As a child of immigrant Vietnamese parents who sought a new life in Australia, Trang Nova was taught to take the safe path – get a good education, a stable job after university, and live a comfortable, financially secure life. So she completed her studies in physiotherapy and began her career in the field with a side business in personal training. But just a few years into her practice, she felt this intense longing to do something impactful beyond her current profession.
Fast forward to six years later, and Nova is running a successful mentoring business that fulfills her calling to help people find and pursue their life’s purpose. Let’s take a look at her journey from confused physiotherapist to confident business owner and learn about the systems, people, and tools that helped her along the way. Don’t forget to check out her Productivity Stack Quick Reference and her recommended Read-Listen List at the end of the article.
Table of Contents
- Scaling and Success
- Hindsight: What Nova would have done earlier
- Wrap Up
- Nova’s Productivity Stack Quick Reference
- Nova’s Read-Listen List
- More About Trang Nova
Challenge 1: Figuring out how to make an impact
Nova had barely started her physiotherapy career a few years out of college when a seemingly small incident triggered a quarter-life crisis.
“One particular morning when I was 24 years old, I had gotten out to go for a run. And when I stepped out onto the sidewalk, I stepped on a snail. For some reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. This really got me thinking for the months that followed about how much of a footprint I actually can have. I’d always known that I have a footprint, but I never truly emotionally cared until now. And it felt like this weight of responsibility on my shoulders. I felt like I needed to become more and do more in my lifetime.”
It wasn’t an easy time finding her way forward, though. She was confused for a long time, trying to figure out what kind of work could give her that sense of purpose and allow her to make a bigger impact. Should she start a non-profit, get into activism, or volunteer work?
Solution: She stayed on with her day job as a physiotherapist and continued to build her personal training business on the side as she worked her way through this existential crisis. She had a business mentor at that time helping her grow her training business, and so she brought up this burning question: What should I do?
Her mentor asked her to consider that maybe she didn’t have to be on the front lines of ‘changing the world.’ She could find a way to make a difference by working behind the scenes, addressing the issues underlying a lot of personal and societal problems.
“And that blew my mind. My strengths were already in the realm of influence and inspiring people because I was working with patients and coaching my personal training clients. I could work in that realm and actually go to the root cause of all these challenges the world is facing. That’s why I started to go into mindset coaching. I started to expand my coaching just from physical training to mindset so that people can be more conscious; they can be more aware of their thoughts, their feelings, their actions.”
People: Nova, business mentor
Systems: Continuing with her day job and part-time business while figuring out what to pursue next, working with a business mentor
Challenge 2: Transitioning her personal training business to mindset coaching
Branching out to a new type of coaching and a new business model had its own challenges. The rebranding and transition was not a straightforward process where she knew exactly what her next steps were going to be. There was a lot of back and forth and a lot of fear. She also lost some clients who were only interested in the physical therapy and personal training service she provided.
Solution: Nova didn’t rush this phase and, looking back, says she is now a big proponent of gradual transitions. She rebranded in a way that built on her physiotherapy and personal training practice. She offered mindset coaching to her physio and personal training clients who wanted to take a step further in personal development. In addition to this, she had already built a solid Instagram presence. These made it possible to have a steady stream of clients even in her first twelve months of transitioning her business.
It took a few years before Nova completely discontinued her physio and personal training services. In that time, to better support clients who sought purpose and meaningful change in their lives, she also expanded her offerings to include business mentoring and speaking on topics such as purpose, authenticity, performance, and self-belief.
In 2019, she started moving her mentoring services online, luckily right before the pandemic. The lockdowns actually boosted her business, as people sought connection and support during those times of isolation and uncertainty.
People: Nova, her physio and personal training clients
Systems: Building on an established brand to introduce a new service, promoting her new offer to her current network and clients, daily posting and engaging on social media
Challenge 3: Distribution: How to manage a social media presence as a solopreneur
As Nova focused on her mindset and business mentoring venture, social media, particularly Instagram, became more and more important to her distribution and lead generation. But the amount of time and energy needed to create content and engage on the different platforms was a lot.
Nova shares, “I have been in a place in the past where I was on there every day – creating new pieces of content [and posting them on the same day]. And it would consume me. I wanted to make quality content, so it would be maybe one and a half hours each day trying to think of a piece of content, then creating the content and then posting it and engaging.”
Solution: She spent a few years toughing it out with this daily system before finding a better way. She began batching her content creation to one day per week. On this day, she gets into a creative state and writes out all the copy for the following week’s posts. She also hired a couple of virtual assistants, one to create graphics for her posts and one to manage the social media posting. She just hands over the weekly content to them, and they take care of the rest.
“I don’t have to think about social media for the rest of the week, other than still going on every day to post some stories and to engage. But it’s not something that consumes my mental capacity day to day.”
Nova had previously hired contractors from Fiverr to do one-off jobs, but it was only recently that she hired team members from Onlinejobs.ph for ongoing work. Before recruiting her social media team, she also hired a virtual assistant to handle the more general business and personal administrative tasks. “The VA has been a game changer for productivity, for personal management of time.”
With this small team in place, she uses Asana to coordinate workflows and store social media content. For quick communication where there is a lot of back and forth, they use Facebook Messenger.
People: Nova, graphics designer, social media assistant, virtual assistant
Systems: Batching content creation, delegating some aspects of social media management
Scaling & Success
Challenge 4: Productizing her offerings
Nova started her business offering live coaching, mentoring, and retreat packages, in one-on-one and group formats. But being the sole operator and face of the business meant she always had to be present to lead all these live sessions. How did she scale up to gain more time freedom while continuing to serve a bigger audience?
Solution: After about five years in the business, Nova had enough experience, know-how, and confidence to put out on-demand versions of her workshops. She recalls, “It was like a slow burn in terms of how I was learning to do things and how I understood entrepreneurship. I had enough revenue, I’d been doing this full-time for a few years. I now had enough systems in place that I could have the time capacity to think a bit more forward and think more long-term.
When I started to offer digital products, they allowed me to expand the business and have multiple streams of revenue without necessarily always being in it or without constantly raising my prices, either. [Digitizing allowed me to] make different offerings accessible to different populations.”
People: Nova, graphics designer, social media assistant, virtual assistant
Systems: Productizing her mentoring sessions into on-demand digital products
Challenge 5: Time management: Working in the business vs. on the business
As her business expanded, Nova needed to step into the CEO role and manage that alongside the client work. What systems have helped her effectively divide her time and focus on working in the business vs. on the business?
Solution: Nova implemented three concepts she picked up from Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek. First is batching similar states or similar tasks. We see this in how she pools together all her social media content creation work to a specific time once a week. She also batches her client-facing work and podcast recordings on just three days – Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays. The rest of the week, she devotes to working on the business.
The second tactic is timeboxing, which is a productivity technique of setting a deadline to complete tasks. Unlike time blocking, where the main aim is to carve out and dedicate time for particular tasks, timeboxing is intended to motivate you to finish the task within a timebox. The limited amount of time to meet a particular goal helps you focus and avoid procrastination and open-ended to-do lists that just keep getting shifted to later dates. Nova tells us, “Timeboxing has been so helpful to really squeeze as much as possible out of every single day.”
Lastly, she limits external distractions like email and social media throughout the workday. She sets about an hour in the mornings and another 15-20 minutes in the afternoons to go through email and then engage and connect with followers on social media. Outside these time slots, she stays off these platforms.
She also credits her VA for giving her a productivity boost. “My VA has helped me a lot, as well. I’ve been able to outsource anything that I don’t have to be organizing [myself] or anything that can be systemized; she can [handle].”
People: Nova, virtual assistant
Systems: Batching tasks or similar states, timeboxing, limiting email checks to 2x a day, outsourcing organizing and systematized tasks to VA
Challenge 6: Adjusting to digital nomad life
Just this year, Nova was able to pursue another passion while running her business – traveling, and chasing new experiences and adventures. At the time of the interview, she had been living the digital nomad life in Bali, Indonesia, for about four months.
She talked about the challenge of shifting her routines and systems while being constantly on the move. “I moved a total of 19 times in the first two and a half months. I thought I would continue working at the level of intensity and volume that I have always done, which is a lot because I love what I do. So I’m happy to do 10, 12 hour days, five, six, seven days a week even. So I just assumed that I’d be doing that, but also be traveling, be moving around, be adventuring.
And I quickly found out that did not work. Because I hadn’t planned this very well, I was in this kind of gray zone of wanting to travel and wanting to do all these things because that’s why I packed up and went overseas. But also, it’s so important to me to be serving my mission as well.”
Solution: Nova figured out a way to integrate both her business and love for travel into a more sustainable system. She would dedicate three weeks to the business, staying in one place for the period and working at a high level of intensity. She schedules her one-on-one mentoring calls during this period, which works out well because she only meets with each client weekly for three consecutive weeks at the start of the month. Then for the other one or two weeks after that, she shuts down the laptop and goes on road trips and other adventures like climbing volcanoes and waterfalls.
“I had to learn how to experience the swings of polarity, of the stability, of the focus, as well as the adventure and the experiences. What I’ve landed on for me is really swinging from one extreme to the other and being able to have both, but just at different times. I think everyone does this differently. I know a lot of digital nomads or entrepreneurs who do both simultaneously. They’ll move frequently, and they’ll also be working at a pretty high level.”
Aside from scheduling her “on” and “off” weeks, she had to make a few other practical and equipment-related preparations. Because she hosts her own podcast (The Aligned Performance) and does virtual mentoring sessions, excellent internet connectivity is crucial. For her “on” weeks, she makes sure to be in a location with great internet services and possibly a co-working space. Learning from past experience too, when her AirBnB Wi-Fi was slow and spotty, she has started using Riverside, which records podcast video and audio locally on your device as a backup to internet disruptions.
And she made it a point to make room in her luggage for her equipment. “I have a full suitcase plus another bag because I have my ring light, and I have my Rode microphone with the boom arm. I want to have the tools because a lot of my work is online. I want to ensure that [I’m putting out quality work].”
People: Nova, virtual assistant, social media assistant and graphics designer
Systems: Creating her own digital nomad schedule: a monthly plan where the first three weeks are dedicated to business and the next one or two weeks for travel
Tools: Instagram, Asana, Facebook Messenger, AirBnB and co-working spaces with excellent internet connectivity, boom arm like Rode Professional Studio Arm, Rode mic, ring light like Cyezcor Lighting Kit, Riverside,
Challenge 7: Dealing with Imposter Syndrome
Even at the current stage of her business, Nova still has moments where her confidence takes a hit. She shared one particularly awkward experience, where she was doing a live talk with a simultaneous live stream on the topic of imposter syndrome. During a moment of silence, as she paused to emphasize a point, someone in the online audience blurted out for everyone to hear, “Ugh, what a load of crap!” Nova was so embarrassed she rushed through the rest of that talk and drove home nearly in tears.
Solution: She quickly went into introspection and processing mode that same night. “We are humans, and we are feeling beings; we are going to feel the emotions with these types of events. But we [also] have the capacity to process [these events] through our logic and reasoning.”
She journaled about the incident and tried to think objectively about what just happened. She had to remind herself that her service may not be for everyone, but there were many more in the audience who appreciated what she shared, and she should focus on them. She reminded herself that accomplished international speakers, those speaking alongside Gary Vee or Matthew McConaughey, have just as many harrowing stories as the one she went through.
She also looked at the incident as an indicator of her progress. “To get through the summit of Mount Everest, you have to go through those stages. No one would be hating my speech if I hadn’t even gotten to the point where I was standing in front of a group of people doing a talk. It’s reaffirming that I am on the right path, and I am doing pretty well.”
Systems: Journaling and processing intense emotions
Tools: Notebook for journaling like Moleskine
Hindsight: What Nova would have done earlier
Nova thinks she could have progressed faster if she hadn’t limited herself to working with just business mentors as she was building her business. In hindsight, she would have immersed herself with other entrepreneurs and started networking with and learning from other business owners across different industries much earlier. “All the years it took for me just to start outsourcing, just to start putting systems into play – [those] probably would have happened earlier [if I had gotten] my head around all the different ways of doing things.”
Nova’s entrepreneurial journey is a living example of what she guides her clients to do – finding their calling and creating a life of meaning by pursuing it. It was a gradual process (a ‘slow burn’ in her words) from the inception of the mindset coaching business to rebranding and fully transitioning away from physiotherapy and personal training. But the years-long building up of the business allowed her to learn by testing and doing and to build confidence without burning out or experiencing some overwhelming crisis.
She gave us an insight into how she processes difficult situations that could potentially trigger a confidence breakdown. Journaling, assessing an incident objectively, and zooming out to see the bigger picture are very helpful in working through times when we are discouraged, and imposter syndrome is threatening to take over.
Her recent leap into the digital nomad life was a learning opportunity about flexibility and finding out what systems work best for her. Running a six-figure business while making time for adventuring in another continent away from home certainly would not have been possible if she hadn’t learned to delegate and set up systems to streamline the way she did things.
We wish her the best as she prepares for the next chapter in her entrepreneur-digital nomad life exploring Europe. We hope she always has great Wi-Fi and plenty of inspiring new adventures!
Nova’s Productivity Stack Quick Reference
Scaling & Success
- Video hosting service for the virtual workshops/on-demand workshops
- The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferris
- Facebook Messenger
- AirBnB and co-working spaces with excellent internet connectivity
- Boom arm like Rode Professional Studio Arm
- Rode mic
- Ring light like Cyezcor Lighting Kit
- Notebook for journaling like Moleskine
Nova’s Read-Listen List
- The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferris
- $100M Offers: How To Make Offers So Good People Feel Stupid for Saying No by Alex Hormozi
- Dan Priestley
More About Trang Nova
Trang Nova is a mentor and speaker for women who are hungry to pivot careers and build their dream business, so they can live out their potential and purpose with freedom and fulfillment.
In her mid-20s, Trang experienced a quarter-life crisis that led her to leave the sports industry so she could help women not just as athletes but as human beings.
Now, Trang is determined to help others step into their greatest power and thrive in their lives of impact. Ultimately, she believes that when enough individuals are thriving, then humanity will thrive. And when humanity thrives, then the world can thrive for all forms of life and future generations.
To work with Trang or find out more about her services, please check out: