This is the latest interview in a series featuring digital nomads talking about their lives and lessons (click here if you want to be interviewed). The goal is to help demystify the process of making money online, wandering the world, and living an unconventional life!
Michelle has an incredible story about building a company that allowed her to be location-independent. A few pivotal life experiences made her realize that our timeline is finite, and being intentional with these brief moments is key to happiness and freedom. Be sure to check our her wonderful YouTube channel!
Thank you for hanging out with Freedom Is Everything, Michelle!
Key takeaways from Michelle’s interview:
“I was a harrowing overachiever and perfectionist. But after losing a few loved ones, including my little brother, I had an epiphany. I woke up one day and said, ‘NO more.’ I was ready to ditch the corporate 9 to 5 that wasn’t fulfilling me. I didn’t want to take part in the ‘normal life’ with the suburban house and the white picket fence.”
“I soon realized that I didn’t want to take the typical route that most people do. I wanted to raise my son without having to juggle a 9 to 5 that forced me to be away from him at the same time. I wanted to be able to intentionally enjoy the time I spent with my son and husband instead of coming home drained after a long day of work. I realized that I didn’t want to have a set number of days off to travel per year, one of my biggest joys.”
“Relationship marketing is one of the most effective strategies that I’ve found for acquiring and retaining customers. People want to do business with other humans — a radical notion, I know — so it’s important to make sure that you’re building a solid relationship with your audience. When your audience can trust you, they are more likely to buy from you.”
“Hands down, my most important life lesson is you only get one life! Too many people take their months, days, hours, seconds for granted. They don’t think about how they are using every single moment to their advantage to get the most out of this one life. If I only had a few minutes to live, I would ask people if they are genuinely enjoying how they are spending their time. Are they doing the things they love? Or are they putting things on the back burner, saying they will get to it ‘later?’ Nothing in this life is guaranteed.”
Introduce yourself! 🙂 Who are you? What do you do for work? And what is your nomadic story?
I’m Michelle Knight, a Personal Brand Coach, Marketing Strategist, and the founder of Brandmerry.com. For most of my life, I was a harrowing overachiever and perfectionist. But after losing a few loved ones, including my little brother, I had an epiphany. I woke up one day and said, “NO more.” I was ready to ditch the corporate 9 to 5 that wasn’t fulfilling me. I didn’t want to take part in the “normal life” with the suburban house and the white picket fence.
In January of 2016, I set out to start my business. Truthfully, at that point, I didn’t know what business I wanted to build. All I knew was that I wanted to leave my corporate job by the end of the year so I could be home with my newborn son, Cal.
With the support of my incredible husband, we made the choice for me to go all in. In just nine months, I left my 9 to 5 to take on my business full time while simultaneously raising a newborn. I was able to grow that business to 6 figures within one year. That decision changed the trajectory of my life and the life of my family forever.
About two years ago now, my husband, son, and I hopped into our RV and hit the road to travel the country. Since then, we’ve lived in over 33 states and visited over 14 national parks. While we no longer live in the RV, we still carry on our nomadic lifestyle, with a planned trip to Hawaii this June and a three-month trip to Europe in the fall.
What inspired you to start nomading? And how has nomading changed your perspective on life?
My story has come together from many life-altering things I’ve experienced. In 2009, I lost my brother to cancer. From that day onward, I made a vow to him and myself that I wouldn’t let life pass me by. I knew that if I really wanted something, I had to go after it with everything I had.
Years later, when I had my son, I soon realized that I didn’t want to take the typical route that most people do. I wanted to raise my son without having to juggle a 9 to 5 that forced me to be away from him at the same time. I wanted to be able to intentionally enjoy the time I spent with my son and husband instead of coming home drained after a long day of work. I realized that I didn’t want to have a set number of days off to travel per year, one of my biggest joys. I wanted to experience the world and my life on my own terms.
Nomading has changed my life in so many ways but perhaps most important is that I believe it allows me to experience life’s greatest joys each and every day.
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What are the 2-3 favorite places where you’ve lived/traveled to and why?
This is a hard question to answer! If I had to narrow it down to a period of time, I’d focus on our 2020 travels because, during a time when International plans might have gone out the window, our RV lifestyle allowed us to take an epic three-month National Park trip.
Favorite Stop #1: The Grand Teton National Park
We snagged a boondocking spot right outside of the National Park with a perfect view of the mountains. It was here that we found our passion for Kayaking as a family and bought a tri-yak two weeks later off of Facebook Marketplace while traveling through Montana.
Favorite Stop #2: North Cascades National Park
Talk about a hidden gem. The North Cascades is one of the least visited parks in North America, but honestly one of the most magical. Although the drive to our “perfect” spot was extra rough with a 36-foot travel trailer, it paid off. We essentially spent three days camped in the rainforest, a real “Fern Gully” experience. It almost felt like we had discovered a secret escape that was just ours.
Favorite Stop #3: Olympic National Park
It’s always been a dream of mine to visit Olympic National Park, and it did not disappoint. We once again snagged a beautiful spot on the Hoh River, just walking distance from our RV. It will blow your mind how diverse and large this park was; my favorite part was experiencing low tide and all the incredible sea life on our early morning exploration.
Please tell us the detailed story of how you started your business.
I started my business in 2016, just one month after my son was born. While navigating a difficult postpartum experience, I decided that I wanted the best of all worlds: mother, wife, woman, business owner. I set out to start an online business focused on helping other women build their life of freedom. After a lot of hiccups and mistakes, which resulted in eight months of work without making any money, I essentially started over. I stripped my entire business down to focus on storytelling and empowering others to share their story through personal branding.
In the beginning, I used my story and experiences to connect deeply with my growing audience and started to sell private coaching. I offered six-month packages to support entrepreneurs in branding and marketing their services. This then led to a course on branding and small-group program. Within one year, I had built a 6-figure cash business.
At the time, my family and I were living in our home in Saint Louis, MO and traveling as much as possible. We spent two weeks in Europe when my son was just 10 months old, three weeks in Paris and Iceland in 2018, and smaller trips throughout. It was after the loss of my mother-in-law to cancer that we decided life was too short and retired my husband from his retail job to travel full time in a 36-foot travel trailer.
The transition to being location-independent was quite the learning curve, as the internet was never solid. As I explored more of this lifestyle, I embraced products and services that would allow me to travel and run a successful business. I build an evergreen branding course and membership called Brandmerry Academy, which allows me to serve hundreds of entrepreneurs every month without requiring daily internet. In 2020, I used this product suite to scale Brandmerry to over $200k cash revenue in one year while traveling full-time and navigating a pandemic.
What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about nomading?
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Start small! You don’t have to jump into nomad life with two feet. Dip your toes in. Perhaps you take an extended vacation or work trip that is equal parts work and play. This will allow you to test out what it’s like to be a nomad, your unique way of navigating working remotely from a new location, and more.
Personally, when we’re nomading, we prefer to use services like Airbnb, so we have everything we need. When you are booking a place to stay, check the reviews and make sure you have essential things for nomading, such as great internet speed, access to everyday essentials, good proximity to town, and a designated workspace.
If you want to meet other digital nomads while traveling, be sure to check out local coffee shops, coworking spaces, or other public spots with free wifi. You’re sure to bump into other people working. This isn’t as hard as people make it out to be; introduce yourself to people, get a conversation rolling, and you’re bound to meet some incredible folks or share similar lifestyle choices and values.
Sometimes at the beginning, people can struggle with the adjustment to nomad life. That’s totally normal and something I went through myself. One of my biggest pieces of advice is to travel slow. What I mean by that is don’t plan to do too much on top of work. Set aside specific days for work if necessary and other days for exploring the local area. This helps so much with overall productivity, and it won’t leave you scrambling to get tasks done.
Since launching, what has been most effective to acquire/retain customers and scale your business?
Relationship marketing is one of the most effective strategies that I’ve found for acquiring and retaining customers. People want to do business with other humans — a radical notion, I know — so it’s important to make sure that you’re building a solid relationship with your audience. When your audience can trust you, they are more likely to buy from you.
Relationship marketing isn’t as hard as it may sound. If you want to improve your relationship with your customers, you can implement these three simple strategies: be conversational, build relationships in your email funnel, and share stories in your marketing.
Basically, you should be intentional about creating content that showcases your brand values, connects emotionally to your audience, and brings them a great story they can resonate with. It’s very much quality over quantity, and you want to make sure that you’re not automating your messaging. Being authentic can take you a long way!
What digital tools do you use for your work/business?
Here are a few tools I love, especially if I am traveling or on the road:
- Slack: This is a tool that gives you the ability to check back and forth between your team, clients, or any other people you work with on a daily basis. It helps you to check your emails on a less frequent basis and frees up your time to work on priorities.
- A task management tool: There are a few, but I’ve used Trello, Asana, and ClickUp. Most recently, I’ve been using ClickUp. As long as you have a tool in place that helps you get your tasks done and puts your workflows out there, you will be much better off productivity-wise and in better shape for when you hire support to help you.
- Loom: Loom is a great resource for onboarding and for sharing things with clients. It is a big time saver because you can record something once and share it many times!
- Calendar: This will help you to filter out what’s a priority for you and what’s not. I’ve found that using my Google Calendar gives me more time and space to breathe, and I can honor the commitments I’ve made while monitoring to make sure I am not overcommitting on certain days.
What scale is your business at today, and what are your future goals?
Today, Brandmerry is on its way to becoming a half a million dollar a year business. Over the past year, we’ve experienced the most growth watching our yearly cash revenue double, growing the Brandmerry team from just myself to three active team members, and watching both my email list growth and website traffic explode.
As I started traveling more, I realized the constant hustle of keeping up with social media and outdated marketing strategies wasn’t going to serve me. So I’ve implemented advanced strategies that include utilizing Search Engine Optimization, Pinterest Marketing, and other evergreen strategies to create a consistent flow of subscribers and leads. My website traffic went from 28,000 visitors in 2019 to 120,000 visitors in 2020, resulting in a 331% increase and my Pinterest monthly views are way over 1 million a month.
This focus on simplicity and evergreen content has set the business up for the ultimate goal of creating a million-dollar company by 2023 and serving thousands of entrepreneurs monthly inside of Brandmerry Academy.
For someone interested in becoming an entrepreneur in your field, what’s the best advice that you would give? And what books, podcasts, thought leaders, or other learning resources do you recommend?
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For someone who is interested in becoming an entrepreneur, the best advice I would give would be to focus on building a solid brand foundation. That includes understanding your niche, understanding your ideal customer, being clear on your messaging and core offer, your voice and values, as well as the emotional side of your branding. From there, you’re able to implement a ton of other marketing strategies. But what I see entrepreneurs do time and again is they will jump into a new strategy, dropping money on Facebook ads or spending time and energy on rebuilding their website. They don’t focus on the foundation of building a business, which is building a building brand.
Once you have those pieces in place, then it’s all about choosing the avenue that will serve you best — that may be social media, search engine optimization, blogging, running ads. But really think about who you are trying to reach/attract and how you can get in front of them on a consistent basis. Without consistent leads, you’re not going to have a consistent income.
Additionally, you want to make sure that your mindset is always supported and that you have a resilient way to check in with yourself. Remember, at the end of the day, it is up to you! You don’t have a boss, and you may not even have a team around you yet, so you have to practice your own resiliency.
A few resources include my own website and YouTube channel. I also like to follow Brené Brown, whose work resonates with me as a recovering perfectionist myself, Amanda Francis when it comes to money mindset, the law of attraction, and feeling abundant; Gabby Bernstein for feeling supported.
If you only had a few minutes to live, what are the most important life lessons you would share with the world?
Hands down, my most important life lesson is you only get one life! Too many people take their months, days, hours, seconds for granted. They don’t think about how they are using every single moment to their advantage to get the most out of this one life. If I only had a few minutes to live, I would ask people if they are genuinely enjoying how they are spending their time. Are they doing the things they love? Or are they putting things on the back burner, saying they will get to it “later?” Nothing in this life is guaranteed.
If we started living our lives in alignment with what we want to be doing in the moment, we would be much happier. Having lost multiple loved ones in my life, I have experienced firsthand that time is not infinite. So I want to inspire other people to live a life that is more intentional. Start asking yourself: How do I want to show up? Who do I want to surround myself with? What do I want to be doing? What are the things that ultimately bring me joy?
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What do you travel with that you couldn’t imagine traveling without?
We are pretty low maintenance, but I would say my laptop is #1 because I have to be able to build my business in order to make this lifestyle possible for my family! I also make sure I have my phone plan set up so I can work from wherever we may be traveling, be it domestically or internationally. Having the internet lined up is also really important, particularly if you plan to work during your travels.
Other than that, we try to be minimalists. We’ve done entire two-week trips with a single backpack for the three of us. We are planning a 3-month trip with two backpacks. Osprey backpacks are our favorite, as well as packing compression cubes…a must! They help us fit more inside of our packs, including toys for our son. We love Tripped Travel Gear.
How can people learn more about you and your work?
They can find me on my website at Brandmerry.com, where I help female entrepreneurs create a captivating and money-making brand through the power of story. They can follow along on Facebook or Instagram and also get connected with me on my personal website, at michelleknight.co.