001 College student > multiple 6-figure online business owning digital nomad
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Paige: Hey, friends, I'm so excited to welcome you to this very first episode of the Online Business Besties Podcast! Now, today, I'm going to share with you exactly how it went from college student to multiple six figure online business owning digital nomad.
Now, when people look at my life in business there, generally asking like, “How did you get into that? Your job is so random. Why do you live in Germany if you're Canadian? How do you make money from the Internet? And did you study this or go to college for this” and I'll be honest, I had absolutely no intentions to start an online business back in the day. I was totally ready to walk across the college graduation stage and go work in the real world like you know, most people.
But today I want to tell you the story. I want to tell you the story because I'm not some unicorn and I didn't have a degree in entrepreneurship or some amazing business mentors or business connections at all.
I want to show you that if I could do this, then you totally can, too.
And as you're about to hear my story is a pretty random, wild ride. If you decide to get into online businesses, well, your path is likely going to look very different from mine. But I want to show you that truly anyone could make this happen for themselves, and I started from exactly where you are right now.
So I was in fourth year university and to be honest, I just really didn't want to study. I had been through so many exam times, and I was just completely over it. So instead of studying for my exams, what I started bingeing on blog's. And as I was going through all these blog's, I was like, “Man, this really cool with these girls were doing I totally want to start a blog too, like, how do I start a blog?”
So I knew absolutely nothing about blogging or building a website at all. So I did what everyone does, and I Googled how to build a website, which then led me to learning that there's some sort of website building platforms you could build a website on. So I started doing all the comparisons between them and I eventually found Squarespace and decided that sounded like the best option for me. So I started to build my blog on Squarespace.
So when it came to actually blogging, I literally had no idea what I was going to blogging about. So I was just blogging pretty much about nothing. Eventually, I morphed it into like a travel blog. So that's how the travel block started.
+ full transcript
Now, back to my real life, I was thinking about my career, and I knew that career was I want to be in management, and in order to be in management, I was going to need a master's degree. So I started looking into the future trying to figure out what my game plan was for after graduation.
So I decided that I want to do a master's degree and I applied to a few different places. I was honestly sick of the cold in Canada, so I applied everywhere south of me. So one of the places which I got into and also got a scholarship for was the University of Mississippi. Or you might know it more as Ole Miss.
So at end of the summer. I packed my bags and headed sixteen hours south to Mississippi, where I knew absolutely no one. I had found two roommates online and we moved in together. So I knew two people and we're like, okay, none of us know anyone. We need some friends. So we got all dressed up and we went to the bar and decided that we needed to meet some people.
So I know it's gonna sound really random, but I promise it is super important to the story. So we're at the bar. I look around and I'm trying to figure out how to not awkwardly start a conversation. As I was looking for in the bar, I noticed that there's this very specific attire that Mississippi people in Mississippi tend to wear. So everyone, all the guys were wearing boat shoes, baseball caps, short Chino shorts and these fishermen shirts. And then there was two guys who were standing there, and they were wearing a well fitted jeans, button down shirts and ha nicely done hair. And I just thought, Well, these two are not from here. I figured I'm not from here. They're not from here. Maybe that's my best chance to start a conversation.
So as I walk past them, I noticed that they were speaking German and I was just like what? So I tapped the one of them on the shoulder and I asked, “Excuse me, are you German?” It turns out that asking, “Are you German?” is my best pickup line to date because that is now my fiance. We ended up dating throughout the semester, and when Christmas break came a few months later, we planned to go our separate ways. We actually had no intention of staying dating because he was only in Mississippi for his Masters.
And I thought, Well, you know, that's completely unrealistic and I don't want to do long distance. So we went our separate ways at Christmas time. However, once we were apart, we decided we didn't really want to be with anyone else, so we ended up doing long distance. Now we did our long distance for a year and a half and graduation for my master's degree rolled around and I was again left with the decision of what do I do with my life?
So what I decided was I really didn't want to be doing long distance any longer than necessary. Flori and I love to travel. But, I knew that I eventually want to get a job in my field, but I assumed if I traveled Europe or learned language for a year, that wouldn't look too terrible on my resume. So it was probably gonna be okay if I went to Germany for a year.
So I bought my one way ticket to Germany and started language school as soon as I landed. And honestly, I had a really nice first European summer. My boyfriend and I were super happy to be in the same place traveling around in Europe.
That summer, I think Germany was doing either the Euro Cup or World Cup. So we were constantly meeting up with his friends and going out and watching the games together. I was just loving the freedom of being able to drink alcohol in the outdoors. We would watch the games. We drink beer outside. It was just a really cool time and I got to experience a beer garden.
So we went to the south of Germany and saw the mountains and it’s absolutely gorgeous. So it was a solid, solid first summer.
Now, when fall rolled around, my boyfriend started a training for his new job, which, honestly, was a super stressful endeavor. We knew going into it that this was going to be a really hard year and a half for him, and he was going to have no free time because this thing really takes over your life. So when he started the training program, that left me just hanging out at language school, basically. And when he was gone constantly, I was pretty lonely.
I mean, I had moved to the country. I didn't know that many people at that point. I had friends who were really close back home, but I wasn’t there with them, and I couldn't really fully communicate with people around me because I wasn't fluent in German yet. And my boyfriend is completely not there. All the time just working.
Thankfully, around that time, a part time job at a kindergarten literally landed in my lap. The kindergarten needed an English speaker, so my job was literally just to speak my own language at this kindergarten so the kids could learn English. So I went from eleven to four every day to this kindergarden to, you know, hang out with kids.
And honestly, from day two, I hated it. I just finished my masters on full scholarship. I got a near perfect GPA, won the award for most outstanding student in my class, and all my other classmates, well they were off working for cities or universities in management. And I was telling four year olds to stop having tantrums at lunch and changing diapers. I also was feeling just crazy exhausted every single day, and I didn't know why. But looking back now, I can tell you the reason why I was just cause I hated the idea of waking up and going to work every day. I would wake up late because I just didn't feel like going to work. I would get off the subway station at the same exit as the University. And that really sucked because I would see the university students chatting and having friends and rocking up to university at 11am, and every single time I would have to walk in the other direction and go to the kindergarten.
I just felt like a complete failure. As I was sitting there reading English books to four year olds, I was just thinking, “Did I seriously go to university for six years to do this?” A few weeks into it, we went to my boyfriend's parents place, and they just asked politely, “So, how’s it going?” And I wanted to give a cheerier response. But honestly, all I did was just start crying. I loved my boyfriend and I wanted to be with him and, well, I had no problem moving countries for him.
When I had tons of close friends back home, I'd always been a really driven person, and being successful was important to me, and I just felt like a loser. At that point, I was literally walking into kindergarten with my masters degree, like, what was I doing with my life?
So within two days of starting at the kindergarten, I started brainstorming how to escape the thing. I started looking for other jobs, and three months later I landed a job. But just as I went to go sign the contract, I knew it wasn't what I really, really wanted to do so I turned it down.
I decided I was going to make my side hustle work. So here's the thing that I haven't told you yet, is that previously in Mississippi, when I was in college, I started a website design side hustle. I had gotten the travel bug for a while and I learned how to build websites. And randomly I met a nonprofit that needed a website. And so I was like, Yeah, no problem. I can help you create a website. I've built a few before.
I built the nonprofit this website and loved doing it, and I also loved giving my own travel vlog like a constant face lift. So what I did was I decide to advertise on Etsy to find more clients and eventually also a web design agency, ended up finding me as well and giving me contract work here and there.
So I had actually been side hustling, basically through my second year of my masters. And then up until that point when I had been in Germany as well at this point, my side hustle had been consistently making a few hundred, sometimes if I was lucky, a thousand dollars a month. It wasn't enough to live off of, but I also had never had enough time to actually dedicate to making it really successful and actually doing any marketing for the business.
I literally just didn't have the time because I was, you know, doing a masters degree or going a language school or working at a kindergarden. So I had time enough to build the websites, but I wasn't doing anything to actually grow the business.
So while it wasn't earning enough for me to live off of, I hope that if I had more time to actually do some marketing, I could actually make it into a real business that actually funded my life living abroad. So just around then it was Christmas time and my friends and I are back in Canada. Every single year we hold the best annual Christmas event. It's just so much fun. We get together. We wear been a ridiculous outfits. We definitely played a lot of drinking games, and we just genuinely have such a fun time.
But that year I didn’t have the money to fly back home. So I got to watch the Christmas party from afar. They sent me photos and video saying like, Oh, we wish you were here and just seeing them together just made me really homesick. And I just really wish that I could fly home whenever I felt like it and go see my friends and actually attend our own Christmas party.
So right after all my friends sent me the photos in the videos of our sick Christmas party without me, my boyfriend and I went to go set up our Christmas tree and honestly, he was still working in his training position. So we didn't have a full time paid position, and I was just getting shoddy web design work here and there.
It was a really rough time, for both of our lives and our relationship. We did not have a lot of money, and I was still trying to figure out how to function in a new country. But the one thing which really got me excited was my decision to work for myself and turn my side hustle into a full time business.
I had all of determination to make this thing work. So just as I went full time with my business, Marie Forleo came out with her annual B-school course. If you're unfamiliar with the school. It's basically a course which shows you how to set up your business.
Thankfully, the course gave me a lot of foundation and made it super clear of what exactly I should be working on every day. And it's at that point that I had started to blog for my business. So I decided that the marketing strategy, which I wanted to execute for my business, was going to be blogging. So I started writing blog content twice a week and building an email list.
Now, my traffic rose consistently month over month on the block, which was really encouraging, but I was still really frantic about getting clients. I would get a client here and there from Etsy or my design agency.
My boyfriend was equally busy working it with his training program, and so he really didn't have a lot of time for me. So we both basically sat in our office and worked day and night, day and night, day and night constantly.
At that time, I would look at the other web designers who made more and were booked solid, and I was just like, “wow, they're doing five thousand dollars for a website.” If I could do five thousand dollars for a website like, I would be doing it so well. But it seemed so impossible and so far away for me at that point. Clients came to me now and again, but really weren't consistent, which led to a ton of anxiety in my life.
Thankfully, after about six months of consistent blogging the first client came through the blog. I was so happy. Then I found that the time that was between clients coming through the blog was shorter and shorter, and at some point the clients just kept coming through the blog.
And this is when things finally turned around. At this point, I also upped my prices. I honestly had not intended to up my prices, but I got on the phone with a someone who had worked for the web design agency, and he was giving me a little bit of business advice. And he basically said, like Paige, seriously, this service, which you are providing to your clients is so great. And the websites that you make are so amazing. All of our clients have been so happy with everything you've produced, a seriously think that you could double your prices and not see any difference in the number of people booking with you. And I just thought you're insane. But he planted the seed and the idea was there and I was like, All right, well, I mean, I'll try it, so I doubled my prices.
I was doing previously two thousand five hundred for a website design. I felt like I was was not sort of allowed to charge any more than that. But when he challenged me, I was like, Screw it, I'm just going to try and put it up on my website. I decided to put five thousand dollars for a website and see what happens. And as it turns out, I learned the lesson. Pricing is not as important as you think. There was no dip in the number of people who were enquiring and booking with me.
From this point on, I was consistently booked out and was actually having to book clients months in advance because I didn't have any more time in my schedule. I did one website and I worked with one client at a time and so I would do their website in two weeks. So I started booking out my two week period sort of in advance.
I finally started having money to travel, and I would actually carve out time to visit cities and countries that were close by Germany, which was awesome. I mean, being in Germany, you really are in the center of Europe, which has some huge perks.
Whenever I wasn't traveling, though, I'll be honest, I was working like crazy. I was working weekends like it was going out of style. I was exhausted mentally because my brain just kept going on the business constantly. I got really exhausted with constant client work and thinking about my business and working on my business and blogging for my business and doing all the things for my business, and I really didn't take any time off.
So when November head I was just like my God, I'm so exhausted I'm taking the entire month of December to just do absolutely nothing. I was making good income and charging about five thousand dollars for a website. That would take about two weeks to Do. So I had, thankfully, the freedom to stop working for a month, and it was crazy to look at my bank account at this point. Just a few months before, I had been seriously stressing about how it could pay rent a few months ahead. And now I was earning up to ten thousand a month by doing two websites for five thousand each.
That year, I was so stoked, I got myself on a flight and I flew back home for our annual Christmas party and I had such a good time with my friends back home. I was so thankful and looked back at a year before. I just thought, My Lord, I'm so grateful. A year before, I couldn't have dreamed of hopping on this plane and going here. But now I actually have the money to do that, and I was so grateful for it, then gave me my business, a serious look when I was back home in Canada and I put some serious thought to it.
I was getting more enquiries than I could take on as one person, so I basically had a couple options that I saw, I figured that I could become a web design agency. I could sort of be, you know, the name of the business. And then I could hire bunch other web designers who sort of do work on my behalf.
Or I could create a course to basically teach everything that I knew about website design. So I knew that I want to build a business with freedom built in, and the idea of managing a whole bunch of designers honestly did not sound like the freedom I was looking for. So I decided the course route was more for me. I also wanted to travel more and take my business on the road with me. It was making enough money at that point, and it was getting consistent income. So I figured this is the time I'm gonna hop on a flight. I'm going to Bali.
Once I got to Bali, I knew that I had one major project to work on. I cleared out all of my client work in that time because there was going to be a twelve hours time difference, which would've made phone calls possible, but a real pain in the butt.
And I wanted to work on this course. So what I did was I got to Bali and I hustled for three months straight, and I honestly, unfortunately continued to do the working seven days a week thing and created my own line course Square Secrets. It was such a nice time in Bali. I did yoga every single day and I would straight up pinch myself when I looked at my beautiful villa with my gorgeous pool. It was just unbelievable.
I also it did no cooking, no cleaning or laundry. It's all done for you. So the month that I launched my course, I did more than twenty thousand dollars in that month, and I started loving the idea of running a product based business. I figured with the product based business, my life was a lot more on my own terms. I wouldn't have client phone calls in the middle of the night if I was in a different time zone. My deadlines were more flexible. They were just for myself and not for, you know, a client. And I felt so much less stress and anxiety.
One time, a client had hired me for website project that cost $9000. When someone pays you nine thousand dollars, I put a serious amount of stress on myself to make sure that they were over the moon, happy with what I had created and delivered for them. So I put it honestly, probably self induced anxiety about keeping my client's happy, which was really stressful.
So with a product based business, I figured all those issues were pretty much gone. My course has allowed more freedom of location and determining what I felt like doing it working on every day, and I'd pretty much burned myself out from client work.
But granted, I'd still booked a few clients throughout the rest of the year, so I still have those projects that I had to work on a complete for the rest of that year, ended up launching a second course and finally stopped working on weekends. Hallelujah! I traveled a lot. I worked from eight countries and I took two months vacation, which I was taking spread through the year.
Um, I genuinely enjoyed making a really solid income, and that was the year that the business did multiple six figures. Now that year, when we put up our Christmas tree and pulled out our super ghetto Christmas ornaments, I was so excited to hang them up. I just sat and looked at that tree and was just so excited to see, how far we came. In those two years. He had gotten a really good full time job, and I was earning more than anyone could think was imaginable for a twenty seven year old.
At the time, we were watching the German TV show Bad Banks one day, which, by the way, for unfamiliar is about investment bankers, and I was really curious to know how much an investment banker made, so I Googled it and realized that I was making slightly more than the average investment banker. It was insane to me that I went from almost scraping by to figure out how to pay rent to earning as much as an investment banker two years later with an online business. Not to mention, I work from my couch all day and had way more freedom of my lifestyle than anyone who works for an investment company or traditional business.
So I can't tell you how genuinely and grateful I am for my business that doesn’t take over my life. Instead, it really supports my life. Recently, my boyfriend and I got engaged. He’s my fiancee now, and I feel so lucky to get to live in Europe and travel around here all because of my business. I get to go home to Canada to be with my friends and family as much as I want. I generally go home for at least two months every single year, and if I'm ever homesick, I literally just book a flight and fly home, and it's because I have the money from my business and the flexibility from being able to work from anywhere that I can do this so easily.
And I realized that that is not something which most of the world has the option to do. I'm easily able to afford absolutely beautiful, amazing vacations, and I definitely intend taking another two months vacation this year. My business earns super well. If you're curious to see what it's doing, you can head to paigebrunton.com/income because I do publish monthly income reports on that right now.
These days, I honestly just roll outta bed whenever I feel like it. I hit my beautiful gym in the morning, followed by some relaxing time reading my book. And then I have my breakfast made for me. I get genuinely, really excited to work on the problems that I'm interested in.
My business feels like a big, exciting project that I get to work on improving, and when I see my boyfriend and friends having to go do things like sit through meetings that they know are completely useless, I am so glad that I get to decide what's worth working on my business and what is not that I'm just going to straight up skip.
I cannot imagine sitting through another meeting where I'm just sitting there thinking, Why am I here? This is useless. Can I leave now? I get to spend my day blogging, interviewing amazing business owners with this podcast, doing marketing, which I genuinely actually enjoy now and giving back. I recently picked the charity that I want to support with my business, and I'm so happy to be able to do that.
So as you could see, it was a pretty wild ride getting here, and honestly, it was far from pretty on many occasions, but I would just like to say that it was absolutely worth it. My life is so so so far from what I originally pictured and figured I was going to go work in my small town in Canada, planning recreational events, and now I live from anywhere, run a business for my laptop and get to enjoy of really amazing lifestyle.
Now, this is the thing is that online businesses can do this for you, and it can't just do this for me. It could do it for you too. Sometimes I sit and think like how the heck did I get myself here? And the answer is, honestly, a bit of luck and a boatload of hard work. And sometimes I have say that it feels a little strange that my life is completely unimaginable to most of the world, and I realized how lucky I am.
But when I see people struggling and really hating their life and hating their job and the commute and only having a couple of weeks of vacation a year and only earning enough to cover your expenses but never get ahead and save, I just think, My God, you don't need to live like that.
So I want to tell you this if you're back where I was on the day that I cried in front of my boyfriend's parents and said, I don't know what I'm doing with my life, and I hate where I am, I want to help. That's why I started this podcast. I want to show just how possible this is for you, too. If you want to run an online business as well, I want to introduce you to people who are running successful, amazing online businesses that are giving them complete freedom.
In my time, working from all the different countries that I have, I have met so many people running the most completely random online businesses. And people are making bank doing what they love and truly turning their passions into an online business. And I want to show you and introduce you to those people because you need to know that we're not unicorns. It's possible for you two. It's not just me. You don't need to be web designer.
I also want to share education with you on this podcast. There are some very specific things that you need to get good at in order to run a successful online business. And I want to share education to show you exactly how to get good at those things.
I know that so many people on Instagram that are currently sharing the highlight reel of their life traveling the world and showing you these all these amazing places, and they're getting shouty on Facebook ads about how they're so super successful. But they're not explaining how it's done, and they're not sharing the seriously rough times along the way.
But I want this to be different for you. I want to show you the highlight reel and the serious challenges that are involved with running my online business business. I want to actually pull back the curtain and show what it takes to build a successful online business. So if that sounds like your cup of tea, be sure to subscribe to the podcast, because I'm really excited to show you exactly how it's done.
Thanks so much for hanging out with us for this episode of the Online Business Besties podcast. If you love the show, be sure to leave a rating or review wherever you listen to podcasts. And, of course, check out the show notes for this episode and all past episodes at paigebrunton.com.
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