Hello. My name is Alexandra Franzen.

I run a communication agency, write books, and teach courses on how to clear mental resistance & do things you never thought you could do.

I believe that we get one beautiful shot at life, it’s a privilege to be here, and it’s never too late to make it count.

Who do you want to become? Today is not over yet.

I’m proud of you.

“Whoa! Look at those shoulders! I bet you could destroy me in an arm-wrestling match! You’ve been working hard. I’m proud of you.”

It’s my local barista.

Over the past six months, he has watched me make my almost-daily trek to the gym, stopping in for an espresso along the way.

He has watched me transform from a woman who could barely do one push up into… well, whatever I am now. A woman who could dominate a grown man in an arm wrestling match, apparently.

Session by session. Little by little. He’s seen the progress.

And, I can’t help it — his words fill me with renewed pride.

He noticed.

Somebody noticed.

Somebody is proud of me.

I’m proud of me, too.

The truth is that we all want to feel witnessed, appreciated, valued, noticed. Like we exist. Like we matter. Like our efforts count for something. Like we’re not tethered to this planetary rock all alone. We all want that feeling of being seen. We crave high fives, hugs, and simple words that mean so much.

“I see your effort. I’m proud of you.”

Doesn’t take much to deliver that kind of gift.

Just takes a few seconds. A few words. Words that could shift someone’s entire day.

“You’ve been posting such beautiful images on Instagram lately. I love that you’re keeping your commitment to share one self-portrait every day. I’m proud of you.”

“Is that your yoga mat I see tucked in your backpack? Yeah! Third time this week? Go get it. I’m proud of you.”

“You seem so rested and energized. Whatever you’re doing: don’t stop. I’m proud of you.”

If you notice someone working hard, upping the game, honoring a commitment, keeping a vow that might be easy to break, just say so.

Four words.

“I’m proud of you.”

Go ahead.

Fill someone’s cup.

Make someone’s day.


You are a grown up. Do what you want.

My fingers hover above the SIGN UP button.

Wanting to click. Not clicking. Still wanting. Not clicking.

Inside my mind, a whirling tornado of thoughts:

I really want to take that fitness class in half an hour. But I already went to the gym earlier today! Will they think I’m a weirdo for coming back twice in one day? But I really want to go. It will feel so good and my favorite instructor is teaching. But what will people think? Maybe I ought to use this time to do something else. Blah blah bloop etc.

And so on.

The mental-whirling continues for one, two, five minutes. Maybe longer.

Time’s running out. Am I lacing up my sneakers or not? What the heck is stopping me?

Then, like a sunburst of clarity, clouds parting, angels rejoicing in harmony, I remember:

Wait a minute… I am a grown up. I can do what I want.

I sign up. I dash out. I take the class. It’s amazing, challenging, intensely rewarding. Just like I knew it would be.

Do I regret going? No I do not.

Do I feel silly for wasting five precious life-minutes wavering, stammering and hovering over the SIGN UP button for no reason? Yep, I do.

The next time I catch myself — or somebody else — painfully wrestling with a decision that really doesn’t need to be wrestled with, I will gently shake them out of their stupor and offer this reminder:

Hey. You there. Yeah, you.

You are allowed to eat kale for breakfast and peanut butter for dinner.

You are allowed to do yoga for eight hours a day if you want to.

You are allowed to do things that “most people” don’t do.

You are allowed to do whatever delights you.

You are allowed to reach for the stars.

You are allowed to sit this one out.

This is your life.

You want something?

Go get it.

You love something?

Then have it.

Obviously, naturally, duh, of course, try not to hurt yourself or anybody else as you make your choices. (You know this already. Because you are kind and smart.)

You are a grown up.

Do what you want.


Good Question: How do I start charging for something I’ve always done for free?

Alexandra,
 
A couple years ago, a friend encouraged me to speak at an event. People responded to my story very strongly. Pretty soon, I was getting phone calls to speak at other venues.
 
Since then, I’ve delivered talks in three different countries. All free. I’ve never charged a fee for my speaking gigs. But I’m ready for that to change.
 
I know I’m a rockin’ motivational speaker. I know my words impact people. But how do I start charging for something I’ve always done for free?
 
–Fatima

Dear Fatima,

How do you start charging?

Simple:

You start charging.

I know. Easier said than done, right?

The key is to communicate with total confidence and clarity.

(This goes for all kinds of scenarios — not just charging for public speaking engagements.)

If you lay out a clean process for your client / customer / event producer — with a confident, uber-professional “This is how I roll” attitude — then they will roll right along with you.

If you communicate vaguely or display uncertainty or hesitation (“Oh, it’s OK! I can waive my speaking fee. No problem. Or we can negotiate. Or whatever. Whatever works for yoooou!”) then people won’t trust you, believe in you, or feel eager to pay you.

Blunt, but true.

Let’s talk logistics.

The next time someone reaches out to you to say, “Hey, would you speak at my event?” you could respond by saying:

Thanks for reaching out to me, [person’s name].

[Name of event] sounds amazing! Thanks for inquiring about booking me to deliver a talk.

Before I give a resounding “YES!” I’d love to learn a little more about you, your event, and your audience.

Here are three quick statements for you to fill out and send back to me.

Hit “reply” to this email with your responses, whenever you’re ready:

– “The people in the audience at my event want ______________, love ______________, and are struggling with ______________.”

– “I’d love to book you to share a story that will [motivate / inspire / urge / persuade] the people in my audience to ______________.”

– “My #1 goal for this event is to [create / bring about / change] ______________.”

Thanks, [person’s name]! Excited to see your responses. Have a terrific day!

[your name here]

Then, based on the responses you receive, you should be equipped to decide if this event is going to be a good match for you or not. If it’s a “YES,” send back an email to say something like this:

Hey again, [person’s name],

Whoa. I LOVED your responses. Thank you.

[Topic that they mentioned] resonates strongly with me and I would be honored to appear on your stage.

I’d love to move forward.

Here’s my process:

1. I will email you a list of potential topics for my talk. You tell me which topic feels like the best fit for your audience.

2. Then, we’ll both sign a one-page agreement to confirm my speaking appearance. (I’ll send this to you.)

3. After that, I will send you an invoice for my speaking fee, which is [dollar amount] plus reimbursement for travel / accommodation. (All the money details will be laid out in the agreement I just mentioned. No surprises.)

4. On the big day, I get onstage and rock the mic.

5. We celebrate afterwards with champagne, hugs, and huge smiles.

If all of that sounds good — and if my speaking fee is within your budget — then hit “reply” to this email to say “LET’S DO THIS!” and I will take it from there.

So thrilled to connect with you, [person’s name].

Until soon…

[your name here]

PS. If you haven’t already done so, you can click HERE to visit the ‘speaking gigs’ section of my website. On that page, you will find video clips of me onstage, audience testimonials, my official bio, and all that good stuff. Enjoy!

See what I just did there?

By laying out a process for your client (“Do this, hit reply, tell me this, etc”) you are taking charge of the situation.

You’re saying, “This is how I do business” not “Um, hi, how should we do business? I’m flexible! You can pay me or not, whatevs?”.

Huge difference.

You’re also getting your client EVEN MORE EXCITED about booking you, because you’re inviting your client to think deeply about his or her intentions for the event and why they want YOU, specifically, to be there.

You’re getting your client emotionally invested in the idea of hiring YOU and only YOU.

You’re demonstrating, already, at this early stage in the relationship, that you’re a pro and you’re worth every penny.

Now, it’s possible that certain clients will write back to say, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t afford to pay you. Is there any way you could speak for free?”

At that point, it’s your call. You can say “yes.” You can say “no.” You can negotiate. You can barter. You can propose an alternative scenario.

Personally, I would recommend giving a clean, simple “no” — with no explanation, justification, rationalization or back-story behind it.

Just “nope, no can do” — plus a generous surprise to reinforce, yet again, that you are such a freaking PRO.

Something like this:

I’m sorry to hear that I’m not within your budget.

You asked if I’d be willing to speak my free. My answer is a respectful “no.” That’s not something I’m able to do.

If you’d like to share my story in a different format, at no cost, I’d be more than happy to donate [one hundred copies of my latest e-book, e-course, or some other awesome resource that’s easy and cost-free for you to give] to the people attending your event. It would be my pleasure to contribute in that way. Let me know if that sounds good.

Many thanks,

[your name here]

No matter what happens next, you will have made a phenomenal first impression — and who knows?

This very same person might be circling back to you one week, month, or year from today with a paid speaking gig offer that delights BOTH of you. One thing’s for sure: they will respect and remember you.

Hope that helps, Fatima.

Rock the mic and change the world.

I know you will.

Good Question is an advice column about writing, communication, creativity, and how to be a decent human being in a complicated world. Looking for past columns? Go here.


When you die you won’t care about emails.

A journalist asked if I’d be willing to offer my thoughts on email etiquette, ideal communication practices in the digital era, and whatnot, for a story she was putting together. I happily agreed.

But as I began typing my responses to her (very good, very thoughtful, very smart) questions, I felt a powerful urge to delete everything I’d written, replacing all of my “email advice” with just one sentence:

When you die you won’t care about emails.

This is the truth.

Yes, email is a remarkable tool.

Yes, it’s satisfying (for a few minutes, anyway) to clear your box and reach that precious state known as “inbox zero.”

Yes, it’s good to be timely with your responses, demonstrating care, professionalism, and respect for those who write to you.

Yes, it’s valuable to think about how to communicate more effectively.

All of that: yes.

But let’s get real.

At the end of your life, as you’re drifting away from this world, are you really going to think to yourself, “Gosh, I am so glad I managed to empty my inbox on a daily basis! Well done, me! I was really ‘the best’ at email. Now I can depart this world in peace.”

No. You are going to think to yourself, “I am so grateful for every kiss, for every orgasm, for every project that allowed me to contribute to society in a meaningful way, for every deep friendship, for all the corners of the earth that I managed to explore, for long sun-drenched days and luminous conversations, unfolding into the night…”

Or, sadly, you might think to yourself, “I wish I’d spent less time online, in my inbox, and more time doing… well, just about anything else.”

Thinking about the inevitable end can show us how we ought to live.

I used to be a “clear out the inbox every single night” kind of gal.

I took great pride in the fact that my inbox was always impressively de-cluttered and zen, and that nobody had to wait more than a few hours to receive a response from me.

Over the past couple of years, though, something has shifted in me.

Maybe it’s because I fell in love with an incredible man and staring into his deep brown eyes is more compelling than staring into a Gmail screen.

Maybe it’s because I broke my leg, but it just as easily could have been my neck.

Maybe it’s because I read a book called Die Empty and it changed me.

Maybe it’s because my last remaining grandparent passed away.

Maybe all of the above.

But when it comes to email, I just don’t care about being “the best” at it anymore.

I do not strive for “inbox zero.” I answer most emails in a timely fashion (current clients and customers always get a quick-ish reply, with very rare exceptions), but I let certain non-urgent notes sit for days, even (GASP, SHOCK, HORROR) weeks before I send a personal response, because clearing my inbox just for the sake of clearing it is… just not my top priority anymore.

My approach may not feel “right” for everyone but it sure feels right for me.

I often say to myself:

“I’m not ‘behind’ on my emails. I’m ‘ahead’ on my life.”

What kind of life do you wish to lead?

How do you want to feel when you die?

Here is what I know, now, for certain:

If my heart is full, grateful, and happy, and my inbox is brimming with unanswered missives, I can live — and die — with that.


Good Question: How can I follow up with potential clients who aren’t responding?

Hi Alexandra!
 
I have a question about how to follow up with potential clients. I am a wedding planner and follow up every email inquiry for my services with a complimentary phone consult. After the call, I send them over a quote. Sometimes I don’t hear back. What’s the proper and most effective way to follow up when a lead goes dark?

 
–Karis

Karis,

Questions like this one are kind of like detective assignments, because so many things might be causing your client to drop off the face of the earth.

It might have nothing to do with the way you are communicating.

It might have everything to do with the way you are communicating.

It might be due to a tragic shark attack while your potential client was vacationing with her beau in Bermuda.

Or maybe your potential client just broke up with his or her fiancé and is too distraught to respond to your gleeful wedding plan quote.

Or maybe, after getting on the phone with you, your potential client is (gulp) “just not that into you.”

Who knows?

You can’t really know, or control, every single contributing factor.

But here are some pro-active steps that you CAN take to increase the likelihood that clients will get back to you quickly, make a payment, and get to work:

STEP 1. At the end of your phone consultation, tell your client EXACTLY what happens next.

“So great to chat with you! I am obsessed with your wedding concept and I’m so excited to help you plan this amazing day of love.

Here’s what happens next:

I will send you a quote within the next three hours. Please look it over. Once I get an email back from you saying, ‘Looks great! Thumbs up!’ then we will officially begin.”

STEP 2. When you send over your quote, keep your note enthusiastic and BRIEF.

This is NOT the time to unload one million details onto your client about how you intend to work together, your process, the proposed schedule, yada yada. That’s too overwhelming at this stage and might trigger the dreaded “analysis paralyses.” Keep it lean.

Repeat the exact instructions you gave on the phone, and this time, add a DATE to reinforce that you’re hoping to hear back very soon.

“Here’s the quote I promised. To recap what I mentioned during our phone call…

Please take a peek at the attached quote. Then, if everything looks groovy, hit reply to this email to say, ‘Looks great! Thumbs up!’ and we will officially begin.

I’d love to hear back from you by [DATE] so that we can get things rolling without delay.

And obviously, if you have any questions about the quote, if you want to change your budget, if you want to change the concept we discussed on the phone, or anything else, just let me know. I’ll make the necessary adjustments and then send a revised quote. No problem.”

STEP 3. If the DATE that you’ve stated passes, and you have not heard a peep, you can follow up with a brief nudge.

“Hey. Me again. Just circling back on my email from [number of] days ago.

I’d love to know if the quote I sent over looks groovy to you. Please let me know as soon as possible. I’m excited to get started!

PS. Since I know you love [thing they love], here’s something I think you will absolutely adore this…” [then link to a photo, video, article, wedding inspiration gallery, etc, that you suspect your client will dig. This little extra “PS” touch adds warmth and humanity to an otherwise dull check-in note, and might get your client re-vitalized and re-energized about the wedding planning process!]

STEP 4. Check in once more or just… let it go.

If a couple more days pass and you still haven’t heard a thing, personally? I would stop checking in.

You’ve given your client ample opportunities to respond. At this point, they’re kinda just being flaky / rude / weird / dismissive / struggling with money issues / having some kind of personal crisis / who knows what else, and is that really the kind of person you want on your client docket? Nope. Buh-bye.

If you feel strongly that there’s some kind of technical glitch happening — maybe your emails went into their spam folder by mistake? — then you can follow up with a quick phone call. But if they still don’t respond to THAT… honey, it’s over. Shake it off. Let it go.

It’s time to re-open your mind and free up your energy and creativity for a client who actually wants to play with you!

I hope that helps you with your follow-up dilemma, Karis.

Closing thoughts:

In my experience, the BEST clients are the ones who are ready to rock, right from the get-go, and who do NOT need to be chased, prodded, persuaded, or wrangled.

Some people grumble and say things like, “Yeah, but those kinds of clients are so rare!”

I do not agree.

At this stage in my business, ALL of my current clients are bonafide rockstars and honestly, I wouldn’t tolerate anything less.

If you hold yourself to exceptionally high standards, and refuse to tolerate flakiness, then over time, you tend to attract people who operate the same way.

“Game recognize game,” as the rap-philosopher Twista might say.

Good luck to you & happy emailing!

Good Question is an advice column about writing, communication, creativity, and how to be a decent human being in a complicated world. Looking for past columns? Go here.


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