How to Stay True to Your Personal Brand

Visualize the logo of a brand you love. Now, think about three words you associate with that brand. 

When it comes to your business or career, you want people picturing specific things when they think of you. But in order to do that, you need to be intentional about establishing who you are and what it’s like to work with you. Think of this as your brand tattoo. It’s something timeless that never leaves you.

1. Only accept projects that are on-brand.

When a new opportunity presents itself, ask yourself: Is this on-brand for me? Will this contribute to the impact I intend to make?

When you’re off-brand, you’ll feel like you’re chasing shiny objects because you’re out of alignment. When you’re on-brand, you’ll feel like you’re in flow because you’re making an authentic contribution toward your intended impact.

2. Get inspiration from other leaders and influencers who are not in your industry. 

Resist the temptation to focus only on your competitors—you’re likely to fall into the trap of imitating someone else. Instead, seek ideas from outside your industry. Don’t copy, but gain inspiration and strategy that you can uniquely translate into your own work.

For example, I’ve always been fascinated by how comedians brand themselves with a style of joke. I’m not a comedian, but I can apply that strategy to what I do. 

3. Remember: What got you here won’t get you there.

Your brand should be timeless, but the way you translate it will change over time. Think about the brand you visualized at the beginning of this article. Have their product offerings changed? Has their messaging changed over time? Has their aesthetic changed?

Remain open to being taken in a fresh direction while also staying true to your principles and area of impact. 

Now, visualize your own brand tattoo. What do you see? 


5 Vital Lessons in 5 Years of Freelancing

1. Set work hours that work for you.

Structure is crucial. So is flexibility. When you’re first starting out, it’s tempting to test the boundaries of the flexible workday: wake up a little later; meet a friend for a long lunch in the park; opt for a post-lunch nap. These are all the wonderful things that become available when you work from home and have the ability to set your own schedule. For some, the opposite is true. Maybe you’re worried about becoming complacent. Maybe you’re excited about your new business and are glued to your computer late into the night.

None of these things are necessarily wrong, but it’s important not to slide to either extreme of the spectrum. You shouldn’t be working so much that you don’t have time for lunch with a friend or an afternoon nap, but you should also be cautious about a free-for-all schedule that lacks structure. A routine has many benefits. I’ve tried a variety of schedules, and this is the general outline of what works for me:

  • Wake up early because my brain is more alert in the mornings, and that’s when my body naturally wakes me up.
  • Knock out the hard-hitting creativity work first. This is the stuff that requires more of my focus and brainpower.
  • Eat regular meals and use that time as a screen break.
  • Add in a quick yoga session or outdoor walk—both if I can manage.
  • Work the rest of the day in “pockets.” I’ll explain this further below.
  • Set a cut-off time, after which I don’t check email or respond to notifications.

2. Adjust as needed.

I swing more Type A than B, so creating structure has never been my biggest challenge. I struggle with letting go, being flexible, going with the flow. My workday was once as early as you can until as late as you can. During that time, I learned that I truly enjoy early mornings. My body naturally wakes me up around 6 a.m. I also learned that about 3 p.m. is when my brain is absolutely done. But if I work from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. straight, I get eye strain headaches and I’m irritable. Not to mention I’ve missed some of the best parts of the day.

All this to say: Structure is important, but don’t structure your work-from-home life so much that you forget to listen to your body and adjust accordingly. I now schedule my day in pockets of time that best suit me. That includes taking a nap after lunch so I’m not sleepy the rest of the afternoon. It also includes working in short, productive bursts with meaningful and purposeful breaks in between. My way might sound ridiculous to you, and that’s fine. Start building your structure, but remember to check in with yourself and adjust it as needed.

3. When tracking your finances, don’t forget to live.

I love goal setting. I love making a big spreadsheet at the beginning of the year to track my goals. One of my big goals right now is to pay off my student loan debt within three years. I have it all mapped out, and it’s aggressive. With that goal comes savings and retirement account goals. Add that to my monthly bills and self-employment taxes means a big chunk of my cash flow is spoken for before it even reaches my account. I like to manage money that way because it makes me feel more in control of my future. But it can get to be too much. At one point, I was tracking every single daily expense to identify where I spend most. It didn’t leave any room for beautiful, unpredictable life to happen.

My financial tactics are from a mix of personal financial coaches I’ve read and written about. It’s sound advice. But I was forgetting a crucial element: Don’t forget to live. Track your spending, yes, but make sure to leave yourself some fun money—the funds that don’t need to be rationalized or judged. It could be as little as $20 per month depending on your financial situation. The bottom line is that you make room for the unstructured, the benign, the straight-up fun.

4. Understand that money always comes with a cost.

The double-edged sword of working for yourself is that there is always another sale to be made. I’m a writer, so there are always more ideas to send and more publications to pitch. Being the spreadsheet person I am, I know how much an hour of my time is worth at this stage in my career. In other words, I know how much money I could make if I was working rather than taking a nap or playing beach volleyball with friends (one of my favorite hobbies).

One of the greatest lessons I learned is that money always comes at a price. In 2019, I hit a huge financial goal. It was my best revenue year yet. I was living in Hawaii and it felt like my every dream had come true. But I was also at one of my mental and emotional worsts during the summer—my favorite season. I often worked from 4 a.m. to 6 p.m.. Deadlines loomed large, and I often dreamt about my work. Every hobby and fun activity brought feelings of guilt because there was always more to do.

I learned the hard way that every new client and every new gig means more money, but they also come with costs: the cost of my free time; the cost of my mental and emotional health; and the cost of my physical health at times. For me, hitting that financial goal wasn’t worth all the side effects. In 2020, I set a new goal: make enough to be comfortable, and then make time to do anything, or nothing. I’ve had to make some adjustments to my spending habits, but I’ve traveled more, laughed more and created more meaningful memories—to me, those things are priceless.

5. Start new hobbies that don’t have any tangible value.

I cannot stress this enough. I’ve been writing about and practicing some form of personal development for nearly five years. I believe in goal setting, accountability, structure, hustle, self-care, productivity hacks… the list goes on. I’ve also learned that it becomes easy to conflate personal development with some kind of tangible step forward. In other words, every action you take during the 1,440 minutes of the day must move you toward some goal—otherwise it’s useless. For me, it took some flirtation with burnout to realize that becoming the best version of yourself is also about doing things you enjoy, simply because you enjoy them.

Take a break from your Jim Rohn collection to read some romance novels without feeling guilty. Write a short story without worrying about whether it’s good or marketable. In fact, don’t let anyone read it so you don’t feel external pressure. Build a birdhouse so you can look out the window and revel in the simple art of mastery without wondering whether it could turn into a profitable side hustle.

These hobbies round us out as people. They allow us to stretch some creative, competitive muscles while keeping the stakes at a nice, pressure-free zero. If you fail? Awesome. Try something else. If you’re terrible at the hobby but love it? Even better. Keep going and learn to laugh at all the feelings of I should be better at this.


11 Super Useful Tips for Small-Business Owners

1. Get clear on your life goals.

As small-business owners, it’s not uncommon to prioritize your business over all else. But, you’ve got to put yourself first if you want your business to succeed long term. Otherwise, you may burn out or wake up one day and realize you’ve built a company that is incompatible with the life you want. Get super clear on your one, five and 10-year life goals, then fit your business to those goals.

Brittany Hodakkeynote speaker

Listen to the Hustle From Home podcast for more on organizing your priorities: Episode 103: Productivity in Your Season of Hustle

2. Niche down first.

Before you try to target multiple products and various audiences, become an expert in one single offering. At the start of building a business, niche down to create the best product offering with the greatest value possible. From here, you can expand over time. This builds trust behind your brand and enables you more growth in the future.

Jared WeitzUnited Capital Source Inc.

3. Build your vision.

Every product, employee hire and marketing campaign needs to be rooted in the vision of your business. Build a deep sense of what this is and make sure to check that each decision you make is in alignment. It’s tempting to say “yes” to certain opportunities, but if they are not aligned with your long-term vision, you will lose valuable time and resources along the way.

Matthew PodolskyFlorida Law Advisers, P.A.

4. Be patient with yourself.

When I first started my business, I focused so much on growth that I neglected to focus on improvement. Details were overlooked, systems and processes were not a priority, and I wondered why I plateaued. Focus on the foundation, with steady improvement and dedication to your systems, and small businesses can improve.

Klyn ElsburyMK Foundation

5. Know when to delegate.

Understand your weakness. Self-assessing allows you to see where you need support the fastest in your entrepreneurial endeavor. Thinking you can do everything better than everyone will get you into hot water. Understand how you can scale by making the right additions to your team and point them toward growth.

Brad BurnsWayne Contracting

6. Trust your teams.

There should be no room for ego in the way you manage. You hired people to help you do more and achieve more. Let them. Nothing is worse than a small-business owner who refuses to be proved wrong. Without embracing the fact that you’re not an expert in everything (even your own business!), you won’t achieve and get better. Trust your teams and the unique expertise they bring.

Thomas SmaleFE International

7. Invest in content marketing.

There’s no substitute for having a great content marketing strategy in place. It’s essential to understand how to do SEO and use content marketing to rank well for a search term. This means multiple benefits such as free traffic, continuous growth and compounding return on the posts you create. You’ll establish authority and will spend less on other marketing activities.

Blair WilliamsMemberPress

8. Improve your social media marketing.

Always look for ways to improve your social media marketing. There’s always a new website or app popping up, and you never know which one will benefit your business the most. And the implementation of social media marketing is constantly evolving, as well. Be sure to keep up with industry trends so you’re always on the cutting edge.

Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance

9. Repurpose your marketing assets.

Increase the ROI of your marketing assets by repurposing them. Transform each one into at least two or three different assets to save time and effort that you can devote to other things. A blog post can become several social media messages and vice versa. A brochure can turn into a blog post and infographic. Look for multiple ways you can use each asset and reach customers differently.

Thomas GriffinOptinMonster

10. Ask for feedback.

When you first start a business, asking for feedback can be terrifying. Instead of worrying about what people might say, just ask. Talk to employees, friends and even connections on social media. Gathering feedback on your business early can help you make adjustments that change the course of your company.

Chris ChristoffMonsterInsights

11. Don’t neglect the locals.

If your business has a market for local revenue, you should hone in on that. The locals in your community are more likely to invest in your business and become returning customers if they know you’re right around the corner and provide stunning service. Establishing yourself on Google My Business and local search guarantees more traffic to your business.

Jared AtchisonWPForms


How to Give Yourself Grace to Start Again

Here are some things I’ve learned for how to give yourself grace and start again to accomplish your goals. These tips apply in so many different situations in life, from fitness goals to business goals to raising children. Think about these any time you just can’t find that motivation to begin again once you’ve stumbled.

1. Leave the past behind.

For some, it might be a motivational factor to be a little angry at yourself for failing. For others, that may have the opposite effect. Either way, it’s imperative that you don’t dwell on your mistakes. Think about what you want to accomplish today and work on steps to reach those goals.

2. Take that first, small step.

I knew that with several weeks of little physical activity under my belt, it would be unwise to jump into an intense workout program. So I started with one that takes only 25 minutes a day; it doesn’t make me so tired and sore that I can’t continue. And while it’s getting me back into shape, it’s also building a daily habit that will help me graduate to a more intense program in the future.

Think about how this same principle applies to other facets of life. Want to read a book a week? Start by trying to read a book in a month. Or start with a shorter book. Want to eat healthier? Instead of eating only salads every meal for a week, eat one salad a day, or replace dessert with an apple. Do something small that gets the momentum going in the right direction.

3. Find people who can help hold you accountable.

Having accountability is important all the time but especially when everyone is physically distant. It’s so easy to let yourself slip in areas of discipline when no one can see you. So it’s helpful to reach out to somebody close, share your struggles and your goals, and support each other in forming and sticking to new, good habits.

I know I didn’t start working out again until I said something to my community group about how I wanted to do it. I’d been thinking about it for weeks, but it wasn’t until I had someone encouraging me, offering to join me, and making me feel like I wasn’t alone, that I committed to doing it.

4. Take it one day at a time.

It only takes one day to start a new streak. You can’t work out 30 days in a row on a Monday. You can work out on that Monday and then again on Tuesday. But it can’t all happen at once. All it takes is a dedication to make today the day that you take a step in the right direction. It doesn’t matter what happened yesterday, and you can’t do anything about tomorrow yet; all you can do is make decisions for today.

So whatever it is that you want to start doing, don’t get lost in thoughts about how long it’s going to take or how difficult it might be, just think about what it will take to do it today.

These are weird times, and none of us know quite what we’re doing or how to do it. So forgive yourself for bad habits you may have started or mistakes you might’ve made in adjusting to your new normal, and look forward instead. A bright future begins with good decisions today.


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