The Bare Minimum for Maximal Impact

gray background with plant in minimalist pot accents the "less is more" text

While visiting my friend Tammy in Phoenix for a few days, I was fortunate to also connect in-person with radio personality and master podcast instructor and creator Shannon Hernandez. I met Shannon online (Google+) about eight years ago. It was wonderful to finally have an opportunity to hang out face-to-face for a brief while. As we caught up on what’s happening in our lives and professional ventures, I found myself using the phrase “bare minimum” when referring to my work M.O.

I know “bare minimum” has negative connotations:

  • Just O.K.
  • The lazy way out
  • Born from a lack of motivation
  • Nothing special

But it doesn’t have to—and shouldn’t—mean any of those things.

Adopting a bare minimum mindset involves getting maximal impact without becoming overstressed and overwhelmed. It’s about finding the right combination of clients, types of assignments, and volume of work so that you do your very best without sacrificing your well-being.

Considerations for Achieving a Lucrative Bare Minimum Work Approach

Striving for the bare minimum is a win-win for all when driven by the right intentions.

Consider these things:

  • Do you see a pattern in the types of clients (size, industry, etc.) you like to work with the most or least?
  • What tasks are you doing for clients that could be done better or more efficiently by another resource?
  • Which types of assignments energize you? Which types leave you feeling drained or distracted?
  • What do you do exceptionally well that offers the most value to your clients?
  • Have you priced your services too low? That can cause prospects to underestimate your skills and knowledge. It can also push you into a “make it up in volume” situation, where you’re forced to overload your schedule.
  • Are there viable and relevant passive income opportunities you’ve overlooked? (This one continues to elude me!)
  • What could you change now that would allow you to do more of the types of assignments you love for the types of clients you enjoy working with most?

In Other Words

Another way to convey “bare minimum” is “path of least resistance.” Why work harder not smarter (cliché alert) by doing what you dislike or aren’t particularly good at doing? Especially when that effort will detract from (rather than enhance) your quality of life and the caliber of service you deliver to your clients?

Your turn! What would you add to the list of considerations for creating a professional scenario that provides more satisfaction and less stress?

Three Simple Tips to Help You Manage Freelance Projects

Desktop with Macbook, monitor, and notebook, etc.

In an ideal world, all clients would have their act together.

But the real world isn’t ideal most of the time.

  • Some clients don’t know what they want.
  • Some clients change their minds—often.
  • Some clients don’t communicate well.
  • Some clients [Fill in the blank—the list goes on.]

Besides doing your craft well, you also have to manage freelance projects to ensure you, and your clients, stay on track.

While you can’t control everything your clients do–or don’t do–you CAN make sure you have your act together. Here are three simple tips to help you guide assignments successfully.

Steps to Keep Freelance Projects on Track

  1. Get confirmation of all deliverables and determine dependencies BEFORE you start the project and agree to a deadline. Often, projects involve more than just your work. Say I’m writing content for a website. I typically cannot begin until the client (or the client’s web developer) shares the layout of the site and SEO requirements. Communicate that your ability to start or finish your work depends on other project partners pulling their weight. If you have slackers on a project team, you will need additional time to complete your tasks.
  2. Reserve time on your calendar for the different components you need to tackle. Having a plan will save you headaches and help prevent the onset of panic attacks. “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” said a wise man named Benjamin Franklin. Block out periods of time on your calendar for your project tasks. It’s best to overestimate to give yourself some wiggle room. Sometimes, not everything will go as planned.
  3. Ask for feedback as you go. Presenting your entire body of work at the project deadline can lead to disaster. Just one incorrect element or a misunderstanding can snowball, leaving you to face a giant re-do. Instead, check in with clients regularly to present sections of completed work. As you get feedback and input, fine-tune what you’ve done if required. Then use that knowledge to make sure everything you do from that point onward will be spot on (or very close to it). I’ve found this tip invaluable. By checking in along the course of a project, I can nip small issues in the bud immediately. That’s far more manageable than having to go back and tweak an entire body of work.

Keep Calm – And Manage Freelance Projects Like a Boss.

Most freelancing projects are never completely free of challenges. But with a solid project management approach, you can keep a cool head and successfully steer the work process.

What tips do you have for managing your freelance projects?

Four Tips To Help You Stop Running Your Small Business In Circles

As we start and grow our businesses, many of us adopt practices and take on administrative baggage that might hold us back fromFrustrated child at desk working toward our goals and vision. With the vast majority of 2016 still ahead of you, now is the time to take an honest look at your business and ask yourself, “What should I be doing differently?”


So, where do you begin? Here are a few simple ideas to get you started…


Four Ways To Save Time And Streamline Your Small Business


  1. Focus!


If you think you’re doing your business a favor by multitasking, think again. A Stanford University study revealed that multitaskers have a hard time filtering out irrelevant information, and they’re more distracted and less productive. Give up on trying to multitask—it’s a surefire way to mess up. Focus on one thing at a time to get more done, more accurately, and in less time.

  1. Use your own photos or source from a site that has clearly stated attribution information.


When you pull images from the Internet for your blog and social media, you may or may not easily be able to tell who they belong to, what rights you have to use them, or what attribution requirements apply. Avoid running down a rabbit hole to chase the information you need by using your own photos or finding an online source of images that has very clear use and attribution rules. When I’m not using my own photos, I use (they have large selection of free photos). I also regularly purchase images from Canva—at $1 per image, you can’t beat the economy of their offering.


  1. Don’t let paperwork pile up.


Even though we live in a digital world, we still have a lot of cold, hard sheets of paper floating around our offices. In fact, approximately 50 percent of the waste generated by businesses is from paper. Many of us still keep printed copies of client agreements, invoices, receipts, and other documentation.


If you let your paperwork pile up, the process of filing it in its proper place can become a gargantuan endeavor that requires hours of your time. The bigger the pile, the more work you’ll have on your hands because you’ll need to sort through and organize it before you can actually put it in its place. Instead, place it where it belongs within hours or just a few days of when it hit your desk to avoid a marathon cleanup session down the road.


  1. Give your business a raise.


Many of us grandfather long-standing clients into rates from years gone by. It’s a wonderful way to show your appreciation for their continued business. Unfortunately it can cost you when your services are in greater demand and you discover your time spent on lower-paying clients doesn’t allow you time to take on more lucrative work.


If that’s the case, you may want to consider raising your rates to existing customers. I recently did this and found that overall my clients (with one exception) were fully accepting and understanding. Just be sure to review the contracts you have in place before taking that leap. And give your clients plenty of advance notice and an explanation as to why you’re increasing your pricing.


Running a more efficient small business doesn’t always require making big changes. Little tweaks can mean a world of difference in how much you can accomplish and how smoothly you can tackle your day-to-day to dos.


What changes will you make this year to streamline your business and make it more successful?


Image courtesy of stockimages at

Ways To Make Every Day A Take Charge Tuesday

It feels great when you know you’ve got control of your day, doesn’t it? As a small business owner, steering the ship versus getting Take Charge Tuesdayconstantly caught up in rogue currents allows you to chart your course and accomplish more. What better day than today to start making a more conscious effort to be the boss of your business instead of letting it be the boss of you?

Here are some ways to take charge of your Tuesday—and every other day for that matter:


Plan! Schedule your work for clients, your administrative tasks, and anything else that you know will demand your time.

Sure, the unexpected will sometimes arise and interfere with your best-laid plans. But with a schedule to guide you, you’ll be less likely to veer too far off course. Bonus tip: Schedule some “wiggle room” into your day to accommodate unanticipated client needs, technical issues, etc.

Don’t let email rule you; rule it. 

Suppress the urge to constantly check your email. Consider limiting the frequency at which you open your inbox so it doesn’t disrupt your workflow. Rather than let it interrupt your productivity all day long, plan to check it 2 – 3 times per day, applying the advice in bullet point number one.

Don’t keep your smartphone in the same room while you’re working on projects or tasks.

If you’re not expecting an important phone call from a client, project partner, or vendor, keep it out of reach. Or at the very least, turn off notifications and the ringer or forward calls into voice mail so you won’t find yourself distracted by the constant rings, dings and buzzes. Of course, if your business is one that by nature needs to regularly deal with emergencies, this tip may not be a realistic option. But for most of us, our contacts will experience no hardship by needing to leave messages we can respond to later when we can give them our full attention.

Don’t accept projects or clients that aren’t a good fit.

Sometimes you’ll quickly realize an opportunity isn’t ideal because of the scope, volume, or type of work. Other times, you may need to go with your gut instinct. As a business owner, you need to respect and make the best use of your time, talent, and energy. Choose projects and clients carefully, selecting those that align with your aspirations and goals rather than those that will suck the life out of you.

Begin the day by deciding to do one thing differently.

No matter how small or seemingly insignificant, think about what you can change in your processes, systems, and habits to give you more control and make your day run more efficiently. The three previous bullet points might be a good place to start.

A few other ideas:

Delegate a task that would be better done by someone else.

Start using a social media management tool like Hootsuite or Buffer to save time.

Unsubscribe to email newsletters that you never read.

Eat better.

Get enough sleep.

How will you take charge today?

You Don’t Have Time For That

Your time is precious.Spending-time


I know. You’ve heard that before, but do you believe it?


Think about it this way:


After you’ve spent your time, you can never get it back. When you spend time on something, you’ve forfeited the opportunity to spend it on something else.


That’s why it’s smart to carefully consider importance and impact before you decide whether or not to spend time on something—or someone.


With limited hours and minutes every day, you need to choose what and who WON’T get your attention.


Here’s a short list of what I say “no” to in the course of running my solopreneur business:


  • Face-to-face meetings with “tire kicker” prospects (those who have no idea what they’re looking for or are looking for a writer based on price alone).
  • Producing complete, official proposals before I get email confirmation from a prospect that they want to go forward with the scope of work, pricing, and payment terms we’ve discussed.
  • Answering every phone call and text immediately. It interrupts the work I’m doing for clients so I’ll often set my phone aside in another room so I don’t hear it while in my office. I always aim to respond as soon as possible, but rarely is there a “writing emergency” that can’t wait a few hours.
  • Constant complainers. We all know them, don’t we? People who only talk about how they’ve been done wrong and how they can’t catch a break. People who spend too much time wallowing in despair and not enough taking action to change their situation.
  • Taking on projects that aren’t the right fit. What I mean by that:
    • They fall outside of my skillset, and I don’t believe I can do a stellar job for the client.
    • They will demand too tight a turn-around.
    • I don’t feel the right chemistry between the client and me.
    • I think they’ll suck the life out of me.
  • Requests to “pick my brain” by people who have “picked my brain” before and only connect with me when they have a need to “pick my brain.”


By saying “no” to the above, I’m free to say “yes” to things that will matter and make a difference.

What do you say “no” to?

Survey Shows Email Remains Biggest Time Suck For Small Business Owners

In its fourth annual survey of freelancers during Time Management Month (a.k.a. February), asked more than 1,200 freelancers, small business owners, and professionals how much time they spend on various activities during their workdays.

For the fourth year in a row, email has taken first place as the “Top Time Killer.”

That probably doesn’t surprise most of you if you’re like me and do the majority of your communicating with clients via email. While 90% of my email interactions are completely necessary and productive, there’s that 10% spent answering questions I’ve already answered or trying to get answers to questions I’ve already asked multiple times.

So what time suck came in second?


Most of us can relate to that, right? Lack of agendas, attendees who can’t seem to hear themselves talk enough, and tangents that put meetings into overtime put the stops on getting things done.

Here are the top five “time killers” (along with the percent of people who said they spend at least one hour per day doing them):

Top Small Business Time Killers 2015


An interesting finding from this year’s survey is small business owners say procrastination is a major obstacle to their productivity. Nearly half of the respondents feel they spend too much time putting off necessary tasks each day.

According to OfficeTime’s press release about the survey:

“Procrastinating is a huge time-suck, and working professionals are no more able to escape from that vortex than anyone else,” said Stephen Dodd, CEO of OfficeTime. “If you recognize you’ve developed a habit for procrastinating, set up self-rewards for getting an unpleasant task done and find an accountability partner who can help you stay on-task.”

So it looks like solopreneurs and small business owners could do a little better in managing our time. Big surprise, eh?

Doing that is easier said than done. Not every tactic or approach works for everyone. But a good place to start is to do what OfficeTime suggests: Focus on what’s “most important.

Plan. Prioritize. And get it done!

By Dawn Mentzer

Graphic used with permission from Office Time

Why Your Desk Should Be A “No Food Zone”

Believe me, I’m not getting all self-righteous here. I’ve eaten at my desk on countless occasions. That’s precisely why I feel qualified to write this post.No-food-allowed


Call it a New Year’s resolution or whatever, but I’ve recently adopted the rule of no food (coffee and water are still fair game) at my desk. I’m always looking for ways to work smarter and maximize my productivity. The “no food zone” strategy will (hopefully) help me optimize my time in front of my Macbook.

Are you an at-your-desk diner?

Here are five very good reasons not to eat at your desk:

You deserve—and need—a break.

By now, you’ve probably heard about the Pomodoro Technique or similar approaches to working. They advocate breaking the time you work into a series of short intervals intermixed with short rest periods. That M.O. has been proven to improve mental acuity and help you stay more fully focused on your tasks.

When you’re eating at your desk, you can call it “working through” all you want, but chances are you’re not focused on your work enough to accomplish much of anything. Instead, schedule work sessions and break periods for yourself. Then work during your work sessions and eat (away from your desk) during break periods.

It can make you sick.

I found several articles (including this one by Huffington Post and this one by the Advisory Board Company) that reference research indicating your desk may harbor 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat. Gross, right? You wouldn’t eat on your toilet (I sure hope not anyway), so don’t make your desk your dinner table either.

It can expand your waistline.

According to the Daily News, a British survey revealed that one-third of people who ate at their desks consumed more than 1,200 calories during a typical workday. My understanding is that included lunch and snacks; add breakfast and dinner to the equation and the calories really escalate. And eating at your desk can make you less attentive to the nutritional value of the foods you’re eating. You might be more inclined to grab a bag of chips rather than veggies and a good protein source.

It can feed the procrastination monster.

Eating at your desk diverts your attention from what you should be concentrating on when working. It can become an enabler to procrastination, a way to steer clear of the task at hand when you don’t really feel like tackling it. Oh, but that task won’t magically disappear like that bag of microwave popcorn you chowed down on at 2:15 p.m. You’ll be stuck sitting at your desk longer because you didn’t stay focused. Eating at your desk is essentially multitasking. And, according to a Stanford University study, multitasking makes people less—not more—productive.

It’s messy.

Crumbs. Dripping condiments. Sticky fingers. Ick. Need I say more?


Final Thoughts

I’m not suggesting that you don’t eat during your workday. Goodness no! But why not eat somewhere else? Your kitchen or dining room (if you’re a work-at-home type like me), your office’s lunchroom, a picnic table, a friend’s house, or a restaurant are viable options. By taking your dining activities away from your desk, you just might find yourself more productive—and you might enjoy your food a good bit more, too.


By Dawn Mentzer

Another Insatiable Solopreneur Post


Looking for blog writing or editing help? Let’s talk!

Image courtesy of  Iamnee at


How To Avoid Administrative Angst & Procrastination Pileup

They appear innocent enough.

Those seemingly non-urgent pain in the @*# tasks you figure you’ll get to sometime. Maybe on a slow day or some other time when you find yourself Piles-of-workmotivated to tackle them.

So you put them on the back burner.

You’ve got more important things to do, right? There’s no sense in letting them take you away from your “real work.”

But the problem with ignoring small—yet eventually necessary—tasks when you’re self-employed is the longer you put them off, they bigger they become. They pile up. And then, instead of demanding just a few minutes of your time, they transform into mammoth undertakings that could require hours on end to get them under control.

Sound familiar?

Avoid Unnecessary Stress: Take a few minutes; Save a few hours.

 Working as a freelance writer these past five years, I’ve learned that procrastination nearly never has a positive outcome. It’s true when approaching work for clients—and when taking care of the administrative details that come with running a business solo. Here’s my short list of tasks that can go from “manageable” to “mayhem” if you save them for later rather than nipping them in the bud.

Generating invoices – Depending how many clients you have, you could find yourself spending hours producing invoices and sending them if you wait to do all of them at the same time. For project work, consider billing customers after you’ve completed the work instead of waiting until the end of the month. If you’ve got multiple recurring monthly assignments requiring invoices dated the first of the month, set a schedule to create them ahead of time so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.

Logging your accounts receivables and deposits – Matching up invoices with checks and logging deposit dates can get harrowing if you’ve got a pile of them awaiting your attention. Save yourself the headache by tracking them in your accounting system as they arrive.

Filing paper copies – As much as I do business electronically, I do still keep some paper records on file. I know many other solopreneurs and small business owners who do, too. Again, putting them where they belong nearly as soon as they cross your desk can save you the hassle of shuffling through mass quantities.

Balancing your checkbook and reconciling your bank statement – If you like nightmares, let two or three or more months pass by before you pay attention to these tasks. While reviewing and matching up your checkbook’s records with those on your bank statement and in Quickbooks (or Freshbooks or Excel or whatever accounting tool you’re using) may never be a dream come true for you, it will go so much easier if you take care of it promptly each and every month. Plus, if there’s any discrepancy between what you’ve recorded and what your bank’s reporting, you’ll want to address it with them ASAP.

Logging your business mileage – That 56 cents per mile deduction can add up—and so can the time you’ll need to spend if you wait too long before logging the miles you’ve put on your car going to business meetings and events. I regrettably procrastinate on this one every quarter and then find myself muttering choice words under my breath as I scour my Google Calendar for the appointments I attended over the prior three months.

 With all of the above, I’ve learned that a few minutes now can save many minutes (sometimes hours) later. While you may feel tempted to put off those little to dos until tomorrow…or the next day…or the one after that, don’t procrastinate! It’s a mean, spiteful practice that will come back to bite you.

What administrative tasks have piled up on you lately?

By Dawn Mentzer (Struggling with writing fresh content for your blog? Drop me a note!)
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post



Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at

6 Ways to Rock Your Week, Week After Week

Rock the weekIn response to me retweeting one of his tweets on Monday, one of my favorite quality content connections on Twitter, Brett Relander, responded with a “Thanks” followed by, “Rock the week!”


Rock the week.


While I’m typically self-motivated and ready to go on Mondays, those three single-syllable words gave me a little nudge. An added push to pick up what this week will lay down. It injected some extra motivation into my mindset.


So I got to thinking, what if we solopreneurs would approach every week with a “rock the week” attitude? What if we’d start every week with some fire in our bellies to dig in and do it like we know we can?


More importantly, how can we approach every week that way?


Reflecting on work habits that have helped me get enthused and stay productive, I’ve listed a few tips that might work for you, too.


Six Tips For Rocking Your Work Week

Get organized.

Have a plan for tackling what you need to do each day of the coming week. Schedule time for projects, tasks, and meetings on your calendar. By having a plan for getting things accomplished, you’ll minimize the risk of things slipping through the cracks.

Leave some wiggle room.

Even the best-laid plans go awry. Impromptu, last minute projects. Requests for changes to work already submitted. Unexpected RFPs needing near-immediate attention. Technical issues. All of those things take time you didn’t plan on spending. By building some unspoken for time into your schedule, you can address the unexpected without falling too far behind.

Get energized.

Pump yourself up for the week ahead. Play some music by your favorite artist. Watch a motivational video. Listen to a motivational podcast. Read a motivational blog post. Even take a brisk walk or work out to get your blood flowing.

Eat like you mean business.

Fuel your body with the good stuff—veggies, high-quality protein, lots of water…you know the drill!

Reflect on what’s good.

Yeah, sometimes life as a solopreneur gets tough. But there’s always something to be thankful for. Consciously embracing an “attitude of gratitude” really can shift your perspective and make challenges and business roadblocks less intimidating.

Keep your eye on the prize.

Stepping away from the minutia to focus on the big picture can help, too. Rather than viewing tasks and projects as “just work,” instead view them as serving a greater purpose.

  • Opportunities that can lead to larger, more lucrative opportunities.
  • Revenue to get you closer to your financial goals.
  • Opportunities to demonstrate your expertise and build your professional reputation.
  • Activities to make your business operate like a well-oiled machine.


No secret formulas or rocket science here, but hopefully some actionable advice that could make the difference between a “blah” week and one that rocks.


Rock on!


How do you keep your motivation from waning and productivity from slipping in your business? Please share your tips here!


By Dawn Mentzer (a.k.a. The Insatiable Solopreneur™)



How Solopreneurs Can Tame the Boundless Ideas Beast

Sometimes the biggest hurdle to overcome working as a solopreneur is the very thing you’d think would be the biggest asset: ideas.Brain with too many ideas

Most often, we fret about not having enough fresh ideas. Without ideas, our businesses, our blogs, our personal brands would be (yawn!) oh so boring. So we put most of our effort into how to brainstorm better and boost our powers of creativity.

That makes sense.

After all, ideas usually provide motivation and drive us to achieve.


But sometimes, they overwhelm us and scatter our brains.

Not so good.

Ideas can come from anywhere at anytime—not only when you’re on a mission to think of them, but also during random moments when you’re out and about doing this or doing that and when you’re trying to focus on other work.

With ideas run amok, our businesses, our blogs, and our personal brands could end up confusing prospects and clients. Ideas need to flow freely, but we need to reign them in so they don’t overtake us.

Too Many Ideas Syndrome—Are You Afflicted?

Although I couldn’t find any evidence such a psychological condition is recognized by health professionals, Too Many Ideas Syndrome is mentioned in a number of articles and blog posts. Whether or not it’s a true diagnosable malady, it seems an appropriate way to describe how non-stop ideas can detract from your focus and productivity.

A Writer’s Digest article on the topic explains how it can affect freelancers and other folks in my line of work,

“…having too many ideas and no focus can be just as debilitating to a writer as staring at nothingness, especially if the syndrome causes indecision, procrastination, failure to meet deadlines, insomnia and anxiety.”

Are too many ideas pulling you and your business in multiple directions? Here are some ways to tame those relentless rascals:

    • Write them down as soon as you think of them.
      Putting them on paper gives your brain permission to put them aside for the moment.


    • Prioritize them.
      As Carrie Wilkerson suggests in her book The Barefoot Executive, “Don’t start so many things at one time that you can’t complete them—so many things at one time that it distracts you.”
      You won’t have the bandwidth to act on all of your ideas at one time, so organize them by level of importance and potential impact to your business’s bottom line.


    • Get feedback from a trusted advisor.
      Some ideas will be winners; some will be losers. Sometimes it helps to turn to someone who understands your business and is vested in your success to ferret out which are one or the other.


    • Schedule your projects and tasks—and breaks.
      Your mind will have less opportunity to wander if you have a plan for getting things done. Discipline yourself to block out time on your calendar for the specific client projects and administrative tasks you need to complete. Also schedule what I like to call wiggle roomtime to tackle the unexpected, catch up if you fall behind, or step away from your work. If you know you have time set aside for breaks when you can indulge your idea-creating powers, you’ll be less tempted to veer off course when you should be accomplishing your to-dos.

Ideas can breathe new life into your small business. In overabundance, however, they can suffocate you if you don’t manage them. How do you stay focused and on course when your idea faucet turns into a fire hose?

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post


Image courtesy of smarnad at