Welcome to Series 6 of the Plutus Awards Podcast hosted by Michelle Jackson. Our community is filled with hundreds of stories from creators and entrepreneurs just like you. And through this show we share these stories of challenges and successes from bloggers to podcasters, from writers, speakers, and more.
In this season we talk about a somewhat taboo topic — the deadly sins that personal finance (and other content creators) can make. We share lessons learned, how to avoid these mistakes, and the fact that we’re all human, putting our creative work out there into the world. This season’s conversation is about the inherent risks we’re taking in developing online brands, our own hubris, and the impact that how other people perceive us can make us or break our online brand.
Today’s guest is Terri Huggins Hart and in this episode, we discuss creating clarity around intentions within our business and understanding how ownership shows up in a freelance career. The tip Terri shared blew my mind.
Terri Huggins Hart – The Sin of Vagueness: Clarify Your Ownership As a Freelancer
Notes and summary from this episode
Terri- I am Terri Huggins Hart an award winning journalist and blogger and I cover personal finance for national publications in addition to relationship stories.
Michelle- How did you get into personal finance?
Terri- I wanted a way to document paying off my student loans. I just started documenting that journey and I still have that debt. That was my introduction into pf.
Michelle-How did you pivot that interest into the business you have now.
Terri- Right now my business is still pf related, I’ve since added parenting and bridal to that scope at the time when I started I found a lot of the pf tips was outdated. I wanted to vary my scope.
Michelle- We’re talking about the different “deadly sins” in content creation that creators can make. Could you share what you felt was a sin that you made in your business?
Terri-There were three things: intentions, connections, money, and product. I started freelancing out of college because I graduated during the Recession and there were no jobs and so I had to make things happen on my own. Your community helps you with wealth-building strategies and bounce ideas off of and I didn’t have that for a long time. That impacted my contract negotiation skills. Ownership is how you build wealth. Here I was writing stories for big-name brands and I would get paid for them once and then see my stories in other publications. So, thanks to communities that I’ve joined, the National Writers Union, etc. I’ve learned that you can negotiate contracts. I’ve begun negotiating first rights. SPEAK TO A LAWYER. When you have first rights you’re retaining second rights to that piece of content.
Michelle-I was today year’s old when I learned about this. My mind is blown.
Terri-I was doing pf content and was writing in the bridal industry but I didn’t have enough of a network of writers to tell me about this.
Michelle-What have you done since discovering this and what steps are you taking to avoid making these mistakes? Could you share some of your tips and advice?
Terri- Don’t too much out of excitement. You get that first assignment and you sign things away too fast. Take a day and read through the contract. Take a breath and read through everything. Ask if you can have a first rights contract. Two-in terms of time, I wasn’t accurately tracking how long it took me to write things, especially pitches. Pitching is also unpaid labor. One thing that I’ve started doing is setting a “budget”. Let’s say my budget is $100 to send pitches to new to me editors. I send out 4 pitches and that’s when I’m done because I started paying myself as an incentive.
Michelle- How long does it take you to pitch?
Terri- Years ago I used to send 10 before 10.
Michelle-Every single day?
Terri- Every single day 5 days a week. I started asking myself why am I still doing this? I have relationships with a lot of publications now. It does take me some time because my background is in journalism, checking my stats, etc.
Michelle- Have you developed products? Right now you’re doing services for clients but have created products for yourself?
Terri-That’s a really good question. I have developed ebooks and I have a hard time promoting certain products and if I actually promoted these items I could sell these e-books. It’s just something that I’m having difficulty doing it. Full-disclosure, I’m in therapy working through this.
Michelle-Is it imposter syndrome or do you feel shy about what the feedback would be?
Terri- I hesitate to say it’s imposter syndrome. I think it places the blame on us versus society. I grew up performing as a dancer, I was a brand ambassador for a side-hustle. That was a persona. But to be me and say “I wrote this book” that’s revealing myself to the world and it’s hindering me.
Michelle- It’s almost as if you’re walking naked out into the street. Soul-focused and mission-aligned. It’s different sharing something you enjoy eating vs. sharing yourself. When you figure it out-let us know.
Terri- I had a hard time telling my friends and family what I do.
Michelle- When you started doing your work did people even understand what you were doing? I was pretty frustrated for a while, especially with my family.
Terri- You know, that’s a good question. In one sense, yes, nobody knew what I was doing back then. I started freelancing full-time in 2010. There was the problem of explaining what I did and I’m first generation, my family came over from Trinidad. You can be lucky and ask for more.
Michelle- I’m very lucky and so my family doesn’t quite understand what I’m doing. They’ve never put down what I do and for them this is a new thing.
Terri- No one put me down, they just didn’t get it. It’s interesting to navigate. It was a privilege to light your soul or follow your passion.
Michelle- If you were a pf entrepreneur, what’s the one thing you want listeners taking away from this conversation and hearing your story.
Terri- Accept that the people who come before you in this industry may give you advice that works. But, their way isn’t the only way. You can’t always follow everybody else. Did Yahoo pay you if your post got picked up by them?
Michelle- I got salty with someone. They are looking to grow their business, I was like that website paying you $250 posts, and in less than I day they’ve recouped their costs through ad revenue. You need to prioritize clients who pay more. We need to understand how clients make money. A good example is Harry and Meghan. It’s very clear that in certain papers in the UK the clicks per ad revenue does well in the UK. American fans know what you’re doing because we understand the business model.
Terri- That’s what hindered my earnings. I didn’t understand the business model and it was a lot more hush-hush at that time. People don’t respect writers. They see it as an art vs. a business. Now, it’s much easier for me to push back on certain things because I’ve established my business. If you’re just starting out it will be harder for you to push back.
Michelle- When people in the PF space are building up our businesses we spend a lot of time on the authority part of our business. That’s important because we do need to validate our experience and our knowledge but there’s a point when it becomes a distraction. There’s a point where you can pivot and focus on earnings. I made this mistake.
Terri -I think that people need to focus on your boundaries and if you don’t have them, people will set them for you. Time, pay-I’m not working on something that takes 60 days to get paid.
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