to the Deliberate Freelancer newsletter. Episode #103 of Deliberate Freelancer: My Time Tracking and Client Analysis for Q2 Episode #94 of Deliberate Freelancer: My Time Tracking Audit for Q1—I Need a Better Schedule Episode #78 of Deliberate Freelancer: Building Your Community as a Newish Freelancer, with Alicia Chantal New York Times article: “There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing”
REPLAY: #86: What I Wish for Your Freelance Business in 2021
38:54I’m replaying this January 2021 episode to hopefully motivate you, inspire you and encourage you to do some of these things if you haven’t already yet this year. The year is starting to wind down, incredibly enough, so let’s embrace these concepts and set up our businesses for success now. This episode might also be a good reminder of how to think like a business owner and how now to take time to improve your business. This episode goes through seven areas that I would love for you to improve upon, if you haven’t already. They are: 1. Embrace a business owner mindset This idea is what this podcast is based on. Think of yourself as a freelance business owner and all that that entails. Words matter, and the words you tell yourself and others can help to change your mindset. 2. Raise your rates The pandemic has been a hard year economically too, so raising rates for all clients might not be doable. But there are some clients who fared well, and it may be time to raise your rates. It’s certainly time to raise your rates for potential clients — they don’t know what your past rates were! Also, if you have a secret hourly rate — which helps you determine project rates and/or is the amount you aim to earn every hour you are working for clients — I encourage you to raise it by at least $25 an hour. And don't ask your client about raising your rates. Remember, you are a business owner and costs go up. So, you can send an email and say “I wanted to let you know that my rates are going up as of such and such a date. My new rate will be this.” 3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket It’s important to have anchor clients, but when you commit too much time to an anchor client or become too comfortable with that gig and that income, it can hurt you if you lose that client. Ideally, I would consider not having one client that is more than 35% of your income. When I talk about don’t put all your eggs in one basket, I also mean your services. This can mean your services and/or your industry. Do you need to expand your niche to have niches that are similar? Can you use your skills to add more services for clients? 4. Don’t compare yourself to others Sometimes you do this without even thinking about it. You look at others in your field, even friends of yours who are freelancers, and see their amazing careers or their clients or the big achievements they’ve reached. I can fall prey to this just like anyone else. We have to stop comparing ourselves to others. You are a unique individual, and your business is unique. You have different strengths and weaknesses and values and responsibilities and desires. First, social media. What social media platforms are you on often and how do they make you feel? Are you happy when you scroll through Instagram and see what people are doing and read motivational quotes? Or does it make you feel lazy or like a failure or that you need to do more? Maybe it is time to get off Instagram! This goes for all social media platforms. Take a critical look at how your viewing and interaction with these platforms make you feel. Another suggestion: Start a gratitude practice. Perhaps you want to start a gratitude journal to write down one to three simple things that you are thankful for that day. I embrace the word “savor” and try to remember to savor all the little things throughout the day. Another way to express gratitude in your life is to acknowledge and thank other people. You can still do that as a freelancer. You can let your direct client know if a staff member is really helpful on something. Complimenting and acknowledging people is like volunteering; it makes you feel good to make other people feel good. One more way to stop comparing yourself to others is to be alert for the word “should.” Anytime you say you “should” be doing something, catch yourself or have your partner or a friend call you out on it. “Should” often comes with shame and guilt. It makes you feel bad and does little to improve any situation. So stop shoulding yourself. 5. Set boundaries Boundaries tell you and those around you what is acceptable, appropriate human behavior. They vary from person to person. Knowing what your boundaries are and setting them is critical to building healthy, respectful relationships in your life. So, please check out episode #45 of Deliberate Freelancer for tips on setting boundaries. 6. Get ahold of your finances For many of us, 2020 blew up our financial goals and plans. Now that the dust has settled a bit, if you haven’t already, I highly encourage you in this first quarter of 2021 to get ahold of your finances. This could be a variety of things — it will be different for everyone, If you need help with your finances, I highly recommend episode #28 of Deliberate Freelancer, with my guest Pam Capalad. Pam is a certified financial planner and a whiz when it comes to this stuff. 7. Take a vacation or staycation Plan time off now! Some freelancers tend to be bad in general about taking time off. My argument is always: If I’m going to take only 2-3 weeks of vacation a year or less, when I’m my own boss, than why am I my own boss? I shouldn’t treat myself worse than an employer would. Freelancing means freedom. If you don’t schedule vacations, staycations and days off, they often won’t happen. Even if you can’t really go anywhere because of the pandemic, you can play a staycation or other days off. I want all of you to get into a regular habit of planning and taking vacations — and DO NOT check email or do or check in on client work. That’s not a vacation. It can be done. Remember, you’re your own boss. You tell your clients you’re going to be away. Depending on how regular the work is you may have to work ahead to get stuff done or hire a subcontractor to fill in. Or, take advantage of slow work times. You can also create working vacations, like I do in Indiana for two weeks most summers. The freedom to work anywhere gives you the flexibility to go places and keep in touch without having to completely log off work. Biz Bite: After/then habits The Bookshelf: “Behold the Dreamers” by Imbolo Mbue Resources Episode #1 of Deliberate Freelancer: Change Your Mindset: You Own a Freelance Business Episode #39 of Deliberate Freelancer: Raise Your Rates—Without Emotion Episode #23 of Deliberate Freelancer: Five Questions to Evaluate and Diversify Your Services Episode #45 of Deliberate Freelancer: You Need to Set Boundaries Episode #28 of Deliberate Freelancer: Take Charge of Your Finances, with Pamela Capalad https://tinyhabits.com/design/
#116: How to Create Case Studies to Land New Clients, with Emma Siemasko
34:20Today’s guest is Emma Siemasko, the founder of Stories By Us, a content marketing business. Emma, who lives in San Jose, California, also offers freelance writing coach and is co-host of the Freelance Writing Coach podcast. Emma has been a solopreneur for six years. She is an expert on writing case studies to promote our businesses. She created the DIY Case Study Kit and has created dozens of case studies and customer stories for tech companies and solopreneurs. Emma’s clients include Figma, Grammarly and Salesforce. A case study is “the story of a customer’s transformation because they used your product or services.” Case studies go beyond testimonials and LinkedIn recommendations. Case studies allow you to get more specific about what it was like to work with you, plus you can share results. Melanie thinks of case studies as being sprinkled around solopreneurs’ websites. But there are several ways you can use case studies. Case studies can be emailed as pdfs as part of your sales pitch or during onboarding. You can also pull out a quote from a case study and post it as a testimonial on your website. When choosing which clients to write case studies about, you may want to develop a case study for each one of the services you offer or each one of the niches/industries you cover. Your case study should tell a great story. This includes sharing your customer’s challenge, how you solved it and the results. The best case studies require getting a client’s permission and interviewing them about the relationship and project. Have a good set of questions written down. But if you feel uncomfortable or awkward doing that interview, you can outsource the interview part. Once you write the case study, send it to your client for review. Emma explains how to write a case study if you’re “only” writing an article or doing a straightforward project that doesn’t seem to lend itself to case studies at first—or you aren’t privy to metrics. Results don’t have to be metrics. Results can be how you made their job easier and what you were like to work with. Be creative in how you think about results. What was the value of working with you? Emma also talks about the nitty-gritty details: length, format, design. Biz Bite: Use minimal viable systems. The Bookshelf: “Paradise: One Town’s Struggle to Survive an American Wildfire” by Lizzie Johnson Resources: Emma’s Go-To Case Study Interview Questions Case study examples: The Core Centers How NFI Used WorkStep Retain to Improve Frontline Retention How Laura Got a 711% Return on Her Ad Spend How Kira Hug Helped Business By Design Drive Almost $500,000 in One Launch How Weebly Saved “a Million” Hours on Content Production and Achieved a 3X ROI Emma’s website, Stories By Us Emma on Twitter Emma on LinkedIn Freelance Writing Coach podcast Emma’s DIY Case Study Kit to purchase—use the Code PODCAST to get 20% off. Emma’s Case Study Email Templates to purchase