Don’t be afraid to change your career later in life—there’s immense value in loving what you do and feeling excited about your work.
Hilary is a storyteller. She began her career in television interning for ABC News 20/20, Curious Pictures and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Upon graduating from The University of Maryland in 2005, she was hired by The Colbert Report to serve as Stephen Colbert’s assistant.
In 2008, she joined the world of freelancers, working on various projects for companies such as HBO, VH1, SpikeTV, and MTV, until CollegeHumor.com hired her as their Senior Producer of Sponsored/Branded Content. It was at CollegeHumor.com that Hilary developed her love of client interaction, serving as an Executive Producer on projects for big brands, like Geico, Nestea, Nintendo, Axe Body/Shower, Best Buy and Mountain Dew. In 2010, Hilary was hired by Jonathan Tisch and PlumTV to produce an Emmy-nominated series called Beyond the Boardroom.
After moving to Philadelphia from New York City in 2011, Hilary worked for a handful of startups and nonprofits in the marketing department. In 2012, she was hired as the Communications Manager for a growing medical device company in Center City. In early 2015, with the birth of her first child on the horizon, she decided to strike out on her own. Hilary launched her content and branding consultancy, Hilary Young Creative, before going out on maternity leave and never looked back.
Today, Hilary Young Creative serves businesses of all sizes across a variety of industries, as well as nonprofit organizations. Specializing in content strategy, brand messaging, content audits, SEO-optimized blog content, and email marketing, Hilary has built a diverse portfolio of creative projects for her clients. In 2017, Hilary launched a new HYC service: creative coaching for women who run their own businesses, or who are looking to launch their own businesses.
Hilary has served on the board of Philadelphia’s first nonprofit cafe, The Monkey & The Elephant and continues to be an advocate for supporting foster youth. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband two young daughters.
Where did the idea for Hilary Young Creative come from?
I moved to Philadelphia from New York City to be with my now-husband in 2011. Up until then, I had worked in television and web production for shows like The Colbert Report, HBO’s Ricky Gervais Out of England comedy special, MTV’s The CollegeHumor Show, and 12 Angry Mascots for ESPN. When I moved, I wasn’t sure how to translate my skills to a “normal” job. I went on a lot of job interviews and eventually a producer with NBC10 connected me with a startup that was looking for a Content Producer. I worked there for 6 months before the company went under and I was back to the drawing board. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, I decided to use my free time to volunteer with non-profits around the city and very quickly realized that all of them needed creative marketing help. I signed up for a business course through Wharton’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), put a business plan together, and went out into the world to find clients.
The first iteration of Hilary Young Creative was solely focused on serving non-profits, which made it very difficult to yield a profit. By late 2012, I had 2 clients, but was really struggling and wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it work. In early 2013, I was offered a full-time position as the Communications Manager for a growing medical alert device company and took it without hesitation. In 2015, there was an ice storm here in Philly, and I was very pregnant with my first child. I requested to work from home that day, and they denied my request. So I decided to use my day off to rework all of the branding for Hilary Young Creative, shifting gears to focus more on small businesses, and rebuilt my website using Wix. By the time I went out on my maternity leave 2.5 months later, I had 3 clients, and by the end of my leave that number was up to 5. I basically used my maternity leave to launch my business and never looked back! Today, I have about 15 regular clients on my roster.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My day starts by taking my kids to school, so I don’t really get to begin working until about 9:45am, usually over a cup of tea. Being a mom has taught me how to budget my time well, since I realize how limited it is throughout the day. I keep a master spreadsheet to-do list for all of my clients, each week of the year getting its own tab. I use it to track assignments, deadlines, my time, and my money. I start everyday by consulting that spreadsheet and attacking my assignments one at a time. I typically stop working around 4pm so that I can go pick up my kids, play with them for a bit, cook dinner, and do bed time (or go to the gym once my husband gets home from work). Then I start working again once everyone has gone to sleep. Some people might see it as a weird schedule, but it really works for me and gives me a chance to have more work-life balance.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m a creative person and I work in a creative field, so my wheels are always turning and ideas come to me all the time. Since I’m not always guaranteed to be at a desk, I keep a running list of notes on my phone. The television producer in me keeps me pretty organized and militant about following through on ideas—very few get forgotten about!
What’s one trend that excites you?
I love how much everyone has embraced the need for high-quality content for their business or brand. When I first started out in this industry, it took a lot of convincing to get the executives to invest in content—it was always an afterthought. But now people really see the value in content and that’s presented a lot of great business opportunities for me.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am very determined and super organized. So once I decide that I want something or have a goal to work towards, I put a plan in place to get myself there. I offer a coaching program to other female founders and entrepreneurs, and this is a big part of what I do for them as well!
What advice would you give your younger self?
I was really lost and shocked when I realized I felt burned out after working in television for almost 10 years. My identity was so wrapped up in what I did for a living, and I had such a singular focus on my own ambition to succeed that so much else in my life fell by the wayside. My advice to my younger self would be to have more faith in the fact that you’ll find your way to the right thing. Give yourself the freedom to explore activities and pursuits well beyond the confines of a career. Trust that you’re not a failure for wanting to shift gears—it’s all just part of the adventure!
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
It’s okay to chase happiness. If you’re not happy at a job, leave it. If you’re not happy in a relationship, leave it. Don’t worry about money or security—all of that will work itself out, usually if you’re happy and challenged and passionate about what you’re doing.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Start your own business! This advice is especially for women. We tend to hold on to so much self-doubt and fear, but we are capable of incredible things when we give something our all. I know so many women who tell me they wish they could start their own business and I’m here to tell them that they can! It’s not easy, but it’s incredibly rewarding, especially if you have kids and want a more flexible schedule.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
When I first started my business, I didn’t have any money to put into marketing or advertising efforts. All of my business came from word of mouth, but I wanted to grow. So I decided to partner with parallel businesses—a graphic design and web design company, a PR firm, and a video production operation—that could refer me to their clients and vice versa. It’s proven to be incredibly fruitful and makes me feel like I have coworkers from time to time.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest failure was the first version of HYC. I was so convinced that I had a great idea for a business, but non-profits are so challenging to work with. Their budget is always stretched, it can take a long time to get approvals if they have to go through board members, and they just don’t value creative marketing the way that for-profit companies do. I really tried to make it work, but most days I felt like I was just treading water. When I took the full-time job with the medical device company, I wasn’t totally ready to let go of my HYC dream, and just sort of left the business on the back burner, accepting freelance projects from time to time. Almost like a side-hustle. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because when I was finally ready to launch this version of my business, all the branding elements were in place so that I could hit the ground running.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I think that it would be great to have a maternity marketplace to sell or swap maternity clothes, nursing clothes, and baby gear. I have so much stuff that’s still in great shape and now that I’m done having kids I have no idea what to do with it!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
On a babysitter and a date night! Since having our second daughter, my husband and I haven’t had as much time to connect on a non-parenting level. I’m also always shifting between my role as business owner and mom, which doesn’t leave much time for myself, so a night out without the kids (and a few cocktails!) feels like a real indulgence.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Canva—I love it! They make it so easy to create good looking graphic design elements for a variety of platforms. I recently launched an HYC Instagram, and Canva has been an essential part of my social strategy.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I’m embarrassed to admit that I used to be an avid reader and I haven’t had much time to read since having a second child last year. I’ve read two books for pleasure that I’d highly recommend: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I can, however, recommend business podcasts to listen to, like Skimm’d From the Couch and How I Built This.
What is your favorite quote?
I let go easily, trusting that nothing good ever leaves my life unless something better is coming.
I don’t know who to attribute this quote to, but a friend passed it on to me in a moment of crisis about 10 years ago and it’s stuck with me ever since. It really applies to every situation in life!
• Don’t be afraid to change your career later in life—there’s immense value in loving what you do and feeling excited about your work.
• If you want more work-life balance, consider starting a business. It’s not the easier option, but it will afford you a little more flexibility when it comes to your schedule and the projects you take on.
• Timing is everything. Just because something—like a business—isn’t working out for you right now, doesn’t mean it won’t work later on, when the timing is right. And sometimes, timing gives you more perspective, allowing you to make a small change that can yield big results
• Make sure you are taking time for yourself that doesn’t have anything to do with being a wife, mom, or boss lady. Give your brain a chance to rest and recharge because it will help you perform better in all areas of your life.