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SPI 653: She Retired Her Husband on Podcasting — Sophie Walker and the Journey of Australian Birth Stories

Starting from nothing and working hard to build a business is relatable. But what happens when you finally “make it?” The inevitable social dynamic shift catches many entrepreneurs by surprise.

You see, parents at your kid’s school don’t want to hear about the $150,000 deal you turned down for ethical reasons. But where can you find a safe space to talk openly without offending anyone? Essentially, how do you navigate success with grace?

My returning guest, Sophie Walker of the Australian Birth Stories podcast, is the perfect example of someone who has built a brand from scratch and turned it into a vast empire. We last spoke in episode 432—her show has since amassed over ten million downloads, and sponsors are lining up to support her work! (She was one of our star students in Power-Up Podcasting, so I’m not surprised.)

But “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” (Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2). The responsibility of running a brand that’s changing lives and the massive financial decisions involved can weigh anyone down.

Join Sophie and me for this incredible conversation about podcasting, business growth, work-life balance, and building a team with a shared vision. We also discuss Sophie’s first book, The Complete Australian Guide to Pregnancy and Birth, and much more. Listen in and enjoy!

Today’s Guest

Sophie Walker

Sophie Walker is the host of the leading Australian podcast, Australian Birth Stories.

After experiencing two wildly different birthing experiences, and with a Master of Public Health under her belt, Sophie saw a glaring gap in the market to discuss the good, the bad, and the downright uncertainty of the birthing process.

Since the podcast launched in 2017, it’s had over 11 million total downloads and has shared over 350 women’s birthing stories including Turia Pitt, Zoe Foster-Blake, Ash London, Steph Claire Smith, and Emma Isaacs. 146,000 mothers, mothers-to-be, and midwives now form Sophie’s online community.

Sophie has spent the past five years parlaying the success of the podcast into a brand empire that’s based on a single core principle: the power of storytelling to improve the health outcomes of mums and their bubs. Down to her bones, Sophie believes that sharing stories is the most powerful tool in birthing education.

The ABS podcast is endorsed by the Australian College of Midwives and certified professional development for student midwives. Sophie’s first book The Complete Australian Guide to Pregnancy and Birth is due for release in January 2023.

You’ll Learn

Resources

SPI 653: She Retired Her Husband on Podcasting—Sophie Walker and the Journey of Australian Birth Stories

Sophie Walker:
I think it gets kind of weird when you work for yourself and you’re dealing with really large numbers and you don’t want to go to coffee with the school moms and say, “Oh, I just turned down $150,000 deal because it wasn’t ethically aligned.” It’s not something you can chat about openly, so it’s isolating a bit in that sense, as well.

And I think that’s really important when you’re working for yourself, to be able to have business therapy because I don’t want to seem insincere, but I need to talk about it and work it out.

Pat Flynn:
This might be one of those episodes that you listen to, and then at the end you might say, “I’m so glad I listened to that,” right? Because as entrepreneurs, we sometimes can’t read the label when we’re inside the bottle. And so you’re going to hear from Sophie Walker today. She’s been a guest on the show before a couple hundred episodes ago, as her business and brand was continuing to grow. Now, it’s skyrocketed, but as a result of her brand at Australian Birth Stories skyrocketing, she’s now met a number of new struggles and new challenges. And we’re going to talk about a lot of those challenges that us, as growing entrepreneurs, will have, and that you, if you haven’t gotten there yet, will come across. This is just a common pattern. Very rarely do we see a person perfectly lead into a business in a way that is perfectly balanced with their life.

And so we’re going to talk a lot about how many more hours she’s working now than she was before, and that’s not okay, but what are we doing to solve that problem? We’re going to talk about some of the new opportunities that have come her way that she’s now had to learn how to say no to and more struggles of the same. So you’ll hear me Biggie Smalls in this, and if you know what I’m talking about, you’ll hear it, but I do call it out, so if you know, you know. And then, again, I’m just so grateful for you. We are in the new year already, 2023, and hopefully this inspires you to think more clearly about your “why” and also how much you’re working and for what reason, so stick around. Sophie Walker, Australian Birth Stories, here she is.

Announcer:
Welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, where it’s all about working hard now, so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now, your host, he values time over money. However, he knows money also buys time, Pat Flynn.

Pat Flynn:
Sophie, welcome back to the Smart Passive Income Podcast. Thanks for hanging out with me again today.

Sophie Walker:
Thanks so much for having me, Pat. It’s lovely to be on again.

Pat Flynn:
And a lot has happened since the last time you were on. You were on in episode 432, which was a while back. And at the time, your very successful podcast, Australian Birth Stories, was succeeding very well. You are one of our star students inside of Power-Up Podcasting, and I mention your name all the time. And at the time, you had 2.3 million downloads. How is the show doing now? How many downloads are you seeing or how have you seen?

Sophie Walker:
We just hit a massive milestone of 10 million downloads, so a bit of growth in between our last chat.

Pat Flynn:
Wow, so that’s incredible. First of all, congratulations to you. I know the show was taking off, and at the time, you were just starting to start with the sponsorship deals and a lot of this stuff. And to remind people, this is what you do full-time now, right? And what were you doing before the podcast, because now you’re a full-time podcaster, essentially?

Sophie Walker:
Yeah, and also my husband’s just retired, so it’s just me now bringing in the money.

Pat Flynn:
You retired your husband?

Sophie Walker:
Yeah.

Pat Flynn:
Incredible.

Sophie Walker:
I’m not sure how long that will last, but he’s technically retired. He’s getting itchy feet already. Yeah, so prior to starting the podcast, I’ve got three kids, so I’ve kind of been working on and off in between having my boys. I’ve got three little boys, but I studied public health. I’ve got a Master’s in public health, and I was working in cancer research, so interviewing women with histories of breast and ovarian cancer. I worked in the research field and was always talking and interviewing people in that sense. And then, after I had my second child, I was listening to a lot of podcasts about birth and consuming all that content, and it was just…
Podcasts were bigger in America, but they weren’t a really big deal here, so I was listening to American and English podcasts and I just joked with my friend at work, “Oh, I should start an Australian version of this and use all the kind of references that we know and the hospitals that we know.” Yeah, we still connect and laugh about those chats of how far it’s come now, but, yeah, so I just started… The very first thing I did was follow your YouTube of how to set up a podcast, and I just went step by step, and then I did Power-Up Podcasting to kind of fine tune everything. Yeah, it started with just a handful of listeners, like family and friends and, yeah, now it’s got 10 million downloads and I’ve got over 5,000 applications of people wanting to come on and share their story. Yeah, it’s come a long way in six years.

Pat Flynn:
That is so cool. How soon after you started that show did you decide that this was going to be it, that you went full-time with it?

Sophie Walker:
I didn’t kind of take the leap of faith until I was earning the same amount I was making in my part-time work. My mom was minding my boys a couple of days a week and I was working in cancer research, and then I was like, “Oh, actually, I’m making about the same income doing the podcast as I am on the part-time job,” so it felt safe to kind of make that shift then. I thought, “Worst case scenario, I can pick up work again,” but I sort of took that leap then when the money was evened out, and then it just gave me more time and more scope to learn more and grow over the years.

Pat Flynn:
How long until that point after you started?

Sophie Walker:
I think it was probably two years.

Pat Flynn:
Two years, so a good chunk of time. You actually dedicated a lot of time to build this audience. And where was the revenue coming from on the podcast to get to that point?

Sophie Walker:
In the beginning, it was just podcast ads, and now, I’ve got a lot of different revenue streams, but at that stage, it was just 60 second ads at the start of the show. And I was just cold-emailing brands of products that I loved and used myself and said, “I’ve got this podcast.” And I think I said, “I’ve got 100 listeners each week. And for $80, do you want to be on the show?” Maybe now, thinking back, I think some of them might have thought, “I think she’s onto something here. We might want to get our name down early,” but a lot of those brands that signed up and paid $80 are now paying $4,000 for the same ad six years later. So, yeah, they’ve been with me on that journey, but I’d just cold-email just like, “Hey.” And I’ve got no business experience and no PR or nothing. I’m totally in research and health, so it was a little bit in luck I think.

Pat Flynn:
Maybe, yes, or the right time for this topic, for sure. And you saw an opportunity, though, and you took it. And I think this is really inspirational, again, because you would think that maybe something pretty niche, as in not just women but women giving birth, but specifically women in Australia giving birth and their story… And here it is and it’s become this mega success for you, so successful, in fact, that I know that there’s particular organizations and health groups inside of Australia who… There’s something with relation to your show. Can you share what happened there? Because that’s a big deal.

Sophie Walker:
Yeah. Well, a few years in, I got an email from the Australian College of Midwives and they said, “We love the show. We love what you’re doing, giving these firsthand accounts of pregnancy and birth. And we’ve made it certified professional development for our midwives and student midwives to listen and consume as much experience as possible in their training,” so it’s recommended listening through most midwifery colleges. So, yeah, people tell me that, like, “Oh, my lecturer just told me I need to listen.” I was like, “Wow.” So it’s incredible. So a big portion of my listeners are midwives and student midwives and healthcare professionals, and then the other big portion are obviously pregnant women and their families, so that was a huge endorsement. And I kind of always wondered whether I might be a midwife, so it was lovely to have that just kind of out of the blue.

Pat Flynn:
That’s so cool. The impact that you are making through not just opportunities like that but just your show and everybody who listens… You’re helping so many people and women, especially, who are going through birth. And I remember April going through birth with our first child and how just obviously different that was and scary but also exciting and all these emotions mixed up, and now people can listen to the show and hear firsthand experiences and feel more comfortable and get questions answered. And that’s so beautiful, and the podcast is a perfect platform for that because you really get into the story. You really get into the emotion of it all. And again, I just love that you stepped up to do that. Now, you went from $80 for a 60 second ad to now $4,000 and are charging what you’re worth and more listeners, of course, but how else are you generating revenue in the brand, other than sponsored ads?

Sophie Walker:
So about three years in, I started doing online courses, and that was with the help of a business coach and seeing what was happening in the podcasting space. And that was a huge, huge shift for me. I’d never kind of set up that kind of tech and I thought, “Oh, how can I create a course when I’m not a midwife and I’m not an obstetrician or a nurse?” But I’ve now got five online courses, and the way that I’ve set them up is to get… I’ve sort of networked with some incredible people throughout the years, and so I interview obstetricians and midwives and experts in their field to cover these important topics, and then I guide the interviews, and then we combine that with workbooks and other elements and pregnancy meditations and yoga nidra work and things like that, so, yeah, we’ve pulled it all together in that way.
So they range from an online birth class, which I was one of the very fortunate businesses who did very well during COVID because, similar to America, but in Australia, all the antenatal classes and pregnancy and birth classes were canceled, and there was no face-to-face. And mine’s purely online, so a lot of people could then just pick up my course and run with it, so I’ve kind of filled a gap there. And I think hospitals at that stage weren’t set up to run theirs online because that’s not what they normally do, so I was already set up and ready to go. Yeah, it worked in my favor in that sense. And it was very reassuring to know that these people weren’t going into birth with nothing, because some people like, “Oh, well, there’s nothing,” but I was able to provide a service then and support them during that time. And a lot of face-to-face medical appointments weren’t happening too, so I really was holding the hands of a lot of vulnerable women during that time, which has even strengthened the community even more.

Pat Flynn:
That’s incredible. So online courses, fantastic, and you have five now. How are you promoting those courses, or even initially, how did you announce them and let people know that they were there, and what are the price points?

Sophie Walker:
Through the podcast, I advertise those, but I also… Before I actually launched the podcast, I started my Instagram account, which is a big arm of the business as well, so I’ve got 147,000 followers on Instagram. I share a lot of educational content on there with beautiful birth imagery to kind of be inspiring. We also share the darker sides of pregnancy and birth as well, so it’s not all just lovely water births. There’s everything on there. So I use Instagram stories a lot to swipe up and check out the website. I’ve got probably about 10 free resources that are freebie downloads to get people onto my email list. And my email list I really neglected, and I hear it all the time. The money’s in the list and make sure you get a list, and I really came late to setting up my email list, but I’ve now grown it to 35,000, so I feel like I’m making up for a bit of lost time there.
And I’m very proud to say that I’ve got a 50% open rate, so I’m like… Because I feel like people throw around their email list numbers and I’m like, “Yeah, but how many people read that?” Yeah, I do a weekly email that I spend a lot of time really curating that, so I use the podcast to advertise my own products, Instagram. I’ve got a Facebook account, and, yeah, they’re the main kind of channels, I think. So the courses range from the pregnancy… The cheapest course at the moment is 29 Australian dollars, and that’s a PDF download on how to set yourself up for breastfeeding and how to antenatal express, and then they go up to the bundle. If you get a few of the courses and the pregnancy guide, it’s 349, so that’s the highest point at the moment.

Pat Flynn:
Very good. What tech are you using to deliver those courses?

Sophie Walker:
I have just recorded them all myself through Garage Band and just at home with my mic, and I run them through Kajabi. I used to be on Teachable, but I shifted over to Kajabi, so I sell them off there, and then I’ve got a WordPress website that links everything together.

Pat Flynn:
Now, I know this from my own experience and also coaching other students as well, is when we start to see a lot of success, there’s way more opportunities than we ever thought available, which is a good thing. There’s a lot of people asking to work with you and partner with you, a lot more opportunity to create new things, but I also know that if we don’t necessarily control or even have filters on, we could overwork ourselves. We could say yes to all the opportunities and get nothing done or over-commit or just the quality starts to go down. Have you experienced any of that kind of stuff now that you’ve grown bigger now with new opportunities in front of you? And how have you been able to manage what to say yes to and what to say no to?

Sophie Walker:
Yeah, that’s been my current challenge. It’s so exciting to grow, and obviously the revenue’s increased exponentially, and all of these things are exciting. It’s all these new business challenges, and I feel like I’m often saying to people, “Oh, I just…” It’s great to work for yourself, but sometimes I feel like, “Oh, I just wish I had a boss who was making the call on this one,” because now I’m making decisions on hundreds of thousands of dollars on ad deals, and I’m very conscious about who I work with and promote. I don’t want to be a whimsical influencer who’s promoting one thing one day and something completely opposing the next day, and I’m really environmentally conscious, so I’m not just pumping out nappy brands that I don’t think are environmentally friendly. So there’s a lot of things to consider.
And I think that can kind of weigh you down or literally keep me up at night, because it used to be I’d record the show. I’d do one episode a week, and now I do two episodes a week, but I used to be… I’d record the show, which would take maybe an hour. I’d edit it and put it up, which is maybe another hour, and then I’m done for the week. Yeah, well, probably, now, I work 40 hours a week, but I’m working on that. In an ideal world, I’d scale it right back to do, perhaps, two or three days a week, but at the moment, I’m in a bit of a sprint phase because I’m sure we’ll get to it, but I’ve just written a book as well.

Pat Flynn:
Yay.

Sophie Walker:
Yeah, but it’s funny. In the early days, you’re emailing, hoping someone will email you back. And now, I’m like, “Stop emailing me.” I can’t manage it, so it is funny what you wish for, really.

Pat Flynn:
Yeah, it’s so true that this happens. And they often have this phrase that goes around at this stage. It’s like, “New levels, new devils,” or to quote Notorious B.I.G, “Mo’ money, mo’ problems,” right? So if you could go back, now that you know what you know, what would you tell yourself as you were starting to grow to maybe keep yourself more grounded during this time? I’m sure you’re happy and you’re blessed and grateful, and you’ve told me so, but we could always… Hindsight’s 20/20, but if you could go back in time, what would you tell yourself to better prepare for the success that came your way?

Sophie Walker:
I think it’s kind of an old one, but it’s around because it’s true. It’s really, “Trust your gut.” If it feels a little bit icky initially, then it probably will be, and I’m sure you’ve experienced that with clients. People are a bit difficult in the booking end, and then they’re painful right to the end and you’re happy to see the end of that contract, so going with your gut. And I’ve turned down some huge opportunities, as well. I think it gets kind of weird when you work for yourself and you’re dealing with really large numbers and you don’t want to go to coffee with the school moms and say, “Oh, I just turned down $150,000 deal because it wasn’t ethically aligned.” It’s not something you can chat about openly, so it’s isolating a bit in that sense, as well.
And you and I have done some coaching together, and I’ve got another business coach as well. And I think that’s really important when you’re working for yourself, to be able to have business therapy, where it’s a safe space to talk about all these things openly, and you’re not going to offend someone who’s currently finding it hard to pay their mortgage, because I don’t want to seem insincere, but I need to talk about it and work it out. I think, when you start to have a sudden growth, then more people notice you, and then you and I have talked about a lot of networks wanting me to join, and they’re offering thousands of dollars to sign up, and we can provide you all these things and great, big, 10-page PDFs on how amazing they are and how we’d be a lovely team, and then in the back of my mind, I’m like, “Yeah, but you’re taking 50% of my revenue that I’ve worked really hard to grow over the last six years.”
So making those decisions has been really hard. And as you say, I feel incredibly blessed. I do pick up and drop off with my boys. We walk to school, so I still am connected with mom life, and my three-year-old’s still not toilet trained, so we’re in the thick of things with parenting. And I’m able to work and do my business, so I’m grateful for that, but it’s definitely bigger problems, bigger questions and challenges as you grow.

Pat Flynn:
You had mentioned having conversations with the other moms who might be in different parts of their life, or they’re not necessarily entrepreneurs and don’t understand the same language, but does it ever get weird? I know that sometimes when I’m with some high school friends and they start asking questions, I do feel strange. And I don’t want to come across as somebody who… It’s such an odd thing when you’ve gotten to this side of building… Because when you’re starting out, I think everybody can resonate with having an idea, trying things, grinding, hustling, making that work, but when you’re on the other side of it and there’s new sets of problems, you don’t, like you said, necessarily want to bring those problems in because it’s different now. How do you manage that and how does that… How does your-

Sophie Walker:
Okay, my kids have just interrupted, sorry.

Pat Flynn:
Hey, no, this is real life.

Sophie Walker:
Dad’s taking you to school. I’m at the bottom of the garden, but they found me.

Pat Flynn:
I love it. Oh, you’re in your new space.

Sophie Walker:
Yeah, I’m in my office.

Pat Flynn:
You’d built this-

Sophie Walker:
Yeah, but I need to lock the door.

Pat Flynn:
Talk about that really quick, because it’s so cool because Sophie and I have been working together with some coaching and stuff, and she said that she’s building her own space to do her work, which, I guess, the kids can sometimes come in, like we just saw, but what is this space? And then we’ll get back to the other question.

Sophie Walker:
So we’ve got a beautiful backyard, a great big elm tree in the back of our yard, so I’ve just built a studio, which is… I don’t know if… Do you work in meters? It’s three meters by two and a half, so it’s 10 meters squared. Sorry, you have to convert that.

Pat Flynn:
Okay. Times three, basically, but yeah.

Sophie Walker:
Yeah, and I bought it, more or less, as a kit home. So I bought it offline as a garden studio, and it’s insulated, although it needs a little bit more insulation, but I’ve got that at the bottom of the garden. So I was recording in my car in the carport for years. The car is a good alternative if you’re caught out, I think-

Pat Flynn:
This is true, very true.

Sophie Walker:
… but I can’t get my kids to be quiet, so it’s easier if they’re home and I’m doing it at an unusual hour to fit in with a new mom. Yeah, I was doing it in the car, but now I’ve got the office, and now that my husband’s not working, I can just come down and record my ads and do my thing, usually uninterrupted. So yeah, it’s really lovely. I’m just kind of still setting that up.

Pat Flynn:
So initially you were recording these podcast interviews in your car?

Sophie Walker:
Yeah, and my physio said, “You really need to stop doing that.”

Pat Flynn:
Oh, yeah, right. It’s probably not the best for posture and ergonomics. So did you have your laptop in there with you?

Sophie Walker:
Yeah.

Pat Flynn:
And you were connected on Zoom or something or-

Sophie Walker:
Yep. I’d just hold my mic as well. I do them on Zoom now. Up until the first four or five years, I used Skype, so I was just Skyping people on my laptop.

Pat Flynn:
Yeah, we were all using Skype in the beginning.

Sophie Walker:
I still keep it super basic. Even though the audience has grown, I still just do it very basic, but I now have… Yeah, I think last time we spoke, I didn’t really have a team. Now, I’ve got at least six people that work for me, so I’m supported in that sense, and that’s a whole other challenge too. Then, you’ve got the responsibility of bringing in money for other people and you’re managing HR-type issues and things.

Pat Flynn:
We’ll talk about that in a sec, but let’s go back to the question about personal, getting back with your friends and just kind of… You’re an entrepreneur now, you’re successful. Is it weird at all? How do you approach outside of business life?

Sophie Walker:
Yeah, it’s a little bit of a joke that I’m the famous friend and famous amongst pregnant women. So we were just having coffee outside school the other day, and a woman came over and just kind of fell over herself because she saw me and said, “Oh my goodness, oh, you’ve changed my life. Thank you so much for all the things you do.” And the other ones were all looking at their feet, and then she went away and they’re like, “Oh, our famous friend.” So it was funny in that sense, but we don’t talk about numbers, but it’s interesting. In a lot of PR outreach I’m doing at the moment, I’m kind of pitching to a variety of different sources, and some of them are business articles and some of them disclose what I made last year, and then I’m like, “Ooh, I hope none of my close friends read that article,” because it really goes into depth about my numbers-

Pat Flynn:
Interesting.

Sophie Walker:
… which I’m proud of, but you have to be careful about who you share how well things are going, and it’s brought up things within the family as well. Yeah, I don’t think they’ll listen to this episode, but it’s always assumed that I’ll be paying for dinner and stuff. Yeah, it’s different dynamics and, “Oh, Sophie’s doing well, so she’ll…” and then they’ll order a few extra cocktails, but-

Pat Flynn:
That’s so interesting.

Sophie Walker:
Different challenges there. And I, again, feel very grateful and I love that I can do these things, but it’s a real shift in gears of kind of like, “Oh, okay, this is where we’re at now,” and money brings out weird things for people, I’m learning.

Pat Flynn:
Well, thank you for sharing that. And the business audience that’s listening right now… Many of them are just at the beginning of their journey. This is really inspirational to go from car recording an interview, and then two years later, here you are now, and you’ve built your own studio in your backyard, which is really amazing, but you’ve also, like you said, kept it simple. You’re staying basic with all the things that you’re doing, just to kind of… What is the goal now for you? What is the purpose here? I’m sure, in the beginning was… With me, it was just kind of like, “Well, I just want to support my family and survive.” And then for me, I was really drawn to, personally, the audience who I could help who had yet to discover me, and I wanted to just have them understand that this is possible. Let me show you. What’s driving you right now? And ultimately, what is the goal that’s deciding whether you say yes to certain things or no to certain things?

Sophie Walker:
Yeah, it’s hard because I’m wanting to grow and wanting to expand and to kind of help more women, but I also am aware that I’ve kind of got my… I don’t know if balance is the right word, but I’m working a lot more than I was, and I’ve got extra pressures. And one of the girls who works for me who does a lot of copyrights, she’s like, “What’s on for you?” And I’ve got back to back meetings. And I said, “I’m having meetings about meetings. I’ve got a meeting for today about tomorrow’s meeting.” I’m like, “How did this happen? What?”
So now, I’m really in the process of, okay, I want to set it up for growth and expand and help more people, but I personally want to step back a bit, so it’s about finding out… Making some big calls. We’ve got some great ideas about what to do next year, and then I’m like, “Do I really want to be working that hard next year or is that something that can wait, and how can I bring somebody else up to speed to manage that whole section?” Because I think you and I were talking with my youngest. He’ll be in school in two years, and now that my husband’s home, he’s like… Well, he’s a primary school teacher, so he is really into kid stuff anyway, but they’re going to the aquarium and the zoo, and I’m working back to back meetings. I’m like, “Oh, I’m working for myself, but I haven’t got flexibility at the moment.” And I am aware I’m in an intense part of launching the book and things, so I hope that next year I’m able to scale things back and outsource appropriately so I’ve got more family time and just freedom to go and have lunch with friends. I feel like I’ve kind of neglected friendships and things because I’m working full on.

Pat Flynn:
Yeah, it’s interesting because as we’re building our businesses, we’re like, “Wow, we’re getting these opportunities that we’ve never had before. We have to say yes to all of them. We have to do all of them, or else they might go away,” because we’ve never experienced that and we don’t necessarily believe in ourselves, or at least I didn’t. And over time, you begin to learn that you can do a lot of things that you didn’t think you could do before, and you can have more room to say no. And I’ve never heard any entrepreneur perfectly lead into the perfect, ideal life. It’s always been hard struggle, and then boom, things are… and then they go too far, and then you either burn out or, like you, you’re conscious about it and you’re like, “Okay, this is a season. Next season’s going to be better. I just got to get through this and we’re going to make it work. This book’s going to be out there. That’s going to do a lot of things for you and automate a lot of the top of funnel stuff for you, and then I can come back to where I want to be.”
It’s almost like it’s almost dating. You date people to discover what you like and also what you don’t like, and you have to date yourself a little bit, I guess, when it comes to, well, what parts of the business do you enjoy and which ones do you not? I know a lot of web designers, for example, who love design, so they started a design company to help others, and they were initially doing the work themselves, but then they want to grow and scale and help more people so they hire a team, and all of a sudden, they’re managing people all day and they’re in meetings and they’re no longer doing design work. And it’s either you change your goals or you say, “You know what? I want to get back to design, so I’m going to slow it down. I’m not going to try to get a million clients. I’m just going to work with one or two, and I’m just going to live this happy, beautiful life.” And I think that that’s like… You’re close to where that’s going, but this book is definitely… I know from launching books myself and I have one coming. It’s a lot.

Sophie Walker:
Yeah, it’s a lot.

Pat Flynn:
So where are you at now? When’s it coming out? What is the book about? And tell us about it.

Sophie Walker:
Yeah, yeah, so the book’s called The Complete Australian Guide to Pregnancy and Birth, and I just got my first copy this week, so I’ll show you, Pat. There you go.

Pat Flynn:
No way. How does that feel?

Sophie Walker:
It’s really wild. And I have looked at other people looking at their book and like, “Yeah, you’ve worked on it for a year, so you knew what it was going to be like,” but there is something in feeling the weight of it and the texture and actually the color-

Pat Flynn:
Oh, it looks gorgeous.

Sophie Walker:
… is not quite how I thought it would be and stuff. So, yeah, there is something really amazing about holding it, and it’s all your work compressed into one lovely, beautiful, bound book, so yeah.

Pat Flynn:
That’s amazing. Well, I’m not a woman. I’m not going to be pregnant, most likely, and I’m not in Australia, but I would love a signed copy if you had one available.

Sophie Walker:
I don’t think I’ve got one for you, sorry, but… No, just kidding. I’ll send you one.

Pat Flynn:
That’ll be the most interesting book on my shelf, I’m sure.

Sophie Walker:
Yeah, people will be like, “What is this bright pink book you’ve got, Pat?”

Pat Flynn:
Who is she? What’s her name? No, I’m just kidding.

Sophie Walker:
It’s a beautiful guide and probably a lot of your listeners would’ve been familiar if they’re in that space of life. They would’ve listened to… Oh, they would’ve purchased What to Expect When You’re expecting, so it’s a pregnancy guide that takes you from the first trimester right through to birthing and all your options and all the things that unfold. So, yeah, it’s been a lot of work, and it’s been edited by five different people, and obstetrician and midwives have medically checked it to make sure everything’s accurate in all the referencing.
So it’s interesting how you get to where you are, because I’ve now drawn on a lot of my public health skills in looking at research and things like that, so it’s drawn in different things. And then I’ve co-written it with one of my colleagues who does a lot of writing for Australian birth stories. We’ve written it together, which is another dynamic, but you and I have shared too, I think. Books are a whole new thing in themselves, but working with a publisher and a team and not having full control is a whole different thing as well. And even with the numbers, they’re like, “Oh, pre-sale’s going well.” And I’m like, “Hmm, I can’t log in and check. I don’t have access to that.” And normally, if I’m doing a sale, I’ll just be refreshing Kajabi counting the numbers.

Pat Flynn:
Yeah, every second, right?

Sophie Walker:
Yeah, I’m like, “Oh, I just have to wait for a weekly update.” So yeah, that’s been a shift, but I think for my first book, I don’t think I could have pulled this off on my own. There were a lot of different moving parts, and I’m grateful for outsourcing it to a publishing house.

Pat Flynn:
When does it come out? I know we do have some Australian listeners. A big shout out to you. Perhaps this is one you could pick up. When is it going to be available and where?

Sophie Walker:
Yeah, I think when this episode comes out, it’ll be on bookshelves in Australia, so it comes out the 31st of January. The eBooks will be available at that time too, so people should be able to pick up an e-copy if they want to, if they’re living in other parts of the world. And even though it’s called the Complete Australian Guide and it’s got references to Australian hospitals, it still translates. It’s still the same pregnancy journey, so it can be used in any part of the world.

Pat Flynn:
Amazing. Well, congratulations to you on that, and we’ll have links in the show notes and such. I wanted to finish off here by talking about your team, because this is another big thing that we talked about. As you’re growing, as you’re trying to continue to scale but also want to scale back your own time, you have to hire people in some way, shape, or form. Who do you have on your team and are they full-time? Are they contracted? Tell us a little bit about that.

Sophie Walker:
So everyone is actually contracted, so I don’t pay a fixed salary and super and things like that. So everyone invoices me monthly, although they’re about the same amount each month, but that’s kind of how we all operate. So I’ve got Jodi, who I co-wrote the book with who writes up my show notes, she writes up my journal articles for the website, she helps me with the newsletter. She does all of that content and some Instagram copy as well. Then I’ve got a team who do my Facebook ads, and we dabble in a few different things, Pinterest ads, and I think we are looking into Reddit. I’m not sure. I don’t go on Reddit, but they’re like, “That’s a new area we’re exploring,” so I just let them… They’ve got a retainer and they kind of play around with different concepts, and they also manage my SEO, so they’re like, “You need to do a journal article that hits these topics to just help the website.” And we’ve just rebuilt the website.
So I’ve got a publicist who works just for me, and so she helps me get outreach and get seen in different articles, and then I’m going to have a book publisher, so that’s another new dynamic of trying to get them to become friends and not step on each other’s toes and kind of share our vision for how we’re going to promote the book. And I’ve got a podcast editor who I haven’t actually met. He lives 15 minutes from here, but we’ve never met, so we’ve got a shared Google Drive.

Pat Flynn:
Wait, what?

Sophie Walker:
Yeah, it’s funny. And he’s also-

Pat Flynn:
I thought you were going to say they live in the Philippines or something, but-

Sophie Walker:
No.

Pat Flynn:
… 15 minutes away?

Sophie Walker:
Yeah, well, he was actually… Due to COVID, he was stuck in Canada for a long time, so he was doing it from Canada, but he’s back now, but we just have a shared Google Drive and I just drop the files in there and he edits them and sends them back. And I think he’s in his 20s and hasn’t had kids, and he listens to these in depth birth stories each week, so I just think that’s funny. He doesn’t comment. He’s like, “It’s in the Drive.”

Pat Flynn:
That is funny.

Sophie Walker:
Yeah, so they’re the main people. I hope I haven’t missed anyone off. Yeah, they’re the main people that work for me, probably, and then my sister’s a photographer, so she shoots a lot of stuff for me. So I get her on board for head shots and house shots and kid shots and things like that.

Pat Flynn:
What’s the hardest part about now having a team versus doing everything yourself?

Sophie Walker:
Just coordinating everyone, I think. And it’s funny, before, when you do things your own way, you don’t even know your method. And now, doing things like Loom, just stopping and thinking of your processes and then relaying that and then… Oh, I didn’t mention, I’ve got a VA who helps out now 10 hours a week who does a bit of email management. I wish she could do 40 hours a week, but she’s got a few other things on her plate. I’m trying to poach Jess off you, but I’ll see how it goes.

Pat Flynn:
Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare.

Sophie Walker:
Oh, she’s amazing. I’m like, “Oh, that was so slick. Yep, I need that system.” Yeah, but I’m enjoying Emily’s really fresh… And she’s like, “Oh, why don’t we try doing it this way?” And I’m like, “That’s a great idea. Go with that. Let’s do that.” So handing over some of the responsibility and just recognizing where your strengths are, it’s like, “Okay, that’s not the best use of my time. And you enjoy doing that really menial data task. How about you do that, and I’ll just focus on the creative content?”

Pat Flynn:
Love it. That’s so great. Some of the challenges with managing can be micromanaging. I know a lot of people who hire, and then they actually spend more time doing things with those hires versus what they initially hired them for, which was to get time back. Have you ever caught yourself or do you find that you’re trying to maybe get too close and work too closely with them and not giving them space, or have you found it easy to just let go and let them do their thing?

Sophie Walker:
I found it easy, but I feel like I’m… It’s interesting. In my line of work, everybody who works for me is all… We’ve all got the same goal of trying to help women and trying to educate women. And we all see it as a positive source, so I feel like my staff go above and beyond and I’m like, “Oh, should you be charging more for that?” We talk a lot. I feel like my lines blur in that we are friends and colleagues, and I’m like, “Are you just doing that because we’re friends?” Or, “You should really bill me for that.” My publicist is really good at… She’s like, “Let me just drop that file into Canva and rework it for you.” And I’m like, “That’s not really in your job description. Maybe you should bill me for that.” She’s like, “No, it’s fine.”

Pat Flynn:
Oh, that’s nice.

Sophie Walker:
So I think that’s probably some blurred lines, but… Yeah, so I’ve become really good friends. So I think we kind of chat a lot. We probably chat too much. I like a good chat and blur the lines of working and friendship, so maybe that’s a challenge where I need to just be a bit clear. I don’t want to overwork them.

Pat Flynn:
How are you communicating with them? Are you using any special tools to do that?

Sophie Walker:
No. It’s funny, I know you’re always like, “Send me a Slack message.” And I’m like, “Oh, I don’t really use Slack.” We tried to use Asana. I was trying to use Asana with my new VA, and then I found that a bit clunky, so now we email each other and we are in the same inbox, so that’s pretty funny. So I’ve got Sophie@AustralianBirthStories and she’s on Hello@AustralianBirthStories, so if I want to talk to Emily, I just email myself, more or less. [inaudible 00:34:40], so it’s probably not the most productive method, but it’s working. And I’ll just be like, “Okay, here’s…” We’ve got a lot of shared Google Drives. That’s kind of just how we manage things, but otherwise, I’ll do a lot of talking on the phone.

Pat Flynn:
Do you have any tips for anybody listening who is about ready to hire? We don’t necessarily need to talk about who to hire first or any of that stuff. We’ve talked about that the year before and there’s great books out there, like Virtual Freedom with Chris Ducker, but when it comes to hiring, for the person who’s about to do it for the first time, do you have any tips or strategies for… It sounds like you’ve found some really good people. How did you find them?

Sophie Walker:
Well, I’ve never put out an ad to look for anyone. I’ve only taken on board people that friends have recommended, so I’ve only gone with a trusted, vetted source. So I’ve been really fortunate in that sense, but I think that’s been my technique, which has really helped. And I think that’s why we’re aligned, because other people are like, “Oh, I know this great girl who’s really interested in that and she’s looking for 10 hours a week.” That’s kind of how I connected with Emily, or Emily had applied for another friend’s job and she said, “I checked all her CVs, all her references and everything, and she was great. And I wish I could have taken her on, but we went with something else.” So yeah, I’ve been very fortunate, because I’ve heard some pretty negative stories and I feel secure. It’s also an unusual thing, giving someone your passwords and letting them see your Stripe account and your revenue and stuff, so it’s really important to trust them and feel connected, and I think I’ve landed on my feet by going through really well-referred people that were well-suited to the task.

Pat Flynn:
That makes sense. Final question here, Sophie, and again, thank you for your time today. This has been an incredible… Actually, two questions. Where can people go to listen to the show? And we talked about the book, but anything you want to plug to find you and follow you? Where should they go?

Sophie Walker:
Yeah, just go to AustralianBirthStories.com and you can access everything there, but Australian Birth Stories, the podcast, is on every good podcast app.

Pat Flynn:
Perfect. And then, finally, I’d love for you to speak to those who are here, who are listening, who are still within those first couple years, still in the car interviewing on the podcast, not quite yet have quit their job or made enough money to do that. What words of encouragement can you offer them to just keep going and find their voice and then hopefully see some amazing opportunities ahead?

Sophie Walker:
Yeah, just back yourself and think about why you’re doing it. And I think, a lot of the time, when I was studying under you, Pat, it was like you were talking about, “The riches are in the niches,” and, “Follow the knitting groups on Facebook,” and all that kind of stuff. I’m not sure if you’re still using those analogies, but I just followed them and I did them. And I used to listen to this podcast religiously and think, “Oh, man, imagine if I hit a million dollars or I had an online course and stuff.” And if you just keep true to why you started it and don’t get excited by the bells and whistles on the side, just think, “I’m doing this because of this, and these are my goals.” And just keep reminding yourself of that. I’ve stayed very much kind of my recipe and the way I do my podcast has not changed since the beginning, and it’s like, why change something that’s working? So I’ve just trusted myself and put one foot in front of the other, and it’s not always easy, but it’s definitely paid off for me. So, yeah, that’s my advice.

Pat Flynn:
Well done, Sophie. This has been an amazing update. Again, you can go and listen to the other episode that we did with Sophie, 432, to get even more background and kind of just get a timestamp back then and compare it to the timestamp now. And I’m sure we’ll have you back on at some point to see how the book did and what else might be going on. And just honestly, I’m super proud of you, Sophie, and for what you’re doing. And it’s very clear, your “why,” and you’ve executed very well, so congratulations.

Sophie Walker:
Thanks so much.

Pat Flynn:
All right, that was an interview with Sophie Walker. Again, her brand, Australian Birth Stories, and her new book now and her podcast… You should go check it out. And she’s just an incredible voice from somebody who’s still keeping it basic, not using all the tools that she could probably use and just has her own style and this amazing team now, as a result. And it’s just fascinating to see how she’s gotten here. And I’m excited because this year and the next, hopefully, we’re going to be working on reducing those hours and having her spend more time with family because she deserves it, and so do you.
So make sure you subscribe so you listen to more great episodes like this coming your way and to session 653. So if you want to get the show notes and the links to this episode or mentioned in this episode, head on over to SmartPassiveIncome.com/session653. Again, SmartPassiveIncome.com/session653. So I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. Thank you so much. Hit that subscribe button so you don’t miss out. And I look forward to serving you in the next episodes. Cheers, peace out, and as always, team Flynn for the win. Have a good one.

Thanks for listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast at SmartPassiveIncome.com. I’m your host, Pat Flynn. Our senior producer is David Grabowski. Our series producer is Paul Grigoras, and our executive producer is Matt Gartland. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. The Smart Passive Income Podcast is a production of SPI Media. We’ll catch you in the next session.


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