Being a “workaholic” often comes with a lot of negative connotations. After all, work can be tiring and stressful, so working a lot has to be a bad thing, right?
However, as today’s guest (Sydney from Untemplater) has discovered, it’s possible to be a workaholic and love every minute of it. Sure, there can be challenging moments, but overall, she loves everything she does. And instead of writing her off as an anomaly, I prefer to dig in and find out more about what makes her a success. Anyone who can work a lot, become successful, and really enjoy it, is obviously doing something right.
In this interview, we talk about her plans to leave her corporate job to work online full-time (hint: it may never happen, because she enjoys it all), and how she’s built her audience at Untemplater.
Check it out!
Sydney, I’m a big fan of Untemplater – it’s a really unique blog, and I like how you really focus on living an “unconventional lifestyle.” Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey. What’s your background like, and how did you get the idea to start Untemplater? Do you also work a full-time job in addition to running your blog and whatever online projects you may be involved with?
Long story short, I think life is too short to just do one thing. For me that includes jobs! Earlier in my career I used to have one 8-5 job like most people. I thought I was doing everything right, but a lot of days I didn’t feel like my life was meaningful enough. So I started looking for other ways to fill my free time and work more hours doing different things.
Untemplater has been the perfect medium for me to share things that I’m learning along the way from being in both corporate and entrepreneurial settings. I love being able to help people and I also like being able to look back on things I’ve learned and my total work hours, including the time I spend on Untemplater, can range anywhere from 50-90 hours a week.
And I’d call myself a Jane of all trades. I truly believe we should never underestimate what we’re capable of; Ha, I can even fix a sink. I’ve done so many types of work, projects, and side gigs over the years ranging from consulting, recruiting, accounting, acting, bookkeeping, graphic design, coaching, business and project management, property management, teaching, editing, and of course writing.
I’m happiest when I’m constantly learning, trying new things, and going on adventures all over the world.
Can you share with us your plan to leave your main stream corporate job and become a full-time entrepreneur?
I have come to realize that I’m a workaholic, which is pretty obvious from my work hours. I went through some rough patches to get here, but fortunately I like all the things that I do. Most days I actually love them. Sure there are certainly days from time to time when I have to reread my own list of stress relief tips, and dealing with clients who act like children or total jerks can be totally draining. But that’s the exception not the norm.
I enjoy the balance that I have now of both corporate and entrepreneurial settings too, so I’m not in a rush to change that. I’m also in major savings mode right now in preparations for becoming fully self employed. My current horizon for walking away from my primary day job is 1-3 years, which doesn’t feel like a long time from now at all.
I love my roles and the people that I work with every day, so now doesn’t feel like the right time for me to leave. Who knows, I may say the same thing 3 years from now. Why quit when you’re having fun right?!
What do you consider to be your greatest success (or successes) so far with your blog?
I like celebrating small wins as well as big, which can range from getting a thank you email from a reader, getting my first Adsense check, becoming a Yakezie Member, fixing code, to learning something new and sharing with my readers. One recent milestone was making it to my three year blogversary. The funny thing is I didn’t even realize I’d reached that milestone until I randomly went searching for my Yakezie Member post last week and looked at the date (Sept 2011).
I wrote that post six months after I started blogging, so counting back I realized hey wait a minute it’s been three years later already!
I’d say another success that I’m proud of is consistently publishing at least two posts a week since I started. That may sound easy if you’ve never tried to do that before, but it is a challenge to stay consistent with so many other commitments and life getting in the way. There are so many bloggers burn out and go on 3-6 month hiatuses, farm out all their articles to staff writers, or never end up coming back at all.
I’ve stuck with Untemplater the entire time, even through several health scares of my own, my dad getting cancer, my mom going through major surgery, and more. I never realized how much work is involved with running a quality blog until I dove in first hand.
I write lengthy posts (usually 1400-1700 words), spend a lot of time editing to the best of my ability, and do my best to keep things entertaining, helpful, and fresh for my readers. My readers are great and they motivate me to keep going every day.
Even the most successful people stumble along the way, but it’s the lessons learned that make failure a valuable outcome. What do you consider to be your biggest failure (with regard to your online activities), and what did you learn from it?
Anyone who says they haven’t had any failures is in denial! I’ve had plenty of failures, but fortunately nothing drastic or financially disastrous. I totally failed my goal of writing my first ebook last year, which I really thought I could do, but I failed because I couldn’t focus and didn’t prioritize it. I had things that came up that were more important to me, and something had to give.
I’ve also totally dropped the ball with social media and marketing. I was so into it in the beginning, but it became distracting so I put it on the back burner, and it ended up staying there. Focusing on the quality and consistency of my writing has helped Untemplater grow even with my limited use of social media, so things have worked out okay.
You’ve had a lot of success with growing your audience at Untemplater, which I’m sure has a lot to do with the site’s unique personality. What have been your primary ways of growing the site’s audience?
As mentioned above, social media hasn’t been a main driver for my growth because I haven’t put much time into it. And again I think my audience has grown because I’ve prioritized the regularity and style of my writing. I incorporate my personality into my posts, and share a lot of my own experiences that I think many of my readers can relate to and are interested in hearing.
There’s a lot of boring, dry, and unhelpful content out there on the web, a lot of it written by paid staff writers with no real experience or spun out by machines, which I dislike. Sites like that aren’t going to keep and grow readership. So I’ve put a lot of effort into keeping Untemplater fresh, helpful, relevant, and personal. I write about things that I myself want to read.
Looking generally at starting and growing a successful blog: If you had to take your best advice or inspirational thought and put it into one sentence or phrase, what would that be?
Write from the heart and people will listen. [Click here to tweet this]
What are your favorite online resources?
I’m all for cloud based apps and resources. I’m always learning from Wikipedia, Google Analytics, Adsense, and especially the Yakezie Forums. I also use Aweber, Unconventional Guides, and Personal Capital regularly.
For fun I love to browse around photo blogs, catch news headlines, and read technical tips.
Finally, where can people find you online?
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Sydney!
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