For over 20 years I had been a night owl, to the point it had become part of my identity. I used to scoff at whoever said that getting up early is “a key to their success”. I may have even called those who naturally wake before 6 am “weirdos” at some point.

What changed my mind after 20 years? I didn’t become a morning bird overnight, even after I became a parent. It took another few years before it finally hit me that I actually should and could switch.

Photo by Ruijia Wang on Unsplash

The Compound Effect on Health

When I was in my…


How I got rid of 6 apps and 20+ spreadsheets in my productivity toolbox

A glimpse of my pre-Notion digital life
A glimpse of my pre-Notion digital life
A glimpse of my pre-Notion digital life

In the book Atomic Habits, James Clear writes about the British cycling team, who won more races after making small, incremental changes to every aspect of its training regimen. Rather than aim for lofty performance goals, the cycling coach found ways to make 1% improvements in overlooked and unexpected areas. Clear highlights that people often fail to improve not because they lack motivation, but because their environment is not designed for success.

Now, I know this cycling team has faced doping controversy since Atomic Habits was…


Photo by Igor Starkov from Pexels

According to relationship expert John Gottman, it takes five positive interactions (aka “deposits”) to make up for one negative interaction. Gottman was referring to romantic relationships, but the same holds true for professional ones.

Do you build trust at work by making “deposits” regularly? Or do you think having an amazing portfolio and doing great work for your clients is enough?

Here are five seemingly harmless things I have seen people do, or, admittedly, I have done myself that get in the way of building trust.

1. Talking Too Much

Every client meeting provides an opportunity to build trust. Resist your urge to talk…


Photo by Morgan Housel on Unsplash

In my last article, Your Clients Will Thank You for Charging More, I talked about creative professionals who price work based on their “costs” to produce it, not on their value, which leads to underpricing and a ton of problems. But what is the right price to charge? How do you figure out your value?

Let me tell you a story.

When I started out as a freelance web designer in Hong Kong, I charged as little as HK$3,000 (~CA$500) to build a website. How did I come up with that number? Well, that was basically my monthly cost of…


Photo by lucas Favre on Unsplash

I started my career in the creative service industry 20+ years ago, and I’ve heard everyone from freelancers to agency owners sigh about the same things over and over:

“I should just get a job somewhere because my income can’t cover my living costs”

“I feel like I’m on a hamster wheel and burning out.”

“We have a good portfolio, but we always seem to attract clients who aren’t right for us.”

But, inevitably, when I asked, “Do you feel you should have charged more?” — the answer was always a resounding, “YES!”

What makes us charge less than we should?

1. Imposter syndrome

Simply put, we think we are just…


BeansBox office in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong in 2012
BeansBox office in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong in 2012

“Delivery for B. Liu?”

“Yep, that’s me. You can bring it up.”

Five minutes later, two guys were shuffling down the office’s hallway carrying an enormous package: my brand-new, high-tech, full-body massage chair, which I planned to keep in the office until I moved to a bigger house in a few months.

As they crammed this beast through the door and into my office, one of the delivery guys said to me, “You must be the boss here.”

“Nope. Not the boss. I’d rather not be the boss. Ever.” I replied with a grin. They didn’t believe me and laughed…

Belle Liu

Director of PMO @Apply Digital. Previously: Founder @BeansBox

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