A lifestyle entrepreneur is someone who uses lifestyle design to create a business that supports their work and personal life goals. Working and living on one's own terms is a key concept in the lifestyle entrepreneur’s playbook, where the accumulation of wealth is a means to an end.
Ultimately, not having to sacrifice personal goals for work and having the freedom to manage one's own time are tenets of the lifestyle entrepreneur's belief system. Practitioners focus on building a business around their life, not the other way around. Personal growth is important and experiences take precedence over financial gains.
The Lifestyle Design Journey
Maybe you like to travel but your work or business keeps you from taking short trips more than once or twice a year. One solution is to design a life where you can make money and travel. It’s not easy but many people with the simple goal of travelling more have done it. When you’re not tied to a particular location because of your business, it’s easier to make travel part of your life.
Maybe you want more time with your children. By finding a way to generate income while working from home, you can enjoy your kids and pay the bills.
Lifestyle businesses are typically designed to create an revenue or income that supports the owners and employees. Lifestyle entrepreneurs are typically not looking to grow their company as fast as possible or make an exit (unless it delivers life-changing returns)
They might not send rockets to the moon like Elon Musk. Luxury sports cars might still be out of reach for even the most successful entrepreneurs. But that’s not the point.
Lifestyle entrepreneurs often have “experiences before things” mentality.
Money is a tool, not the end goal.
Owners of entrepreneurial ventures want to live life on their terms. Maybe they want to travel more, read more books, or learn an instrument. They might be interested in charity work and want more free time to work with charitable causes. Others build businesses to generate a second income.
Money is a tool, not the end goal.
Lifestyle Business vs Startup Grind
Contrast the lifestyle business concept with that of a typical startup business, where the “growth at any cost” mentality runs deep (thanks to a Mr Zuckerberg and his far-reaching advice)
Differences between the two business ‘models’
|Build a business until it reaches a point where further growth adds managerial headaches, risk, and stress. The goal is the automation of procedures so that the business owner can focus on what matters||Growth at all costs (not all startups follow this path, of course, but it's common)|
|In many cases, lifestyle entrepreneurs fly under the radar so as not to attract attention. Drawing attention to your lightweight, low startup cost, drop shipping business only invites competition||Profit is not important – investors pay for the running of the business|
|Their mission is to provide for themselves and their families financially, and to extract themselves from the corporate treadmill. Saving the world is optional||Employees, especially employees are encouraged (forced) to spend most of their waking, and sometimes sleeping lives, working on the startup.|
|Businesses are generally 100% online (but not always) and can function without the owner’s constant attention.||Startups owners, in contrast with lifestyle business owners, shout from the rooftops about their company. Attention-seeking is part of the growth phase.|
|Run the business as long as it supports the desired lifestyle||Exit after an IPO|
Important Steps for starting a lifestyle business
1. Define Your Goals and Values
What do you want to achieve?
Travel, freedom, stable income, more meaningful life, ability to be an entrepreneur, excitement. Whatever it is, you need to define it so that you know what you’re doing this for.
2. Define your audience or avatar
Have a profitable target audience. Don’t try to sell fancy products to minimalists. Or expensive non-essential products to students.
Don’t try to sell fancy products to minimalists!
3. Get a website (not just an social media account)
There’s a lot of dodgy advice out there that goes something like this “websites are dead, Instagram is where it’s at”. In a way, I’m happy to see these people put all their eggs in one very unstable and volatile basket. Putting all of your resources into a platform like Instagram is potentially business suicide. Anything that Facebook owns (Facebook is the parent company of Instagram) is liable to see hundreds of algorithm changes, policy changes, and practises that downright punish creators from time to time.
Building your business on someone else’s land might mean that you pay dearly for the privilege later on.
You own the platform that your website lives on. You might not own the server but you can certainly move your intellectual property to another server. Try doing that with your Instagram account. Sure, you’re at the mercy of Google’s algorithm but as long as you follow proven methods for building a presence through content, you should still be here when the ‘grammers are long gone.
4. Market, market, market
Marketing is going to be key in this noisy world. You can make the best product in the world, but you’re not Apple, so you need to get your message in front of your ideal audience.
The “build it and they will come” only works in Field of Dreams. This rarely works with online businesses. Word of mouth is great but it’s just one form of marketing. With all of the different marketing channels at your fingertips these days, there’s no excuse for not trying to maximise at least one of them.
In his book “how to be a capitalist without any capital”, Nathan Latka talks about copying proven business models. Don’t try to create a new market unless you have a stack of cash to educate this market. Sell to people who already know what they want. Again, ignore the model of “create something that people don’t know they need” only works for Apple.
5. Follow your passion, or don’t!
Many entrepreneurs believe that the only way to succeed is by being completely consumed by a love for the work you do. Don’t get lulled into this trap that you might never dig yourself out of. Many more people have made businesses out of work they were not passionate about but grew to enjoy to some extent. What drives them is the desire to live on their terms. You don’t need a passion for work, you need a passion for life.
Your passion is having the lifestyle you want.
6. Automate & Delegate
If you want more time, you’ll need to automate. That’s not just something for ecommerce owners or SaaS business owners. Freelancers, agencies, and many other “labour-intensive business categories can be automated. It takes some work but it’s something you should be thinking of right from the start.
1. Zapier, Integromat, IFTTT, email automation tools, and other amazing automation tools can take out the boring, repetitive work.
2. Outsourcing repetitive tasks to overseas workers on sites like OnlineJobs.ph, Fiverr, and Upwork can be a great way for you to start focusing on what grows the business. Work on the business, not in it if you want this to be a lifestyle that fulfils you.
Popular lifestyle entrepreneurs
For many people, the man who started the journey of location independent business owners was Tim Ferriss. Tim ran an online supplement company while travelling (and paying scant attention to his business) before anyone else was doing it.
Tim has since moved on to bigger things. He’s not looking to start a niche company that gives him an income $10,000 a month, but maximising his personal time is still a priority.
The success of Tim’s seminal book The Four Hour Workweek puts him in the high-earner category. His brand is almost like a startup. He could walk away from it all, but he can’t sell his brand.
Sean Ogle, owner of Location Rebel, is another great example of someone who lives a no-fixed location life while running several businesses. Sean continues to start businesses that compliment his lifestyle. He likes golf so he started a successful golfing website, one that no doubt earns him affiliate commissions and free golf club access. He likes cocktails. Guess what? Yes, a website about cocktail bars. One with a twist (no pun intended) where the goal in to visit the top 100 bars in the world.
Of the original voices in the niche website movement. Pat started a blog about teaching people how to pass an architecture exam. He used content marketing & SEO to drive traffic to the website and he monetised the website by selling products that help people pass exams. The idea worked and he made enough money to support himself and his family.
Pat then started the Smart Passive Income blog to teach others how to do the same. This website has surpassed his original project in terms of revenue and reach. He’s now one of the personalities most people associate with niche websites, passive income, and making money online.
An entrepreneur who built a business around travel, Chris Guillebeau quit his boring job to live his own life and travel to every country in the world before he was 35. Chris maintains the following philosophy: “You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect”.
For Chris, travel comes first and foremost. His book The $100 Startup is a good introduction to the world of side hustles and money-making ideas that don’t eat up your precious time.
Interesting & unique Lifestyle Businesses
This is my favourite part. I love looking at what people have done to build themselves projects that sustain them and give them freedom to live the lives they want to live.
- The objective is not to get venture capital funds and grow to a billion-dollar company
- The business should free up your time to travel and explore other interests in your life.
- The business allows for “off” time.
A service that lets people send potatoes with inscriptions on them to friends and family. Potato Parcel is a perfect example of a crazy business idea that worked. It might seem like a daft concept but Alex Craig, the owner, is laughing all the way to the bank. From my estimations, the site gets upwards of 50,000 visits a month. And a news article from two years ago put his monthly revenue at $10K. It’s probably more like $20k now considering a new owner and a team are behind it.
Chen fixed his dire financial situation and created a million-dollar company in the process by testing and eventually building out a photo to painting service online.
It’s a brilliant idea and the execution was simple: a one-page website with a payment button. Nothing else to it. But it has enabled Chris to managed to build a business he can outsource entirely.
For more ideas, drool over the incredible businesses profiled on Starter Story.
Where to find lifestyle businesses for sale
The best way to create a successful lifestyle business is to build one yourself. Starting a business gives you an understanding of what makes it work that nobody else will have. However, not everyone can spend years launching ideas to find an idea that works. One way to bypass the validation stage, at least, is to buy a business that’s already making money.
But probably the best place to find a business for sale is through your network. The more you talk to real digital nomads, entrepreneurs, and lifestyle design fans with successful businesses, the easier it will be to find deals when they arise. You’ll also get a better appreciation for the kinds of lifestyle businesses that work.
I’ve started several lifestyle businesses and am always interested in chatting more about them. But what’s your idea and why do you think it would work?