My Freelance Life Blog

Entrepreneurs: Stop Guest Posting For Free

guest blogging

Dearest Entrepreneur:

Move your hands away from the keyboard. Before you send out your next guest blog post, you should read this.

Guest blogging is still a great way to get your name out there and expand your audience, especially when you’re a new blogger or business owner.

But here’s the problem: the sites you’re guest posting for may not have a large or active audience. You may be giving away awesome content for nothing.

And, honestly, who wants to write for free?

When you agree to write or exchange guest posts, are you really getting a return on investment – subscribers, leads or traffic? If not, then don’t do it unless you’re also getting paid.

Remember your goals. My blogging goals include active commenting on the post or on social media and traffic and leads back to my site.

I’ve written a free e-book on (*ta da*) on how to pitch blogs and publications that will pay you for your expertise. The techniques freelance writers use every day to get paid gigs can work for entrepreneurs.

No longer contributing to other sites hasn’t been an easy decision. Freelance writers are close, and we always want to help each other out as much as possible.

And also (*deep breath*) I’m no longer contributing to multiple “expert” posts for free either. I’ve really enjoyed it, but it’s becoming too frequent, and I’ve noticed I don’t get a lot out of it other than some shares.

This is why I’ve never had guest posts on my site. I want to pay writers for their time, effort and brain space. What they’re doing is essentially being a subcontractor for me.

In place of my words, I’m using theirs. And I’m certainly not going to subcontract for free.

So before you agree to a guest post, try comparing the rankings of that site with yours and other ones that interest you. I like the tool  on Similar Web, where you can add competitor sites.

Do this. Even if you think you’re not “good enough” yet. I thought I wasn’t good enough to get paid to write about writing. After all, so many people out there do it better than me!

Then I remembered my personal writing experience, education and expertise and decided it was time to start getting paid.

Try my guide: it includes actual e-mails I’ve sent to editors for paid writing gigs . You’ll see how I made my first $1,000 writing for other publications.

The guide breaks each of them down and explains why they worked. Take a look at the tips, and in a couple of weeks I’ll ask if you’ve implemented them and pitched a paying blog or publication.

If you need help finding paid gigs, e-mail me after you’ve downloaded and read the guide, and I will direct you to sites freelance writers use.

Ready to take my challenge?



If you’ve read all the way through, and you already have my guide, thank you! I’m giving away a “Short or Sweet” VA package. That’s a 1-hour consult and action plan about your writing, marketing or social media or a piece of written content up to 600 words! This is normally $150, so I’m super excited.

If you’re already subscribed to my blog updates, comment below to enter the contest. It ends Thursday, March 24th and I’ll select a winner on Friday, March 25th!

Share if you think someone could benefit from this.

Stop Hating HuffPo & Focus On Your Work

huffington post doesn't pay so what

*deep breaths*

I am a Huffington Post blogger. And I am proud of it.

*pauses to check MailChimp for unsubscribes*

Recently, Huffington Post brass said they’re proud to have unpaid writers, because they know their work is authentic.

I don’t agree with the reasoning behind this. A company leader should never use the words “proud” and “unpaid” in the same context.

But forget about that for now. Let’s address the (apparently invisible) blue and white elephant in the room.

I don’t just publish for free on the Huffington Post. (And when I do, it’s mostly work that’s republished from here and my personal blog.)

I’ve also posted content on LinkedIn’s publishing platform.

*dun dun duunnnnn*

And (gasp!) LinkedIn makes money from my work. That’s right: a company posting $780 million in revenue can use my work and never pay me.

So why are we hating on Huffington Post, a company that broke even last year with $146 million in revenue?

And, most importantly, why aren’t we this angry about being paid crap for companies who force writers, virtual assistants and other creatives to churn out work just to survive?

What I publish on Huffington Post is quality work, because I’m a good writer. There may be a lot of bloggers for HuffPo who aren’t that great, and that’s too bad.

I do agree that poor quality work hurts the writing community, because it devalues our worth to potential clients.  (Although many bloggers put so much work into their content for HuffPo, they ended up suing the company.)

What say you about some of the content agencies? Google has changed its search algorithm to specifically punish the unadulterated crap that gets put out there as “content.”

And may I say once more, most of what I publish on Huffington Post is not original work and, like LinkedIn, I still own the work and can publish it elsewhere.

The original pieces I did weren’t very difficult. So HuffPo is a blogging platform that happens to have a large audience.

What’s the difference between it and LinkedIn?

“Well, *huff*, they are a media company, so they should be paying its journalists” you say. (See what I did there?)

Most of the top news stories and programming in HuffPo are written by paid employees. And there’s plenty of sites who offer unpaid blogging as a way for people to get experience and join a community.

Please don’t mistake this for me “settling” for unpaid work. When I write, it’s for a purpose and my end goal is to make money. I don’t get paid for blogging here, but I do it, because I enjoy sharing my opinions and expertise in hopes of attracting clients.

Writing is my job. Another part of my job is encouraging entrepreneurs to seek out paid guest blogging gigs first. That’s the intent of my ebook “4Qs to 1K.”

And posting blogs on Huffington Post is in no way affecting your income. I am not responsible for whether or not your work is paying your bills. But if you choose to write crap for pennies, well, that’s on you.

I do it, because I enjoy it. I do it, because it’s not always easy to be accepted as a blogger there (unlike LinkedIn).

My work is vetted and one time, the vetting process with medical experts was taking so long (it was about the affects of alcohol with anti-depressants) that I ended up pulling it out of the queue and placing it on my blog.

So, no, we aren’t allowed to just post whatever we want (unlike LinkedIn).

I thought the online writing community was one of fellowship and encouragement. Why am I being shamed for doing what I love?

I have a friend who creates beautiful paintings and even does art shows, but she’s not selling her work. Am I supposed to tell her that what she’s doing is horrible and hurting other artists?

Of course not. So I guess I’ll just take the hate.

Some of my fellow writers aren’t proud of me, but my friends and family are.

And the many people who share in my struggle with anxiety and depression certainly appreciated what I wrote – since that was the first thing I placed on Huffington Post after Robin Williams’ suicide.

There are recent, major issues I have with LinkedIn that I can’t address quite yet (still an unresolved customer support ticket). Facebook is offering shared revenue when they reveal its platform. Maybe I’ll head there.

I’m definitely going to focus on publishing content on Huffington Post and move away from the LinkedIn platform.

That’s right. Because of my customer service issue and all of this vitriolic nonsense I intend to publish even more for HuffPo.

Sorry. Your intention to shame isn’t working.

Let’s hear from you. Do you hate HuffPo because of those comments? Or do you actually enjoy reading or writing for the platform? Where else do you publish your work? 

Three Steps To Becoming a Forgettable Blogger


On your to-do list: Nominate my blog as one of your favorites in the Positive Writer’s best blogs of 2016! (Update 2/4/16: Even with three nods, I didn’t win. So this makes this post even more important.)

Here’s why I’m (finally!) asking:

For the past few days, I’ve been anxiously checking my email, awaiting the congrats for being on The Write’s top writing blogs for 2016, but that email never came.

When I saw the winners’ post pop up today, I literally felt my stomach flop.

Not winning an award doesn’t invalidate my blog, my win last year and its impact on my readers. Plus, I just picked up another honor from Feedspot.

My audience is tiny, but they enjoy, learn and relate to what I say.

That’s my only purpose for writing. But a part of me worries that not winning means I’m not fulfilling my purpose.

Last year I wrote what it takes to win an award. So here’s how not to win an award (read: not be memorable).

1) Don’t make the ask. Several of the award-winning sites reminded their readers of the contest and to go vote.

I didn’t do that, because last year I won without a nomination. Besides, I had nominated myself and my buddy Lauren Tharp (of the award-winning Little Zotz Writing) gave me a nod as well.

So I settled. And you never settle if you want to win.

And now things have changed. I’m upping my game and will ask for your vote. It is an election year after all!

2) Don’t believe in your work. So I was over confident, but at the same time there was a lot of self-doubt.

I never believed I deserved the award to begin with.

You can’t have those doubts. And if you do, go back and remember other people do believe in you.

3) Don’t plan ahead and make needed changes for your readership. So because of the first two issues above, I didn’t make the tweaks I needed to win again.

Namely that my blog is bigger than “my” freelance life.” When I was looking for a domain, I really wanted “The Freelance Life,” but it was unavailable. I now have, which redirects to my home page.

But the blog’s goal is to relate to other freelancers and small business owners, plus use my posts as a portfolio for my freelance blogging. This was especially important since I’m also a virtual assistant, and needed to discuss VA issues on the blog.

This includes posts about more than just freelancing, but best business practices, social media, blogging etc.

There was no editorial calendar. There was a muddled focus on the reader that couldn’t be defined. You don’t win awards that way.

Because of constant personal turmoil, I’ve had something of writers’ block. My 2015 posts didn’t have the same sort of oomph that previous posts had.

So what now?

Yes, I’ll mope a bit and beat myself up for not doing as well. I guess I deserve that. For maybe like 24 hours.

If I want the traffic and notoriety associated with winning the award, I need to make plans to win.

Plus, I have lost a battle in the constant war against impostor syndrome. This coming December, I’ll definitely make a campaign to be nominated.

As I mentioned last month, my goal is not to write to you in hopes you’ll buy from me. I know my blog audience doesn’t include my clients.

But this year, I do want to make the posts even more useful to you. I’d like to see less “I” in my posts and more “you.”

I want to be the blogger you turn to when you want something fresh and personal about the business of freelancing. How can I make this blog better? What do you want to read about in 2016?

“Freelance Coach” Title Ain’t Required To Be a Big Deal

Freelance Writing Coach Title Not Needed

My Facebook is filled with sponsored posts from successful entrepreneurs who’ve made thousands by educating others on their topic of choice (and also have these incredible head shots).

Sometimes I joke about people who “coach on how to become a coach,” but many of these folks are whipsmart business people who bring value to followers every day. Most of these people tend to reject the word “coach” as part of their job titles.

Let’s get real here: I’m never going to be one of those people. You may not be that type either. And that’s perfectly fine.

When folks ask me about freelancing or writing tips, I talk about how I got started. I even did a massive multi-part blog post about it.

But I like bragging about other people – a mentor, a friend. Someone who’s been in the biz longer or who are kick-butt guides in business, writing or freelancing.

Tons of fabulous content and courses on how to become a freelancer (particularly freelance writing) is already out there. I’m not going to add to what’s already an overwhelmingly massive bucket load of tips.

You may be thinking, “Well, *psh* why not? You blog about freelancing all the time! Why not make a course or do consultations?”

It’s true: I can’t stop talking about this stuff. Whenever I get an email asking for advice or a quote for a blog post or book, I’m deeply flattered. There’s just one thing:

Folks out there are way better at this than me.

Don’t Call Me “Coach”

This isn’t me downing myself or succumbing to impostor syndrome. I’m a firm believer in bringing my own voice to the freelancing biz.

I love writing about blogging, social media, working from home and all that fun stuff. But if you ask me the best way to get started, I’ll talk about the people whose advice has guided me for the past several years.

I’m just not a freelancing coach.

Working from home can be lonely. My need for online colleagues, plus my miserly ways of building a business has paid off.

Because I craved so much free information and advice from different people about starting a business and being a freelance writer, I’ve gotten to know some incredible people.

If I can get the info out there for next to nothing, why should I force you to download yet another course about how to make it as a freelancer or charge you for personal coaching?

Are there people out there throwing money at me for my wisdom? Well, no.

futurama meme

This Futurama meme is a favorite of mine.

Don’t You Forget About Me

This has become an inner struggle, because I know consulting is a great way to make money. Plus, I’ve noticed my infrequent posts tend to make MFL a bit forgettable at times.

I’d love to be one of the first blogs you think of when it comes to freelancing. But I’d rather just give you the info, and if there’s a course or book that’s fabulous enough to pick up, I’ll direct you to it.

The “secret” to having a successful business is learning that it’s not all about you. About making a difference while making money. (Tweet that goodness!)

So instead of creating e-courses or charging you for my advice, I’m going to give it to you. And often you’ll be hearing the sage advice of someone else.

There it is. That’s how to give back – recommending others.

I’m that strange sales gal at the department store who tells you to go to next door to a competitor for a better deal on jeans.

Besides, I’m working to build my speaking cred, so I’m always available for presentations or workshops for nitty-gritty teaching. Plus, I’m working on a book about being a successful entrepreneur with anxiety.

Don’t Stop Giving

In 2016, expect a couple of new things, especially if you get my blog updates via e-mail.

Some possible additions: roundups of my favorite blog posts or articles I’ve read or an epic post/new opt-in list of the resources and people who’ve made My Freelance Life the little blog that could.

Am I forgetting something? What can I do at MFL to serve you more? What topics will get you talking and sharing?

Things are always crazy this time of year, so I appreciate you as always for reading and commenting.

Another Anxiety Self-Help Book? Yup. And I’m Going to Write It.

Another Anxiety Self-Help Book-

My cell phone with the bulky, pink cover was shaking a little in my hand. I was staring at my calendar app and crying.

I was 30 minutes late for a potential client consultation. It was someone I had connected with recently, and I was crazy excited to work with him.

I had woken up really early, went back to sleep a few hours later and overslept. I was in the middle of having a sinus infection, but the tears came any way.

Both the apology text, voicemail and e-mail went unanswered.

I blew it.

This has only happened maybe one other time, but I was completely devastated. My husband and online friends (yes, I posted my woes on Facebook and in a freelance writer’s accountability group) comforted me.

“If it was meant to happen, it would happen. Don’t worry about it. His loss.”

I was upset about a potential client consultation as though some guy had just dumped me.

Maybe a few of you would understand. I was sick and emotional and exhausted.

But the deeper reason behind my meltdown was pretty simple: I let my anxiety get the best of me.

The life of a freelancer (and really any one who owns a business) is full of “No”s. Rejection is so commonplace, you come to expect it. That’s what I tried to do in this case, but I had failed because of my generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

I planned (and obsessed over) the call for weeks and now I had messed up. He was probably angry and never wanted to work with me, because I couldn’t even show up to an appointment.

You see where this is going.

A couple of days later, he replies. He was sorry that I wasn’t feeling well and to not worry about missing the call. We can reschedule at another time.

And that was it.

The response I should have been expecting was the last one I thought would happen. I assumed the worst possible scenario.

Instead of crying and moaning about this one potential client, I could have been doing any number of things: working on other client work, digging around for a similar client to pitch, or simply (oh, yes) wait for a response.

You know, like a normal person.

Situations like that and a chat with one of my favorite bloggers, Jenny Lawson, who suffers from depression and severe anxiety, prompted me to work on a book about entrepreneurs with anxiety. I’d like to focus on people who have been medically diagnosed or may be on medication. But I think on the wrong day, any one would have reacted like me.

Although I joke about it being “another self-help” book, I have only found maybe one that specifically focuses on anxiety with small business owners/freelancers.

So far, it’s ramblings about my day – the things I think about, how I process every element of my business. I’m probably going to structure it as such – start from morning to evening.

I’ll be chatting with therapists, psychiatrists and the like about proper coping mechanisms. Maybe there will be a notes section to add your thoughts.

I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from folks, but it’s about time I put it right here on the blog for everyone to see. You know, accountability and all that.

Because I have an unhealthy obsession of being the next J.K. Rowling, I can’t give a hard release date. I’d like for it to be absolutely perfect before sending it out. Plus, I know I have a platform to bulk up if I actually want to sell more than a few copies. But then again, that’s probably just my anxiety talking.

I’ll be sharing others’ stories of how they manage their anxiety and run a successful business. If sharing your story is something you’re interested in, or you just want to follow me in my book-writing journey, sign up for e-mail updates, if you aren’t already on my list.

You’ll also be the first to know about a new blog post and get my book on how I used four writing pitches to get my first $1,000 in my business. 

If all goes well, I will try to get to the editor searching stage in second or third quarter of 2016.  (Yikes, writing that down makes it sound like it’s right around the corner.)

What would you like to read in a book about entrepreneurs with anxiety? I’m open to pretty much anything.

13 Lessons on Business & Blogging After 3 Years

blogging and business lessons

This was a rough year (so be prepared for an extra dose of sarcasm in this post). I made less money freelancing because I took a crummy full time job, had less web traffic and even had an email blast with an affiliate link that NO ONE clicked on.

But, on a positive note, hooray! It’s my third year blog-aversary! Here are some lessons on business and blogging to remember.

1 – Pat yourself on the back, even when no one else has first. Ask for that referral. Nominate yourself for that award. The only way to overcome impostor syndrome is to keep succeeding.

2 – Don’t stress yourself out to get to inbox zero. Organize your emails into folders and periodically run through and delete. When you don’t have a great long-term memory, sometimes you do need those old emails.

3 – It’s okay to be digitally tethered when you can’t get out of bed. This is especially true if you suffer from anxiety or depression. Just be extra diligent avoiding mistakes (and find a way to deal with the snoring, if you have a bed buddy).

4 – Find a way to turn your small business into your dream full-time career you can control. Kick out the clients and the work that you hate. Drop the empty and unfulfilling day jobs.

5 – Not everyone hates you. When you fail, it may feel that way. If you’ve already developed a team or an audience, remember they’re rooting for you.

6 – Tenacity is awesome except for when you need to catch up with a TV show on Netflix. Then it’s very, very bad.

7 – Naps.

8 – Some days, you may have to throw your pre-planned schedule out the window. Except for breakfast, because it’s way important.

No, I’m not being cliche or facetious. Eat. No, coffee doesn’t count, and you really should eat before you drink. (In fact, maybe you should skip the coffee – YES I SAID IT.)

9 – Everything requires a recovery day. Long trips. Horrible interviews. Overnight gaming/date night. Sometimes you need extra time to make up for all of the crazy.

10 – If you can’t let go of grudges or your “enemies,” at least make up for it by being extra kind and grateful to people you meet and the ones you already care about. Hopefully, in time you can let the garbage go.

11 – Don’t just add a buffer day when communicating with someone, especially a potential client, via email. Add a buffer week. For some reason people don’t have a crippling addiction to email like you.

12 – Small victories are everything. Write each and every one down. You took a shower today? GO YOU.

13 – If you can’t be yourself, don’t expect people to listen or connect. Don’t be fake. Unless you’re a jerk. If you’re a jerk, just be quiet.

What are some lessons you’ve learned over the past year?  Spill – I want to hear the good, bad and the ugly.

Also, if you haven’t joined the Freelance Writers Den, it’s the business. It’s literally the only affiliate link I use, because it’s *that* good. They are usually only open for a few days, so if you catch this blog post late, you can get on their waiting list.

On How Anxiety Saps Your Business and Leads to Failure

having anxiety means business failure

Your income, your client engagement or mailing list has flatlined. Work feels stale and routine. Why aren’t you growing?

You may have all of the external reasons figured out: ineffective marketing, outdated processes or lack of referrals. Maybe you already know some internal reasons: you’re a perfectionist, you feel like an impostor or you’re drained from life circumstances.

But let’s dig a bit deeper into your instincts and thoughts. And I’ll show you how having a mental illness like anxiety can eat away at your business (and your life).

How often do you feel slighted, even in the tiniest way? Do these questions sound familiar?

  • “Well, how come no one liked this post?”
  • “That person had the same idea as me, and he got a response and I didn’t.”
  • “Why is my question being ignored in this group?”
  • “Why wasn’t I invited to that event?”

These are normal thoughts, but here’s the problem. When you have anxiety or I’ll just call a “wild imagination” (better?) your brain instantly answers the question with every miserable answer there is.

  • No one liked the post because you’re dumb and uninteresting.
  • Your idea wasn’t the same. It was clearly worse and that’s why his got chosen over yours.
  • No one answered your questions because you sound like an idiot.
  • You weren’t invited to that event because no one likes you or remember that time you sighed heavily in front of your friend because you were extra tired that day? Maybe she’s mad at you, because she thinks you’re bored with her.

All of the above could be true. Or irrational bull.

When I feel stupid, uninteresting or unlikable, the path I’ve outlined for myself often focuses on self-hatred and not solutions.

Time truly is money when you own a business.  The time you’ve spent ruminating would have been better spent on a business-building activity or self-care.

So now what? First, try not to beat yourself up too much. Even if you have been diagnosed anxiety you’re still not alone, you’re not less of a person because you succumbed to negative thinking. In fact, your thoughts confirm you are human. (Congratulations! You’ve proven you’re not a cyborg! Celebrate!)

Go ahead – allow the depressing answers to come through. Your brain is powerful. You can’t stop them from popping up. And have you ever noticed the more you try not to think of something you think of it anyway?

When you can, start writing down both the imagined and real answers to those questions. This is a legit technique that works in and outside your business. I wish I could say I made it up, but it’s actually derived from cognitive behavioral therapy to overcome catastrophizing. (Which totally doesn’t sound like a word, but apparently it is!)

  • Maybe no one liked the post because I didn’t share it in the right places.
  • Maybe my idea was great, but they simply resonated more with his idea (for reasons that you’ll never know or understand, so why try to figure it out?)
  • Maybe no one answered your question because it was overlooked or didn’t have enough details.
  • Maybe you weren’t invited to that event because they forgot.

(Of course, my lovely brain takes it a step further – “They forgot? How could they forget me? Maybe I’m not memorable enough?” *brain implodes*)

Use your notes as a journal or create goals based on the more rational answers. Turn it into a blog post (voila!). Consider this a way of evaluating your true worth. We do this similar process with our business when we create pricing anyway, right?

Never value your business more than yourself.

Even if you work with a team, the success or failure of your business depends on you. Not trying to freak you out, but sometimes we forget that.

Your thoughts (and subsequent behavior) directly affect your dollars and cents. Talk to a business coach. This will be a key part of changing your business mindset. And it works!

You know you’re not supposed to focus on rejection. You know equating Facebook likes with personal worth is meaningless.

Emotions and thoughts without action become weights. They end up sinking your life and business and morph into envy, resentment or depression.

Combating anxiety sometimes feels like a fruitless battle. But you could also think of it in another way – how cool is your brain? The fact that we can come up with irrational scenarios is still a sign that the mind is powerful and you’re intelligent and creative.

I’ll be working my way through more topics related to anxiety to not only give me ideas for my book (yes, more on that later), but also as a way of self-care. I’ve totally mastered turning personal circumstances into blog posts hah!

Even if you’ve never been diagnosed with anxiety or a mental illness, how have your thoughts been a help or a hindrance to your business? Let’s talk about it!

The Simplest and Best Zirtual (Or Any Other Staffing Site) Alternative

zirtual virtual assistant alternative

This is going to sound stupidly simple, maybe even a bit controversial.

But the Zirtual shakeup this week reminded me of what happens when mega corporations suddenly merge, get bought out or go out of business.

Your projects are put on hold, and you’re left scrambling for a solution.

Much like bidding sites and other companies that depend on “independent” workers, when a virtual assistant company like Zirtual takes a nose dive, the biggest loser is the client.

So if you’re in immediate need of a virtual assistant or a freelancer: just use Google.

If you’re living in Michigan, search for “Michigan virtual assistant.”

If you need a WordPress blogger, Google “WordPress blogger” or “WordPress freelancer.”

Look for solopreneur or small companies with up to date web sites, references or verifiable testimonials, a strong social media presence and specific features and benefits for using their services.

And if a company like Zirtual or oDesk pops up: keep scrolling.


1) Stability and dependability: The availability of your VA or freelancer isn’t dependent on the whims of a faceless CEO or jittery stakeholders. One day, Zirtual literally disappears, taking away 400 jobs. The next day, they’ve been scooped up by another company.

Do you really want to work with a company like this?

Mega companies like Zirtual, Task Rabbit or Virtual Staff Finder and bid sites like Fiverr or eLance have strict regulations on communicating with your team.

Your VA or freelancer will work with you one on one and, save for sick and vacation days, will always be there for you and in constant communication with you.

2) Flexibility (read: middle men suck): I’ve advocated for online staffing or temp firms in the past, (see my article at the end of this post for more tips) but even those can be unreliable and pretty much just want your dollars.

If you need to use a database to find the right help, look to virtual assistant associations like IVAA or VA Networking. I’m part of the VA League. For a freelance writer, check out The Freelance Writer’s Den

These organizations are built to be mutually beneficial to both the members and potential clients.

You don’t have to buy a certain amount of hours or miss the opportunity to get to know someone one on one.

Several of these organizations offer certification programs, so you know you’ll be working with the best, most experienced and most educated people in the world.

Just keeping it real here, folks: you’ll never see me advocate any of these massive sites, because you just won’t get the value you deserve.

3) Understanding and partnership: When you work with a virtual assistant or a freelancer, you’re working with another business owner. A small business owner with the same values and goals as you. Working with a corporation will not give you that kind of camaraderie.

There’s no hidden agenda. There isn’t an invisible hand grabbing at a percentage of the profits.

Bidding companies and large-scale firms care only about quantity, not quality, and push those values on to their staff. They take on whoever is willing to hawk their services (good, bad or different) and encourage them to take on as many projects as possible.

This is why they can afford low prices to clients. There’s no intention of developing a long-lasting relationship with you.

For more of my tips on finding the right virtual assistant, check out my post, “10 Things You Need to Know To Find the Perfect Virtual Assistant” on Career Meh.

As a virtual assistant & freelancer myself, I’m wholly committed to growing your business and not simply line my pockets. The best folks will offer customized packages to suit your needs or refer you to other top notch people. If you need answers, just shoot me an email

Let me know in the comments what you think about company shakeups like this. If you’re a member of Zirtual, I’d love to hear your story. 

Reader Q’s: How Can I Own My Time & Say “No”?

how to say no


Mia says: “My blogging challenge has been time: owning my time, putting myself first and not giving my time away. I need to say “no” much more often than I do.”

“Owning my time” really struck me. In my last post, I talked about valuing your time and your work. 

How can you own your time?

This is a difficult question I wrestle with daily. Let’s just say the following isn’t really “hypothetical.”

So – have you made what could be considered strange, even selfish actions?

You’ve said “No.” A lot.

Your “other obligations” include Netflix binging or reading. Or you’ve created elaborate excuses to say “No.”

That’s “owning time,” but with a heavy dose of insincerity and a splash of guilt. Just a way to avoid confrontation because of the ridiculous notion everyone around you must be happy at all times.

Or you’ve said “No” so much, the lack of human interaction makes social situations terribly awkward. Like a cave woman attempting to reenter human society.

Please stop doing this.

Eventually, you’ll have to be honest and explain yourself. It’s far easier to simply be upfront.

If you’ve said “Yes” to someone and begrudgingly comply, you’ll regret it. If you say “No” and then materialize a complicated “other obligation,” you’ll regret it.

Here’s how to balance saying Yes” versus “No.”

Evaluate your personal or professional return on investment.

A good friend hangs out, even if the activity is less than appealing. A good freelancer accepts projects with a smidge of risk or in an uninteresting or unfamiliar area.

Just don’t relent all the time. Don’t force yourself to attend a snoozeworthy outing or networking event because a colleague is going. If a client wants you to consider a new project you don’t want to do, come up with an alternative or give a referral.

Make sure the benefits are overwhelmingly skewed in your favor. Saying “yes” to yourself will feel foreign, maybe even uncomfortable.

Being selectively “selfish” is mandatory. Just as important as contracts, good accounting or any other part of your business.

Just spill it already.

If you don’t want to do something, just say so.

Face it: you’ll disappoint people when you say “No.” If you want them to be a part of your life, insist this not hurt the relationship. If they get angry, step back and evaluate the value of that relationship.

Maybe that inflexible client needs to be dropped. Perhaps you distance yourself from stubborn people or people who bring out the worst in you.

Check out my girl Ash Ambirge’s post on how she received two “gorgeous no’s”.

Here are my previous reader questions and answers:

Staying Creative When Life Sucks

How I Found My First Client

If you struggle with saying no or have figured out ways to master it, let me know in the comments.

Have a question you want answered? Email me at

You’re Worth More Than $20 An Hour (& Other Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Work For Entrepreneurs)

freelancers are worth more than $20 an hour

I wondered if this lady just realized how ridiculous she sounded. In one breath, she told me she charges thousands of dollars for her business consulting and teaches others how to do the same. In another breath, she hesitated at paying me $100 a week to be her virtual assistant.

“Seriously? Did you just hear yourself?” was raging in my head. Needless to say, I don’t even talk with this gal anymore.

At the social media and blogging conference Ya’ll Connect, there were a lot of awesome brain nuggets I took home. One of them is that fantastic headlines don’t need to be short. (Thanks David!) Another nugget is that the cost of doing work is so much higher than you think it is.

Content strategist Laura Creekmore challenged us to calculate things like:

  • How much time it takes to come up with an idea
  • How much time to create one aspect of the project
  • How many other people are involved?
  • How often should the content be reviewed?

And that’s just a snippet of her presentation. It kind of blows my mind, because for nearly three years, I’ve been told to “value myself” more and to charge accordingly.

But the problem wasn’t my prices. It was my clients.

My writing mentor, Carol Tice, has a crap ton of resources about finding the right clients to market writing. The first step is finding one that can actually afford you. We’re talking 7 figures, not just 6. We’re talking 20 employees and higher, not just a solopreneur.

Devaluing freelance services began way before the internet was invented. I also noticed this as my time as a VA. It’s inexplicable how this could be, but I’d like to name the current phenomenon the Ferriss Fallacy.

Yes, I’m referring to Tim Ferriss, uber-popular and rich business guru who wrote about the “four-hour” work week. It only took me a few reader reviews to convince me not to buy his book. The other hours were being worked diligently by outsourced VAs who worked for peanuts. Like single digits per hour.

People read books like that and think, “Oh! Well then. If I put my budget at $15 per hour, surely my VA/writer/graphic artist will *love* me.”

That’s a big negatory there, good buddy.

Besides the actual value of the content itself that Creekmore talked about, I’ve added other things to consider. In fact, it shouldn’t be too hard to come up with this list, because they’re expenses in every business budget.

  • Taxes
  • Insurance (car, home, health, etc.)
  • Out of pocket medical bills
  • Retirement
  • Emergency Savings
  • Rent/Mortgage
  • Gas
  • Car repairs…

…you get my drift? And unfortunately, a pro freelancer would need to work for a ton of people just to make enough to live off of. Guess why?

Because they’re great at what they do! What could take hours for you, could take a freelance web designer 30 minutes. So do you still think that $20 per hour is awesome?

It’s time to think like real businesses and to treat others like they have real businesses. And a real business would end up in poverty for $20 an hour.

My web site is still DIY, because I’d like to pay a web designer what they’re worth. I’m eventually hiring an accountant and a business coach, but I’d like to pay them enough to not dread an email from me.

So here’s the thing: I love entrepreneurs. I’m an entrepreneur! They’re really fantastic people, and I could list about 10 people you should be following right now. But I can’t work with them as clients. Much like I can’t do uber-detailed free consults.

I’m zoning in on large companies and well-funded start-ups.

Even if an entrepreneur I came across could afford me, for whatever reason, they often choose not to. (Hence, insane story above.) Or they back out after one project and never return emails. Or they’re indecisive and have no goals. And that’s okay.

But my fellow freelancers: Please don’t keep scratching at doors that’ll never open. Stand up, brush yourself off and go to the next door – ideally one that’s hand carved and lined with gold.

So if you’re a freelancer of any sort, take note. Start pitching the big boys. You’re worth it.

Need more inspiration? Here’s a blog post from my other writing mentor, Linda Formichelli over at Renegade Writer and a post about “value pricing” from Paul Jarvis on The Write Life.

So are you comfortable with not only the prices you’re charging, but the folks you’re working with? How have you gained your client roster? Let’s chat below in the comments.