Posts Categorized: Self-employment

Surprise! Absolutely No One Has It All Figured Out.

I am lucky enough to count among my friends some of the smartest, most talented, most insanely capable women in All The Land.

These ladies have written New York Times best sellers. Their products have been featured in Vogue. They pull down Fortune 100 clients and earn multiple six figures. (#coolerbyassociation #ihopetheirsuccessistransferablebyosmosis)

And yet.

Here are some things I hear regularly while we’re noshing pastries or pawing through boutiques:
“I’ve really gotta get my ish together. I have no idea what I’m doing on Instagram.”
“I’ve had writers block for months. I don’t have any good ideas!”
“Every time I go into a client meeting I thinkIs this it? Will this be the time that they find out I don’t know what I’m doing?’” (said by a 10-year marketing veteran, BTW.)

When you spend hours each week reading blog posts about self-employment and social media and sales funnels, it’s very, very easy to believe that
a) everybody else has it figured out
b) you don’t
c) you’ll never catch up to those clever everything-figured-out people

But, dear readers, here’s the thing. Nobody has it all figured out + everybody who seems like they do was where you are right now at some point.

I’d also venture the guess that even the Figured Out People – those clever souls who’ve got passive income streams and webinars and autoresponder sets – they have their own moments of doubt. I’d imagine even Pat Flynn and Marie Forleo and Danielle LaPorte have the occasional moment of “WTF is Periscope and do I really need to be on it?”

I know I certainly have those thoughts! Don’t let this polished website fool you. I’ve started and abandoned a jillion projects. I’m a late adopter. I have no idea how to use Photoshop and I’m just now updating my three-year-old opt-ins. I USED A YAHOO EMAIL ADDRESS AS MY PROFESSIONAL CONTACT EMAIL UNTIL 2011.

But instead of allowing myself to fall down a spiral of “Do I really know what I’m doing?” and “Who am I to be giving people internet advice?” I’m choosing to adopt the mindset of the eternal learner and accept that there is no finish line in business.

There will never be a moment when I can close my laptop, cross my arms smugly and say “Welp! That’s it! I’ve finished the internet and I know how to do it. Time to go eat some cheesy bread!” There will always be new social media platforms, unknown readers, and fresh outlets. There will be new approaches to business and new ways to reach people.

I’m choosing to lean into the not-knowing. I’m choosing to see those moments not as self-doubt but as opportunities to learn more. I know that in those moments of not-knowing there are a million other accomplished, smart people having the exact same thoughts. We can all learn and fumble out of our not-knowing together.

Do you ever have moments of “Whaaaaaat am I doing?” or “Are you really going to put me in charge of this?” If you do, how do you get through them?

photo credit: death to the stock photo // cc

How To Ignore Emails Without Alienating Everyone

Friends, raise your hand if you live in your inbox.

(98% of the internet raises their hand. One person in the back is busy flicking through Instagram and eating a messy, sprinkle-covered donut so they don’t hear me, but they probably live in their inbox, too.)

It sounds melodramatic when I say that email is a complex, emotionally-charged issue - but hear me out.

Many of us gauge our success by how full that inbox is – how many client inquiries we get, how many requests for interviews we receive, how many sweet, ‘I loved your post!’ notes find their way to us. If the inbox is too empty, we feel unpopular.

But most of us are also compleeeeeetely overwhelmed. We subscribe to too many newsletters. We get CCed into ridiculous email chains about where to meet for happy hour. We’re asked questions that could so, so easily be googled. If the inbox is too full we panic, ignore everyone, and eat an entire bag of cheese curds while binge watching ‘Silicon Valley.’*

Unfortunately, most of us are used to same-day, within-a-few-hours email responses. I’m one of those over-eager a-holes who has propagated this, mostly in an effort to JUST HURRY UP AND EMPTY MY INBOX. Constantly checking and replying to email serves no one. It ruins your concentration and creates unrealistic expectations.

So what’s the solution?

1. You (and I) could grow some self-control** and limit ourselves to twice-a-day email check-ins, responding to email just once a day. If we were really smart, we’d do this after we’ve done our creative work for the day.

2. When we start working with a new client, vendor, or collaborator we could make them aware that we’re Once-a-day Email People. We can share our collaboration guidelines and gently teach them how to treat us.

3. We could create a witty, on-brand autoresponder that answers common questions, directs people towards commonly sought pieces of information or sets expectations for response time.

Alexandra Franzen’s 2013 autoresponder

Hello, friend …

Life is wild. Your inbox? Probably even wilder. (Mine, too.)

So: I’m trying a little email-experiment to create some breathing room in the midst of the madness.

I’ve rounded up the top 10 topics that most people email me about — and I’ve answered every single question, right here.

If your email falls under one of the top 10 topics, consider this note your official response. (Ta da! Happy trails.) 

If your email pertains to some other topic — or if you’re my mom, my literary agent, my publisher, in the media, an active client, or, like, the ghost of Oscar Wilde — you’ll get a separate response from me as speedily as humanly possible.

Thank you kindly. 

:: A

-  -  -  -  -  -  -

If you wrote to me because …

1. You’re interested in booking a 1-on-1 VELOCITY session with me.
Splendid. I’m currently booked up for the rest of 2013, but you can hop on my just-in-case waiting list to find out when the doors are swinging open, again. Drop your name + email address on this page.

2. You want to come to one of my Write Yourself Into Motion workshops.
YES! I’d love to have you. My 2013 workshop tour is sooooold out, but you can plop yourself on the just-in-case waiting list right here
. (You’ll also be first in line to register for 2014 ‘shops + events.)

3. You want me to participate in your online event / virtual mastermind / teleseminar.
I’m flattered. Right now, I’m strongly focused on non-virtual speaking gigs, so I’ll probably (politely) decline your invitation. You’ll hear from me, personally. And thank you.

4. You want me to teach at your live event / conference / retreat.

I’m honored. I’ll respond when I can. I love face-to-face shindigs.

5. You want to interview me for your magazine, podcast or blog.
How delightful! I’ll respond when I can (and my answer will probably be YES). In the meantime, you can scope out my favorite interview topics + grab my headshot and bio, over here.

6. You’re looking for a web designer (or virtual assistant, or illustrator, or personal shaman) and wonder who I’d recommend.
All of my favorite humans (and tools) are curated right here. (You can even take a detailed backstage tour of my business, over here.)

7. You have a question (about your life, your business, or your writing) and wonder what I think about it.
I love inquisitive + curious people, but I appreciate self-reliant people even more. 😉

I recommend using the almighty Google (and your own intuition) to answer your own question. Because you are so darn smart. And because I probably won’t send a personal response for a very long time (or maybe at all.)

8. You bought one of my digital products but never received a download link. (Or the link expired.)
Your download link was delivered to the email address associated with your PayPal account. Check that inbox, first.

Don’t see it? Check your spam box, too.

9. You’re doing amazing work in the world and wonder if I’ll help you promote it (with a tweet, a shout-out to my readers, a fireworks ceremony, etc.)
I’m so proud of you. But unless I’ve personally experienced your work, have collaborated with you in the past, or consider you a close + trusted friend, the answer is probably “no.” Thank you for understanding.

10. You just want to say “hello” and introduce yourself
I think that’s grand. I’ll respond when I can. (And if your note happens to include a sweet compliment or a nice story, I’ll put it in my Permanent Happy File. And keep it. Forever.

Keep reaching out to people you dig.

Rachel MacDonald’s autoresponder

Hi there, 

Lovely to hear from you. 

I’m currently spending significantly less time in my inbox — *however,* let me see if I can help you with your inquiry right now. 

Below are a handful of responses to the questions that frequently land here, that may just help: 

When are you running Bright-Eyed & Blog-Hearted again? I missed the
last enrollment, but MUST get on board (lemme in!)
Sad news: Enrollments are closed until 2016. 

Can I hire you as my coach?
I’m currently (gratefully) completely booked for 2015. 

I’ve created a new product. Can you please review it/ write me a testimonial?
Huge congrats on your new offering. I’ve had to significantly pull back on reviews and testimonials (but thank you so much for asking). May your launch be a smashing success. 

Can I guest blog for you? Can you guest blog for me? Can I interview you?
To laser-focus on my own writing, I’m not currently doing interviews and guest posts (and I don’t feature guest posts on my site.) Know that your request has been received with a smile and much gratitude. 

I work for brand/ advertising agency and want to feature an ad on your site/ talk about sponsored posts. 

My site is ad-free, and sponsored posts aren’t part of my editorial mix. 

I’d also love to point you in the direction of the two eBooks I wrote with my dear friend Tara Bliss — Spirited and the Spirited 2015 Companion — in which we explore a lot of the themes and big life stuff that we’ve learnt on our own journeys and as coaches.

If you’re a gorgeous coaching client of mine, you are my priority and I will be in touch very soon.

Thank you again for reaching out,   

Rach x

Jess Larsen’s auto responder

Hi there,

Thanks so much for your email — you rock, and I’m so glad you got in touch. I’ll make sure I get back to you as soon as I can, usually within the next two business days. 

In the meantime, here are the answers to some commonly asked questions:

 * What’s the correct way to use semi colons?

Damned if I know! No — jokes aside, someone asked me this the other day, and I think it’s something that a LOT of people struggle with in their writing. If you’ve been throwing these little guys into your work without *really* knowing what you’re doing, here’s a great explanation to get you on the right track (includes a picture of a gorilla in a party hat — you’re welcome!) -> 

* What’s your favourite word?

This month: ‘trollied’ and ‘tangential’. Extra brownie points if they’re in the same sentence. 

* I want to write a book. What’s the best way to get started?

Check this out -> 

* Do unicorns exist?

Yes. (Duh!) 

All love,

Connie Chapman’s autoresponder


Thank you for taking the time to get in touch. This is a little note to let you know your email has been received, but please allow 2-3 days for a response. 

In the meantime, perhaps some of this may be helpful…

+ Interested in working 1:1 with me?
I have now re-opened my coaching calendar for the second half of 2015 and I am taking bookings for new clients. 

Read more about my 1:1 Coaching Programs here.

Or email if you would like to book a complimentary 20 minute Discovery Session to explore which coaching option is best for you. 

+ Want to interview or feature me?
Thank you so much for thinking of me! These days I am dedicating less time to interviews and guest posts, but I am still interested to hear about your opportunity. I will be back in touch to let you know if I can be a part of it. 

+ Want some support?
I am unable to provide coaching guidance via email, as I reserve this level of support for my 1:1 clients. 

Instead, please feel free to;

1) Check out my blog which is jam-packed full of beautiful, life-changing wisdom and tips.

2) Join my signature 3 month online program The 90 Day Transformation Project.

3) ) Download a copy of my Guided Mediations For Inner Transformation Album to create more inner peace, balance and bliss.

4) Tune into an episode of Awaken Radio for some soul-stirring conversation. 

Finally, I love connecting on social media so come and hangout with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

If you are one of my 1:1 clients, you are my priority and I will back in touch with you asap.

With love,
Connie x


Amazing, right?

If I emailed any of these ladies, I’d know when or if to expect a response and I’d know more about their work.

When Alex and I were emailing back and forth about the art of auto responding she shared her clever, clever formula:

- a brief description of what you’re doing right now, where you are, why this auto-responder is turned on.

- some expectation setting: “you can expect to hear back from me by…” or “I generally respond to emails within xx days…” or “I get back from my trip on DATE, and I’ll be digging into my emails then…”

- at least three delightful things that the email sender can do while they are waiting for a personal response.

- cool song and/or video.

One enormous side note about using auto responders:

If you regularly correspond with someone – if they’re your client, your close friend, a vendor, or you’re in the middle of an important email exchange – turn the autoresponder off for them. It can feel impersonal and unprofessional to receive an auto responder from someone you email every day.

Here’s how to turn off your autoresponder for specific people in Outlook and here are instruction for Gmail.

How do you feel about auto responders? Helpful for managing expectations or annoying and impersonal? If you know of anyone else who has a particularly good auto responder, leave links in the comments!

* Or is that just me?
** If you know how to do this, please teach me

photo by Death To The Stock Photo // cc

12 of the best, most helpful articles about blogging/business/creativity

1761023_8202819_pmprint by heymonster

I found the best things on the internet for you! Here they are!

Somewhat related to blogging: yesterday I wrote about my decision to choose my life over a book deal. It was, as I’m sure you can imagine, a pretty tough decision.

30% of Erika’s traffic comes from Pinterest. This 4,000-word post shares everything she knows!

3 options if you’re bad at what you love.

Want to build a business that fits your lifestyle? Here’s how.

Yessss! Write your social media updates in batches and pre-schedule them!

Do you get mental fatigue? I always referred to this as ‘psychic weight’ but I loved this article that
a) validates that it exists
b) shows us how to deal with it
Even some of the common ways in which we pass the time when we are taking a break—presumably for the purpose of refreshing our minds—probably fatigue us even more and should be avoided if they occur just before we have to be on top of our game. For example, if you often turn on the news or check out a news website that reports on the latest tragedy or an upsetting political development, it can require a good deal of self-control to manage a knee-jerk reaction to these kinds of stories. So avoid these activities before you have to be at your best.

I’ve been using the 1-3-5 method for my to-do list and it’s sooooo much more sane and sustainable than my old 20-bullet point lists.

Have you heard of The Noun Project? Thousands of icons you can use for anything?

When I create new services I usually just email previous clients and say “Hey! I’m doing this thing now!” (super profesh, Von Bargen.) But did you know you can ‘launch’ services - even if they’re available all year round? Maggie Patterson talks about how she did it here.

Clever, clever, clever. How to hide an image in a WordPress post.

Creating healthy business boundaries can be hard. Norma has a five-step process that makes it easier.

Micromanagers are Le Worst (I know because I can be one). But with a bit of finesse you can manage your micromanager.

If you read or wrote anything super helpful to bloggers or business owners, leave your link in the comments!

The One Time It’s Actually GOOD To Compare Yourself To Others

Friends, permit me to begin this post with a personal anecdote followed by a (potentially) heavy-handed business metaphor.

A few years ago, I decided to undertake the white girl’s right of passage: the novelty 5k. Yes, like everyone else in your Facebook feed, I signed up for some color run/mud run/well-intentioned fundraiser run and then proceeded to question that decision.

But like the try-hard that I am, I downloaded a Couch-to-5k app and proceeded to train my ass off. I bought cute pink sneakers and started doing that walk/run interval thing that every training program suggests.

Walk run walk run walk run run run

Despite what seemed like a fairly sane training program, I found myself incredibly winded and exhausted. “Maybe I’m even less fit than I realized? Do I have lungs the size of almonds?”

I kept training and I kept feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. On a whim, I invited a veteran runner friend to join me on a training run; at least I’ll have a companion and witness to my misery, I reasoned.

When my friend met me, I explained my interval training program and we took off at a brisk walk. When my C25K app beeped, I broke into a what I thought was a jog. I did what I thought I was supposed to be doing, going at a pace I  thought I should be going.

“Whaaaaat are you dooooing?!” my friend yelled from 10 feet behind me. “Why in the name of Nike are you sprinting right now?”

But I didn’t know I was sprinting.
I thought I was ‘jogging.’

I thought I’d set realistic expectations for myself, when - in fact - they were ridiculous and unsustainable. And I didn’t realize that until I showed my friend what I was doing.

The goals we make for our businesses and online lives are very frequently private. They’re often based on what we want for ourselves - more Instagram followers, more clients, more traffic, more money. They’re not always based on what’s sane, sustainable, or realistic.  We might not even know we’re setting ourselves up for stress and heartbreak because we’re so busy playing our cards next to our chest.

The moral of this story, dear reader, is that we might be sprinting when we should be jogging. We might be expecting to land a book deal when a self-published ebook that earns $1,000 might be more realistic. We won’t know the difference unless we open up to our friends and peers about what we’re trying to do and where we’re trying to go.

Let’s commit to building honest, open friendships with our peers so we can get the truthful feedback we need. Let’s have conversations include questions like “Do you think that’s realistic?” and “How long did it take you?” and “Am I going to hate my life if I do this?”

And in the spirit of healthy, sane-making comparisons, let me tell you:
* It took me eight VAs, two years, Susan Drumm, and Trello to figure how to manage someone
* I’ve been writing professionally for 15 years and some blog posts still take me foreeeeever
* Sometimes it takes me 45 minutes to find and format the right photo for a blog post
* I run my blog posts through Grammarly, I proofread them backward, I print them out and edit them by hand and typos still sneak through

Sometimes a little intelligent comparison can be a good thing.

Tell me! Has comparison ever helped you and your business? I’d love to hear your story in the comments!

photo by Death To The Stock Photo // cc

12 Surefire Ways To Master Business-Life Balance

This guest post comes to us via Jess Brown, a virtual assistant and health coach who helps other entrepreneurs and self-employed types find time for balance and health in their busy lives. You can get her free book ‘The Virtual Assistant’s Guide to Creating the Perfect Work-Life Balance’ here or follow along on Facebook.

work life balance
Are you tired of feeling like your business is creeping into all parts of your life? You started your business so you could live your life your way. But instead of having that work life balance you crave every waking minute is filled with email, client issues, and creating your next product. It doesn’t have to be that way…

Here are 12 tips to give your well-being and your business a boost:

1. Get dressed
I will be the first to admit that yoga pants and pajamas are super comfy and my outfit of choice. But there is something about putting on real clothes with buttons, zippers and all that puts your brain in the right mindset to really get stuff done. Get dressed every day. It will make a huge difference when you actually feel like you’re in a real work environment.

2. Schedule family time first
Grab a blank calendar and mark it up with your family activities and obligations. When you start to schedule this way, your life won’t revolve around your business. As you’re filling out your calendar, be honest with yourself about how long each task actually takes. If you need to leave the house, for example, don’t forget to factor in drive time to get to your destination.

3. Say goodbye to perfectionism  
This is where you’ll have to give yourself a break. So what if your apartment isn’t immaculate and that blog post you wrote last week isn’t the “best” it could be. If you’re someone who can’t stop thinking about these things, you could try a yoga class or go for a brisk walk or run.

4. Announce your “working hours”
Balancing business time with family time isn’t easy. Giving your full attention to both sides of the spectrum can be difficult if you have tons of distractions that pop up throughout the day. If you have blocks of time to work on your business and your family knows this, you’ll not only be more focused and productive, but you’ll feel a lot less stress because your family will come to know and expect that you’ll be working during certain hours. That means when it’s family time, you won’t have to worry about business. All business matters are dealt with during your regular “working hours.”

5. Learn to unplug from your business
When you’re the one in charge, it’s next to impossible to completely unplug, but there are ways to get some balance during your off-time. One idea to help is if you have people helping email address for important “after-hours” matters that need your immediate attention. Your people will know how to get a hold of you and you don’t have to check your regular email and social media constantly.

6. Expect the unexpected
Let’s face it, stuff happens. When you’re scheduling your day, it’s smart to book an hour to “unexpected” things that come up. This block of time is to take care of unexpected interruptions or events that happen. If nothing unexpected happens that day, great! You just gained an hour you can do whatever you want with.

7. Get laser focused
When it’s time to work, turn off your phone, close your email and social media and let the people in your life know not to interrupt unless it’s an emergency. Part of being balanced is using your time efficiently and minimizing distractions whenever possible.

8. Break it down
Make the most of your time and get more done by breaking your tasks into smaller chunks. Not having a plan for your work session usually results in wasted time and little progress. Get focused. Use 15 minutes to return client emails, 20 for social media engagement and 40 to write a draft for your next blog post, etc.9. Harness the power of no

If you’re available to your clients 24/7, it’s a clear sign you have a hard time saying, “no.” If you let that continue, over time it leads to bad things. Not only are you going to burn out, but you very well could start resenting your clients and your work. If you tend to say “yes” without thinking, don’t answer immediately. Get back to the person later and then you can decide if it’s a task you want to do or not. If you end up saying “no”, don’t justify or make excuses.

10. Take care of you
When you’re creating your schedule, don’t forget to pencil in free time for yourself. Book an appointment once a week to take a long bath and a glass of wine. Block out time to go to the gym. Schedule a date night with your partner. Don’t forget to give yourself enough time to get a good night’s sleep every day. Skimping on sleep is bad for your health, but also adversely affects the quality of your work and productivity.

11. Have a strong support system
Tell your friends, family, colleagues and clients you’re trying to balance work and life. Tell them about your plan and ask them to respect it.

12. Take baby steps and work up
Changing things in your life that have become habits is no easy feat. If your goal is to have dinner with your family every night, start with one dinner per week. Don’t try to change too much too soon. Just like any new routine, it’s going to take the time to adjust and build new habits.

So how do you find balance in your business? Do you have something different than what I’ve listed? Tell us in the comments!

P.S. How to juggle a day job + a blog + a freelance career + a life

4 Ways To Be A Boss In Work And Life

This guest post comes to us via Kathleen Shannon. Kathleen just launched a podcast with her creative comrade Emily Thompson called Being Boss. We talk about doing the work, being boss in work and life release, creative collaboration, what to do when you’re freaking out about money, and how to embrace your personal brand.  You can find more, including their secret episode on cultivating confidence, at or subscribe on iTunes

be a boss

When I first started working for myself as a freelance graphic designer I knew I wanted to be in control of my days and make money being creative. But I had no idea how to be my own boss and have learned a lot along the way. Today I own a booming business helping other creative entrepreneurs not only get their vision on paper but create a brand that really feels like them. Along the way, I learned that there is no such thing as a work/life balance for creative entrepreneurs – it’s more like a work/life blend. (And most of us like it that way.) But nobody teaches you how to navigate those blurry lines in art school and get paid to do it.

So today I’d like to share with you 4 ways for being boss in work and life:


I was never great at sports, but I always did best when I was feeling confident and unafraid of breaking something. My body always seemed to move a little faster when my mind was in the right headspace. Being your own boss is the same way – when you’re in your right mind the rest will follow. I get in the right mindset by reading memoirs from other brave creative women like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, listening to good podcasts, and adopting positive mantras like “I’m wildly productive and living the dream” (which is especially helpful when I’m feeling “crazy busy”.)


One of the best parts about working for yourself is total freedom to work in your pajamas and eat cereal for lunch at 3PM. But total freedom can backfire and leave you feeling scattered and unfocused. I like to start my day with a routine of waking up at 6:15AM, eating the same breakfast every morning (overnight steel cut oats with two eggs whisked in), and knocking out three pages of free-form writing. I also like to schedule everything, including my workouts, into my Google calendar. Find consistency and ritual in your days by adopting little habits and routines where you can; it will make you feel professional but on your own terms.


The hardest part about being your own boss is knowing when to leave work – because work is always with you, especially if you love what you do. Setting healthy boundaries is essential to avoid turning into a workaholic and burning out. The best way to set some boundaries is to set work hours (even if it’s unconventional hours) and to have a defined office space or nook if you work from home.


One of the biggest struggles I hear from creative entrepreneurs, especially those who are going from a day job to build their own dream job, is feeling isolated and alone. Even introverts need a little creative collaboration (or simply a vent session) from time-to-time. Sometimes when I’m feeling lonely I’ll get dressed and work from a coffee shop – I usually always end up seeing a friend, making new acquaintances (and sometimes clients!) or at the very least appreciate a change in scenery. If you live on an island (or in the middle of nowhere) and can’t meet up with creative peers check out online resources like a Facebook group or online mastermind dedicated to connecting creatives with each other. Just because you’re your own boss doesn’t mean you have to go it alone!

Are you your own boss? Or trying to be? Tell us how you manage in the comments!

P.S. How To (Nicely) Set Boundaries With Your Clients + My ‘Collaboration Guidelines’