Today I’m kicking off Working In My PJs, a monthly series where I chat to people who are running their own business online.
When I was starting out, I’d longing look at those with fancy websites and dazzling testimonials and wondered what it would be like to have one’s shit together. Did they ever fail to shower for three days or procrastineat six slices of toast or routinely question their sanity, or was that just me?
I was hungry for real, behind-the-scenes stories. So I’m asking some fabulous folks lots of nosy questions to discover how and why they do what they do.
From writers to coaches to artists to makers, this isn’t “hot lemon water at dawn and $10,000 of passive income before lunch” stuff. This is real talk about the highs and lows, the buttock-clenching doubt, and the everyday minutiae of carving out a living online.
I’m excited that we begin with Sas Petherick.
Sas is unconditionally committed to your self-belief. She is a Coach for Thinking Humans and Mentor for Thoughtful Coaches and deftly guides her clients out of the mire of self-doubt. With a Master’s degree in Coaching & Mentoring, and as a Certified Dr Martha Beck Coach, her approach is heartfelt and effective, deeply intuitive and immediately applicable to your life.
She has been both my coach and client, but more than anything she’s simply one of my most favourite humans on the planet – hilarious and deeply intelligent, putting buckets of heart and integrity into everything she creates.
Let’s go behind the scenes of her thriving corner of the interwebs.
1. Can you recall THE moment you realised you were ready to work for yourself full-time?
I absolutely remember this moment! I was engaged in quite dramatic snot-filled sobbing at the time.
It was the final morning of a retreat I had co-hosted and the whole week had been full of mind-blowing amazingness. For the first time in my life I knew in my bones what I wanted to be when I grew up. So the idea of going back to the office on Monday felt like a death to me (hence the ugly cry).
It took two more years of working at the office while building up my coaching practice on the side before I could make the leap. It was totally worth it.
2. Pick three adjectives to describe your work.
Deep. Playful. Thoughtful.
3. What do you do, specifically, to earn your own crust?
This is such a great and under-asked question! I have been steadily increasing my income by about 20% each year over the last five years and I am on track to have my best year yet.
About 35% of my income comes from 1:1 coaching, 25% from my two group programmes, 20% from mentoring other coaches, 15% from retreats and the remainder is from sundry things like affiliate payments.
4. What does a typical working day look like? Do you like structure/routine or are you more a by-the-seat-of-the-pantser?
I always thought I would be so much more free and easy but I’ve found my work thrives with a bit of structure. My weeks follow the same pattern: Monday is writing day – blog posts, newsletters, marketing etc. I have client sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (I have the energetic capacity for 3-4 sessions per day). Friday is left over for catching up on client notes or admin and I try to meet a friend for lunch or finish up early.
5. As this series is called Working In My PJs, may I ask about your workplace attire?
Comfort is everything and I love natural fibres, so mostly cotton t-shirts, linen tops and ‘lounging pants’. I have a vast selection of cardigans and I have happily embraced the Ugg.
6. One of your latest creations is Magnetic Conversations, a programme for coaches. What happens for you at the different stages cooking up a new offering?
I have found that I go through a pretty consistent process. When I get an idea for a new thing I am usually super excited and full of possibility. I have learnt to just enjoy this bit without taking any action for a little while. This helps me think about why it might not work.
Then I go and interview a bunch of people who might be potential buyers of this new coaching offer to find out if this would be useful to them. Market research is my secret weapon to creating offers that have an actual audience and I have a complete system for this (there’s whole module on it in Magnetic Conversations).
And then it’s Creation Station: the actual writing part. For Magnetic Conversations I had a rough idea of the modules I wanted to cover, but I spent a lot of time thinking about how my audience might prefer to learn, and the best way to disseminate the information. I tend to write a lot and then cull a lot as I don’t want to overwhelm people with too much stuff.
This is always when my doubt hits, and it’s a variation of:
- am I including the right things?
- clearly everything I wrote today is a pile of crap.
- this has all been said before by thinner people.
I’ve learnt to call my ‘hide a body’ friends when this happens. They bring me down to earth and make me laugh.
And I used to do everything myself. Which was crazypants. Over the years I have slowly built an incredibly talented virtual team who help me bring my work to life. I love working with other self-employed women who are doing their dream jobs. I highly recommend our very own Shauna for the best project management and copywriting in the biz, Ali Duffey at The Maltese Kiwi for laser sharp copy editing, Micheala Latavanha at Bonfires and Ukuleles for design magic and Evan Leah Quinn for website brilliance.
7. What’s your least favourite work task?
8. What’s the nicest thing someone’s said to you about your work?
I keep all the emails and cards and messages of gratitude that clients send – to me these are love letters of the highest order (and this blows every corporate performance evaluation system out of the water). One of the best emails I ever received said: ‘Would it be ok to thank you in the acknowledgments of my book? It wouldn’t exist with you!’ (I totally cried at that one).
9. What are your favourite ways to procrastinate?
Procrastination is always about escape for me, so I love finding a whole other reality to inhabit for a while. I may have spent more time in Stars Hollow and Westeros than Lorelai Gilmore and Ayra Stark combined!
10. What is your beverage of choice while working? Do you have a favourite vessel?
Black coffee until midday, then sparkling water. My current favourite mug is from the incredibly talented and brilliant Amanda Banham.
11. Working for yourself can be a lonely business! Do you have any sources of support? What are the warning signs that it’s time to Leave The Compound, as you hilariously put it?
Working alone is definitely the hardest part of this self-employment gig for me. I’m an extrovert and energised by other people. I have a lot of pals in the States and my oldest friend is back home in NZ so keeping in touch over Skype is both technologically magic and nowhere near as good as in person. I am currently working on some very cool ideas for live events!
(Shauna’s note: since the interview Sas has launched her fabulous Write Yourself Home one-day workshops – there’s upcoming dates in London and Bristol. Get the lowdown on her retreats and events here!)
12. When it comes to getting organised, are you a digital or analogue person, or a combo of the two?
I am a fan of both. I live and die by my Google Calendar, but I also love scratching a pen on the page.
- I use Scrivener for creating and writing, Basecamp for projects, and Satori for managing my coaching practice.
- I write all of client notes by hand, type them up and email them to clients (slow but effective).
- I have an A5 lined Moleskine that is my business journal (a mix of ideas, quotes and general vague plans).
- For the last month I have been trying out the Best Self journal which is a 12 week daily planner and I really like it!
13. You’ve been blogging for over a decade now. I admire how you smoothly transitioned from personal blogger, to coach-in-training, to really owning your role as a coach and mentor all on the same blog. The decor has changed, but you’ve retained your warmth, creativity and unique Sas-ness.
What’s it been like to navigate these changes in your online presence? Is it something you had to ponder, or has it been more organic? How have the changes been received by your readers?
That is so kind of you to say. And to be honest I don’t think I thought too hard about navigating these changes (maybe I should have?!). My blog has always been a way to tell my story because it’s the only thing I have any real authority on. So I have just kept talking about my experience, sharing my lessons, and since I became a coach, offering to help in one-to-one sessions, inviting people to retreats, showing up with pride and joy in my work and deep respect for people’s ability to self-select.
It still blows my mind that some readers have been with me since the very start. But some people have really not understood or liked the changes I have made. Sometimes that really hurts but I have also learnt that being me is not a crowd-sourcing activity.
14. As a longtime citizen of the internet, is there anything about the online world right now that you feel is total poppycock?
SO MANY THINGS. One thing that consistently astounds me is the ubiquitous idea that you can create a six-figure business quickly and easily and then you can go and do yoga on the beach all day. Also: ‘digital nomads’. No.
15. You’re a Kiwi who has lived in the UK for many years. Thinking particularly about the roller coaster that is showing up online for your business – do you ever feel a sense of Kiwi-ness or British-ness popping up or informing your approach?
All the time! ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ is a both horrible and brilliant New Zealand concept that involves keeping anyone from every getting ‘too big for their boots’. I think it’s horrible because telling anyone – young girls especially – that you are too big, too bright or that you feel too much, is the fastest way to shame a person into submission. But I also think it has been quite brilliant for me to grow up in a culture that questions anyone too flashy. I appreciate my ability to spot a bullshit artist from 100 feet (see Question 14 ;).
16. What do you see out the window of your work space right now?
The garden is covered in a thick white frost (I don’t think anything has thawed for weeks!) and the morning mist is lifting. There was a red-breasted robin on the garden fence earlier, which caused much consternation with my furry office assistant.
17. Can we get a gander at your work space?
Thank you Sas for your time.