I tell you guys all the time that one of the most rewarding things I do in my business is make this podcast, and it’s because I get to meet amazing people who introduce me to amazing people like today’s guest, Katie Sullivan of Rise Through Strife.
I was introduced to her by Sasha Korobov from Episode 273 – who I’ve kept in touch with and I really should record every convo I have with her and share it with you guys because she’s amazing – but Sasha introduced me to Katie and basically said, “You two need to meet and be on each other’s podcasts” and just made that happen.
I had the pleasure of being on Katie’s show, Rise Through Strife, to talk about the inseparable nature of personal and business growth, and now she’s on Pep Talks today to share how she completely pivoted from professional opera singer to online business coach and all the lessons learned along the way.
Katie and I talk about:
- Her journey to burnout and the complete 180 she and her husband made to get where they are today.
- The path to creating a successful creative business.
- How to get other people to value your work.
- How to figure out what your audience needs from you.
- How to make passive income.
- Advice for someone who is struggling to get traction in their side hustle.
- The belief Katie had to change about herself to get where she is today.
My favorite quotes from Katie:
- “Our lives were built around our careers and it wasn't working.”
- “You have got to get clear on what you want for your life.”
- “What it is that you have to offer is truly valuable?”
- “It doesn't have to be saving somebody's life to make the impact that you want. Your little tiny piece of to add to the puzzle is enough.”
- “If you can put out the roadmap for them, without them having to go on a scavenger hunt for all the pieces and put it together themselves, that’s what changes people's lives.”
- “Social media is not the solution. Social media is the tool. It's the conversation that is important.”
- “Word of mouth is, and always has been the most effective form of marketing.”
- “Know that you are enough and you are exactly in the spot that you're supposed to be right now.”
Shannon Mattern: Katie. Thank you so much for being here on pep talks for side hustlers. Can you share a little bit more with my listeners about you and what you do?
Katie Sullivan: Yes. I am a business coach and I help creatives harness their gifts and build lives of passion and purpose through online business and something that people are often surprised to hear about me is that my background is actually in music. I'm an opera singer and sort of accidentally fell into this world of online business and trying to figure out how I could create a more sustainable lifestyle, income, family, life, everything for myself that doesn't really necessarily come so easily in the music industry. And that's kind of the very, very short version of how I ended up here doing what I'm doing now. Well, yeah.
Shannon Mattern: I want to know more about like, how did you stumble into online business? What was going on in your life that you were, that you were searching for this and how did you find it?
Katie Sullivan: That is a fantastic question. So I'll take it back a few years to sort of shed some light on, on how I got here. So my family life growing up was, you know, all kinds of crazy. There was, um, little as, as it is for many people. And, um, there was some mental illness in our family, some, uh, very, very, very Orthodox religion in our family, things that made, um, growing up a little bit cloistered, um, for me specifically, and I have a very musical family, my two sisters who sing, my mom grew up in a very musical family. So did my dad. Um, my brother is not a musician, but he's a very much a music enthusiast.
Katie Sullivan: We had a piano in the, all the things. So constantly music around and at about the age of eight or so, I decided I wanted to learn how to play the piano. And my grandpa plays the piano. All of my family, everybody reads music. My sister plays the piano. So I just decided to sit down and figure it out one day and you know, did the little music theory, workbooks and stuff to figure out how to read music. And it really like struck a chord with me in a way that my parents talk about it. Like, I don't know like what was wrong with you, but you just ran with it and we just let you do it. So what they say to me and, you know, I, as, as things have gone on and the more I've gotten to know myself, I've realized that music for me in my life, especially growing up with a little bit of the craziness at home was I call it, I call it my drug.
Katie Sullivan: It was the way that I dealt with emotional insecurities. I it's the way I dealt with anxiety, depression, not understanding how to express myself verbally. And so I poured everything I could into music. And I realized that now too, especially I actually have to be careful about the amount of time that I spend at the piano, because I know that if I'm being pulled to that, it's because I'm trying to avoid something, which is totally weird, but, but that's kind of, that's kind of my relationship with it now. Um, but I, there was so much crazy at home that I spent a lot of time at the piano and a lot of time singing and developing those gifts kind of on accident. Um, but because I was avoiding, I was avoiding things. Um, but you know, I went through high school, you know, I did choir theater, all the things I started, um, working in community theater and musically directing musicals and playing keyboard in the orchestra pit and all kinds of things.
Katie Sullivan: And toward the end of high school, I was like, well, what am I going to go to college for? And it just sort of felt like the, the natural thing to do to study music because I knew I was good at it at the time I, I was convinced it was my passion. And I'm not saying now that it's not, it's not something I'm passionate about, but it's a whole other thing I can get into later. But, um, anyhow, I decided to study music and I got my bachelor's degree in my masters degree in vocal performance back-to-back. So I graduated with my master's degree at 24 and somewhere in there also got married to a musician and, um, you know, it was like a lot going on. Um, and so both of us, my husband, Mike and I, and we were like, what, what are we going to do now?
Katie Sullivan: Uh we've we finished our master's degrees at the same time. What do we do now? And it was not too long after the 2008 to 2010 economic downturn. There weren't really a lot of jobs, especially people who had master's degrees in music. And so we kind of felt like, well, I guess this would be a great opportunity to further our education and, um, do postgraduate studies doctoral work and go the academia route and being that academia really is a growing industry right now. Um, which has good and bad consequences. It's um, that's what we decided to do. So we moved across the country. We're both from California, but we moved to Virginia, did some doctoral studies and this was where I kind of had a big aha moment. So I was about, well, so let me, let me give a little bit, bit of background about what really that means.
Katie Sullivan: So I was studying vocal performance at the doctoral level for the ultimate goal of becoming a professor in music, alongside a career in performance. Okay. And so I, you know, studying, you know, I had 12 units of graduate level coursework, you know, as you go, you do the seminars, you have 400 pages of reading a week, you know, like something crazy, right? Your 90 page papers, whatever on top of that, it's customary and music schools that you have recitals. Um, and so pretty much every semester in my doctoral work, I had a recital that I had to give. So I had lessons that I had to take, but on top of that, I also had a studio of my own students that I taught was teaching voice to. I had a section of music appreciation that I taught to the undergrads, um, which was, you know, what, it's one of those big, like pack everybody in the, in the auditorium, you know, general ed style classes where half the people don't show up or they're asleep with their hats on or whatever. It was one of those. And, uh, and, um, I was also involved with, um, with the opera. So I was either in the opera or I was in the production team of the opera. So producing it, you know, assistant, directing, coaching, all the things. So if you're thinking that this sounds like a lot of things you would, right?
Katie Sullivan: Yeah. So it sounds, it sounds like a lot of things because it is. And so what it resulted in was easily 90 hour work weeks that mind you, my, maybe we're crazy, but it was not just me. It was my husband also doing this at the same time, um, doing his doctoral work. And it was clearly getting to a point where it was not sustainable at all. So I was halfway through my doctoral degree. I had to recite, it was a, it was a fall semester because I had a recital right at the end of the semester. It was just before Christmas and I, in this recital, I was singing my opening set. And it was something that I had practiced all semester long, but I had a huge memory slip, like just forgot the words. And I, that had never happened to me before in a live performance and walked off the stage.
Katie Sullivan: And I, I just started laughing. I wasn't even upset about it. I started laughing, but I knew that that was kind of a big sign, um, because I was, I could not, I was so burned out. I could not even, I could not remember what the hell I was doing. And so I was like, okay, something has to change here. So long story short, I dropped the doctoral degree. I quit school. I was like, if my life being a professor in academia is going to look like this. I can not do this for the rest of my life. I will go insane. And I was 26 at the time, knowing that like I did not want to, I did not want my life to look like that when I was 60. And so I was kind of left with life without a path at that point.
Katie Sullivan: Um, and we, my husband and I were living in Virginia and we were like, well, what do we do now? Sort of thing. And, um, sort of without like a clear idea of what was to come, what should we do? And the particular town we lived in was pretty rural. So there weren't a lot of, uh, opportunities to freelance. So we knew we were going to have to move. Um, and we were either going to move to Washington D C or Boston, depending on what made sense for careers. We ended up moving to Boston where there's a flourishing, uh, freelance scene for, particularly for instrumentalists. My husband's a trumpet player. So we moved there for a year and it was kind of more the same, more hustle grind doing the musician thing, musicians or entrepreneurs, just as much as anybody else, because there's so much groundwork that you have to do to, you know, build your brand and, um, really get known, protect your reputation, hone your skills, all the things.
Katie Sullivan: Well, we kind of had a repeat in Boston of the, of the years that went before that it was more hustle and grind and it was, it was getting to a point where it was affecting our relationship. And, um, we, you know, like to the point where we, we nearly got divorced and I look back now, it hurts my heart so much to think about it. Also knowing that it I'm so glad that we changed our path because that divorce would have been so unnecessary simply because our lives were built around our careers and it wasn't working. And so we had to take a massive audit of like, so my husband, as you can hear is like a really integral part of this journey for me as it was, it was our, it was our life. And, um, and so we were like, well, screw it, like, forget everything, let's figure something else out.
Katie Sullivan: So it was actually, my husband gets on the internet and was like, let's, you know, let's start a business. He runs into none other than PatFlynn some blog posts, some blog posts about, you know, like on those, you know, smart, passive income thing. I don't even remember what it was about. That really was like, what sparked the whole thing. We didn't even know that you could like make a legitimate business online. No idea. And so we were like, okay, well, this was a point when we were starting to reframe the way we were living entirely up until this point, we had lived in such a way that our careers and our career trajectory and whatever the work that we did define who we were, and it defines the way our lives looked and that didn't work and it doesn't work for a lot of people.
Katie Sullivan: And so we figured out that we needed to reverse that we needed to define what we wanted our lives to look like and get really clear on what we wanted and what we wanted to do. And then from there, find a way to make money that fit into that vision. And when we figured out that like, well, our marriage is pretty important to us. Our families are pretty important to us as we were on the, we were on, we were in Boston, we have no family over there, no contacts, whatever our whole family's on the West coast. We were like, well, okay, let's move back to the West coast and be near our family. We have no plan, no plan at all. Um, no jobs, nothing. We moved back and started to just learn everything that we possibly could about online business, about, you know, blogging, marketing, branding, all the things.
Katie Sullivan: And we started a marriage coaching business. Um, that was an, a blog that was, um, successful, but not our passions, either one of us, it was, it was great to sort of get our feet, excuse me, feet wet and, um, get to know sort of how the thing works. But we both knew that we wanted to branch off and do our own things, which is kind of how I ended up not here now, you know, teaching creative people how to build a business online, because this was kind of like the saga that I went through. You know, so many of us feel out of control with the lives that we have built on purpose or accidentally. We feel completely out of control because of the society, the way society dictates, the way we have to live our lives or the way we have to make money and all that stuff and creative people, especially, which is kind of everyone by the way. But I'm talking like the artists, musicians, the coaches, the photographers, the designers, those people. Um, so oftentimes are in, uh, in a really vulnerable state of almost feeling like a victim of, of whoever's willing to pay for what and boy, Oh boy, did I live that? And I was sick of it. So I decided to take back some control. And now I have a business coaching creatives in all the various forms that they come in, um, how to start their businesses online. I
Shannon Mattern: Can so relate to so many of those things that you shared in that story, you know, kind of starting with, um, you know, the piano being your escape and your drug and how you like basically, um, buffered mine was work from as long as I can remember from the first time I got a job, I was like, this is my escape. And now I have my own money. And so I would throw myself into school. I would throw myself into work like constantly, because that was freedom. That was my estate. That was my way of having some sort of control over a chaotic, uh, home life. And so I can so relate to that. And then, and then just the, the grind that you teach yourself, how to do when you're escaping into something that that's work, that takes a lot of intentional practice to get good at it or whatever it is, you know?
Shannon Mattern: And then it's so rewarding because you get good and you get a lot of praise and you get a lot of validation and all of those things. And it just like, it makes you want to keep going all the way to the point of you're like this can't be my life for the rest of my life. Like it just can't. And I love that you and your husband really like came together and, um, and didn't let that let that, um, um, and your marriage, like you said, cause it's, it's unnecessary. And then you found your path together. I just, I love that whole story and that, that the trajectory. And of course for me too, it's like, it all goes back to PatFlynn who just, I heard on a random podcast one day and I was like, wait, what? This is a thing people legit like can, can have businesses online and I don't have to.
Shannon Mattern: So I have that whole story and I want to, I want to pivot back to, you know, and I can also relate to being the creative person. That's just willing to work for whatever you'll pay me because I want to escape the situation that I'm in now. And I just don't, I'm not a business owner. I need to figure out how, how to make this work. And so I had my own journey of figuring that out, but I want to know, like, what was your journey of figuring out? How do you help people figure that out? How did you guys figure that out for yourselves?
Katie Sullivan: Yeah. I mean, for me, and I was, what's funny is there's so much crossover between what my husband, I would coach people in their marriages too, about like how to turn things around. Everything to me starts with getting clear on what you want for your life. Everything, because ultimately that's that's well, we, I mean, that's, that's what, that's the only thing you have control over and all the outside things like are not anything, but you can, it doesn't mean that everything is going to turn out the way that you think it's going to like major disclaimer. It never does. Right. But you can draw out vision board, map out, whatever, however you want to call it, what it is that you want. And it takes time to really like quiet the mind and think about what it is that matters the most to you. It was, it was a three year process for me.
Katie Sullivan: Um, if I'm being completely honest, like, and really like none of those three years would have been possible without all the crap that I went through before that it's, you know, it's, it's hard. It's really hard. Like I don't ever want people to get the idea, at least from me that this process is easy because it's very, very not easy. Um, but what I know is that I know myself so much better now after having gone through all of that. And because I know myself because I'm able to listen to my gut and have some intuition to lead me ahead. Everything ahead of me now is a little bit easier because I know what's right for me. And I know what's not. And what's interesting since you asked, like, you know, how is it that I teach people that on the topic of intuition, I think this especially happens for women because we're conditioned Aetna, not saying that doesn't happen for men, but I think it's, I think it's pronounced for women.
Katie Sullivan: We're conditioned at a very young age that we're supposed to be rule followers and obedience and pleasing and not doing anything that breaks the mold. And when, when you fall into that and when you learn that that's the way that you're supposed to behave, it basically does the opposite of FA of help teaching you to follow your intuition. You know, we have these amazing systems in our body and our brains that actually send like signals into our bloodstream about when something is right and when something is wrong. And we learned from a very, very young age to dampen those. So we lose that like little, we don't lose it completely, but you kind of, you get unfamiliar with that little voice in your head that tells you whether something's right for you or whether it's not. And then when you get to some breaking point in your life, which I think it happens for a lot of us inevitably, you know, regardless of age, gender, whatever, that, that, that moment comes.
Katie Sullivan: That's kind of, when you have to like allow that voice to get a little bit louder, turn up the dial and, and switch the way that you think about things. You know, and it's not even just that, but it's also like all these messages coming from society again. And from the constructs that we have created in our world, that there's so many, like fears inflicted upon us. It's not even that it came from you or from your own mind, but that it's like everybody tells you, you should be afraid of starting a business or following your passion or all of these things. And so we figure like, okay, well, these are people I trust and they are interested in my own best and what's best for me. And so I am going to listen to them, you know? And then you, you internalize that fear that wasn't yours to begin with it squashes that intuition and we lose track.
Katie Sullivan: And so really like to turn it around is to turn up the dial on that, on that voice. And it requires sitting and stopping and, and like being kind to yourself in the way that you like, let things come out, because what often happens, what happened for me, what happens for many people is that when you get to this state of spiral, you know, in your life, when you feel completely out of control, shame, like immediately enters into your life. And it puts a dark cloud over everything and you know, what have I done wrong? And there must be something wrong with me. And I'm a total screw up and I'm not valuable for anything. And like I could list them all because I've had them all. I shouldn't be,
Shannon Mattern: I should be grateful for what I have.
Katie Sullivan: Yes. All of the things. And so that is probably a necessary part of the process. Like I'm not a psychotherapist, but, but I, it's probably some kind of necessary part of the process, let it happen. Let the thoughts go through, but then recognize them for the BS that they are. Because what I think what's so important and what, what actually like quiets that shame most quickly is to know that pretty much everybody else experiences this too. It's not just you, you're not defective. There's nothing wrong with you. It's just because we've created a society. That's taught us not to listen to ourselves, not to listen to our bodies, our emotions, none of that. We've dampened and quieted all of that. So at some point, your true essential creative self is going to have to burst through it has to happen. And it went and when it doesn't, it oftentimes has dire consequences.
Katie Sullivan: You know, it results in sickness for people and auto immune disorders and all this stuff, whatever, blah, blah, blah. But, um, you know, so it's, you gotta get quiet, let the shame pass through and, and like reaching out to people and having conversations about it too is really important, which is unbelievably vulnerable. Um, you know, when you have to, if you feel like you've got to admit to somebody, like, there's something wrong with me, why can't I get my life figured out? But it's so, so, so important to remember, nobody has their life figured out. Everybody is just, you know, we, we, the testing thing always be testing. Well, that's kind of like what life is. Everybody's just kind of testing. We're all, you know, some people have more experience in other things and are able to make better educated guesses, but we're all just testing and doing the best that we can. So giving yourself a break matters a lot, which by the way, I have really kind of only cracked the surface on recently, but like it's a process. It really takes some time.
Shannon Mattern: I, yes, yes. To all of those things, because, you know, and I think that goes back to, to what we were talking about earlier too, is if you're hustling constantly all the time, and you're never even giving yourself a chance to have those thoughts slip in, or they're so uncomfortable to you that you want to distract yourself away from thinking of those. I think that's a sign that it's like time to really just like, get out a piece of paper and just write them all down so that you can see, you know, what you're really thinking. And, you know, and I think it's scary for people. It certainly was scary for me because you have this false sense of security, um, that like, okay, this life that I know I'm comfortable in my discomfort, you know, and if I have to look at all of this and now if I'm accepting that I'm not happy now I, now I have to change this.
Shannon Mattern: That's real scary. You know? And so it's like just giving, like giving yourself permission to not have to change it right then and there, but just acknowledge that, like it's telling you, here's what you need to explore. Here's what you need to open yourself up to. Like you said, conversations, I like to read a books on the topic or listen to podcasts on the topic or do research to find new ways of thinking. Um, you know, recently for me, something that came up, which you know, was just like, okay, now I'm feeling guilty for like having a successful business. What's that all about? Like, you know, and, and so exploring like, okay, this is a topic that comes up. I obviously need to do some work on what's working in the business. What's not, is it just things? I think that I have been conditioned to think that aren't true, which is what I'm discovering, you know, I'm discovering like, Oh, wait me making money.
Shannon Mattern: Doesn't mean I'm taking it from other people. And like all this whole extra layer of stuff that happens. So I think it's just being willing to face those things without judging yourself that you're bad for thinking them or putting a lot of pressure on yourself that they need to change right now. Because you, like you said, it took you three years to really move through that process for yourself. And just having that compassion for yourself that maybe when you were 17 and you decided what you wanted to do for the rest of your life and picked a college, maybe that 17 year old, wasn't like ready to make decisions for your 35 year old self.
Katie Sullivan: Exactly. Which you know, is a topic that I love to talk about because it is ridiculous what we ask of, of these very young people on, on a lot of levels who knows what they want to really have with for their life when they're 17, nobody knows. And so, you know, it's something that I, that I coach my clients now that I, that I teach my voice students. It doesn't matter where you, where, what you're doing. Like you have got to get clear on what you want for your life. I have a very gifted voice student that I teach and I don't teach that many, but she's, she's very, very talented. I don't think she knows how talented she is, but I think she could do really amazing things. But I told her, I was like, look, you have to, before we even like talk about goals, you have to know what you want the landscape of your life to look like.
Katie Sullivan: And you know, when, as it pertains to music, the reality is is that when you're young, anyway, it's very hard to have like a stable family home life in that industry. And if that's not what you want, you got to something different. And, and being in tune with that is, is so important. And what's hard. I think for people, especially at that age, and I know this had a big impact on me too, was being able to discern between this external validation I was getting because of my talent and figuring out whether that was actually gonna lead me in the right direction, you know, versus some, some internal validation or lack thereof that I was able to provide for myself. And, and I think that a lot of us fall into this trap. Well, you know, I'm, I must be, you know, stuck doing this job as, as a lawyer or a doctor or whatever, because, you know, this is the only thing that I can do that this is the only thing I know how to do.
Katie Sullivan: I've always done it. I, you know, I'm, I'm, this is the only thing I'm good at. And so I'm going to do this, we follow that, but it really doesn't matter. You know? And, and it was so much for them, for me that way, like I sang in church, growing up, I sang all of the things. I was constantly singing all the time and people do. They give you a lot of praise for that. And this is how the perfectionism develops in the forecourt. Workaholic is a mental, that stuff. Like it's how it comes. It comes from that external validation because you learn your brain catches onto like, Oh, other people are valuing what I'm doing. And therefore that must mean I'm accepted and therefore loved and therefore safe. But we forget the other part of the equation that you are in that too. Like you, as the person doing the thing are, are a part of that too.
Katie Sullivan: And if it's not working for you, even though it's working for them, we have to figure out how to integrate that all together. Oh yeah. Like you really are the only one that matters in that equation because their admiration praise value can go away at any time and you have to cultivate that in yourself so that, you know, you don't need it from them. You always have it for yourself so that you value yourself. And I think that that's, that's been like the more recent part of my journey, because like, as we were, as we were talking before, you know, you work with business owners to, to help them, not just like take, what's, take whatever scraps are given to them. Right. And I think that's part of that validation piece. It's like, Oh, you know, someone wants to praise me or reward me by hiring me or, or whatever that is.
Shannon Mattern: So how do you help people, you know, go from just being like a burnout, hustling, creative to, you know, having that thriving, thriving business. Once they have really established what their vision is.
Katie Sullivan: A lot of it has to do with like creating a clear plan. And I actually like, this is what I'm all about is teaching people like the fundamentals of what it means to build a business. And I, I do a five day challenge called passion project launch lab. And in this challenge, I walk them through the, the absolute nuts and bolts fundamentals foundation of what your business, any business, literally, any business, I gear it toward creative types, but any business has to have these things that, you know, the first step is you have to know what problem it's going to you're, you're going to solve for people. And I find this to be particularly a tricky situation for musicians, artists, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, be cut for two reasons.
Katie Sullivan: Because one, we live in a society that does not value what they bring and because people don't value arts and creative ventures, we then forget that it has value. So now it's not just like figuring out like what problem you're going to solve, but we have to first like teach and convince these people. But what they do actually does bring value and solves problems for people's lives. And it's how we get amazing things like art therapy and music therapy and all of these things that actually help people on a metaphysical level transform their lives through artistic ventures. It is possible it's all around us all the time. Big part of that is believing and knowing and having faith on the early part, that, that what it is that you have to offer is truly valuable. And then once you've gotten there, figuring out how it is that you can solve a problem for somebody else.
Katie Sullivan: And I find that so often that solving that problem is so deeply connected to who we are as a person, your, what you've experienced, what problems you've faced, um, and how you got through it yourself. And then it segues so beautifully into building your brand because your story is part of that and, and the struggles and the pain points that you experienced and how you facilitated your own transformation for people. And, um, figuring out the, the, the brand pillars that you stand on. What are the things that you talk about? Um, and you know, one of the things I talk about a lot is perfectionism. I talk about creativity. I talk about strategy. Sure. But that's like the that's like the really nitty gritty stuff. Like there's all this other high level stuff above it that if we don't have that sorted out strategy, doesn't matter at all.
Katie Sullivan: And so, you know, it's
Katie Sullivan: The second day I go through building the brand. After that, we talk about audience attraction, how it is that you can build a content marketing strategy to attract the people that you want to. And it all follows a very clear path that you first got to know what problem you're going to solve, then who you are with your brand, and then how other people are going to come find you, what it is that you're going to say that makes you attractive to people that makes people like, yeah, I relate to that. Yeah. Um, and then crafting an offer that actually does solve that problem that we talked about on day one that is validated by competitor research and, and, um, and your market research, and also fits into the picture of your life that you've created for yourself and then developing a launch strategy. So it's, it's the, it's the creative side, it's the mindset pieces. It's the very human heart centered pieces of it tied into the strategy so that people can learn that like number one,
Katie Sullivan: Starting a business is not from the strategy point of view. Starting a business is not that it's not building the leaning tower of PISA. Like it's, it's very possible. What, what makes it hard is all the things that go on in our heads and all of the experiences that we've had and all the things that people are telling us that is the hard part. And pretty much any entrepreneur that you talked to, I'm pretty sure would say that, um, that, you know, there's these, there's these little mindset gremlins that come in. And, and so really the fundamentals of, of all of this before, especially for those creative types. Cause I have a special spot in my heart for is, is valuing your own work before other people are going to value it. You have to.
Shannon Mattern: so, so good. I love how you frame all of that because the, the issue I see with most of my, um, my audience, my students they're a lot of them are creatives.
Shannon Mattern: Online business owners is they're like, I don't know how to market myself. I feel like such an imposter. You know, I am not an expert, all of these things and what I tell them and what you just really illustrated so beautifully is like, it's not about you. It is not about you. None of this really has anything to do with you. You do a hundred percent have to value what you believe in, or you will never take the action to put the strategy in place. You will go on every single free webinar and learn strategy until you're blue in the face, but you'll never actually do anything with it. And you won't realize it's because you don't have that belief in yourself, but it's not about you. It's about the person that you want to serve. It's about the person that you want to help.
Shannon Mattern: What problem do they have? You know? And then the other thing I see here with like authors, creatives, artists, anybody like that, it's like, you know, it doesn't have to be some big, deep, dark bad problem that you're saying that, thank you for saying that. Yes, go on. But it can be, it can be something as simple as, you know, I need to, I'm just trying to think of a, of a music example. Like I'm putting on this event for my company and I need a string quartet for that event. And I have no idea how to even like, go about booking, you know, people to play music for my event. Like that is not like I am depressed and I need like my life saved. You know? So there are, I mean, I'm sure you can think of way better examples than that, but I tell people like this problem does not have to be this life altering thing. It can be like, there's a gap between where they are now and where they want to be any, you need to figure out how they think about that and then just plug your little solution right. In that little gap.
Katie Sullivan: Yup, yup. A hundred percent. And I think about this a lot with artists, you know, well, how is it? The question is always like, how is it that my art
Katie Sullivan: Makes a difference in anybody's life? You know? And the thing is, is that it does. And I'll be honest. I fell into this own trap with myself as a musician. It's actually part of why I had to take a break from it because I was like, I could not see how, what, what the value was that I was offering. And to be honest, me making somebody's day better, was it, that was the only problem I needed to solve. I sang a song, it lifted them up. It changed the trajectory of their day. That is all it needed to be. And it didn't need to be more than that, to be honest, seriously, like, yeah. Are there things you can do that solve bigger problems? Sure. But it doesn't, it doesn't have to be. And like I was, I was, uh, I was having a chat with my VA this morning, actually about how what's so strange sometimes about especially being in this creative market is feeling the feeling the need or the pressure to be inspired all the time.
Katie Sullivan: And creatives feel that way all the time. And especially with the, with the 24 hour social media, everything that we do, it feels like everybody is a, is a poet. You know, everybody's a poet and, and is posting their graphic quotes in his reading their coffee. And it's all contemplative wearing a bra and whatever. And it's a ridiculous example, but it makes us feel this pressure of like, Oh, I have to be, you know, you know, an order and, and all of these things. And it's, it's garbage, you know, and it's not to say that the graphic, I have graphic Watts on my, on my Instagram feed me too. Right. Because then I'm on all the time and I don't want to be on all the time. Exactly. And any it's cause it's exhausting and it's not reasonable. It's not a reasonable expectation for yourself.
Katie Sullivan: And it's not really a reasonable expectation for your work. You know, it's just like, I think about Apple, I think is always a great, uh, great, uh, example because Apple really brands itself, fun creativity. And they talk about, in fact, there's some commercial they're running right now through this COVID-19 thing about how creativity goes on. And, um, I was having, I was talking to my husband this morning about, you know, why Apple does this thing. And you know, when we think about the iPod things really changed when the iPod came out, what was the problem that they solved? Well, walking around with a mobile CD player was kind of annoying because the CD is skipped. So let's find a way around that that is the problem that they solved by creating the iPad or the iPod, like, is that really a life altering thing? It turns out that it has been in very many strange ways, but like is anybody's quality of life really seriously that impacted by it. Not really, but it's changed the culture. And it's like, I think it's important to know that these tiny things can actually make a big impact, that it doesn't have to be saving somebody's life to make the impact that you want. Your little tiny piece of to add to the puzzle is enough.
Shannon Mattern: Oh my gosh, I love that. And you just made me think like, yeah, I don't have to carry around that giant book of CDs anymore.
Shannon Mattern: Love that. And, and just the other thing that, um, that kind of came to mind when you were saying that is, you know, sometimes we don't value what comes easily to us. Um, you know, and so you think about like, you started singing when you were a kid, you honed your craft over many years and a lot of different ways, but then, you know, at the end of the day, when it comes down to like, Oh, you know, what is, what is this actually worth? Like, I, you know, designed websites and, you know, dug into tech for 10 years at my day job, 10 or 15 years at my day job, you know, and became an expert in that. But I couldn't think of what that value is outside of like an employer giving me a paycheck or, you know, and so, because it came so easy to me, I'm like, this is just what I do. Like, this is how my brain thinks this is, you know, and we don't value that. And we also don't see, you know, how, how it can be such a game changer for someone who does not have that skill. Right.
Katie Sullivan: It's so, so true. And I've found this to be true in any situation where it is that I'm teaching. So I'm, I really like, I'm a teacher coach at heart. That's my personality type like that. That is wherever it is. I find myself, it's usually doing something of that sort. And I know this is true with my voice students. I know this is true with my business clients. That it's exactly what you said. I have forgotten that I, that it took, takes all this work and XYZ and all this stuff to get me where I am now. And my students will look at me and like, how did you figure this out? As if you, you know, I created something incredible that, you know, that it all came out of my head. Cause it didn't, we all learn things from our teachers and everything gets passed down.
Katie Sullivan: But we, we forget that, that, that there are these like nuts and bolts that ch that do change people's lives and that are so, so, so simple to us in our heads because we've been doing it so long that, you know, it just feels like, it feels like the next, you know, it feels like tying your shoes, you forget how to do it, or riding a bike. You know, it's the same thing until I started teaching. And then it became very, very clear that like, Oh, okay, I like need to break this down. And when you do that, when you, when you're in a position where you can influence somebody, it becomes very clear that you can shape the way that it is that they move forward. And there's an immense responsibility in that, which is like a whole other topic. But it really, I think paints the picture too, of the value that it is that you're bringing for them.
Katie Sullivan: If you can put out the roadmap for them, without them having to go on a scavenger hunt, to hunt for all the little pieces here and there and put it together themselves, that is what changes people's lives. It's not necessarily like the, the problem that it is that you're solving that I was talking about before. It's the fact that you're there to hold their hand along the way that is what makes a difference.
Shannon Mattern: I could not agree more. And I think that that's one of the key reasons why, you know, we all, we all want to have passive income. We all want to have scalable sources of income, but I think it's really important, especially in the beginning phases of whatever it is you're doing to actually interact with the people that you're going to help, because you have no idea where they are going to get stuck.
Shannon Mattern: They are going to get stuck in the most random places that you would just be like, I had no idea anyone would get stuck there. And so if you can create that opportunity, however, that looks for you, and however you're offering your program. And like you said, it's so important that it has to fit into your lifestyle and how you see, you know, how you see that, that going on, but create that opportunity for, for that feedback. There are so many different ways you can do that. That's going to help you just make, that's going to like, just not validate, but just help you get really clear on like, Oh, okay. One like people do do not know as much about this topic as I thought that they did and to here's how I can make it even better for them. And then you can iterate your point, your way to a point where like, you don't need that much interaction with people.
Shannon Mattern: But I still think that interaction is just so valuable, especially at the beginning, because it just, it it's transformational. Like I've tried to create those programs in a vacuum where you're like, okay, I package this thing up based on what I know I'm going to put it out there and sell it. And it's like, it doesn't even work because you never had that. You're like, Oh, I don't know all the things. I know what they need to know. I know what they need to do here. And then it's like, well,
Katie Sullivan: yeah, a hundred percent. And the thing is, is like, exactly, like you're saying that interaction with people is irreplaceable because they teach you what you need to teach them. And sometimes they teach you things. They teach you things that you never would have thought of. Um, but like it, teachers always say it doesn't matter what kind of teacher it is.
Katie Sullivan: But if you're a teacher, you tend to learn the most, you learn more than your students because they are teaching you alongside. So it's this beautiful, like symbiotic relationship one cannot exist without the other. And it also, it's honest for me, it's really like inspiring and energizing that I get this interaction with people too, because it makes that your ability to have an impact on somebody's life, very tangible it's right in front of your face. And that I think is why we're all like really here doing this life thing, trying to figure our lives out is because AIDS it's what gives us dignity. It's what makes us feel valued and loved and accepted is being able to help other people. And so I get, I get the passive income thing. I do like it from a security standpoint because that's another thing that we need to.
Katie Sullivan: Um, but without having that, like creating this little human superorganism, you know, where we all exist in and cooperate together, I think it's really hard to find your way to that passive income. I think the passive income. And in fact, I was watching PatFlynn video here. He is again about, um, about that very thing that, or somebody else was saying too, like, you have to have active income before you can make a passive income. You've got to work with the people, work with the people. If you want to, if you want to make an impact, if you're, if you're really, if your heart is really in your business and you really want this thing to be sustainable, it has to be about people, businesses about people. It always is, and always has been that hasn't changed. And I feel like maybe we've gotten away from that a little bit with all this online stuff.
Katie Sullivan: It's easy to forget because we're all like doing robot things now, but businesses about people. And I just think it's so worth putting yourself in a position to be able to help somebody. And I know that's where the imposter syndrome comes in and like, who am I to be teaching anybody, anybody else? Like that's a whole other topic, but if you can be in a position and put yourself in a position and facilitate for yourself an opportunity to help somebody, that is what helps you value your own work. It teaches you eventually it teaches you what you can charge and how you can Uplevel your programs and all those things from the tactical standpoint. But it does so much for you on the human level too, about what your worth and what your purpose is and what you're here to do.
Shannon Mattern: Oh my gosh. So I'm getting all the chills from that. So good. So I want to switch gears and ask you, you know, 90 hours crazy work weeks
Shannon Mattern: To, you know, getting really clear coming back together with your husband, uh, getting on the same page of what you want from your life. Um, you know, going into business together and now kind of going into your separate, not separate passions. What does a day in the life look like for you now? What was, what was that, what was that vision that you're working towards and what is, how is that looking for?
Katie Sullivan: That's a great question. So I spent so much time at home, which is great. I am able to, um, work out like when I want to, like, it's, it's a little things, people do. I own a yacht? No. Do I drive a bunch of fancy cars? No. And I don't really care. What I want to be able to do is take care of myself and the people that I love. It's pretty much that simple. And so I'm around my family. Um, we, we live really more in California now. Um, we're all my husband's family is, and we can go to the beach whenever we want, and we can go on a drive. And we w one of the things that actually is really huge for me that I don't always talk about actually, but it's, it's a big part of my life is, excuse me.
Katie Sullivan: Um, I have IBS, which is irritable bowel syndrome. So I have to be very careful about what I eat and what was, what was very apparent, um, w doing my doctoral degree wise, I had no time to food prep, none. And for someone who has a very sensitive tummy, that becomes an issue. I cannot eat fast food. It makes me sick. I can't have coffee. It makes me sick. So I can't do the, like, stay up all night, drinking an energy drink. Like I can't do that because I will get very, very sick. And so I have to eat whole foods, which I'm not complaining about at all. I'm actually very happy and kind of weirdly grateful for my IBS because it forces me to eat healthy, but it takes some time it's a time commitment. And I have to be able to, um, balance my diet with my lifestyle so that I don't end up with cancer or, you know, something ridiculous.
Katie Sullivan: You know, that that is something, something else because I, I have to stay healthy like that is, that is a big thing. And honestly, it kind of goes back to, um, my mom, when I was a kid, you know, she, so many of us struggle with taking the time for self care. And she has struggled with that for her whole life. And I knew growing up, I didn't want my life to look like that. So I kind of had an example, and this is all to say that I know that she's always done the best that she could. Right. And seeing that she was doing the best that she could. I also believed in my desire and my ability to do better for myself. And so I've designed a lifestyle that way. And I value time with my family a lot more than more than anything.
Katie Sullivan: And I learned that kind of by accident through, you know, the struggles that we went through in our marriage, but we were, we were isolated on the other side of the country, dealing with, you know, quarter-life crises and all this stuff and figure it out kind of the main component that's missing here is an ability to focus on the people that we love. And so we redrew, we drew redrew the boundaries and kind of created a new roadmap for life. And, you know, we, we both work at home now. Um, we work out, we eat healthy, we cook together, we get to FaceTime niece and nephew. We get to, uh, you know, go on bike rides. We, you know, it's, it's nothing extravagant. I'm not, I'm personally not interested in that. What I'm interested in is connection to myself. The people that are around me to the people that I can help, all of those things.
Shannon Mattern: I think this is why I resonated with you so much when we first talked on your podcast. And like every, every minute of this conversation, like, she's my kind of people. She's my kind of people, because that, those, the reasons that I wanted a different life, it was very simple, simple things. I'm like, I don't want to spend an hour and a half of my day in bumper to bumper traffic to drive eight miles, to get to an office, to spend a day doing things that don't feel in my soul. I would like to spend that hour and a half. I'm doing healthy things for my body. You know, being at home, having, having the time to, you know, work out, go to a yoga class in the middle of the morning, um, when everybody else is at work, you know, prep, healthy food have, you know, make enough money that I don't have to worry about money.
Shannon Mattern: Like we always did growing up, you know, all of those things where it's just like, I just, you know, I don't need to have, you know, a huge business for the sake of having a huge business if I have a huge business, because I'm having a huge impact. That's one thing, you know, but if it's going to cut into this lifestyle that I have, I don't want it, you know, so it has to happen in a way that's going to, um, that's going to have me being able to have the freedom to do things. And I have gone, I have in this business straight off that path where I've made too many commitments, and then my husband's like, Hey, can you take off? And let's go camping and whatever. And I'm like, I can't, I schedule this, I schedule a lot. And he's just looking at me, like, I thought this was supposed to be, you know, you're doing what you did when you got the day job.
Shannon Mattern: This is now your choice, you know? So let's work, let's, let's, uh, back into, uh, having, being in control of those choices. Again, you find yourself kind of getting pulled back into those old patterns. At least I did, but I just, I resonate so much with that. And it's, you know, that's why I talk about, like, this is about, you know, creating a sustainable lifestyle and not if you want that huge business, you'd go for it. Like there are people out there that are, that will teach you how to do that. Um, that's, that's awesome. Like, I can teach you how to have an, and Katie can teach you how to have like the sustainable, that's going to support and fuel your soul and your lifestyle and just, um, and, and all of those, all of those things are teacher. How to figure out how, what you want and how to go after what you want. So I just, I absolutely love that. I have just a couple more questions for you, um, before we wrap up and the first one is, um, what advice do you have for someone who is just struggling to get traction in their side hustle?
Katie Sullivan: I think that it's all about people.
Shannon Mattern: Yeah. I think we forget that.
Katie Sullivan: I think that sometimes we get so stuck in, especially the social media thing, man, social media is so great. And it's how I facilitate a lot of the things that I do. But social media is not the solution. Social media is the tool. And it's the conversation that is important. And, you know, word of mouth is, and always has been the most effective form of marketing. And that is still true. And it takes on different forms. Now, you know, we have all these fancy phones and like handheld computers and stuff, and we can talk to people across the world whenever we want to, but it's about connecting with people. So if you're struggling to get traction in your business, I would really take it back to being as simple as like contact your followers, reach out to them individually, say like, Hey, how's it going?
Katie Sullivan: Just start a conversation, get to know the people, the person that's something I learned. Actually I had a brief stint. It was while we were living in Boston, I'm working as a fundraiser for a music, nonprofit organization. And part of my job was to have individual meetings with donors or prospective donors to just talk to them, just to get to know them, get to know how their heart was connected to the organization. And it was really nothing more than just going to have coffee or having lunch and knowing what that person was about. It's so simple. We overcomplicate, but this is so simple. Just, you know, Cathy Heller says it is it's Seth, Seth Golden's thing. Oh, you know, any success in business comes from radical empathy. You're a person, they're a person be a person. Talk about people. Things just like, I don't know.
Katie Sullivan: It seems too simple, but also it's, it's, it's really not like there is, there is a bit of a hustle and grind aspect to it. Yeah. If you send a hundred messages out to a hundred people, you're going to have, you know, fire fingers typing away. But, but you're talking with these people and it's what I do in my Facebook group. People come into my Facebook group. I send every single one of them, a personal message. Hey, how's it going? Tell me about your business idea. Where are you stuck? I am so glad you're here. Tell me about your art that you create. Like it's, what's so amazing is it's opened up a window into what these people do. And I have been blown away at what they create. People are amazing. If you just take a second to stop and ask like, Hey, what are you into?
Katie Sullivan: Like, what are you about people love that it makes them feel seen and it makes them feel heard. And that is all we really want. And when you're able to do that for somebody else, that's where the attraction is so good. So I could talk to you for a thousand more hours about this, and we're definitely going to have to do something, something else together. Um, but final question. What belief about yourself? Did you have to change to get where you are today? This is the best question ever. What I had to change about myself, the beliefs that I had changed about myself is that, um, it's kind of all a big idea wrapped into one thing that I often say as, um, it's okay to be bad at things when you're just starting out, it's okay to be bad at things, but also know that you are enough and you are exactly in the spot that you're supposed to be right now.
Katie Sullivan: Like, I, I, I remember having like an epiphany as I was driving somewhere that like, no, like I don't particularly like the circumstances that I have right now, but I know that I'm doing exactly what I need to be do. And, and I'm exactly who I need to be right now. And I'm okay. I'm okay. I'm living in this moment. I'm breathing, I'm safe. I'm I'm okay. And like everything around me is, okay. We live in so much fear, so much fear and stress and anxiety and shame. And like, I just don't want people to feel that. And like, knowing that, that wrapped into that belief that I changed about myself is knowing that I'm inherently valuable. And so are you so good?
: That is the perfect place to wrap up this interview. Can you share with everyone where we can connect with you, learn more about you listen to your amazing podcast, all the things.
Katie Sullivan: Yes. So I'm most active on Instagram. You can find me. My handle is at the Katie, Sally S U L L Y. And if you're interested to listen to my podcast, it's called rise through strife. You can find it anywhere podcasts are available. And I talk about all the kind of things that I talked about today, all the, all the human aspects of going through, starting a business and being an entrepreneur. And if you're in the market for starting a business, I offer a five day challenge. I call my passion project launch lab. You can sign up at passion project launch, lab.com. Thank you so much for being here. I'll link up all that stuff in the show notes, you guys have got to go check out all of it. This is a person that you want to be connected to. So thank you so much for being here.
Katie Sullivan: Thank you, Shannon.
Don't miss an episode!
Sign up to get new episodes + info about free trainings to help you go from side-hustle to self-employed delivered right to your inbox every Wednesday!
Katie Sullivan is an opera singer turned entrepreneur who helps other creatives make a living online doing what they love. After burning out pursuing a career in music, Katie has developed a passion for online business and is ready to share what she has learned about turning a passion into a paycheck.