From Speech Language Pathologist to Online Entrepreneur with Julia Kuhn SLP 042

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About Becoming an Online Entrepreneur

Transitioning from a traditional career path to an alternative one is not an easy journey, but it can be a rewarding one. Our latest podcast episode features Julia, a Speech Language Pathologist who successfully transitioned to become a travel therapy influencer and online entrepreneur. A desire to travel and a dissatisfaction with her job led her to explore the world of travel therapy. Despite housing contracts and fluctuating income, she was driven by her love for travel and the opportunity to expand her skills and experiences.

Throughout her journey, Julia realized the potential for an online platform to support others in their travel therapy assignments. She launched her digital marketing agency and began creating resources to help other therapists navigate the complex world of travel assignments. Today, she runs a successful online business, offering courses, blog posts, and a job board to those interested in travel therapy.

In this episode, we will learn that the journey to becoming a digital nomad requires a certain level of risk-taking, and the ability to adapt to different working conditions. As an entrepreneur, Julia stresses the importance of networking and gaining the necessary skills for your desired field. She encourages others to be proactive in their job search and to not be deterred by failures.

Julia’s story is a reminder that it’s possible to reshape your career to align with your passions and lifestyle. Whether you’re a therapist looking to transition to an alternative career or someone simply interested in the world of travel therapy, Julia’s journey provides valuable lessons and insights.


Transcript of Becoming an Online Entrepreneur

Intro: 0:01

Welcome to the Rehab Rebels podcast. Are you a rehab professional ready to transition to an alternative career? Hear inspiring stories from others just like you and learn the best ways to bridge your career gap. This podcast has you covered. Now here’s your host, doctor of physical therapy and podcaster, Tanner Wells.

Tanner Welsch: 0:21

Julia, thank you so much for taking the time to come on the show and talk about you and your journeys. As we start all the shows, I will have you introduce yourself a little bit about, maybe, where you graduated from, where you’re from and what you’re doing now, and then we’ll fill in the gaps as we go.

Julia Kuhn: 0:41

Thanks for having me, Tanner. It’s been a long story, I guess. I started my undergrad at Penn State University. I did my graduate work at Emerson College, then I was a speech pathologist. I finished my clinical fellowship in Boston. After finishing my clinical fellowship and working for about a year as a speech pathologist, I started taking travel therapy assignments. This was back in 2010,. Travel therapy is a known term now, I would say. Generally. People at least know what it is. Back then not so much. It was a little bit more secret, a little underground of the therapy world. I started taking travel assignments back then, before it was mainstream. As the internet evolved, I got into this space where I started creating resources for people to take travel therapy assignments. I call myself probably the first travel therapy influencer. I had the first travel therapy Facebook group, been in this space creating web materials courses for a long time. Through that and through taking travel therapy assignments, I also ended up launching my own digital marketing agency. As I created resources online, I realized there was actually a big need in our market for strategy and help in consulting to help other people do the same thing with their businesses and their brands. I run social media and do copywriting and other strategy and consulting as a social media consultant for other people. Now that’s where I am.

Tanner Welsch: 2:24

That’s exciting. That’s very cool. Let’s start with at the beginning. You graduate speech path school and you get a job right out of school. What’s that like? I think you said that you were there for a year and then you transitioned to do and travel therapy. What caused all that to transpire?

Julia Kuhn: 2:42

Yes, when I graduated, my first job was in a skilled nursing facility, which is fairly standard for a lot of medical people. I feel it’s not probably anybody’s dream job, but they hired new grads For me at that time. This was in 2009. The job was actually good. It was a salary job which almost they don’t exist anymore. It was at a skilled nursing facility that had a lot of ortho patients. For me as a speech pathologist, I didn’t have a ton of patients to see. As far as pay went, it didn’t matter. I was never docked on pay. I was salaried. I could hang out on the computers all day or do random stuff if I wanted to, but it wasn’t that challenging of a job. It was boring more than anything. I didn’t have very many patients to see in a day and my coworkers all did. They were all really busy. That was actually why I decided to do travel therapy. I was bored at this job. All I wanted to do was travel. I never had any money going through grad school to take extended trips or spring breaks. I finally had some money not a lot as a therapist, but some enough that I wanted to travel. I was trying to make the most of the 14 paytime off days. I had a year In working that job. That’s when a lot of my coworkers, who are about 10 years older than me at the time, were all saying do travel therapy. This particular SNF actually had a lot of travelers come in. I was working with some and they were saying you might as well do travel therapy. Why are you here? There’s really nothing for your career to grow here. You either have to get a job in a bigger place or a hospital, do something different, or go out and travel to expand your career, expand your skills, and take time off. That’s what landed me into travel. My initial goal was to do what I do now, which is to work as little as possible and take as much time off as possible to travel. But it took me a while to get to the point where I could take really extended amounts of time off with travel, because it takes time to build up money as a traveler and stuff like that. But that’s how I got into it.

Tanner Welsch: 4:53

You touched on something that I’m real curious about you were talking about. It took a while for you to have the income or finances to travel more freely whenever you want. Is that actually about building up this travel website and having it generate some passive income for you so you can take more time off? Is that what you’re referring to there?

Julia Kuhn: 5:15

I was referring to just being able to stack travel assignments and make money and then be able to take time off. So one of the nice things about travel is it tends to pay well. Not always Each assignment definitely pays differently, but in the beginning my goal was oh, I could work an assignment, then I could take a lot of time off. Well, what I didn’t realize back then was there are a lot of costs that come with taking an assignment, and I was also putting a lot of money toward my student loans. So I thought I’d be able to basically in three months, meet all these financial goals, which they weren’t obtainable, but I thought they were. So it took me a while to realize. Ok, if I want to prioritize taking time off in travel. Usually, I worked two to three back-to-back contracts a year. I specifically extended contracts versus starting a new job, because you actually save a lot of expenses by just staying at the same place and not traveling somewhere else. It adds up all the little expenses. So I’d work at one place, maybe six months, nine months, maybe even a year, and then be able to meet enough of the financial goals I had that I could take some time off the last time, before I took off, before even starting the website or anything like that, I think I worked nine months in a row, then took off six to eight weeks, and that was about my limit as far as just being able to handle it financially.

Tanner Welsch: 6:39

You took on this adventure of doing travel therapy. How long were you doing that travel therapy for, and when did the online blog and media start with your travel ventures?

Julia Kuhn: 6:51

So the media started heavily between 2014 and 2015,. So about four to five years into travel and that was actually about the same time that I really started to get the travel hang of things, that I felt I was in this cool place where I would work a couple months, then I would travel a couple months, so I was gaining some momentum and followers from that online as well. This is a pretty cool lifestyle too, as well as just providing general resources about travel therapy. Then that’s when the travel blogging came in and this is maybe a dark turn to the story, because those months that I used to take off and travel the world freely for fun and I went to Spanish immersion programs for a month, I went to Central America, Europe all over. Instead of doing that anymore, I spent those months staring at my computer, working for free. The dark turn of the story I traded traveling for fun to expand my digital skills.

Tanner Welsch: 7:59

Okay, and so, 2014-2015 is around the time, this starts this online entrepreneurial blog website. How long were you doing that? And travel therapy at the same time.

Julia Kuhn: 8:12

To some degree. I mean you could say I still am. I took my last travel therapy assignment about a year and a half ago and I’m definitely not opposed to taking one in the future if it could fit, but I am pretty busy with the online stuff now that I don’t think it would be possible to work a job.

Tanner Welsch: 8:33

Okay, because not only do you have the travel website now, you also have your online copyright marketing, all of these online skills that you’ve built, that you provide services to other people. Okay, that makes sense. So that leads into a natural question what is your schedule or day-to-day life?

Julia Kuhn: 8:54

Well, right now it’s all focused on pretty much working from home and it’s pretty flexible. I honestly don’t have a lot of work. I mean I could if I wanted to be more the four-hour work week guy. I don’t have a lot going on. I feel I’m always pushing myself to do more, so always pushing myself to take on new clients, learn new social media skills, create new content, film new videos. It can be busy. It cannot be busy. I still get up most days around six o’clock more or less, do some exercise, walk my dog, then read emails, figure out what I have to do for the day, usually doing some sort of writing at my computer or creating graphics to post, do that for a couple of hours and then call it quits. I definitely don’t work too hard.

Tanner Welsch: 9:46

It sounds pretty great it sounds like you love this that you just never really considered going full-time anywhere else, because normally there’s a pretty big pain point and a lot of the journeys that I talk to with people on the podcast there’s, well, this, this, and this is why I decided to make this big career lifestyle shift. It sounds like you’re unique in the case that you’re encouraged to do it and you just stuck with it. So I would love to hear you know maybe some of the pros and cons of doing travel therapy versus being stationary at a brick-and-mortar business.

Julia Kuhn: 10:21

There are so many different pros and cons of travel therapy for different people. It all comes down to really what your goals are. There can be a lot of money. You can have assignments paying you per week over $3,000 a week but the con of that is that the assignment might not be in a great location, it might not be something you enjoy, so there can be, or they just might not come up a lot. The last assignment I took, I think I was making about $2,500 a week and that’s after taxes. So you can make a lot of money. You can bank money. You can pay off bills, meet financial goals, take time off. Unfortunately, you can come into debt. I mean the first year I was traveling, rates were lower than I was making maybe $1,400 a week after taxes and I hit some bad financial bumps. This was pre Airbnb being popular, pre a lot of short-term housing websites. I ended up getting caught up in a lease I couldn’t break, owed $4,000 to a housing complex. I left that assignment completely in the red. I didn’t even know what in the red meant until I saw my bank account actually red. It’s black when it’s a positive number, it’s red when it’s negative. So that first assignment just killed me, there’s definitely ways to lose money as well. Your contracts can get cut at any time, which is what happened to me. The contract got cut, they hired somebody, permed I couldn’t get out of a housing lease. So there’s these risks you have to take on. You have to, in my opinion, enjoy the travel, enjoy the adventure of it, that’s a big pro. I love going to new places, love exploring. If you’re more a homebody, you don’t like leaving your family, but you’re doing travel, say, for the money, it can be tough. You can be isolated, and feel alone. Anybody could end up in a really bad job. So travelers are used to fill jobs that can’t get filled by local staff. So you’re rolling a dice in some ways. When you get good at interviewing, you can really vet out the assignments on your own. But sometimes you can just get in a really bad job. Other times the positive is you can land in great jobs and jobs that you really couldn’t even get permed, some of the big hospital systems across the US like Stanford Health and Palo Alto big ones where it might be hard to get a permed job there. They use travelers and it’s a way you could get into a really great hospital system and learn from some amazing people. So pros and cons everywhere travel. I think it just depends on what you’re looking for and the risk and adventure you’re willing to take.

Tanner Welsch: 13:09

I love all that. Thanks for sharing. I have to ask on the website: what can viewers expect if they go there? What are some of the resources there that help them solve some of these travel questions and issues?

Julia Kuhn: 13:23

So the website it’s, and it’ll walk you through everything you need to become a traveling therapist. On one hand, I have a paid course that’s about six hours of material that really hand-by-hand walks you through everything you need to know, things you didn’t think about. But then on the website the free side we have so many blogs and YouTubes. For every informational blog, there’s generally a YouTube attached to it with a video basically answering all your questions about how to find a job, how to find an agency, how to find health insurance, and housing considerations you might not think about for travel, the pros and cons so there’s a wealth of free information there. There’s also a job board, which is growing, where you can actually go to my website and look for jobs on it. So right now I’m hosting all the jobs of one agency and about to put the second agency on it, working on getting a couple more on there, so you can actually go to my website and find jobs too.

Tanner Welsch: 14:32

That’s awesome. It sounds like it’s a one-stop shop for all this stuff. I’m curious how long did it take for this the traveling traveler to start generating income for you?

Julia Kuhn: 14:44

That’s a good question. I guess it depends on what you consider income. So any traveler anybody out there can refer another traveler to their agency and if that traveler works for their agency that they’re working for, they take a job, they can get a referral bonus. So I’m gonna put that aside because that’s something anybody can do, with or without a website. I would say once I had the website running and I hooked up maybe Amazon affiliates, I might have made a dollar within my first year or something. So maybe my first official year in business I made $35 in affiliates off of the website from different places.

Tanner Welsch: 15:37

The reason I’m asking is because I hear it takes for most of these online entrepreneur businesses to come out is two, three years or more, before things are built up and traffic’s going and then these affiliates kick in. Has that been similar to what you’ve experienced? I?

Julia Kuhn: 15:54

think it depends on the social media presence and the brand, what they’re selling. I analyze social media a lot, obviously for my agency, and I constantly see influencers, not so much in the therapy space but in just general spaces that can come out of nowhere and overnight create huge affiliate revenue, not even off of a website, just off of a LinkedIn bio. They just have a TikTok channel and Instagram channel, but they’re selling affiliates over those sources. I do think you could be an overnight success, or maybe it’s not so much overnight, but within a year. I think you could be successful. It can easily take two to three years for a lot of brands to see some revenue come in. Then, on the flip side, there’s people who can never make any income. So it’s not to say that if you give it two or three years, it’s gonna roll in. But there’s also that, and I think a lot of it comes down to what I said in the beginning, which is the brand, the branding and what they’re selling. Are you selling the right affiliates through the right copywriting, the right voice of your website?

Tanner Welsch: 17:18

Yes, I love it Everything that you’re saying. It totally makes sense. So, with your services, do you do some of business strategy or SEO strategy, to maybe see where some of these potential revenue opportunities are within an online business?

Julia Kuhn: 17:36

Yeah, absolutely. I’m focusing mostly on actually the search engines within Instagram and TikTok. So there’s more and more research coming out that younger generations, including myself, are using Instagram and TikTok search over Google search. I find myself doing it all the time. I just moved and I’m moving again the Nomad life and I find myself searching for everything, whether it’s a haircut place, dog grooming, ice cream on Instagram because you want to see the pictures versus Google. So I’ve been putting some more strategy into those search engines, but I also do Google. It can be easier or harder, but I also write SEO-boosted content and work on Google strategy too.

Tanner Welsch: 18:27

Okay, for those that don’t know what SEO stands for, it’s search engine optimization. Basically. In a nutshell, the better SEO you have, the higher rank you get on Google and social and the more views you get because you’re getting more exposure, would you say. That’s right.

Julia Kuhn: 18:43

Yeah, you have to think about if you’re putting something in Google or Instagram, what’s coming up first, Because that’s what’s on the first page. So that’s going to be most likely where you’re going to click to make a sale and Google’s really come to the point where their first pages. It costs almost just so much money for most people to get on those first pages because there has to be so much strategy behind getting there Not in our industry so much. We can still do more natural ways. Agencies charge high amounts to do Google SEO because it can be a very hard thing to do.

Tanner Welsch: 19:26

For sure Makes sense. I got to ask because I’ve been curious as well with traveling what is the best way to do the whole living part. Do you do the Airbnb? Do you get a camper like a fifth wheel you haul around everywhere, or do you do a van life thing? What are some pros and cons and what have you found to be the best for you?

Julia Kuhn: 19:49

Well, again, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer to that. It’s what you want to do. I’ve never done van life, I’ve never done RV. It’s always seemed like too much work for me if something goes wrong, and especially with RV campers. There’s that A lot of people think you save money by doing an RV, but they’re actually quite expensive for the loans for the RVs and the sites that you park them in are actually expensive. They can be $12 and $1400 a month. So I like to do the Airbnb route. I go mostly through a website called Furnish Finder, which specializes in travel nurses. They specialize in what they call midterm rentals, which is that three to nine-month period. I find most of my housing on their website. I’m going to Furnish Finder unit now. I like their website, but Airbnb is also an option too.

Tanner Welsch: 20:44

Cool. I love that. Thanks for the resource. It’s something, too, that I’ve been interested in a long time and I’m glad other people is doing it and you’re the second person I’ve talked to who actually did the same. They did the Airbnb thing and they saw the drawbacks. I think of the fifth wheel or the camper RV, similar to what you said. It costs a lot to run a space. You also have to pay for a vehicle to actually tow this thing around, and then also for the van life. A lot of people, if they don’t necessarily have a shower in the van, they have a gym membership and they have to shower there and they usually have a compost toilet at ZOL. So there’s some really big lifestyle changes that actually go with the van life. I would say, based on what I’m hearing, the easiest way to, I think, to ease into it and keep somewhat of a similar normal lifestyle that we’re used to is definitely renting out the Airbnb or the rooms. What do you feel it takes for someone to be an online entrepreneur or maybe even a freelancer or create their own marketing agency? Any and all that?

Julia Kuhn: 21:41

You need to work and add it and have patience and not give up. That’s first of all. You need to create your skills, which I think any of us can create freelancer skills in some area, whether it’s writing, copywriting, editing, or graphic designing. I think there’s skills that we could all learn online or through other places, so you need to learn the skills. Then you need to have patience and hard work ethic, because getting customers is in clients. It’s going to be a hard thing and that’s why I think it’s so important to do that work on the side as you’re working as a therapist, whether it’s a travel therapist or a full-time therapist, Because the fluctuations of money is a really hard part of freelancing.

Tanner Welsch: 22:35

Ooh, I like that. What is a failure that you’re comfortable and open to sharing? But you overcame and learned from it along this journey that you’ve had graduating from SOP school to getting where you are now.

Julia Kuhn: 22:51

There have been so many times I’ve put money into things that it just ended up seeming like throwing money away, and it happens whether it’s on somebody you hire that’s a contractor, you’ve hired the wrong person. Or last year I invested a lot of money an idea I had to grow out my marketing agency in a different way and that ended up not taking shape. So I think you just you have to just make your mistakes and learn from them and go forward, and a lot of successful entrepreneurs that you think are successful have had a lot of failures because you don’t get to be really successful without taking risks. So I think you’re constantly taking a risk and maybe winning or losing taking a risk, winning or losing but you have to move forward, of course, and you’re always checking yourself, is this worth taking the step forward or should I stop? Yeah, just not letting your failures bring you down, and moving forward is important.

Tanner Welsch: 24:07

I think it’s one of the realist comments I think we’ve had on the show for those in the business owner entrepreneurial spaces. We’ve talked about failures or mistakes being part of the journey. But the reality is being a business owner or entrepreneur is you are going to make financial mistakes along the way, it’s just part of it. It’s just part of the process and you learn as you go and you don’t make those mistakes again and it’s just paying to play. I’ve heard you have to pay to play this financial entrepreneurial role and it’s just part of it. What would you say you’ve realized from this journey, or from SOP school to where you are now?

Julia Kuhn: 24:44

Almost every interaction we have has some degree of marketing in it. Interesting, I’ve landed in marketing, but everything we do as therapists or a lot of it is trying to change our patient’s behavior convincing somebody who doesn’t exercise to exercise, convincing somebody who might have had bad habits in the past with eating or swallowing, to change them to swallow safer. So I think the communication I’ve learned in therapy has helped me be a better marketer. I’ve realized so much as a marketer. So much of what I’ve done in the past is marketing, so I feel that’s been an interesting connection I’ve made over the years.

Tanner Welsch: 25:29

It’s the skill sets that we learn as therapists, and the interpersonal skills that we learn are extremely valuable. It’s fair to say that, no matter what you go into next, there’s something that’s going to be valuable that you gain being a therapist that can be used in whatever that is you’re going to be doing next in your life.

Julia Kuhn: 25:48

Absolutely, and unfortunately, I meet so many therapists who have what seems low self-confidence and their abilities they’re in this box, they’re in this. I’m a therapist, I can only write therapist on my resume, I can only talk about being a therapist in job interviews and those are the only skills I have, when in reality they have so many more skills that are transferrable to so many different jobs but they’re not seeing it that way and then, in turn, they’re not marketing themselves that way and they’re not manifesting jobs into reality. That could happen for them. I think if everyone takes a look at all the skills we have, they transfer to a lot of other positions. If you’re willing to put the work into modifying your resume, modifying your interview and all that.

Tanner Welsch: 26:38

Yes, absolutely. What would you share with others who may be struggling with making a career change? They’re not happy where they are now and they’re looking to do something different, but maybe not sure where to start, because a lot of people, as you know, in the field get burned out or taken advantage of, not compensated for their time and what they’re putting in, and it’s just, man, this isn’t the career that I thought it was going to be. What am I going to do with my life?

Julia Kuhn: 27:05

For those people. I think A just start networking, talking to everybody you know in any way you can, and seeing where they work, what they do. Sometimes you don’t even know what your neighbors do. I meet so many people all the time who get jobs just by networking and telling people. I’m looking for jobs and I’m just talking about in your own community. Also, something I’ve done a lot over the years is just look at Indeed or other job boards online, for my local community, see who’s hiring and what the jobs are and what the skills are for those jobs. So I’ve actually never applied for any in-person jobs in my community, although you know you totally can. But I’ve always looked at what they’ve listed as the recommended skills and if I didn’t have those skills, I worked on getting them if it’s a job that I was interested in, so for me it would be marketing or social media. I worked on building the skills of what top companies are essentially looking for and I ended up building my own business. But if I didn’t, I would be applying to literally all the jobs I could on Indeed and I always say if my business closes down, if I end up failing or if I just want to get back to W2 work, I’m just going to be applying to hundreds of jobs, eventually, the odds are somebody’s going to take me, but I’d just be applying to jobs day and night.

Tanner Welsch: 28:31

Do you see yourself keeping your speech path license and you know in your back pocket as a fallback, or is it something that, in the future, you’re thinking about letting go?

Julia Kuhn: 28:41

That’s a hard question. I don’t know the answer to it. I have it for now and I think I’m just going to reassess every year and see where I am, see where speech pathology is A lot of the reasons I don’t want to work in speech pathology. I feel a lot of therapists can relate to this. But we don’t have research to back up what we’re doing. We have unrealistic productivity expectations. You know we’re not getting respect from other professionals. So you know I think I’d have to evaluate where am I in my own career? And then, where is the whole field in general, has it gotten any better or is it also just declining as a field too?

Tanner Welsch: 29:25

Great points there. Do you have any book recommendations for a rehab? Rebel listeners who you know, maybe in that group where they’re looking to transition to something different, but not sure where, and the group that you know. Maybe they want to go and be an entrepreneur or a business owner or start their own health practice.

Julia Kuhn: 29:44

You know, I don’t have any book recommendations for the not knowing where they are category. That would be a good one to find some stuff on. I do recommend the Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins, which is just a general financial literacy book and it gives you the tools of how to build up, your retirement funds and investments to be able to walk away from work and live off your investments. I think that’s a good read for everybody, especially if you’re thinking about changing careers because it’s okay, how can I have a financial cushion behind me? And then, as far as more getting into social media or marketing, I love anything by Donald Miller. Do you read him? The Storybrand guy?

Tanner Welsch: 30:31

Yeah, that’s what I was going to say.

Julia Kuhn: 30:33

Your questions reminded me of his books. Yeah, so he. Donald Miller, writes a ton of marketing books, a ton of business books. He’s known for the concept of the Storybrand, which is a marketing copywriting skill to use, so he’s one of my favorites. I love “cashvertizing”. That’s a book about writing good advertising copy. It’s older, it’s a fit meant for print media, but a lot of the concepts carry over to the web. Anything by Gary Vee is really good Crushing it, crush it. All those books are good for social media and marketing.

Tanner Welsch: 31:10

That sounds great. I’ve really loved having you on the show. You’re just a wealth of knowledge and I hope everyone has enjoyed this conversation with Julia. I would love to know from you rehab rebel listeners, what has been the biggest takeaway from this episode and if you would want to have Julia come back on for another episode as a subject matter expert in marketing. Let me know, DM me or comment on our social media with your answer. And Julia, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show. It has been a pleasure.

Julia Kuhn: 31:43

Well, thanks for having me.

Outro: 31:45 It’s been fun. Thank you for listening to the rehab rebels podcast. If this podcast was useful, make sure to hit that subscribe button and leave a review. For more information about transitioning to alternative careers, head to rehab rebels dot org or follow us on Instagram at rehab rebels podcast. We’ll see you next time.

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