In 2006, Natalie Sisson started travelling beyond her native New Zealand for work, living out of a suitcase.
Four years later, she started teaching other entrepreneurs to do the same.
In 2010, Sisson left behind eight years in the corporate world to strike out on her own, helping others create thriving online businesses.
“I literally went without any income for six months and focused on providing a ton of value, honing my skills, learning more about online marketing and entrepreneurship (my previous roles had been branding, marketing and business development), and building my community and credibility,” Sisson says.
“About four months in, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent as I had just $US18 left from my savings,” she continues. “So it was lucky that that week I finally closed my first consulting client and banked their check the same day!”
She remembers her first year on her own being an adjustment, going from years of earning salaries that ranged from about $US64,000-$US90,000 to a fraction of that. “The first year of being in business was a dramatic cutback,” she recalls. “Barely got to $US30,000. Now it’s over seven times that.”
Depending on what’s going on with her business — whether she’s launching her annual Freedom Plan program, working with new sponsors or promoting a “great affiliate partner” — her business, The Suitcase Entrepreneur, earns $US8,000 all the way up to $US50,000-plus on a monthly basis.
Her business has earned money through eight different income streams, from digital product and program sales to podcast sponsorships to speaking engagements. “But as I’m moving towards having less of ‘me’ in the business and helping more people on a scaleable level through my programs and retreats, I’ve started narrowing the focus down to fewer things and simplifying my sales funnel,” she explains.
The 37-year-old has also attracted nearly 30,000 email subscribers, 35,000 Twitter followers, and an audience of about 15,000 on Facebook. She’s the author of “The Suitcase Entrepreneur: Create freedom in business and adventure in life,” and has visited 69 countries on four continents while running her business online.
“I’m free to do exactly what I want, when I want,” she says. “I focus on fun, freedom, and doing meaningful work. I’ve systematized my business so I can leave it and head off on adventures or be fully involved in it.”
Now that she’s built a profitable business, she explains, she’s able to give back to the community through avenues such as the Right2Freedom initiative she’s launching this year. “It’s not about the money, it’s about the meaning behind everything you do,” she says. “And I now feel free to contribute in a much bigger way.”
“I get to travel the world, meet fantastic people and change peoples’ lives. It’s also cheaper to travel full time then people think — and of course there are downsides, like having to organise every aspect of your life and not having a base, or a routine — which I like, but it’s not for everyone,” she explains.
So what would she advise an aspiring nomadic entrepreneur?
“Get really clear on what you want your life to look like, and then design your business around it,” Sisson says. (In fact, she has a program to help with this challenge.) “Be realistic about what it really takes to be location independent and know what suits your personality — if you’re disciplined, focused, determined, adaptable, and adventurous you’ll love it. If you like comfort, routine, great infrastructure and a sense of organisation and security it’s probably not going to be ideal.”
“To live what many people still see as an unconventional life takes guts and hard work to maintain,” she continues. “You have to fight for your ideal lifestyle at times. It’s totally worth it, though, to have the freedom to live life to the fullest.”
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