Podcast Category: Business Growth + Tools

  • Episode 11: {Interview} Freelancing and Finances with Shannon Simmons

    Shannon is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Chartered Investment Manager (CIM), media personality, personal finance expert, financial literacy advocate and founder of the New School of Finance. Shannon is a best-selling author of the two books:
    — Worry Free Money
    — Living Debt Free

    0:18 — Intro with Shannon Simmons

    2:15 — What is your money history story? We explore how money is talked about within the household, and how families can reflect shame and secrecy around finances. It’s time to get open about your finances!

    5:40 — Do you talk about how your business is doing, whether it’s good or bad? We talk about all the feelings that people have when talking about and handling money.

    8:35 — Are you passionate about what you do, but scared to see if it’s actually profitable? We dig into the emotional layer of taking a hard look at whether your business is actually profitable.

    9:55 — Why Shannon chose to work Freelancers and how she made a niche for herself.

    11:48 — TAXES! This is what you’ve been waiting for. How to organize your taxes and what you need to do when you’re just starting off. How to wrap your head around income tax.

    15:50 — EXPENSES! What are they? What’s a write-off, and how to organize the money that is  going OUT of your business. How do you know if something is a an expense? Find out here.

    23:25 — What are some things that are not allowed to be expensed, and what in Shannon’s experience has been the most bizarre expense attempts.

    26:00 — How do media personalities and influencers determine expenses? We discuss how the landscape has changed since the emergence of all these new careers.

    27:20 — We talk CRA and how they are a great resource for entrepreneurs. It’s not a big bad agency who’s out to get your money. We talk all about the role of Revenue Canada.

    31:30 — What is the difference between income tax and sales tax? Let’s clear up some muddy waters about GST/HST, sales tax and income tax.

    37:25 — Where can you find Shannon, and what resources she has to offer.


    Here’s where you can find Shannon

    Financial Services:



  • Episode 10: {Interview} Photoshoots and Visual branding with Irina Leoni

    I’m super stoked to have my good friend Irina Leoni join me, she’s a super talented photographer, brand strategist, and visual branding icon.

    Let’s dive in to all things visual branding!

    1:00 — Irina intro and how she started with photography and why she got into it

    3:30 — How as a photographer does Irina make her subject feel comfortable, and how to make the most of the awkwardness of a photoshoot

    6:05 — How Irina prepares her subjects for ALL the places photos will be used. Making sure you have pics not only for your website, but Instagram, Facebook, Twitter ADS and other people’s website.

    10:30 — The questions you need to ask photographers before you hire them t take your branding photos. Make sure they are specific to BRANDING!

    12:55 — Is there value in mixing a combination of professional photos with candid shots? Yes! But, there is a time and a place.

    15:00 — Smartphone photography, and how to make the most of the camera in your pocket

    16:20 — When to upgrade to a professional camera, and how to not get overwhelmed by technology. Is a smartphone enough to start with?

    23:45 — Start small with the equipment you have, and scale up when you outgrow your equipment.  Not the other way around.

    Find Irina Here:


  • Episode 9: {Interview} SaaS, Scaling and Working with Your Life Partner with Marie Poulin and Ben Borowski

    I am so happy to introduce two good friends of mine. Marie Poulin, and Ben Borowski.

    Marie and Ben are co-founders of Oki Doki, as well as life partners.

    In this episode we take a deep dive into what life is like working with your life partner, starting up a SaaS company, immigrating to Canada, and some really useful techniques and practices that can keep a personal and working partnership running smoothly.

    Plus, we have some interesting conversations about scaling the unscalable. Spoiler Alert: We all lean more heavily towards high-touch services, concierge-style customer service,  integrity and quality of life as metrics over thousands of signups.

    About Ben:
    Ben is a product designer and software developer with a fine arts background. After many years in agency-land, he started his own shop in 2010, and, after immigrating to Canada in 2014, founded Oki Doki with Marie. In his spare time he collects vinyl, pets shibas, and is a volunteer firefighter.

    About Marie:
    Marie helps small business owners bring their digital product & service ideas to life. She is a product and service strategist, and a master digital strategist. As if that isn’t enough, she’s an amazing designer and developer, as well and a permaculture enthusiast in her spare time.

    1:15: — Current life situation and how Marie and Ben became life partners and business partners

    3:45 — Finding out who has dominant skills in each area, and how to decide who takes the lead on what projects

    4:25 — What were Ben and Marie doing before they joined forces.

    7:45 — Check out Ben’s journey on his immigration to Canada, taxes and all that’s involved when moving a business across borders

    11:10 — What it’s like diving into the build not only of a digital product (SaaS), but structuring a full business with your partner at the same time.

    14:00 — Why they choose to sell software as a subscription model, and how they came to solve the issue of the complexity of online courses.

    15:45 — Here we dive in to the value that they provide as a boutique operation, supplying a premium customer experience, and scaling the unscalable.

    31:00 — How a low cost of entry can lead into lifetime clients spending tens of thousands of dollars for further custom strategy and web experiences.

    40:00 — Creating more impactful work, scaling your happiness, flexibility, freedom and building a business on your terms

    44:00 — How communication is when you work and live together. What routines and rituals do Marie and Ben abide by to keep on track, and how to handle disputes both inside and outside of the relationship

    47:00 — Carrying over organizational techniques from the business into personal life, and vice versa. Work/life integration

    48:45 — Routines, entrepreneurship, and setting up your daily routines.

    51:10 — Startup and shutdown rituals

    54:55 — Thinking about starting a business or project with a partner? Here’s Marie’s and Ben’s tips for a successful relationship both inside and outside of the company.

    Where you can find them online:



    Resources Mentioned:
    http://tanyageisler.com/ (Imposter Complex Coach)


  • Episode 8: {Interview} Entrepreneurship and Mental Health with Dr. Sherry Walling

    Today we dive deep into mental health, especially when it comes to entrepreneurs.

    ** Trigger Warning **
    This episode contains talk about death, depression, mental health, and suicide. If this isn’t a good time in your life to listen, skip it for now, we’ll be here when you need us.

    Today we dive DEEP with Dr Sherry Walling of Zen Founder.

    About Dr. Sherry

    Dr. Sherry Walling helps smart people do hard things. She works with leaders and entrepreneurs to tackle the common and uncommon challenges that go along with the pursuit of an extraordinary life. As a clinical psychologist, speaker, yoga teacher, podcaster, entrepreneur, and best-selling author, she draws from her professional expertise as well as her personal experience. Her best-selling book, The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Keeping Your Shit Together, combines the insight and warmth of a therapist with the truth-telling mirth of someone who has been there.

    When she’s not in the consulting room or hopping stages around the world; Sherry can be found on her paddleboard, swinging from the rafters pretending to be a circus performer, or ushering her three kiddos through an art museum in some fabulous city.

    Let’s jump in…

    4:30 — Current rates and stats of mental health concerns within the entrepreneurs, with Dr. Michael Freeman and where those rates originate from. Is it correlation, or causation?

    10:30 — The “all or nothing” stress, hustle culture, burnout and the toll extreme highs and lows take on your mental and physical health.

    12:45 — Maintaining boundaries of downtime, shifting from work to downtime, and the Mr. Rogers Phenomenon.

    16:40 — Introversion, Extroversion and Isolation. The power of tribe, and community and how it’s beneficial to mental health.

    20:35 — Suicide. Coping with feelings, and supporting a normalized conversation to help people open up about it. How to support friends, and yourself. Also, will telling a professional about your feelings get you into trouble? Have you committed? Find out here. (Spoiler: the answer is no. You should definitely talk to someone).

    29:54 — Loss, grief and life. How to prepare for your death, how to prepare your family, and dealing with grief as an entrepreneur.

    35:00 — Combatting the “what if…” monsters. Taking control over the things you have control over, and letting the uncontrollables go. We also talk about the benefits of journalling and what do do with the text you’ve journaled.

    39:15 — Does work/life balance exist? The answer is it all comes down to how you feel. Don’t let someone else dictate what works for you. Listen to your emotions, listen to your body. Get good at asking yourself “How am I doing?…”, “How does this feel to me?”

    43:00 — How to celebrate your successes, and avoid burnout.


    Dr Sherry Walling:
    Book: https://www.amazon.com/Entrepreneurs-Guide-Keeping-Your-Together-ebook/dp/B079SNX6NB
    Video on Burnout: https://businessofsoftware.org/2018/08/stay-top-game-dr-sherry-walling-zenfounder-bos-usa-2017/

    Zen Founder Podcast:

    Canada Suicide Prevention:

    Crisis Centres Canada:

    Toronto Crisis Prevention:

    USA Suicide Prevention:

  • Episode 6: Is Freelancing Worth It?

    Ah yes, the age old question. Is Freelancing reeeeaaaallly  worth it?

    Well, there’s a lot of factors at play, and we’re going to dive into all of them. In this episode, we’ll explore what type of lifestyle freelancing is suited for, when you should quit your job, and is there a right a right way and a wrong way?

    Find out.

    1:30 — Start with Why. Start with your guiding star, why do you want to freelance? Time to self reflect.

    3:00 — Auditing your family and person life. Is this the right decision based on your current situation, and moving into your desired situation. Children? Dependants? Debt? we cover all of it.

    4:44 — Knowing your numbers, your expenses, your debts, your responsibilities and how you are currently spending your time and money.

    7:00 — Do you like your current job? How long can you stay there while you build your side biz or do you need to quit ASAP?

    7:30 — It’s just as important to take stock of your mental health. Do you need to leave your job for your own sanity, and how fast do you need to make the transition? These are all questions that you need to consider. This is why the decision  is so personal, and without answering these, there’s no way to know if going freelance is both smart and/or sustainable.

    Be prepared to cut toxic relationships out, to be able to invest your time in thriving communities and supportive surroundings.

    9:30 — We dive into all the pros and cons of freelancing, starting with Pros

    — Be your own boss
    — You get to make decisions
    — Flexibility of schedule
    — Flexibility of who you choose as clients
    — Unlimited earning potential
    — No commute
    — Pursue your passion
    — Work from anywhere
    — Choose your days off
    — No clothes required 🙂
    — Full control over niche and direction and scale of your business
    — Creative Freedom

    — You need to make all the decisions
    — Every client is essentially your boss
    — Burnout while chasing $$$
    — Isolation
    — Travel while working can be expensive
    — No one to help you solve problems (this is where community becomes important)
    — You are responsible for all problems
    — Responsible for all less-glamorous aspects of business
    — No paid leave/mat leave/sick days/vacation days
    — No Healthcare/Benefits
    — Inconsistent income
    — Distractions

    23:20 — Jump to here if you want to know why I started Freelancing.


  • Episode 4: Niching Down and Building Authority

    Sometimes niching down can freak people out. I get it,  it can feel like you’re alienating a portion of your audience but today we’re going to dive into how to do it right while building authority. Let’s go!

    Here’s my 7 tips to niching down and building authority

    3:10 — 1. Honing in on your niche, and identifying who you serve? This includes an exercise where we explore where there is overlap between what you’re good at and what potential clients need.

    5:31 — 2. Double your prices (or at least increase them). People tie money to value and expect to pay more for specialty services. You are now a specialty service!

    6:55 — 3. Don’t do something you hate. Let’s explore the golden area that intersects “what you’re good at”, “what the market dictates”, and “what you love”. Many people are scared to go here because they think it’s TO GOOD TO BE TRUE. Repeat after me, nothing is too good to be true.

    8:40 — 4. Market Research. Who is out there in that niche? Can you connect to them? I’ve found that most people who do well in their specialty are happy to chat about  it and answer questions. This combine with some preliminary Googling can help you get your footing when exploring your niche.

    9:37 — 5. Tell people about your niche! Make what you do part of your introduction. Get your niche down to 5 – 7 words so you can clarify what you excell in and make an impact in a short period of time.

    10:57 — 6. Paid Advertising. We dedicate most of time to organic growth, but don’t dismiss ads. Analytics have come so far, and they’re a relatively inexpensive way to reach an audience outside of your immediate circle.

    12:46 — 7. Show up constantly, and provide value. You can try all the tactics in the world, but nothing will get more traction than doing the work. Writing pitch letters, breaking down how-to’s, and writing guest posts may not be the most glamorous work in the world, but it’s the work that makes everything pay off in the long run.

    Put in the work, and keep on going. You got this!



  • Episode 3: How To Start Freelancing 101

    Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s start where everyone does… the beginning.

    The top 20 questions I first get from people when they first start out

    20. Should I name my business my own name, or should I create a separate company name for it?

    The short answer is, will this company be intertwined (and reliant on) your own identity, or can it live outside of you. Also, will you ever sell your company. I can’t answer this for you, but this will help you come to a more solid conclusion.

    4:32 — 19. Incorporate vs. Sole Prop etc…

    Depends on the business structure, but basically stay as a sole prop until you earn more money than you need to live. That way, when you are making more money, you can incorporate, but you can start as a sole prop TODAY.

    The caveat is that if it’s a highly-liable company, you may consider incorporating earlier to cover yourself from a legal perspective.

    We’ll dive into this in 2 later episodes, one focussed around Canadian companies and taxes, and the second around American.

    6:16 — 18. Do I need a website with a portfolio.

    Not necessarily. Most of your first clients will come from word of mouth, so they will hire you for you. Don’t let lack of portfolio stop you from looking for new clients. The reality is, people make decisions from feeling, not necessarily from an intellectual place so instilling confidence in your clients, that you are right for the job is much more important than your portfolio when first starting out.

    7:38 — 17. Do I charge my client tax right away?

    This will depend on the region you live in, so be sure to check with your local tax laws. In general, if it’s optional in your region, I would suggest registering a tax number right away and charging clients. It adds to your professionalism, will allow you more “write offs” (which we’ll cover in another episode), and you can claim that to get back anyways.

    9:12 — 16. Do I need a contract and what should it say?

    Legally, the answer is yes. However, you can get some contracts online that will cover you until you until you start diving into deeper waters.

    I would say, it’s worth investing in a lawyer to draw you up a contract after you’ve made your first 20K or so. That’s not a rule, but let’s just say if you’re making 90K per year, you should probably be seeking some legal counsel to make sure your business is protected.

    10:35 — 15. What does a proposal look like, and what should it include?

    Use a PDF or Google Doc to stat. Include the following
    — Intro to project
    — Breakdown of phases
    — Cost breakdown
    — Social Proof (optional)
    — Payment schedule

    12:47 — 14. Do I need project management softwares?

    There are sooo many! If you’re just starting out, I would suggest a simple setup of Google docs and folders to get you started with a folder for client to upload image assets, and website copy.

    Keep a Google sheet of timeline and payment schedule in there for bonus points.

    13:44 — 13. What do I charge?

    There are soooo many answers to this question, but here are some initial steps.
    1. Find out what your competitors are charging to get a ballpark
    2. Decide on an hourly rate, and price projects using the estimated hours x 30% buffer. You don’t need to show clients that calculation, but you can use it for your own references as a starting place.
    3. Value pricing: it’s very difficult to value price from day 1, so we’ll get into that at a later date.

    16:24 — 12. How do I get referrals and testimonials for my future clients?

    Ask them!

    This might seem very awkward at first, but here’s a quick script to help you along. Also, make sure to ask the verbally first towards the end of their agreement.

    When you start the conversation, ask…
    How was everything for you?
    How was it paced out?
    How was my communication?

    then follow up with,

    Hey _______,

    That’s amazing! I would love other people to have the same experience as you, do you mind putting ________ in writing, I’d love to feature you on my site.

    Take the feedback, both good and bad and either turn it into a testimonial, or implement the improvements in your process.

    It’s important to take the negative feedback as well as the positive to make changes and grow as a company.

    17:53 — 11. What happens when a project goes south?

    Sometimes this happens. Sometimes it’s your fault, and sometimes it’s the clients fault. Without placing blame, it’s in your best interest to go back to the contracts and proposals to gain clarification.

    I always give the client the benefit of the doubt, so if there was something in my contract that could be mis-interpreted, I take the hit, make the corrections, move forward and re-word + revisit my policies moving forward.

    The key is be present, be empathetic, be proactive, and err on the side of clarity.

    19:52 — 10. How do I invoice and collect payment?

    There are so many optins now!

    For accounting purposes, I would suggest using software like Freshbooks, WaveApps, FreeAgent, Xero, Harvest or Quickbooks as you can take payment (for a fee) directly through the application. Alternatively, you can bill through either Stripe or PayPal. Truthfully, clients have their own preferences, so I actually take all of the following.
    — Interac e-transfer
    — Overseas wire transfer
    — Venmo
    — Stripe
    — PayPal
    — Cheque (oldschool)
    — Quickbooks online payment

    I would suggest having at least one way they can pay via bank (e-transfer, or cheque), and one way they can pay via credit card (PayPal or Stripe). Yes, there are fees associated with credit card payments, but those are the cost of doing business.

    22:58 — 9. How do I find well paying clients?

    Go check out the previous episode “How to find clients”

    23:37 — 8. What’s the difference between a Proposal, a Contract and and Invoice? Do you need all 3?

    Yes, you do need all 3, however you can combine the proposal and contract together if you like.

    Proposal: Project outline, scope, timeline and payment schedule outline
    Contract: Legally binding agreement of terms signed by both parties. Contains agreement of proposal.
    Invoice: Payment request, methods of payment accepted, and when payment is due

    Once the contract is approved, you can use companies like HelloSign, Adobe, and Docusign to get their signatures digitally.

    25:44 — 7. What is a Niche? Do I need to specialize my services?

    A niche is something that you’re good at, or a certain customer you wish to serve that differentiates you from your peers. Serving a niche is serving a narrower group of people. Some people get freaked out when you suggest to narrow their focus, but I’m telling you, you will attract more of the right people, be able to charge more, and have less stress is you get REALLY good at just one, or a few key things.

    Episode on niching coming soon…

    27:39 — 6. Do I need to run ads to promote myself?

    No! i go over so many FREE ways to get clients in the previous episode, go listen… now.

    28:02 — 5. What should I have in place to look like a professional?

    Even though I highly encourage you to be yourself in every capacity, there are a few things you should brush up when you are looking to present yourself to clients.
    Here’s a few:
    — Make sure there’s nothing incriminating on your FB and IG feeds
    — Update your skillsets on LinkedIn, and have people vouch for you
    — Be aware of publicly visible photographs on your profiles.

    29:22 — 4. Do I have to work for Free?

    In my unpopular opinion, yes.

    If you love the project, and are invested absolutely. Don’t take free jabs because you think you should, do it because you want to.

    30:27 — 3. How do I respond to family and friends when they want my services for a “deal”?

    Generally, I don’t do work for friends and family. I refer them out. However, I did in the beginning because they were projects that were close to me, and they were projects that I believed in.

    Also, I only do projects for FREE on my own terms, or I charge full price. I never charge discounted rates. Period.

    32:44 — 2. How do clients typically pay? How many increments do you divide it into?

    This is typically how my payment plans work out. Feel free to swipe!

    > $1000 — Everything is paid at the end of a project
    $2000 – $7000 — Split into 2 payments. 50% initially, 50% on deployment
    $10,000 + — 3 to 4 payments, generally spanning monthly payments. I allow some flexibility with clients, which they appreciate. I rarely split into more than 4 payments.

    35:10 — 1. When does a project end? Do you offer packages? Do you need to offer support?

    The project for me ends when it it deployed to the final URL. This should be made clear in the contract terms.

    I do offer 14 – 30 days of support following deployment, and this is included in the project. You also need to make this clear, that no new features will be added during this time, but it is used to improve existing functionality, iron out bugs and general troubleshooting of existing features, as well as training.

    You don’t need to offer any packages beyond that, but many developers offer maintenance packages that allow continuous updates to the site, usually for a monthly fee.

    That’s it!

    Reach out if you have any Q’s (at symbol)margreffell everywhere.