I never intended to start a lifestyle business. It’s just the corporate world wasn’t for me and I needed a job.
Looking back on my 20+ years as a business owner, I can clearly see how all the choices I made were to fulfill two main goals:
- Build a successful micro business (I never wanted to build a corporate empire)
- Have the flexibility to be the kind of mom, wife, and woman I wanted to be
Everything since we started our business and a family has been a balancing act. It’s always been how can I be both a business owner and mom at the same time. I wasn’t trying to meet anyone’s expectations of what a successful business owner and mom looked like. I was just trying to create the life I wanted to live.
And so can you.
- What is a Lifestyle Business?
- How to Start a Lifestyle Business: Find Your Focus
- Building Your Dream Lifestyle Business Plan
- Find Your Lifestyle Business Zen
- Successful Lifestyle Businesses Start with the Right Plan!
What is a Lifestyle Business?
Here’s the secret to a successful lifestyle business: no one gets to define your business but you.
It’s about choosing your priorities and building a business around them. In the beginning, all my priorities were wrapped up in my family. My kids were young and I didn’t want them in daycare (no judgments, that’s just what I wanted). Now that my kids are grown up, my priorities have changed. My lifestyle business allows me to spend time at our camp, be involved in social, environmental and political activism in my community, and have time with my family.
Maybe you want to travel or live off the grid. Maybe you want to focus on social causes. Or maybe you have health issues that make working a traditional full-time business challenging. Your lifestyle business will allow you to make money without sacrificing your life’s main priorities.
Think of it as a business with a purpose, but you define what that purpose is.
How to Start a Lifestyle Business: Find Your Focus
Starting a lifestyle business is just like starting any other business. First, you start with an idea. Check out 110+ Great Side Business Ideas (ULTIMATE GUIDE) if you want inspiration. Other than that, it’s almost the same. Except your lifestyle priorities are written into your business plan.
Here’re are four popular examples:
The Stay at Home Mom
Priority: Have more time with family
Lifestyle Business Focus: Flexibility
Your family is your first priority. You want to put them on the bus and tuck them in at night. But you still need to pay some bills. Your business plan would include flexibility along with profitability. You would set up your business schedule only when you could work, maybe nights or weekends. You wouldn’t focus on travel, but perhaps on local or online ventures. It would be like having your cake and eating it too.
Priority: Work anywhere
Lifestyle Business Focus: Location independence
You want to see the world! And with a little luck, never set foot in an office again. Your priority may include setting up a digital platform that could be accessed from any location with wifi. It would also include building a business that didn’t require you to meet people in person unless it was in your favorite cafe or on a tropical beach. Your business would go wherever you are and work exactly the same from any location.
The Creative Dreamer
Priority: Getting paid for a creative passion
Lifestyle Business Focus: Time to create and make a profit
At your core, you’re an artist with a big dream. Whether it’s publishing a book or selling your artwork, you have something to share with the world. Your lifestyle business would be based on having enough time to create your art and not just on business. This one’s tricky because creative businesses are still businesses and need to be profitable. But a lifestyle creative business will be built on the premise that your artistic endeavors are always a top priority.
Priority: Business with a purpose
Lifestyle Business Focus: Profits to charity, build awareness of a social cause
You don’t want a regular business. Instead, you want to change the world. Your passion giving back, but you think you’ll do more good as a for-profit business than a non-profit employee. Your entire business plan is built on finding ways to funnel money and bring awareness to the cause of your choice. It’s the ultimate feel-good job because you’re finding ways to make a real difference in the world and pay your bills!
These are just a few examples, but there are no limits on the kind of lifestyle business you can build. Just stick to what works for you, and not be defined by any other business ideal.
Building Your Dream Lifestyle Business Plan
There are a million “how to start a business” articles out there. There are a million plans of action and checklists to take you through the nitty gritty of starting your own business. That’s the easy (ish) stuff. What’s really challenging is figuring out how to incorporate your lifestyle focus into your business in a way that meets your goals and is profitable.
Here’re a few ideas to keep in mind when building your new lifestyle business plan:
Don’t Judge on Profits Alone
The term “lifestyle business” is one that is created specifically to support the owner’s personal and income requirements. It’s not created with a “profits above everything else” mindset.
George Cloutier, author of Profits Aren’t Everything, They’re the Only Thing, believes profit is the only reason to start a business. While there can be no business without profit, the driving force behind a business doesn’t need to be financial. A true lifestyle business isn’t black and white. It’s not huge profit or failure. It’s about finding a balance between living your dreams and being financially secure.
Yes, you need to make enough money to cover your bills. But that doesn’t mean you’ll sacrifice your happiness to make more money than you need. Always judge on both profitability and how close you are to living your perfect lifestyle.
Make it Your Own
Some people don’t get lifestyle businesses. And that’s okay. They will call you a stay-at-home mom or a part-time business owner. It’s like you can’t be both at the same time. Or maybe you’re a loser who has a lot of potential you’re not using. You coulda been the next Wolf of Wall Street…
It’s just that they don’t get it.
Make your business make sense to you and create a lifestyle business definition of your own. It doesn’t matter if anyone else on the planet understands. You get it. Forget the doubters and make your own path. Build your business your way.
This means you can work from midnight to 6 am if that works for you. You can work at the beach, cafe or a bar. It means you get to define what your business looks like.
It’s all your’s baby!
Find Your Lifestyle Business Zen
Here’s where all your good intentions meet reality: a business is a business is a business.
That means if your lifestyle business is your sole mode of money, you can’t afford to overlook business when your life gets chaotic. It doesn’t matter if you’re independently wealthy (and you’re probably not reading this post if you are!) because you’re not wondering how you’re going to eat this week.
What does matter is finding the right balance between business and your lifestyle focus. Here’re a few key concepts to keep in mind:
It’s a Never-Ending Balancing Act
Managing and growing a lifestyle business isn’t an easy process. It’s a constant balancing act between your life and your business. Every day you have a choice of what to focus on and sometimes that means business and sometimes it means life.
Here’s an example from my own business:
My lifestyle business focus has evolved from raising my kids to volunteering as much time as I can on social, environmental and political causes. And I don’t get paid for doing any of that stuff even when it ultimately helps my students.
This week I have a press conference, leadership summit, and planning meeting to attend. I also have 13 classes to teach plus about 45 assignments to grade. My heart wants to do everything but there is only so many hours in the day. I have to make choices.
And in my case, it will probably be a choice of not doing the dishes and pretending my laundry baskets are invisible.
This is just one week and one example. A fellow lifestyle business owner has to juggle 4 outsourced writers from his mobile phone while traveling to a conference this week. Another has to figure out last-minute daycare for a sick 3rd grader. Just remember that you’ll always be in balancing mode and you’ll never stop having to make these kinds of choices.
Make Contingency Plans Now
The only way a lifestyle business works is if you’re really good at planning ahead. In Can Your Business Survive Your Personal Life?, I shared:
I wrote Keep Moving Forward – How Walt Disney Taught Me to Move Past Tragedy & Heartbreak in an effort to show how life can shatter your personal world and can also cripple your business at the same time. It’s one of the reasons I write about preparing your business for any eventuality, including life-altering events. It’s always my hope that you never have to experience this pain. But if you’re self-employed long enough, something will happen in your personal life and your business will suffer.
That’s just how life works.
Life circumstances can impact your health, both mental and physical. You could be tired, depressed, sick, angry, stressed, or unfocused. You could become distant, irrational and irresponsible, which is a recipe for business disaster. I want your business to weather whatever storm you face, not be an unfortunate victim.
Every business, whether lifestyle focused or not, needs a contingency plan. The foundation of the plan depends on your life, business structure, and financial situation. Start creating your plan while you’re starting your business, not after.
Make it part of your overall business strategy. Because your new business may not survive if you don’t.
Successful Lifestyle Businesses Start with the Right Plan!
Your priorities may be your family, traveling, or finding time to volunteer. The concept of a lifestyle business is to create a business that supports your unique goals and dreams. Working 60 hours a week on a business is stressful and frustrating. Plus it puts a huge strain on your health and well-being.
The key to creating a lifestyle business is to develop time-saving strategies and systems so you don’t have to work your fingers to the bone. It’s about making smart choices and designing a business that supports your personal needs.
If you want to run a successful business and live a well-balanced life, you can create a business designed to fit your unique situation. With the right strategy, tools, and support, you can truly create a successful business without sacrificing any aspect of your life.