Transcript: From Cubicle Worker to Yoga Teacher to Online Entrepreneur
Susanne Rieker: For me it seems so normal and flowy what I’m doing, running my online business from Bali, but quite often it happens that people don’t get what I do because it’s a completely foreign concept to them. They have questions like, how do I earn money? Through my website? Where do I live? What do I dooo? And when I start explaining it – how did I get there?
So that’s what I want to share with you in this first episode of my brand-new Blissful Biz podcast. How I got from From Cubicle Worker to Yoga Teacher to Online Entrepreneur.
So, where do I begin. I’m from Germany, as you might be able to tell from my hopefully not too annoying accent, and after I finished university, I started working in a digital agency in 1997.
Yes, that long ago! Back then it was the wild wild web, everything was new in the digital space. It was a really exciting time and I got a lot of responsibility pretty quickly, handling huge accounts for clients such as Coca Cola or Procter & Gamble.
I really loved it, I loved my job, but my life was work, work, and more work. Work was basically taking over my life.
I moved around and worked in Germany, in Geneva in Switzerland and in London, and I was somehow always looking for something better. I was always hopeful that the next job would be it. I would have great clients and colleagues and interesting projects, and I wouldn’t have to work myself to the ground with long hours and weekends spend at the agency.
Because this happened a lot. Without ever getting paid overtime. And yes, I’m still bitter about this, and I think no one should have to work like this.
Have you heard about the definition of insanity?
You do the same thing again and again, expecting different results?
Well, that’s what I was doing. Applying for new jobs in different locations that basically where all the same.
But then something happened!
I went to my first yoga retreat! It was in Ibiza, a lovely island in Spain, and it was a beginner yoga retreat with James de Maria, who was an amazing teacher. One of the best teachers I had in my life.
So I did yoga, 3 hours every morning on an outdoor terrace, ate healthy vegetarian food, soaked up the sun at the close beach and slept like a baby in my little bamboo hut.
I can still remember the smell of rosemary and thyme in the air and those long Mediterranean evenings chatting with my fellow yogis or simply relaxing with a book.
I carried so much tension and stress with me from my crazy job I was doing in London at the time and it was all falling off. I was feeling like myself for the first time in years.
And then, okay, this is a crazy story, but it happened so I’m going to share it with you, in the last shavasana of the retreat I saw my guardian angels. Well, it was, more, I saw their outline. I saw them looking out for me and I felt so protected and like everything would be okay in that moment.
I mean, you don’t have to believe in angels or anything like that, it might just have been my imagination, but it was a powerful emotion and I took that home with me. And I’ll never forget this, and it also never happened again.
After the retreat I went back to London to my crazy job with my 70 hour work week, and I knew I couldn’t go on as before, this job was literally killing me, but I thought that it wouldn’t look good in my CV if I quiet already, so I would just have to suck it up and stay there for another 6 months or so.
Turns out, the universe had other plans! Right on my first day after I got back, I got fired. I really didn’t do a very good job anymore at the end because I was so overworked, so I can understand it in a way, but still, it wasn’t nice.
But I realized that this was for the best. That this was the universe’s way of telling me to change things. Or of saving me.
I packed up my things in London because while I loved the city, I hadn’t managed to build up a social network of real friends that weren’t colleagues. Well, how with that crazy workload, and I moved back to Germany.
I kept up my yoga practice and even while I had a few other crazy jobs, slowly I got better in listening to my body and becoming aware of when it all got too much.
Then a few years later I decided to become a freelancer, so I wouldn’t be employed by one agency anymore, but they would hire me as a project manager for a certain amount of time or project.
This was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life!
I started earning more money.
I didn’t work overtime anymore, or if I did, I made sure that I got paid for it.
And, I had the opportunity to take longer periods off and go traveling!
So I went on a few longer trips, like to Costa Rica and Panama, and had the best time ever.
And then in 2013 I decided to go to Bali to do a yoga teacher training! I seriously never thought I would become a yoga teacher. This wasn’t on my mind at all. I just wanted to travel to Bali because I’ve never been and I thought it would be fun to really immerse myself into yoga.
So I came to Bali, loved it, loved teaching yoga, totally surprisingly, and suddenly I had this new direction in my life!
I went back to Germany to freelance for a few months, back to Bali to do yoga and do more trainings, back to Germany, back to Bali, and I did that for a year or so.
Then I decided to start traveling more, and also it’s really nearly impossible to get a job as a yoga teacher in Bali when you’re just starting out because they have very strict immigration laws, so I went to Cambodia, and the Philippines and Thailand, and taught yoga in different place like a resort in the Philippines.
I was living the dream – and I realized that I wasn’t sure that I really, really loved teaching yoga as much as I thought.
By then I had a little online business, Yowunga, a yoga retreat directory, and a travel blog, happy yoga travels, and I also started designing websites for other yoga teachers and helping them with their marketing.
And I realized that when I woke up, I couldn’t wait to get started working on that, and I wasn’t nearly as excited about learning about anatomy or preparing classes.
This was a confusing time. I mean, I was just getting started as a yoga teacher and I’ve invested a lot in all my teacher trainings, and now it wasn’t what I was really passionate about?
I loved teaching yoga, but I didn’t give it my 100%, and I felt that to really become a great yoga teacher, that’s what I would have to do.
At the same time, I wasn’t sure what to do instead, because I didn’t see how I could ever become financially stable by working with yoga teachers, simply because all the teachers that I knew didn’t have enough money to pay a lot for a website or marketing coaching.
I also knew I didn’t want to keep freelancing in advertising agencies, I didn’t see any future in it, like would I still work in agencies as a freelancer in my fifties, surrounded by people who were getting younger every year? It just didn’t go anywhere.
But then, I discovered online courses!
More specific, I discovered Amy Porterfield, devoured her podcast, and signed up for her course and learned how to create online courses step by step.
Suddenly I had this vision of a business that would allow me total freedom, being able to live anywhere and work in my own time, working with yoga teachers from all over the world, and explore the power of scalability, because I would create one piece of content, my online course, and I would be able to sell it to hundreds of people.
I was so inspired, and I seriously thought I would be rich within a year.
Well, that didn’t happen, I launched my first online course at the end of 2016, yogis go digital, and I earned around 1800$ or so.
So no overnight success, but still, I was hooked. I had this vision and I saw other people have amazing successes in the online world, and I was sure I could do it, too.
I also saw the need, of offering marketing support to yoga teachers, and helping them gain more freedom in their life by increasing their income or earning money online. And this is really what keeps me going, what I’m excited about when I wake up and open my MacBook.
I want to help yoga teachers who then can help more people life a better life, and this way I’m making a really big impact and make the world a better place.
The next years I was still freelancing around 6 months a year to support me, so this meant I didn’t grow as quickly as I would have liked, but I stayed consistent in what I put out.
I’ve been blogging nearly every week since the end of 2016, I wrote weekly newsletters, I created new products and freebies and signed up for online courses myself to learn more.
Tell you the truth, it’s wasn’t always fun or felt exciting. It was hard working fulltime in an unfulfilling agency job and then going home to start working on my own business. It meant long hours, weekends spend in front of my computer, and that includes my time in Bali.
While my friends and family thought I was spending my time in Bali hanging out in hammocks and drinking coconuts, maybe answering a few emails in the afternoon, I was actually inside in a dark, air-conditioned room at my coworking space all day long, working on my online course.
Everything was new for me and I was out of my comfort zone a lot.
But I doubled my income from online courses in 2018 and tripled it in 2019. I also got more website clients and feel the momentum building. In 2019 I only freelanced for 2 months, and hopefully that has been the last time. If not, that’s okay too.
I feel like I’m at this point where it’s all coming together. I’m right at the brink of success. I’m still so excited about what I do, I really love it, and I’m ready for it. 2020, bring it on!
I’m still working a lot though and here’s the thing:
I strongly believe that grit and perseverance are necessary to have success.
And I think this is an obvious one, but I think a lot of us need to hear this and even I need to hear this at times again, because if you give up when it gets hard, obviously you fail. But if you don’t give up, even if you had failed, well, you’re still making progress.
And any entrepreneurial story that you hear involves grit and perseverance because it is hard.
It is not easy building a business, doing anything online, becoming a yoga teacher, it doesn’t matter what you do. It’s hard and you’re going to have to figure things out along the way and you’re going to have to get outside of your comfort zone, a lot.
And I believe that really makes the biggest difference between successful entrepreneurs and those who just want to remain, maybe subconsciously, where they are.
Now, success comes at different rates and some people maybe get lucky or opportunities come their way a little bit quicker, or they are more strategic about it and make less mistakes.
But if you keep going, you’re eventually going to get to the point where you will succeed. I promise you.
There’ll be hard times, and failures, and mistakes, but if you keep going, you’ll get where you want to go.
My biggest learning in the last year was that I have to get out of my comfort zone. For me, this means getting in front of the camera and doing more lives, and also starting this podcast.
By challenging ourselves, by getting outside of our comfort zones, we grow. I learned more about myself in those last years being an entrepreneur than in all the years before being employed.
There’ve been so many insights. Like really seeing myself. I mean, for example most of us don’t look at our face in the mirror for any longer period of time.
But when you see yourself on video all the time, or hear your voice, you build a different connection with yourself.
And it’s crazy uncomfortable at first. Still is. But it does get easier with practice, and I’m already so much more comfortable with myself, like with hearing my voice.
So, it’s been an amazing, very gratifying journey of self-discovery, and I wouldn’t change my life with anyone. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
I don’t know what would have happened if I wouldn’t have gone to Ibiza for a yoga retreat. If I wouldn’t have been fired.
Would I still be on this entrepreneurial journey? I hope so, but I can’t be sure. Maybe I would still be putting in 70 hours a week in an agency job, now a little bit higher up the ladder but still feeling overworked and underwhelmed.
Because I was just on that one track and I was not even looking for anything else.
And maybe you, on the surface, say you’re looking for things, but are you letting yourself see and take advantage of those opportunities?
In most cases, unless there is a big reason for you to change, it’s all talk and I don’t want it to be all talk because I know deep down there’s deep, deep reasons why you want to, I don’t know, build an online business or start something on the side.
And I think the more focused that you are on that, the more it is likely for you to take advantage of those opportunities that come your way.
Because there are big opportunities, for all of us, and I want to help you embrace them!
So, let’s wrap his episode up, thank you so much for listening to me rambling on about my life story. I hope you’ve learned something and I hope I inspired you to go and chase those dreams, butterfly.