What Is a Lifestyle Business And Is it Right For You?
A job doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Here’s why.
They say you either live to work or work to live. But why not a little bit of both?
There are many types of career paths a person can take. Some are well-established trajectories like the consulting industry that use a formulaic process for career advancement. While other careers such as starting a company are uncertain and require a figure it out as you go mindset.
At various points throughout life, it’s common to ask yourself - what do I want out of life? Do I want to follow the herd or set off on my own like a lone wolf?
But these are usually tough questions to answer. Especially given that the career choices we face come with unique tradeoffs. And these tradeoffs change as we move through different stages of life.
Standardized jobs provide us with a sense of security and well being but force us to submit our time and decision making to organized hierarchies. This type of choice might make sense if we have a family to provide for or a significant debt to pay off. On the other hand, entrepreneurial work provides unique freedoms and creative outlets but comes at the cost of both job and income security. Entrepreneurship might seem more ideal for a young and single person with limited responsibilities.
At the root of our career path decision process is a fundamental question about our hopes and aspirations for a quality life. Most people believe there isn’t much choice in the matter. After all, the idealized concept of modern entrepreneurship is that you create a unicorn business and sell it for millions or billions of dollars. But this is a rare outcome, and most of us don’t have the drive to create a unicorn within us.
In reality, though, entrepreneurship takes on many forms. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly common for people to build what’s called a lifestyle business as an alternative to standardized career paths.
But what exactly is a lifestyle business and is it right for you?
What is Lifestyle Business?
A lifestyle business is a company started by an individual that seeks to earn income to support a particular lifestyle. The goal isn’t necessarily to become the biggest organization in the world, raise capital, or take silicon valley by storm. Instead, it’s a business built to support the founder's ideal lifestyle.
It’s a marriage and compromise between the mindsets of living to work and working to live. Finding a balance of personal freedoms and quality of life with risk management and personal ambition.
Interesting Examples of a Lifestyle Business
- Vending Machine Operators
- Selling an information product and/or being an affiliate for someone else
- Consulting — for fresh college grads, this could mean finding companies with entry-level job postings, identifying the hiring manager, and selling consulting services
- Selling custom WordPress templates
- Building eCommerce stores on Shopify or Etsy and either operating them or selling them
- White labeling successful products
- Starting a recruitment agency
- and anything that you believe a niche community will value
As an Entrepreneur, You Don’t Have to Be An Apex Predator
The important differentiator of a lifestyle business and a high flying entrepreneur is that you don’t have to be the best at what you do. You don’t need to focus on being number one in your field. You don’t need to focus on total addressable market size, the ability to achieve scale, and how you’re going to woo investors.
When you build a lifestyle business, you’re not aiming to be the apex predator. Instead, you’re aiming to be good enough to attract clients and generate enough income to fulfill your lifestyle goals.
With this mindset, you become less of a threat to the other real apex entrepreneurs that are out there. If you’re less of a threat, you might even be able to build a mutually beneficial relationship with up and coming entrepreneurs. It’s like being a Pilot fish. You follow the big shark entrepreneurs around, providing services for them, and eating up the scraps they leave behind.
Many young companies rely on freelance work to manage their costs before they hire full-time team members. This is an ideal opportunity for lifestyle entrepreneurs that want to cultivate client based work.
How To Set Up A Lifestyle Business
- Determine what type of life you want to live by understanding your short, medium, and longterm goals (it’s ok if you don’t have long term goals)
- Figure out your unique skillset using Scott Adams’ Career Advice
- Take your lifestyle goals and figure out how much you would need to earn on a monthly basis to support that life (don’t forget healthcare, I definitely did)
- Using your monthly income number and your unique skill set, reverse engineer a business around that competency — ie: determine the product, service, and pricing mix you would need to hit that monthly goal
- The business doesn’t have to be something your passionate about, but it could be if you want
- Start now, commit to building to your goal, and settle in for the long haul — it can take a lot of time to build a lifestyle business
The Bottom Line — Your Lifestyle is Your Choice
Here’s the bottom line, you don't have to feel trapped in a career that doesn’t provide the lifestyle you want. Instead, you should identify your goals and establish the price tag for that lifestyle. Once you know the cost of the life you want, you can build a modest business around your skills and passions. It’s not as risky as normal entrepreneurship and it often leads to an incredibly rewarding life.
The best part is that it’s never too late to start.