The Modern Day Snake Oil Salesman? The Self-Improvement Movement



Let's talk "self-improvement", shall we?

There is an entire movement dedicated to trying to convince you there's something wrong with you that needs fixing. If only you could be kinder and more positive, then finally, you might just be happy. 

I believed this for years. And guess what - all it did was leave me frustrated that I could never be good enough. The self-improvement movement will have people go on endless hunts for happiness and positivity like they’re searching for a diamond in the rough. 

I assure you, this is complete nonsense.

You’ll never meet a more miserable bunch of people than those who are trying to “just be positive.” 

Just as a magnet cannot repel its other half, you cannot live a one-sided life. No one can. We experience a range of emotions and display a cornucopia of traits, all of which serve us and those around us. I am both nice and mean, positive and negative, kind and cruel, warm and cold. We all are, depending on the situation. 

How about this: just be you. 

There is nothing wrong with you. As a species, we have evolved behaviors and personality traits that serve us. If a behavioral trait were not of use, it would have gone extinct. 

Instead of thinking “self-improvement” let’s talk personal development. The difference is that development is not trying to fix you. We start from the belief that YOU ARE ALREADY WHOLE and NOTHING IS BROKEN. Development awakens you to the gift of your natural skills, traits and abilities, and encourages you to deepen the awareness of how WHO YOU ARE TODAY is the fullest expression of yourself.

You don’t need to change. 

One of our greatest sources of suffering is trying to live by what other people value. Subordinating our own values to other people's beliefs, systems and structures. And this creates confusion, depression and anxiety to live up to an ideal that we cannot possibly meet.

You are already exhibiting the traits that serve you and your highest priorities. Instead of trying to focus on being “better”, how about focusing on how every one of your traits is helping you to fulfill your goals and mission while helping those around you. Figuring this out is easier than you realize. I’ve coached hundreds of people through this process.

I learned that my traits of being confident, assertive and a go-getter (traits that had me labeled “a bitch” as a full-time employee) were some of the greatest assets to me as an entrepreneur. My confidence instilled trust; my assertiveness demonstrated I could drive projects forward and my go-getter attitude helped me be proactive in finding contracts. If I’d believed my corporate bosses all those years ago, I’d still be living in shame and grief that I was just “too much.”

Thank god for being stubborn and not listening to them!

What happens when you accept who you are, as you are, and stop trying to change? You awaken your internal GPS that is driving your clarity, focus and vision. You begin to embrace that your greatest gift is to be exactly who you are, and use your traits, behaviors and skills to make an impact.

If you are curious about how to apply this to your life, ping me and let’s talk.  I coach clients around the world on these topics and am happy to help you, too.


Want to be a successful freelancer? Do these two things.

Four years ago when I first got into freelancing, I hadn’t yet defined my dream customer, so I took meetings with everyone interested - and one of those companies was a start-up in Silicon Valley. I drove an hour from my home in San Francisco to their office in Mountain View and decided to give it my all.

I was introduced to the CEO and his small team and spent most of my time talking to the lone marketing guy. The meeting lasted about two hours, and in that time I gave them tons of advice. At the end of the meeting, he expressed interest and told me he wanted to get started working the following week.

I was stoked!

But also confused.

Nowhere in that discussion had we talked about money or scope of work. I figured that would come over email. I was new to all this - what did I know? The marketing guy scheduled a full-day kickoff for the following Monday with me and the CEO. He began emailing us about ideas for the meeting and things to research in preparation.

Still no money talk.

I became concerned and mentioned it to him. His response was vague. So I escalated and emailed the CEO.

“I would like to discuss the terms of a contract with you before the kickoff meeting.”

Let’s be clear: this is a reasonable request.

The CEO did not respond. Instead, I received a terse response from the marketing guy. The CEO had better things to do than work out my contact and what a nerve I had to approach him directly.

So let me get this straight. You have time to spend six hours in a meeting with me, but you do not have time to negotiate a contract to employ me for said time?


I politely declined the work and moved on.

A few months later I learned that this marketing guy had a documented history of not paying freelancers. Thank goodness I trusted my instincts, stuck to my guns and sidestepped a potentially disastrous experience.

Here’s what that experience taught me:

1. Never work without a contract.

Your best chances of success as a self-employed person are to define your role, the scope of work, expected outcomes and cost with your clients in advance of doing work. This removes any ambiguity from the process so that when you begin working, you can focus on doing a great job. Front load all the contract negotiation, so that during the work period you are not stressing about if/how/when you are getting paid or why the client keeps throwing more work at you without a compensation plan.

Moreover, if you have a prospective client who wants to play things loose, and prefers to shoot from the hip and not write up contracts -  just “figure it out” as you go along -  you are setting yourself up for a nightmare client.

The greater the level of order and organization you see in your client, the more you will benefit from that experience.

Similarly, the more orderly and organized you are in defining your desired work, dream clients and expected fee, the easier it will be to identify and attract the right kind of clients to you!

2. You teach clients what you're worth.

How many freelancers are desperate for crumbs and will do work for free to “prove themselves”? Are you one of those people? And if so, how is working that way helping you financially? Are you now a millionaire because of all your free work? Or are you struggling to get paid what you’re worth?

I could've gone to that six-hour kickoff meeting and just hoped we "figured it out" at some point. But here's the point:

If you are working without compensation, your work has little to no value to the client.

Let that sink in.

If you work for free, why would a client ever compensate you what you’re worth? You’ve already proven your work isn’t worth anything.

Your self-worth + your worth to others = NET WORTH

Running a business where you are aware of your self-worth and worth to your clients means that not everyone will be your client. Some people will be intimidated by you and others will not be able to afford you. BUT THAT'S OK - you don't want to work with these people. You want to carve out a niche that targets people who value what you do highly. If your target market is "everyone," then you are in deep trouble.

In conclusion, do not be afraid to say NO to work that does not feel like a fair exchange of goods and services. Know your worth, know the kind of clients you’re willing to work with and do not compromise your standards.

I love hearing from YOU! Feel free to respond to this email with questions or comments. 

You Are What You Believe

When I was growing up, I was a talented flute player. I won awards, made first chair in a number of bands and orchestras only a couple years after I began playing and eventually travelled around Europe playing at festivals as a teenager. You could say I had a knack for it. But my dreams of becoming a flautist never went beyond high school. You wouldn't believe how many times my dad would tell me, "You'll never make money doing THAT."

And eventually, I believed him. So I kept my love of music, but put down the flute forever.

But here's the truth: I stopped myself before I even gave myself a chance. So who knows what would've happened?

What if we stopped telling ourselves with such certainty that we'll never be able to do A, B or C and instead asked:

"How can I use my ingenuity and talent to make money doing what I love?"

Case in point, I was thrilled to see this article today about an artist collective doing exactly that!

This 140-Person Art Collective Is Pursuing an Alternative Model for Artists to Make a Living


"Since the Santa Fe-based art collective Meow Wolf opened its permanent installation, the House of Eternal Return, in March 2016, the project has been an unmitigated success in terms of viewership and profits. Housed in a 20,000-square-foot former bowling alley, the sprawling interactive artwork welcomed 400,000 visitors in its first year—nearly four times as many as expected—and brought in $6 million in revenue for the collective’s more than 100 members."

Making money doing what you love often means finding an ingenious solution. It's only out of your reach if you never create a master plan to tackle it.


Laura Khalil is an advisor to some the world's largest brands on marketing strategy and leadership. Her work has been inducted into the Viral Marketing Hall of Fame and her clients have been featured at TED.

She also works as a female empowerment coach, leading workshops, talks and 1:1 coaching to help women empower themselves in all areas of their life.

Learn more at

Two Keys to Becoming a Healthy, Wealthy Woman

When I was 16 my dad bought me my first car. It was a Mercedes. Sounds nice right? Well… the car was 13 years old, built like a tank, had a broken turbo diesel engine (meaning the car when from 0 - 60 in about the time it takes for paint to dry), had a broken stereo, no defrost, a left blinker that regularly popped out of its “socket” and hung from the front bumper. Oh, and the bumper was also falling off, but no need to fear, the car was silver, so dad would grab a roll of duct tape, slap it around the bumper and… voila! Good as new. He bought the car for under $3000 and ended up keeping it for 6 years with minor repairs. As long as the wheels didn’t fall off, or the engine block didn’t drop, that was my car. 

Of course, being 16 years old with one hand out the window in February scraping off ice as I drove down the road while being honked at for not moving fast enough was among the more embarrassing experiences of my childhood. I derided my dad for being so cheap.

But what my dad understood was the value of a dollar. And he knew better than anyone that in order to make money, you’ve got to start saving and investing it. 


Who hasn’t dreamed of being financially independent? Once you make it you’ll have luxury cars, big villas, five star dining, grandiose vacations. 

But if this is your idea of being financially independent, then you’ll never make it. Only 4% of Americans retire financially independent. You cannot expect to spend money on luxury items and build financial independence. If you believe making “it” means spending it, then you’ll always be chasing that carrot on a stick. 

If you want to grow rich, it would be wise to stop living like you’re rich and start living like a millionaire.

In his book, The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy, Thomas J. Stanley shows that the average millionaire has mastered the art of saving money. They aren’t driving the fanciest cars or taking tons of vacations. They’re saving and investing money. 

My dad got this. We rarely had fancy dinners. Our bonding time was heading to Costco Saturday afternoon to grab $1.50 hot dog and soda. We always had money for the important stuff, and money was never an issue in our household. But that’s because my dad was careful with money.

If you want to grow rich, it would be wise to stop living like you’re rich and start living like a millionaire. But it’s easier said than done. Our beliefs about money, and its value are ingrained from a young age. If you grew up in a household where money was always tight, there was never enough of it and money was a constant source of stress - why on earth would you ever want to hold onto money? If you only ever learn to associate money with bad times, stress and trouble, it makes sense that you would do whatever you could to make sure you don’t have it in your life. 

And so we spend, spend, spend. We never have enough and treat dreams of financial independence like a fantasy that is beyond our reach. In the meantime, take the luxury trip and put it on the credit card. You’ll never actually be able to afford it, so fuck it. Right?

And as women, wealth creation is especially crucial. How many women rely on a man to “take care of it”. And for young women in the workforce, millennial women are making 93% of what their male counterparts make, but only half of them are saving. And of those who are saving, they are saving only 5.7% towards retirement, compared to millennial men who 1) make more and 2) save 7.3%. 

I have yet to find the store where women pay less for goods and services than men, so it is absolutely critical that women learn to up their savings and investments. 

The good news is that our beliefs about money can be changed. 

1. The first key is uncovering the beliefs that are subconsciously holding us back from being rich. 

2. The second key is seeing how saving and investing money can help to fulfill the things that are most important to you in life. 

When the reasons for saving and investing are compelling enough, a newfound appreciation for what it takes to become financially independent seems less like a pipe dream and more like an achievable goal. 

Want to learn more? If you’re in the Detroit area, please join me for on July 18th for the workshop, “The Healthy, Wealthy Woman: Six Steps to Financial Abundance”


Laura Khalil is an advisor to some the world's largest brands on marketing strategy and leadership. Her work has been inducted into the Viral Marketing Hall of Fame and her clients have been featured at TED.

She also works as a female empowerment coach, leading workshops, talks and 1:1 coaching to help women empower themselves in all areas of their life.

Learn more at

How to Build a Steady Stream of Clients

The most successful freelancers have clients and opportunities referred to them. Word of mouth and reputation are so important in this business, it can make or break a freelancer.

I've been freelancing for four years and 100% of my clients have referred my work out to other parts of their business. I have also hired many freelancers over the last 15 years, so I also see things from the client perspective.

Today I work with a few select clients, but the work continues to flow. Like any entrepreneur, I do have to hustle from time to time, but I don’t have the typical feast or famine problems that most freelancers face. My clients keep coming back for more work, or refer me to other parts of their business or friends. Referrals are the lifeblood of a successful freelancer, so I want to take the time to explain how to be the kind of freelancer that clients love and recommend.

Treat others as you want to be treated.

Put yourself in the shoes of the person who has hired you.

When I hire freelancers, here what I want: I expect them to be prompt, responsive, get work done at agreed upon deadlines (or have a good explanation for why that cannot happen), have a good attitude and be enthusiastic as well as be proactive in uncovering issues and challenges. In short, I would expect my freelancer to act like a professional. If you cannot fulfill these terms as a freelancer, it is unlikely you will get referred or re-hired. 

Your reputation is what will get you jobs. And that goes for how clients see you and how you work with other freelancers.

One of the ways I am referred work is through my freelance network. Fellow freelancers will give my name out when they hear of a role I’d be perfect for. Referring other freelancers to jobs you’re not suited for is a great way to build goodwill with your clients, help out your friends and be seen as a trusted source. But here’s the thing, you can’t refer out people that suck or don’t work with integrity. Why? Because your name is also on the line. If I refer a freelancer who turns out to have a lousy attitude, work slowly or be unresponsive, I lose credibility with the client. 

I’ve worked with a lot of freelance graphic designers. One in particular was incredibly talented and had a very strong creative side that the client loved. There was only one problem — he couldn’t work on a deadline. I’ll never forget: we had a client creative meeting one evening where I was going to present the concepts we’d been working on. There was just one problem — I had no creative to show the client. The freelance designer had gone MIA — stopped responding to texts, emails, calls and five minutes before the meeting I was yelling into his voicemail that if I didn’t hear from him I was going to come over to his house and knock some sense into him. 

This was bad. It reflected poorly on me and I vowed never to work with this guy again. I loved his work, but I couldn't trust him and would never refer him or work with them again. 

I will take an above average designer who is responsive, timely and does good work, to a design rockstar who is a nightmare to work with. Any day of the week. 

So learn to be a professional. If you like what you're doing and care about your clients, this should be a no brainer. If you hate what you're doing, this will be incredibly difficult (and perhaps it's time for a career change!),

Learn how to take feedback.

Like many people I know, when I worked in the corporate world, I used to be terrified of feedback. I was afraid I’d be ripped to shreds, made worthless and feel horrible about myself. I was afraid that negative feedback would mean I’d lose my job, not get a raise or jeopardize the relationship with my boss.

Since then, I’ve learned to embrace feedback by changing my mindset. As a freelancer, feedback is my life blood. As I tell every client I work with, I am here to give them something they love. And if they don’t love it, I want to know so we can make it right. With the writing and creative content I work on, I go through multiple rounds of client feedback. Why? Because we want it to be great. We want the content to shine. I no longer take feedback on my work personally. It’s just about getting to the finish line with something that everyone is proud of. If you can learn to separate your self worth from the feedback, you’ll completely transform the way you work with clients.

You may be wondering how I can afford to do two to three rounds of revisions with clients. It’s simple — it’s all built into the pricing. How do you avoid nightmare clients who want 50 rounds of revisions? Choose your clients wisely! This kind of behavior can often be rooted out by observing a person’s behavior and listening carefully to how they describe their work experience.

Do not burn bridges. Ever.

You know about Murphy’s Law, right? "When something can go wrong, it will go wrong."

This is how I treat bridge burning. If you start throwing proverbial Molotov cocktails at people you don’t like, it can bite you in the ass. And you never know when. You must learn to take the high road. You don’t have to roll over, but do not start insult people or talk about people behind their back. Maintain your personal integrity while respecting others. 

In my last full time role I was laid off by a member of senior management; we’ll call him John. A month prior we had a new VP of Marketing come in and decide to clean house. Since I was the only other member of the marketing team, my head was on the chopping block. So John and the new VP walked me into the conference room one Friday morning and gave me my marching papers. I was angry. Very angry.  I’d felt as though I worked very hard for this company and been put through the ringer over the last several months. I couldn’t believe this was how I was being “thanked”. I wanted to rail into John for this treatment (when he was only the messenger) and give him a piece of my mind. 

But I didn’t. I held my tongue, kept my head high and walked out of the conference room. I talked to my family about how upset I was, but I knew the advice to move on was right. And so I did. It was from that point on that I launched my freelancing career and have never looked back.

Fast forward about two years later...

And I am working with a new client on what could turn out to be a major contract. They’re a prestigious, internationally known brand, and I am about to land a big deal. I have a meeting with them, where I’m to meet the larger team and sync on the project. I’m excited and nervous and want to really show them I can do this. 

And as the meeting is about to get started, who walks in? John.

I could feel my body tense up. I hadn’t talked to him in years — since that day he let me go. I wasn’t sure how he was going to respond, but when he saw me he had a big smile on his face and said, “Laura it’s so great to see you again! Guys, Laura is awesome."

And that’s why I never burn bridges. 

It’s a small world, and unless you’re going to burn everyone and then move to a deserted island, I recommend bite your tongue and realize you're better than that.

Ask for recommendations or referrals.

We can hope and pray for referrals and recommendations, but have you considered asking for them? That’s honestly what separates most freelancers from the rest. 

As you’re getting feedback from the client, and wrapping up one part of the project, ask for a recommendation! If you've been doing your work with integrity, focused on delivering great results, the client should have no issue with this. Plaster it on your website, put it on your LinkedIn page and let the world know how awesome you are.

Wrapping it all up.

At the end of the day, these principles boil down into having integrity for yourself, the work you do and for the client experience.  This kind of attitude towards freelancing is best suited towards people who see freelancing as a career and not something to do in between getting your next full time job. See your client as someone you want to build a relationship with. If you can’t stand them, don’t work with them. It’s really that simple.