Natalie Sisson is crazy passionate about building amazing businesses online that you can take anywhere. She has been helping people create freedom in business and adventure in life since 2008 with her location-independent brand. We recently got a chance to sit down and chat via Skype (from Waterloo, Canada to Boulder, Colorado), and we talked about her awesome new book, The Suitcase Entrepreneur, based on her business and website.
Natalie, you offer an incredible amount of free information on how people can choose freedom in their lives and business and really implement those values into their lives. How do you convert people to readers (and buyers) of your book when you already offer so much on your blog for free?
Well, thank you! While I do believe in repurposing content, I wrote most of the book from scratch. It’s mostly all new material. I even read it afterward and thought, I’m not even following all this advice myself! [laughs] But really, people have seen how much I give—90% of what I do is free. So it felt necessary to condense it all down into 300+ pages. It’s $7 on Kindle, and one of my clients who’s taken a lot of courses said she learned thousands of dollars worth of information. I was worried that my book was too comprehensive, hitting on a lot of things, but I think with the three Acts the book is divided into, I managed to combine all of them really well.
Tip #1: Consistently offer tons of free information on your blog to keep people involved and engaged.
I know you Kickstarted your book to the tune of $9,400. How did Kickstarter help with your marketing?
I got to bring people on from the very beginning to support the book. They were telling me, yes, you should write this! So it was so nice to have people who have been involved from the very beginning, telling me I did a good job of involving people in my community, that’s it’s awesome I’ve birthed my book and they’re going to go and buy it, etc.
So tell me, if you hadn’t raised the money… would you have written it anyway?
That’s a good question. I think yes, I would have. But it was a good test for me to make sure people thought it was valuable. I had learned so much and had so much to share, because I’m fully living and breathing this lifestyle.
Since you travel so much, how do you stay in touch with people you meet, whether they’re clients or friends?
I was just talking about this with Natalie MacNeil. I use Highrise for networking and staying in touch with people. I’ll also Skype with people, and do some accountability calls, where I say—hey, this is where I’m going and what I give my time to, let’s keep each other in check. It’s definitely a juggling act.
What’s your informal way of telling people what you do when you meet them, say, on an airplane or in a coffee shop? Also… does your Suitcase Entrepreneur tank top help?
Ha! I have worn it a lot when I travel (in addition to my new Choose Freedom top), , it’s a comfortable cool top, and people do often ask about it. Luckily, “suitcase entrepreneur” does sum up a decent view of what I do. People say, “Oh, are you like a mobile entrepreneur?” And then I say yes, and that I’m all about creating freedom in business and adventure in life. The brand is strong and powerful, and people get it.
When I’m speaking to people I’m careful to not force a message on them. And on the other hand, I sometimes have to be mindful of my energy—I naturally coach people and help them through things, so I’ve learned to become more precious about my own time, otherwise people will sit there and talk to me for hours on a plane!
Tip #2: Your brand should say everything about what you do.
Yes. I still love working with women entrepreneurs, but the problem was that WomanzWorld was not a niche—I wanted to target all woman entrepreneurs around the world, which was a recipe for disaster. There wasn’t enough definition or a differentiating point, and I always felt that my message was wishy-washy. So when I rebranded, everything got clear; I know where my limits are, I’m only going to talk about these things and this is my message.
Tip #3: Don’t be wishy-washy. Reject your desire to reach everyone, and choose to target a specific market.
How did you choose the name “Suitcase Entrepreneur”?
I was at a conference in Las Vegas in 2010, and people kept calling me a traveling entrepreneur. Then my friend Matt Goldberg said, “So, you’re like, a suitcase entrepreneur,” and it just clicked. The minute he said it, I thought, “Oh my God that’s what I am, and he was like, “Buy the domain name!” and I said, “Ok!”
That’s awesome! So, what would you define your niche as now?
I target two people: those who are starting out still in their corporate jobs and want to move online and start a business. They’re my main audience; they’re on the verge. My other audience are people who want to learn more about refining their branding and taking their business anywhere. The first group are great, they soak up all the information, and the second audience I prefer to coach; they’re at a high level already, they just need that extra push.
What do you tell people who have many interests and are looking to combine them into a business?
That’s so common! Most entrepreneurs naturally have Bright, Shiny Object syndrome. It’s all about focus; what is your ideal lifestyle plan, and do all these things serve that purpose or are some distractions? Certainly go after the things you’re passionate about, and move towards your goals—but think about you first.
Tip #4: Start with you—your full expression, your path, your passions. And make moves from that place.
What do you think about the branding yourself into a business?
There’s no better time to build around your knowledge and skill set, and monetize you. You know something that somebody else doesn’t know, something that they can gain value from. It’s a lot easier than ever to package and promote yourself.
How do you continue to feel like you continue to provide value when there are many entrepreneurs now who support the same message?
Well, while I do believe that more people are starting to understand the location-independent workforce, there are a bunch of people who haven’t heard of it and are still feeling confined. They don’t get the whole mentality that you can’t not be in front of your clients. At the same time, it is becoming more common, they can set up in other countries, they don’t have to be in one place. When I tell people what I do, 95% of them want to be doing what I’m doing. There are so many possibilities.
Had you always known you would write a book?
I had always been a bit of a writer, when I started my blog I thought I had a lot to learn, but I really wanted to do it. So yes, I had intentions, but I didn’t start a blog just to compile it later and write a book. The book was built off the back of my brand.
You talk about finding your zone of genius in your book. What is your zone of genius?
Great question. Within business, mine is showing people the possibilities that lie within themselves. I love showing people what’s possible. Some people say, “I can’t do these things”—and I love when they walk away thinking, “Yes, I can!” And then you can give them something to back that up and show them the tools they need.
Have you thought about settling down in one place?
This year I’ve traveled to an unbelievable amount of countries and I love the challenge of it, but I’ve been doing this full-time for three years, and as I get older, it does get more tiring. I move to places and I’m there for a few weeks, and I reconnect with friends, and I think, I’d like to spend more time here. Next year, I’m thinking about getting a base for 3 months and from there, launching off into traveling. I’m quite excited about that, and I’m considering locations around the world.
When you were writing and planning your book, how much did your launch time qualify as a marketing factor?
I wanted to get the draft done by before my birthday, which was in April of this year. And I did. From there, I wanted to have it fully published and available by July 5 for World Domination Summit because I knew I’d be rolling into town with people who wanted to live this lifestyle. And it really worked, my book was finished and close to Kindle publication, and both of those goals were meaty enough and exciting enough to hit them.
Tip #5: Make your goals meaty and exciting—so you’ll really be inspired to meet them.
What’s a typical work day for you like when you’re on the road?
I attempt to keep some consistency and discipline during my day, that’s one thing I love about my life and how I’ve set up my business. Having some discipline during the day around writing, marketing, tracking and planning is really useful. Then of course there’s the emails that go with it… and, I do outreach and interviews on a daily basis. Every day, I think: How can I get my message out to the world?
Tip #6: Never forget your core message. Share it every day.
I know you have some virtual assistants to help out, but seriously—how do you tweet back so quickly?
Ha! I keep track on Hootsuite, and I have keywords coming into me, so I can reply. There are days where I’m still on Facebook/Twitter, but I’m never just, like, poking people; I’m commenting and adding value. I’ve learned to become more strategic. I can’t get tied up in 17 browsers and reading one article after another.