Freedom is a primary theme of Unemployable. Not everyone wants to “disrupt” and “dominate.” Rather, they want to do the things they want to do, and live the life they want to live.
I’ve enjoyed that type of freedom for the last 10 years. And so has today’s guest, Natalie Sisson. The difference being, Natalie has literally traveled the world since 2006 while starting and growing her business.
Natalie is, without doubt, a freedom advocate. She calls her audience “Freedom-seekers” and sports a t-shirt that reads “Choose Freedom.”
In this episode, we’ll discuss just how multidimensional freedom actually is, beyond the “digital nomad” lifestyle.
Plus, we explore how a smart pricing strategy can free you from the tyranny of scale and help you to achieve your particular business goals faster.
The Show Notes
- The Suitcase Entrepreneur
- Master the Art of Pricing and Charging What You’re Worth
- Free Profit Pillars course
Why Freedom Beats Money and Status
Natalie Sisson: Hi, my name is Natalie Sisson. I’m the Suitcase Entrepreneur. I help people create freedom in business and adventure in life. And I am totally unemployable.
Voiceover: Welcome to Unemployable, the show for people who can get a job, they’re just not inclined to take one — and that’s putting it gently. In addition to this podcast, thousands of freelancers and entrepreneurs get actionable advice and other valuable resources from the weekly Unemployable email newsletter. Join us by registering for our Free Profit Pillars Course, or choose to sign up for the newsletter only at no charge. Simply head over to Unemployable.com, and take your business and lifestyle to the next level. That’s Unemployable.com.
Brian Clark: Hey, Everyone, welcome to the show. Welcome to Unemployable with me, your host, Brian Clark. Today’s show is about a theme that runs through the whole Unemployable project of mine, which is freedom and why it’s of primary importance over other things that may drive other people. It’s not always about disruption and world domination. It’s about just living the life you want to live.
The thing about freedom, I think, when it’s tied to freelancing or entrepreneurism that gets all the press is so called “digital nomads” – location independent people who travel the world with a laptop. And those people exist.
In fact, today on the show, our guest Natalie Sisson is one of those people. She has lived that lifestyle for several years. A very different lifestyle than, for example, I’ve lived for the last decade or so, and yet we’re both free.
This is an interesting and I think an important discussion about living the life you want to, not the one that you think you should and all that good stuff that also pops up from time to time in Unemployable. So let’s get to it. Thanks for joining us.
Natalie, thanks for joining us today. How’s New Zealand?
Natalie Sisson: It is pretty beautiful. I always think that New Zealand is paradise of all the countries that I’ve traveled to.
Brian Clark: Are you actually originally from New Zealand?
Natalie Sisson: I am, yeah. I’m actually of Wellington where I’m currently back in. It’s pretty exciting.
Brian Clark: Yep, so coming home for a bit from your world travels.
How Did You Choose Freedom as Your Core Message?
Brian Clark: This is a near and dear topic to my heart and it’s been a theme of the Unemployable show so far, which is an emphasis on freedom and really understanding what that means, because I think it’s a little bit different for every type of person out there. Whether they be a freelancer or a more growth-oriented startup entrepreneur, they still have to take into account whether or not they’re calling the shots when it comes to their own life.
How did you focus in really laser-like on freedom as this core message? Because I look at your site and you call your audience “Freedom Seekers.” You wear a t-shirt called “Choose Freedom.” I mean, I love it. And you’ve got such conviction. How did that come about?
Natalie Sisson: Yeah, I think it’s just become something to me that has been really important actually on my travels. As I’ve traveled the world… even as a young kid, I realized that back in New Zealand, we have a lot of personal freedom I think on the whole. When I would travel to other countries and I saw how little some people had and how their culture dictated a lot of what they did — and may I dare say, America in particular, the land of the free, I felt was probably one of the least free countries overall, just in terms of what people viewed as having freedom.
So it’s just became really important to me. I’ve become somewhat addicted to it. I like to position myself as the expert on freedom. But even I don’t fully know what freedom means to other people, which is why I’m embarking on a new initiative this year to uncover that.
How Does a Freedom Mindset Lead to Abundance?
Brian Clark: Yeah, I saw that and it’s ambitious. Completely.
From my perspective, 18 years ago I left what everyone would consider a great position with a powerful law firm as an attorney, but I was absolute that I was constricted, confined. I didn’t want to see my whole life go away. So, even if I had to bartend, I felt like I needed to get out of that.
Now, things went a little bit better, but there have been several points in my journey where I gave up what I was doing in order to do something else without really regard for money. And yet each time, I made more money.
Do you think the freedom mindset actually leads to more abundance in the areas we traditionally think that we have to sacrifice to get or confine ourselves?
Natalie Sisson: That’s a really great point. Yeah, absolutely, I think it does. Because when you feel free, whether that’s personally or physically or socially or politically, I think you are just that much more creative, imaginative, opportunistic as well in what you can do. You just get very mindful about what brings you joy and what makes you happy and what makes other people happy. And that is therefore what you’re chasing and endeavoring to do.
From that, often, comes money. Because when you’re in the flow and you’re happy doing what you’re doing and you feel passionate about it, that’s literally very attractive to other people. So a whole lot of businesses and revenue streams can actually be created just out of doing that.
How Have You Been Pigeonholed?
Brian Clark: Yeah, it’s also interesting to me that you’ve been the epitome of almost an extreme form of freedom with your travels. The whole location independent or digital nomad, I think there’s a lot of baggage that comes along with that. When my kids go to college, I’m going to be that guy, I can guarantee you that.
But I don’t feel like I’m suffering from a lack of freedom now. I get to live wherever I want. We chose Colorado, but we had considered Hawaii. When you have a family, there are schools and there’s your spouse and things to take into account. But within that framework, I still make my decisions and I feel like I have the agency to do and live where I want to.
You are taking it to the next level now, but do you ever feel like you’re kind of pigeonholed into a certain, I don’t know, movement and/or a situation that most people just don’t believe is attainable?
Natalie Sisson: Well, it’s really interesting you say that. So, just some background for people who don’t know me. I’ve literally been on the road for five and a half years, living out of my suitcase, running my business from anywhere. And I’ve just taken the step in the last four months to buy an apartment, have a base and be able to travel from here.
So I’m sort of joining the ranks of probably what I’d say more of my community actually aspire to do. They look at what I did and they’d be like, “That’s awesome. I’m going to live vicariously, you crazy lady.”
Ultimately, what I’ve realized over the years is freedom is very personal to many people. Often, it’s just having a base, being able to work from home or from Colorado or from the beach if you choose, and to do the stuff that you love but also have time for the people and the activities that you really want to do.
So, yeah, it’s very interesting, as I said, a very, very personal thing. And you can get pigeonholed. When I changed over to being based in one place, which I actually haven’t spent much time in yet, a few people in my community were like, “Oh, how is this going to affect your brand? You are no longer living out of a suitcase.”
But I have always espoused, as you told at the very beginning, choosing freedom and your own version of freedom on your own terms. And I still stand behind that 100%.
I think it’s been really interesting to see my community come along with me on this journey and realize that there are all sorts of different terms and types of freedom that suit you.
Freedom as It Relates to Family
Brian Clark: Yeah, and that’s an important thing to understand.
Something that struck me, and I hope I’m not crossing a line here or getting personal, but you wrote that you felt blessed to have the freedom when your father fell ill to come to him and be with him at a very important time. People don’t take that into account when you’re doing the corporate thing. You can’t just get up and leave and keep your job sometimes. That’s unfortunate, but it’s reality.
Natalie Sisson: Yeah, I’m so glad you mentioned that and thanks for reading that, because it hadn’t been something that I’d thought about either.
Back in the corporate days when I was working in a job, I wouldn’t have been able to fly halfway around the world to be with my father at the drop of a hat. I wouldn’t have been able to take probably what I think was a good two to three months off from my business. Mentally, I was pretty checked out during that time. And none of that would have been possible had I not set up my business and lifestyle for freedom.
So it was an incredible eye opener for me as well to realize that’s a whole other type of freedom that I’d never really talked about. And it didn’t become truly valuable to me until I had to experience it myself.
Brian Clark: Yeah, it’s the same thing with me with growing kids. My daughter is entering high school next year. I’ve got her really four more years. I love the fact that it’s up to me when I get to spend time with her and how. I still have to get stuff done, but no one’s telling me that it has to be done at this time or that time. You know what I’m saying?
I think there’s an entire emotional and familial type aspect of this. We hear that stay at home moms start a business so that they can also stay with their kids. But that’s just one little pigeonholed use case. It’s really broader than that in my mind.
Natalie Sisson: Absolutely. Yeah, I’ve found through people in my community their version of freedom is, as you said, maybe to stay at home to be able to spend more time with the children or with their family or to go out and be a tourist in their own town.
For other people, they just want to travel the world and have a business that kind of runs in the background without them needing to look at it much, so they can adventure.
Every single person has a different version, but as long as they are living that and as long as they’re true to it, their life can be pretty beautiful.
It’s the people that I meet every day who say, “Can’t, won’t, don’t have time, isn’t possible” that I truly want to change their lives. It frustrates the heck out of me that people think that it’s not possible to have your own version of freedom.
Stereotypes of Location Independent Businesses
Brian Clark: Yeah, absolutely. Last year you did another podcast with our mutual friend Jonathan Fields over at the Good Life Project, and I really love that episode. I remember sharing it on social media, because you guys kind of went off a little bit about some of the stereotypes surrounding this whole location independent thing and whatnot.
Can you kind of briefly sum up for our listeners what that was about?
Natalie Sisson: Where do I start? Yeah, I think there was a bit of a rant going on there, that a lot of people viewed “digital nomads” or “location independents,” as we’re called, as kind of “lifestylers” who don’t seem to have a care in the world, who travel the world at the drop of a hat, who don’t really have real businesses.
I talked quite a bit about the typical digital nomad profile actually — typically somebody, a male between the ages of 25 to 35 who’s living over in Asia, spending about $500 a month on their expenses, earning about $1000 in their business, feeling like a rock star.
I think I went on a bit of a rant on that front, because while that’s true and a lot of people start out that way — it’s easy to spend time in countries where it’s very cheap to live when you’re starting out with a business. It’s brilliant, because you’re not earning that much. But I think some of those people have over time given us a bad rep, the people who are building legitimately profitable, like my multi 6-figure business from a laptop and a smartphone.
I think we went down that route, because I would like to see more preference given to people who are building, as I said, legitimate businesses from a laptop with a certain amount of freedom in their life that don’t get pushed to the side and viewed as just, “Oh no, they’re just a lifestyler,” or, “That can’t be real,” or, “That’s not possible,” or, “That’s not sustainable.” Because I disagree with all of those things.
I also think there’s a certain time in your life to be traveling the world and enjoying everything and adventuring, and another time when you want to maybe settle or be doing different things and building a business on the ground with a team in person as opposed to virtual.
That’s something I’m embarking on this year and I’m really excited about it. But I fully intend to still have a ton of freedom in my life.
Brian Clark: It’s interesting to me the negative connotation of lifestyle business.
Natalie Sisson: I know.
Brian Clark: It’s ironic. As we were talking about before we went live, there are some attitudes out there among the venture capital funded world (that we are definitely not part of) that even my company that does $12 million a year last year is a lifestyle business, because if we were serious, we would have taken outside capital. I mean, that’s pretty silly to me.
But I do want to say this. My friends like you, who are just incredibly savvy but yet have very clear goals beyond “start a business, make lots of money” thing, are some of the more sophisticated people, especially when it comes to marketing, pricing, business models. Because you do know what you want and you’re not there to spend 10 hours at the office. You’re there to make an exceptional living and live an exceptional life.
Natalie Sisson: Absolutely. Thank you for that.
I just went away to Australia over the weekend to go and watch the Australian Tennis Open. And I realized that I’m still ridiculously savvy at working on planes, working in airports, working anywhere actually where there’s no Wi-Fi or there is Wi-Fi. I’m just very disciplined about how I use my time. I’m very productive about the tools that I use online and offline to do that.
It’s kind of lovely, even though I haven’t been traveling full on for about three or four months, that that stuff just stays with you. I think you actually become more effective and more productive than the average person working 10 to 12-hour days working their ass off to get their business funded.
I’ve actually been there, done that. I co-founded a tech company in Vancouver, Canada several years ago, and I did that lifestyle. I remember waking up many days just going, “Hang on a minute, what am I working towards here? To build some software that somebody might find useful, to get investors that might make us feel like we’ve got a bigger runway and burn rate to go through?” But, ultimately, I wasn’t living life. I wasn’t enjoying the beautiful city that I was in and I certainly was working way too hard for way too little money.
Brian Clark: Yeah, that’s a common tale. It’s interesting. I’ve seen people, again, who start in that environment and then they’ll head off into a completely different revenue and business model, because they’re like, “No, I’m not doing that again.” I think it’s an exceptional learning experience for some, and there are some like me who refuse to do it in the first place.
We’ve talked about the “why” and the “what” of freedom. I hope this has shed some clarity on my continuing relentless theme that freedom is the first thing to consider.
How do we get there, of course, is the next answer. We’re of course, going to send people over to your site. You’ve got a treasure trove of advice over there.
How to Charge What You’re Worth
Brian Clark: I do want to talk to you about one particular topic that I think a lot of people struggle with. It’s also one of those key things that allows you to make the kind of income that you’re looking for without dealing with these issues of scale. In our minds, we have to hire up, we have to do this or that in order to reach a certain revenue level. But often, it simply comes down to maybe the type of business that you create, the types of products or services, but also how you price them.
Natalie Sisson: Absolutely.
Brian Clark: So, pricing strategy as a mechanism for freedom without scale. Seth Godin has been writing about this against scale thing for a while now. And I think he’s correct. But I also think there’s a lot more to it, and Seth doesn’t really get into how to. In fact, he refuses to.
Talk a little bit about that. What advice do you have for people in terms of pricing in order to make more without necessarily having to attract everyone in the world?
Natalie Sisson: It’s such a great topic, isn’t it?
I guess probably one of my core expert pieces, as I’ve realized that’s become my strength, is helping people to monetize themselves, which always sounds a bit naff. Ultimately, at the end of the day, I teach you how you can take your skills, knowledge and experience and turn that into a profitable business idea.
The one thing that I see so many people struggling with is the pricing. Almost every single person undervalues themselves, because how do you put a price on yourself?
When I was working back in the corporate world, I was very good at getting pay raises, because I could easily say that it was their money that I was going to be getting. But when it’s your business, suddenly it becomes quite difficult to go, “How do I put a value on this?”
I did just actually put out a podcast recently the other day on how to price yourself. I think a lot of people get hung up on, “What should I charge? Should it be 27, 97, 47?”
There are a couple of fundamentals that I think people totally overlook, which is what is the value? What is this worth to the person that you are giving this to?
The minute you do that, Brian, if I was to give you some advice around how to work effectively from the road, which saved you four or five hours of your time, and your hourly rate, for example, might be several hundred dollars, then technically, it’s worth $1,000 to you. So, could I charge $100 for that? 200, 300? Absolutely.
I think this is where people go wrong. They get tied up in semantics. They look at their competitors. And they’re not actually looking at all the experience and knowledge that they have behind them — what they’ve invested in themselves to get that education and knowledge, how much time and effort they’ve put into creating whatever service or product it is that they’re producing, and how valuable that is going to be for somebody else who probably has no idea about it and you’ve just helped them fast track to where they need to be.
There are just so many different factors that make up pricing, but to come to your particular question. If you figure out how many hours a day you want to work, how many days a week and what sort of revenue you’d love a year to live your particular lifestyle that you’ve chosen, then it becomes pretty clear very quickly what sorts of products and services you’re going to need to sustain that.
The thing that I’ve seen as a trend going forward is getting away from service-driven areas or one-on-one areas into group or scalable aspects. Whether that’s software apps, group coaching, programs and courses that you can launch online.
You guys have done a fantastic job of it where you’re not the one person behind it all and you’re able to actually scale it to make more money from it.
Brian Clark: That’s good advice. And I have been good at that type of thing, and yet I’ve always struggled with pricing. I tend to price too low. And trust me…
Natalie Sisson: Why do you think that is?
Brian Clark: I think it’s my background, growing up in a kind of blue collar, frugal household. You think about money differently than other people might. But I’ve gotten over that, so no worries.
Natalie Sisson: I just love to speak to that point, because this is a point where I think every entrepreneur needs to be surrounded with other entrepreneurs. Because it’s only through conversations with other people when they tell you, “Hey, I’m charging 30,000 for this mastermind, and you’re over here charging 10,” just for example. Or maybe you are down here charging $500 and they’re charging 3,000.
It’s not just about a charge, but it puts it in perspective to go, “Wow, what value are they giving that I’m not? Or if I’m giving the same amount of value, why aren’t I charging more? Why aren’t I valuing myself more, because this is really important?”
I think this is why we need to hang out with other entrepreneurs to actually see what we’re worth, where our value is, and to also level up with that mindset aspect of “This is worth it,” and to stop undercharging. Because it’s just a shocking thing and I think it goes on far too much, and I was guilty of it as well.
Brian Clark: That’s an excellent point, absolutely. Getting outside perspective is something that I’m doing more and more and more after being kind of head down.
You have a vision, you execute on it, but then you need to raise your head up and say, “Okay, what’s the next step?” Often you’re going to find that from someone else’s experience that can be analogous and you can kind of extrapolate from in order to take your own business to the next level.
Natalie Sisson: Absolutely.
What Is Next for You?
Brian Clark: So, it sounds like you’re staying put for a bit. What is next for you throughout the rest of 2016? What can we look forward to?
Natalie Sisson: I’m really excited. Actually when you said, “It sounds like you’re staying put,” I’m living in this fantastic apartment that I bought and there’s a theater right below it, and they’ve just started up a show. I can hear the drums pumping.
Brian Clark: I can hear that. I was like, “Is that happening over there or are my neighbors having a party? What’s going on?”
Natalie Sisson: It’s always entertaining here. It doesn’t happen very often, but it must be an early morning show, which is quite amazing.
I’m really excited about building a team on the ground and also virtually. Up until now, I’ve had a small team around the world across time zones and I love that. But this year I’m actually going to be bringing some people in to work with me in my apartment.
I have somebody flying over from Spain who’s from America. We’re going to be spending two weeks together working on my Right2Freedom Initiative. I intend to tap into the entrepreneurial community here where I’m a mentor now and see if I can hire some great people or some interns as well.
I’m just stepping it up a lot in my business, not just because I have a base, but a little bit like we were talking about before. I feel I’ve had the best lifestyle for so long and now I want to put on my big girl pants and see if I can scale my business three or four times without losing the freedom aspect, but also having a bit more discipline within it. I’m a fairly disciplined person which gives me freedom ironically.
But just in terms of accountability, setting up a proper business here in New Zealand, doing the proper tech formation, all those fun things that I’ve been kind of gallivanting around the world and not having to do as much of recently.
For me, it’s about scaling and also introducing my Right2Freedom Initiative, which is a huge project for me going forward and requires time and effort and investment on my own behalf. So it’s a big year. I’ve got some big hairy goals to make happen.
Brian Clark: Exciting stuff. Well, except maybe for the tech stuff until you see the benefits of it.
Natalie Sisson: Yeah.
Brian Clark: Painful but necessary.
Thank you so much for taking time to speak with us. I know we’ve got a big time zone difference here, so you’re really just getting going with your day. So, best wishes.
Natalie Sisson: It’s not that bad on the time zone, just for all those lovely people listening in around the world. The US to New Zealand, for example, is pretty decent. It’s about three hours for Pacific Time and six hours for Eastern Standard Time. But we’re a day ahead.
Brian Clark: It’s a completely different day.
Natalie Sisson: I’m coming to you from the future, so if you want any lottery results or anything, just let me know.
Brian Clark: Yes, please tell me what happens tomorrow.
All right, Everyone, thanks for tuning in. I hope you got something out of this. I hope you’re renewing your examination of what freedom means for you, because that’s really the only person that matters in the equation — you and yours.
That’s it. We will have more coming next week. In the meantime, keep going.