138 episodes

The show for those who want to build a successful freelance business. We are NOT about the hustle. We are NOT about the feast-or-famine cycle. We are about building a business. Deliberately.

Deliberate Freelancer Melanie Padgett Powers

    • Business
    • 5.0 • 51 Ratings

The show for those who want to build a successful freelance business. We are NOT about the hustle. We are NOT about the feast-or-famine cycle. We are about building a business. Deliberately.

    #125: Why You Need a Virtual Assistant and How to Hire One, with Molly Rose Speed

    #125: Why You Need a Virtual Assistant and How to Hire One, with Molly Rose Speed

    Today’s guest is Molly Rose Speed, founder of Virtual Assistant Management, which provides trusted virtual assistant (VA) solutions and flawless tech execution for busy entrepreneurs. Molly Rose is the go-to professional for some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the speaker/author and content creator industry. She is also an awarded military spouse and solo world traveler who believes in creating a career and a life that allows you to do more of what you love.
    Molly’s company trains and places virtual assistants, the majority of whom are military spouses.
    It’s time to consider hiring a VA when you are sacrificing income because you’re spending time on lower-billable or unpaid work such as administrative tasks. It’s also important to spend time working ON your business (building and improving your business), not just IN your business (client work).
    Also, keep note of your energy level. Are you exhausted trying to do everything yourself? Are you dreading each work day—on a business you created for yourself and should love!?
    There are a wide variety of other freelancers who might call themselves virtual assistants; they might offer high-level skills such as web design, copy writing or course creation. However, general virtual assistants are akin to executive assistants in the corporate world. VAs might help with scheduling, booking, answering phone calls and emails, managing a blog, creating social media.
    To find a VA, ask your network and share on social media, being specific about what type of work you need help with. A VA agency can also pair you up with someone.
    Before you look for a VA, be very clear about what you want the person to do but also think about whether time zone matters and the personality types that might work best for you. Do you want a leader in your business or someone more behind the scenes?
    Ask potential VAs for references. You may also want to consider giving them a paid test in the area you need help with—such as asking them to create five social media posts or draft an email.
    One misconception is that you have to hire a VA for 20 hours or so each week. But VAs—like you as a freelancer—often have multiple clients and aren’t available for that many hours. Instead, you can negotiate hours with a VA. Molly recommends hiring them for at least 5 hours a week, or 20 hours a month, and creating a retainer agreement.
    You can also hire virtual assistants for one-time projects or at a specific time when you need extra help.
    Molly always recommends creating a contract with a VA and paying the VA’s retainer at the end of the month. That way, if they go over their hours (which you have both agreed to that month), you have the flexibility to pay them more at the end of the month based upon an already agreed-upon rate.
    Be sure to also have a privacy agreement as part of your contract and a separate non-disclosure agreement to help secure client information, as well as your passwords, banking info, etc.
    What about freelancers who say they don’t want to give up the control or take the time to hire a VA? Molly believes that person won’t hire a VA until they’re fully ready, but she tells them: Teaching a VA might take you a “painful hour,” but then it’s going to save you, for example, five hours a month.
    She also recommends shooting a Loom.com video to show a VA how to do something and then let them “run with it.”
    Make sure you establish good communication with your VA from the beginning. Molly recommends a Monday check-in and setting up checks and balances. Make sure they have access to the tools they need, along with passwords, before they start.
    It’s also important to establish and agree upon the style of communication between the two of you.
    Ask your VA for a list of their “favorites” so you can send them appropriate, thoughtful gifts. Don’t take your valuable VAs for granted!
    Biz Bite: Use Asana project management tool

    • 34 min
    #124: How to Create Better Habits (and my Word of the Year)

    #124: How to Create Better Habits (and my Word of the Year)

    On 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:
    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.
    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

    • 39 min
    #123: My 2021 Business Review and Questions to Help You

    #123: My 2021 Business Review and Questions to Help You

    FACEBOOK 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
    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

    • 39 min
    #122: My Best Books of 2021 (and Anticipated 2022 Releases)

    #122: My Best Books of 2021 (and Anticipated 2022 Releases)

    This 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.
    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
    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)
    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

    • 37 min
    #121: Identify the Right Clients with Value-Based Decision-Making, with Ashlee Sang

    #121: Identify the Right Clients with Value-Based Decision-Making, with Ashlee Sang

    On 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
    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.”
    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

    • 35 min
    #120: 7 Things I’m Thankful for in My Business

    #120: 7 Things I’m Thankful for in My Business

    On 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

    • 40 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
51 Ratings

51 Ratings

Liz @InAWordEditing.com ,

Terrific show!

I love listening to Deliberate Freelancer. Melanie comes across as genuine and sincere. As she says in her intro to the show, “it’s not about the hustle.” She’s inspiring, and I learn a lot about running a freelance business from her podcast.

Lisa @ TweeniorMoments.com ,

Authentic voice & helpful resources

I love listening to the Deliberate Freelancer! Melanie Padgett Powers, the host, delivers tons of practical tips in a keepin'-it-real style. She's authentic and empowering as she provides weekly doses of actionable ideas and inspiration. Whether you're a newbie or a seasoned veteran, this podcast is a must-listen! By the way, while I’m a freelance writer, these podcasts are for everyone who considers themselves freelancers—graphic designers, marketing consultants, editors, photographers, etc.

Amy Spungen ,

A goldmine of freelance tips and support

I can’t even count how many times I’ve recommended The Deliberate Freelancer to fellow freelance editors in the EFA and elsewhere. In addition to great advice based on her experience and from a lineup of guests, Melanie offers support to those of us in this liberating but challenging profession. I’d give it 10 stars if I could!

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