Bio:
I’m Sarah.

Five years ago, my husband (then boyfriend), Jason and I took the first step toward dramatic life improvement: we moved.

We said goodbye to our hometown and moved 350 kilometers (about 215 miles for my American readers) away so that I could get my Bachelor of Business Administration and then a job thereafter.

Then, I started my first blog, which triggered dozens of other small changes in our lives.

Over the course of four years, I tripled my income, promoted myself (twice) into substantial raises, began travelling, and started a handful of online businesses which put me through school, paid for our honeymoon and the majority of our wedding, and have allowed us to buy meaningful experiences, including (and most importantly), freedom.

Then, I quit my full-time, cushy job with a pension and crazy awesome benefits to travel and build something for myself.

You can do it too – and no, I have no advantage over you:

I did not grow up in a privileged home. I did not go to an Ivy League school (I’m Canadian!). I was afforded no big, unusual opportunities.

In fact, in high school, I worked two jobs after school to afford college. I then spent the money from those jobs on hot pink jeans instead of college.

I moved out of my mom and stepdad’s house and in with my boyfriend at the tender age of 18. I failed several courses in college before pulling up my bootstraps and working a bit harder (but only because I’d realized that failed college courses are a waste of hundreds of dollars).

I don’t have some crazy high IQ, or even an above-average one. I don’t have innate talents or gifts. There is seriously nothing special about me whatsoever that makes me more able to do this than you are.

The stars just aligned for me at the perfect time; I read the right thing, at the right time, and actioned it. And now I wake up every morning EXCITED.

When I meet somebody who is at the point in their careers that they feel they are stagnating, my heart jumps for joy. I know that, with the right recipe of information, searching, and inspiring, they are right around the corner of finding their sweet spot.

What I’m meant to do is help people stop thinking, and start putting their ideas into action.I’m Sarah.

Five years ago, my husband (then boyfriend), Jason and I took the first step toward dramatic life improvement: we moved.

We said goodbye to our hometown and moved 350 kilometers (about 215 miles for my American readers) away so that I could get my Bachelor of Business Administration and then a job thereafter.

Then, I started my first blog, which triggered dozens of other small changes in our lives.

Over the course of four years, I tripled my income, promoted myself (twice) into substantial raises, began travelling, and started a handful of online businesses which put me through school, paid for our honeymoon and the majority of our wedding, and have allowed us to buy meaningful experiences, including (and most importantly), freedom.

Then, I quit my full-time, cushy job with a pension and crazy awesome benefits to travel and build something for myself.

You can do it too – and no, I have no advantage over you:

I did not grow up in a privileged home. I did not go to an Ivy League school (I’m Canadian!). I was afforded no big, unusual opportunities.

In fact, in high school, I worked two jobs after school to afford college. I then spent the money from those jobs on hot pink jeans instead of college.

I moved out of my mom and stepdad’s house and in with my boyfriend at the tender age of 18. I failed several courses in college before pulling up my bootstraps and working a bit harder (but only because I’d realized that failed college courses are a waste of hundreds of dollars).

I don’t have some crazy high IQ, or even an above-average one. I don’t have innate talents or gifts. There is seriously nothing special about me whatsoever that makes me more able to do this than you are.

The stars just aligned for me at the perfect time; I read the right thing, at the right time, and actioned it. And now I wake up every morning EXCITED.

When I meet somebody who is at the point in their careers that they feel they are stagnating, my heart jumps for joy. I know that, with the right recipe of information, searching, and inspiring, they are right around the corner of finding their sweet spot.

What I’m meant to do is help people stop thinking, and start putting their ideas into action.

Show Notes:

 

Unsettle.org

Free Course

@PetersonSar on Twitter

Transcript:

Show +

Zephan: Two years ago today was when I left my full-time job working for the Apple Store. Now, I know this is something that so many people, at this point in time, wish they could say, that they’re working for themselves, that they’re living a life on their own terms, and the truth is you really can. Which is why today, I brought in Sarah Peterson, and she is the author of Unsettle.org where she encourages people to never settle for careers that they don’t love.

Now, Sarah, you were telling me that you were kind of in a similar boat. You had a government job and you had a government job, and you had started a couple of side businesses and basically your friend said “Well, why don’t you just do this full-time?” and things kind of took off from there. So how about let’s share with everybody listening in today, you know, from the day you left your job, what’d you do from there? And what type of businesses were you running?

Sarah: Sure. So it probably makes sense to talk a little bit about before I left my job. Because I took a contact with a different employer, who I really liked, and I loved the contract. It was a lot of fun and the team was great, but I…I just wanted to be able to travel when I wanted and kind of be my own boss and control where I worked and when I worked and what I worked on. So I started Unsettle, really, before I quit my job, and I started learning and launching and everything like that. So it started on January 5th and then on February 4th, which is my birthday, it was my last day of my contract. So I decided not to renew my contract, even though I really liked it, and just go on this trip.

So I booked a one-way ticket to Europe with a friend, a fellow blogger, and we were there for six weeks. And so February 5th, I left for Europe, and February 4th was my last day and my birthday.

So Unsettle had been alive for about a month before, so it launched on January 5th, and between the period of me actually having the concept of Unsettle and then going out and starting it and leaving my job, I was just furiously building, to the detriment of my relationships and everything like that. And I had a new marriage that kind of was kind of in trouble as I was building because I was just so focused. So that was unfortunate, but I was building by guest posting and getting the word out there about Unsettle and just kind of spreading the knowledge that I had built up about building side businesses online based on what you love.

And so, when I left, I was already making some money from it, but it wasn’t—I wasn’t focused on monetization just yet. And then…now it’s been over four months and I’m already making a full-time income from it and just love the work so much.

Zephan: And this is all online?

Sarah: All online, yeah, and it’s not including my side businesses. So before I quit my job, I had several side businesses. I’m kind of like a serial side hustler, so I have like an Etsy shop and things like that, and…yeah, so it’s not even counting that stuff.

Zephan: Cool. So you had stuff going on on Etsy, like artsy stuff that was business sold online, and then you had a couple other things it looks like. I actually kinda started—I think probably four years ago, I started following Pat Flynn from the Smart Passive Income blog, and he essentially blogged for money. And I was like “Oh, I could do that too!” and I started one. I think it was called RookieVideoPro.com and it was like four or five years ago. And it’s—I blogged for a while, and put ads up on the site, and people click on the ads, you make some money, but I never had stuck with it because I was in my job. And unfortunately, when you work a full-time job, 9-to-5, forty hours a week, you don’t really want to work outside of that job on anything else. You want to have fun, you want to see friends, family, and, like you said, relationships can suffer when we’re working on things.

So you created something pretty awesome that lets you live life the way that you wanted to. So what are some of the things that, to you, are important for staying happy and just staying…always moving through life and doing really cool stuff?

Sarah: Things that are important. Probably the biggest thing for me is control. So I’m a bit of a control freak, I like to be able to choose what I work on and where I am and my hours and everything like that. So that’s probably the biggest thing as far as career happiness goes. But everything that I’m building kind of goes toward one central goal, which is just to be able to spend time with people that I love, and as much time as I want or as I can. And so everything that I’m building is so that I can eventually just—when my husband, Jason, and I decide to have a family, when we can actually just set our own hours and we can work around our family and our lives rather than build our lives around our work.

So that is definitely something that makes me very happy. And then also, I love to travel and that was a huge reason why I wanted to take it all online and just be able to work from anywhere, because it’s something that I love to do. So, yeah, I think I’m going on like six trips this year, so it’s very important to me. So those are kinda three of the main things. Just travel, relationships, and then control.

Zephan: I’m kind of in the same boat. Travel has been a big thing for me, and, you know, last year before I really started to do things, I thought that travel was impossible for me because I’d be spending hundreds of dollars all over the place. And I started reading some travel hacking blogs and some podcast about how to get cheap flights and things like that and following what they do. And I think I’ve flown on somewhere between like twelve or fifteen almost free flights so far this year.

Sarah: That’s amazing!

Zephan: Last week was in San Diego, a week before that was in Boston. The week before that was in Las Vegas. And, you know, along the way, I think I stopped in Phoenix at one point. I stopped in Los Angeles at one point. So it’s really cool to have that freedom to be able to fly and go wherever you want to and spend that time with your family. But, you know, when we talk about online businesses, a lot of people don’t even understand, like how are we making money? We just say online business and they’re like “What, do you just make a website and magically money appears?” So maybe talk a little bit more about what types of businesses are these and how do they make money?

Sarah: Sure. So for Unsettle, my whole business model has to be about building an audience and a tribe. So I’m providing value to my audience’s lives by teaching them how to start businesses based on what they love. So not just any old niche site based on whatever key words are working, but things that they’ll actually love. Because I think that people do want to work. So people want to have projects that are going to be challenging them. They want to work and they want to contribute and provide value to people’s lives. So—and I think that niche sites are great and they work and they can be automatic income generators and that’s fine, but people love to have something that’s theirs and that they can build.

So I really focus on teaching people to find out what they do love and whether or not it’s monetizable, and most things are, and then how they can provide value to somebody around that or to a group of people around that. And then actually turn it into sustainable income based on building an audience, or people that follow them. And I think that’s just the way that careers are gonna be changing from now on. Because people, even if you work at an office, having like an audience and a tribe of people that follow your work is just so valuable.

So that’s kind of what Unsettle’s based off of and how I actually make and earn money from that is I’m a coach, so I do help people do these things on a one on one basis and then also on a group coaching basis. And I also do a lot of affiliate income, so I only promote products that I really love and that people need. So to create an online business, you need hosting, so I’ll recommend my favorite host. And it’s just like a very…people think that internet business is very scammy and sleazy, but it’s not. It’s just basically if you’re providing value to somebody, then they’re gonna appreciate that and you’re actually helping people out. So that’s what I do for Unsettle.

My other side businesses, one of them is the Etsy shop that I already mentioned. And that, there’s like no barrier to entry. Just create something, put it up there. And I posted—we got married last year and I posted these like popcorn bags for a popcorn bar that we had. So I created them for our wedding and then I was like “Oh, maybe someone else would like this.” So I put it on Etsy one time when I was on a treadmill. It was just like on my data phone. And so I posted the listing, and it sold right away. So I made like five thousand dollars from it in a month, and it’s like a thirty cent listing.

So a lot of people, I think, put these barriers in their head of why they can’t do things. Like “I can’t make any money on the side because I don’t have the money to invest into it,” but thirty cents. That’s all you need to start an Etsy shop.

Zephan: Yeah. So expand on that one a little bit more. So I’ve bought things on Etsy, like maybe twice. Once time I think I bought like a custom colored like knitted scarf or something for a friend, and then actually just this last week—I volunteer for a youth group and their chapter, their logo, is a knight on a horse, so I bought these little metal sword charms to go on a necklace. But like, so I’ve only seen it from the buyer’s side, but how does that work from the seller’s side? You were able to made five thousand dollars off of some little thirty center listing! That something I’m sure everybody wants to go home and do right now after listening to this.

Sarah: Probably, yeah. You know what, once second—[coughs]—excuse me. I posted a post about this and there’s been just a flood of people that are trying to do the exact same thing as I do with the bags and everything. I think…basically for Etsy, if you have something unique to offer—or even if it’s not unique. So you don’t have to be the only seller in the marketplace that sells that thing. Just put your unique spin on it.

So what I did was—it was literally just a thought that came into my head. I downloaded the Etsy Seller’s app on my iPhone. I was on the treadmill. I took an iPhone picture of it to send to my mom the night before, because we were doing the wedding planning thing, and I just posted it. And the description was really short, but it caught somebody’s eye. And so they bought it and then it just kind of spiraled from there.

So it’s just super easy to do and if you have anything that you want to sell, especially if it’s different. So there’s gonna be a million Etsy sellers that have jewelry stores, so you might have a harder time breaking into that market. But if it’s something where there’s probably less than a hundred sellers on Etsy, then you have a good portion of the market, especially if you have professional photography and stuff—which I didn’t do. So I mean, you don’t have to start with really nice photography. Just take a picture, try to make it look good, then post it and see what happens. And, yeah, it only—Etsy’s just really easy to get into because I think it’s a good idea to have your own shop with your own website, but it’s just somewhere to start and it just takes away all those excuses for people, like need to—you know. And you only need to make one. You don’t need to make a whole bunch. You don’t need to make a whole batch. You only need to make one.

Zephan: Right. Like, you could sell a lot of one thing. And I think the best thing about it in this case is you don’t have to design a website, you don’t have to design a logo, you don’t have to get a business card. You just put it up there and Etsy also does the rest, because it’s searchable. So it’s not like you even have to advertise, really. People just find stuff on there, right.

Sarah: Absolutely. And then just pin your product images to Pinterest. And I get like—all of my traffic outside of Etsy search engine itself is Pinterest. And then you’re golden. And it’s so easy to start. I would say you shouldn’t start a website first, because you don’t know what the people want. So use Etsy as your testing place. And test different designs or whatever, and don’t print out whole batches or spend your whole time making—let’s say you’re doing…I don’t know, water color prints. Make one. You don’t need to make a whole bunch. Make one and then do it as a made to order kind of thing. And see what people like, and when you do have all of that, then you can start your own store. But it’s not something that you’re just gonna like…start an Etsy shop, quit your job. Take all the pressure off of yourself and just start one thing, one listing.

Zephan: Right, and a couple other things, I guess. So it should be original. This so be some sort of crafty thing that you have create, not just you bought and resold.

Sarah: You can do the—I think Etsy opened it up so you can resell things. But I think most people—we’re going back to kind of a craftsmanship style marketplace out there, where people want to know that it’s handmade and they want to know that it’s special in some way. So I think that if you are going to do that, you might as well just go to Amazon or something like that. A bigger marketplace that’s not just handmade stuff. People on Etsy really want that whole handmade feel.

Zephan: And I think that’s very representative of where these businesses are going right now. Online businesses are making a comeback. It’s that for so many years, there were these so-called gurus and experts out there and it’s just sale after sale after sale because everybody kind of got tricked into it. It’s much easier to convince people to buy online. And now we’re kinda making this comeback where instead of just going for the sale, we’re creating these communities of people that really care about a certain thing. For example, with us, it’s living a life that you love. And I think that it’s really cool to see things come full circle.

You know, originally, we were in tribes. That’s how things started if you look back hundreds and hundreds of years ago. And we’re kinda coming full circle back to this tribe mentality of, you know, there’s this leader, but they’re a very humble person who is offering something really good to the community. And that’s why everyone’s kind of grouping around this person.

And it’s funny to hear that, because, literally just a few hours ago today, I was in the gym, and you’ll never know who’s truly in your following. You won’t know everyone. And I was just sitting there, packing up my stuff before I left, and someone walked over to me and…I talked to her once or twice, but didn’t really know here. But I knew she was friends with me on Facebook. And she says “I’ve been watching all your stuff you’ve been posting online and it’s so inspirational” and she went on for like five minutes and she hadn’t been subscribed to the podcast, so I got to show her do that, but it’s crazy. You never really know who’s watching and you have a much bigger audience than you think. And it could be something as cool as finding that craft on Etsy that everybody likes and making a community around it.

Sarah: Yeah, it’s true, for sure. Yeah, on Unsettle, I was look at everybody—do you use AWeber for your emails?

Zephan: I use GetResponse. It’s pretty close.

Sarah: Yeah, so you can probably send out an email and then look to see who opened it and it’ll tell you how many emails they’ve opened before that email. So I’m looking at the stats for this one email that I send out, and I saw this person who’s never emailed me. I get a ton of emails, but I remember names really well, just because I do some memorization practices, so I don’t embarrass myself. So I get a ton of email every day, but I know this person never emailed me because she’s opened every single one of my emails and read them all and clicked through all of the links that I add in my emails. And then I went to my email inbox and I searched her name and like…no, I had never talked to her before, so you just don’t know who’s watching and who’s following. And she’s like…must be my biggest fan, because seriously. Every email, she opens. She clicks though everything and she’s never contacted me and you tend to remember the people that contact you or are kind of the loud few. But there’s just these secret little followers that you didn’t even know you had.

So it’s very interesting to—the internet’s an amazing place.

Zephan: Oh, yeah, and you don’t realize the impact that you’re making on certain people’s lives, because they might not speak up for a really long time. So it’s really cool to just know that we’re not just building a business, we’re building a brand. And we’re not just building a brand, we’re kind of building a family in a sense. People that you’re taking care of.

And, I guess, getting into that though might be taught for some people. Because they have no clue what that one skill is that they have. I went to high school in this video program. Went to college for a video program. So when I got out of school, I got a video job, and that’s what I knew. But I have a few friends who even have come up to me and said “I don’t really know what my skills are…” They have a college degree, but they just feel like they don’t have any marketable skills. So how do you approach that, especially if you’re in a coaching scenario, and someone’s like “I want to build a business, but I don’t know what I would do”?

Sarah: Yeah, so that’s a huge concern with a lot of my community. So I actually create a course to help people find their kind of perfect lifestyle business idea based on what they love to do. And also what they’re skilled at. So you could find at Unsettle.org/free-course. It’s a little long, but that’s—the free course, it helps them do the whole market research thing that so many people are daunted by. But also just starting where you are with your skills.

So look back to see what other people have always told you you’re good at. We tend to overlook those things, I find, and they’re usually really on point. So if you think about your best friend, she probably doesn’t know or he probably doesn’t know what he’s good at. But you do. Guaranteed you know what he’s good at. Like I could say three things that my best friend is super good at right now, but there’s no way she’d be able to identify those things because we overlook it in ourselves. So just asking people that you know. What do you think that I’m good at? What do you think that I’m skilled at? Or what have you always admired that I do? It’s like the most powerful, quickest way to get those answers. And then delving into them.

So when they tell you “Oh, you’re a really good communicator,” then start looking back in your life. Like if you’ve ever had a performance review, for instance, you’ll probably see a pattern. So I always had people tell me that I’m so in spring and blah, blah, blah, and I’m a good writer. So that’s where Unsettle was born. I went back in time and I started looking at my performance reviews, the greeting cards that people had sent me. We had this recognition event at my last job and we’d write things down on Post It notes about what we’re good at and the same theme came up over and over again.

And then even just taking personality assessments. So when I first started in my contract, they asked me to do a personality assessment to show what I was good at in work, and the same themes came up. I’m a good written communicator, I’m a good influencer, and like I’m good at inspiring people and changing their minds. And it’ll tell you want you’re not so good at too, so you might want to avoid those things and building businesses around those things because they’re just not gonna serve you well and you’re not gonna enjoy it. So I’m really bad at giving people bad news. I don’t like to be the messenger, and I don’t like to be not liked, and that’s a huge things for me, so I would never be able to be somebody who has to discipline or—but some people are really good at that.

So just taking those kind of measured steps to find out what you’re good at, I think it’s a really great place to start. And when you have that foundation of “Okay, I’m really skilled at analyzing data…and I’m really skilled with numbers,” then you can started pairing that with other skills and interests of yours to really make an impact and start a business around those things.

Zephan: And it’s—you might be surprised what you find out. So for me, in my journey, I found that ultimately, almost two years into my business, I was like “Why am I hating video editing all of a sudden?” It just—I would bring on clients and get a new gig and I’m like…I love to shoot the video for this but I’m like “why am I not wanting to edit this?” and I started questioning myself. And what I learned was that the video is not necessarily my passion, but the story telling was. And the video was more of just my best way of communicating it. And once I figured that one out, everything just started to click into place and fall into place.

So you might be really surprised that perhaps you’re an expert at knitting and knitting is your thing, but maybe you’ll find that it’s more the creativity or the patterns that you like and that could transfer over into all sorts of other types of artwork and there’s your Etsy store. So it’s something to just kind of keep in mind as people are listening in and trying to question what’s going on. Don’t ask necessarily “What is my purpose?” or “What am I supposed to do?” because that’s not really the right question, that’s not gonna get you the right answer. But when you find out your strong points, like you were saying, you know ask you friends—I think it was a great idea to look back in cards and look at what people have written to you, because that would be a funny one, for sure, just to see what people have said. And you’ll probably doubt yourself at first but it’s all true if it’s coming from people who love you.

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. And going back to your point where it might—look in different areas. But I think that you need to start somewhere and you’re not gonna nail it on your first try, like, at all. I started a personal finance club five years ago. That was my first foray into any sort of side hustle, and I just don’t like money that much. But I didn’t know that at the time, and if I didn’t start that blog, I wouldn’t have realized how much I love writing and community building. So I think you just need to start. And you’re never gonna get it right on the first time, I don’t even think that’s a thing, and I think that you do evolve and change over time. So start somewhere and then just be flexible and adaptable.

Zephan: And as you’ve shown with the multiple income streams, this is something where—and this is a different mindset. This is not something that our parents were okay with. Our parents were like ‘Get the same job, hold it for thirty years, and that’s what you do!’ right. And it’s like, you can start a new business next week if you want to and run it for two years and then decide to do something else. And that’s the coolest part about this, is that we have to break this cycle of our parents raised us to think “Oh, well, you just go to college so you can get a degree so you can find a job and then you hold it for thirty or forty years. You get a good 401K and retirement plan and you start a family at some point, and that’s how you live your life.” And I guarantee you, after that thirty or forty years, you’re gonna look back and think that you wasted a lot of time.

And this isn’t to tell every person who’s working a job right now to quit your job. This is just saying look into what options are out there, especially with—you know, you were on a treadmill posting to this Etsy store, so this does not have to start as a full-time, forty hour a week thing. And I’m sure you’re probably started to work your way towards not having to do forty hours a week worth of work, is that right?

Sarah: Yeah. Since Unsettle started, I only work maybe—if I’m being honest, like twenty hours a week on it, but that’s really hard focused work. But if you think about your day job, you don’t work forty hours a week, you’re paid for forty hours a week. But you’re talking at the photocopier or filling up your coffee or trying to figure out where to start, so you’re just staring at the blank screen. Like, you’re not actually putting in forty hours of focused work, so I think that if you really love what you’re doing—and regardless of—even on the side, if you really love what you’re doing, you don’t need to put forty hours of work into it. That’s just our labor standards. So yeah, that’s all set by the government, that’s not necessarily gonna be your productive time—

Zephan: Yeah, there is no what you are supposed to do, right. Like everyone’s like “you’re supposed to do this!” “You’re supposed to get married in your early twenties and you’re supposed to get a job and get a good retirement plan!” There is—we have to cut this “you’re supposed to” stuff out, because when you start living under these guidelines that someone else made for you, then you’re not really living you’re life. You’re living someone else’s.

Sarah: Yeah, and I think that at the detriment of you future. Because, nowadays, the person that only works at one job for forty years is gonna be at a huge disadvantage. There’s no such thing as job security anymore. There might have been before, but there’s no such thing as job security, especially if you’re working for a company who has control over your job. So the whole “supposed to” just doesn’t work anymore.

Zephan: Yeah. And I learned that really quick. My first job out of college, I worked for about a year to a year and a half. And I thought everything was great, and they sold the company, and within about a month or two, I was given a pink slip. So really, nothing is permanent at this point. So one of the best bets is, A, work for yourself, or, B, multiple income streams is really a smart idea at this point in time.

Sarah, what’s the best way for people to reach out to you, get in touch with you, learn more about—I know you had a free URL think that you mentioned earlier, if you want to mention that again for those that are listening in and want to learn a little bit more about you or might even train with you to open up their own business. How can they get in touch with you?

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. So my website is Unsettle.org. So that’s U-N-S-E-T-T-L-E. A lot of people put a D at the end, but it’s not. So unsettle.org is the website. The free course—it’s completely free, there’s nothing. You don’t have to pay for anything. It’s unsettle.org/free-course, and it’ll just kind of walk you through the steps of finding a really—like a viable lifestyle business idea. And then you can find me on Twitter. It’s @peterson—with an O—sarah. So petersonsarah. And, yeah, other than that I’m just kind of all over the web. But everything will be kind of all on Unsettle. So find my there.

Zephan: Sounds good. So Unsettle—without a D—dot org. Unsettle. U-N-S-E-T-T-L-E.org. and you guys can check that all out there. We’ll be making sure to put those links in the show notes for you. So at yearofpurpose.com, if you guys are watching it on the website or on YouTube, you can always check out those links there. If you’re divining in the car listening to the podcast, don’t worry, we’ve got it for you so you can some back and find that when you are not driving. Because you should text and drive.

So Sarah, it’s been great having you today. And I look forward to see where things go. You started in January with Unsettle, so you’ve got a lot of really cool things, I’m sure, planned ahead for the next year. And I’m excited to where that goes.

Sarah: Absolutely. Thank you for having me!