Since my wife became pregnant with our first child in 2007, I’ve created 3 different lifestyle businesses, an ecommerce store selling wedding linens, a blog about entrepreneurship and a course on how to start an online store.
And these businesses were created so my wife and I could spend more time with these two.
For all of you who are unfamiliar with the terminology, a lifestyle business is a business that you can run on the side to earn extra money so that you don’t feel obligated to work your day job.
And the primary difference between a “lifestyle business” versus what I call a “true startup company” is that a lifestyle business requires a much smaller time commitment and can be heavily leveraged to make the best use of your resources.
The best part is that if all goes well, you can make enough money to quit your day job altogether and focus on doing the things that you love.
However, the one downside with a “lifestyle” business is that it will probably never result in you becoming filthy rich. Sure it’s possible but highly unlikely. But who needs to be filthy rich anyways?
The most important things in life come from spending time with those that you love, not slogging away at some company…unless of course your startup company happens to be what you are the most passionate about.
The Power Of A Lifestyle Business
My wife and I started our ecommerce store so that she could stay at home with our kids and be there for them as they grew up. Our store made over 100K in profit during our first year and has grown in the double and triple digits since.
I started my blog in 2009, and while it did not make much money in the first two years, it has already made 6 figures this year and the year isn’t even over yet.
Next year, the blog will probably surpass my day job salary. It already has.
Similarly, my online store course has seen triple digit growth since it launched a year ago.
I run all of these businesses at the same time and still work my full time job. And the truth is that I don’t even feel like I’m working my butt off. I have plenty of free time to spend with my kids and I hang out with my family and friends a heck of a lot.
Even though I’m pretty happy with where I am right now, it was definitely not a smooth and easy path. So today, I thought that I’d share with you 12 things that I learned while creating my online businesses.
Find Out What You Are Good At And Focus On It
Most businesses try to spread themselves too thin and as a result, they don’t do anything particularly well. They key to starting a successful lifestyle business is to be hyper focused on one thing and be the best at it.
With our online wedding linens store, we decided to focus our product selection on handkerchiefs and became the largest purveyor of hankies on the Internet.
With my blog, I positioned myself as an ecommerce entrepreneur because I noticed that there were very few blogs out there that wrote about ecommerce in the context of running a real online shop.
With my online store course, I decided to focus on teaching ecommerce instead of going broad and showing people how to start a generic online business.
Every lifestyle business needs to find its thing, the one thing where you have a decent shot of being the best at. Otherwise, you will simply blend in with the rest of the pack.
Work With People Who You Love And Will Challenge You
There’s no one I can think of who I love more than my wife (except for my kiddos) so working with her was a natural choice for me. Though I can’t wholeheartedly recommend working with your spouse for everyone, there is no one else out there that you will be able to trust more.
Plus, your spouse will never hesitate to challenge you or make you sleep on the couch when push comes to shove:)
No matter who you decide to work with, the key is to find someone with a complementary skill set who will push you harder than you are normally comfortable with.
Make Decisions And Execute
In the beginning when you have no clue what you are doing, it’s easy to sit on the sidelines until you are sure which path to take. The problem however is that you’ll never know which path to take unless you pick something and go for it.
So whenever you feel indecisive, take action regardless of how you feel about your decision. By getting off your butt and jumping into the ring, you will obtain valuable data that you can learn from and make adjustments accordingly.
Remember, you’ll never get anywhere by staying on the sidelines. Go out there and gather some data points!
Build And Own As Much As You Can
Many people who start their own online business want to outsource as much as they can. As a result, many would be entrepreneurs take shortcuts and rely on third party services to run their websites for them. While going this route may reduce your time to market, relying on a 3rd party will limit your flexibility and potentially put you at their mercy in the future.
For example, many entrepreneurs who used to rely on Ebay as their primary sales channel got shafted when Ebay drastically increased their prices. Similarly, many Etsy users saw drastically reduced sales when Etsy decided to change their product display and ranking algorithms.
Do you want to be at the mercy of someone else? That is why it’s important to own your own website. Sure, it takes a little more work to understand how websites work. But it is valuable knowledge to have and will make you more self sufficient.
Understand The Underlying Principles Of What You Are Outsourcing
Sometimes it makes sense to outsource certain parts of your business if it will save you time. But make sure you understand the underlying principles of what you are outsourcing!
I’ve had friends who have hired website developers and wasted a ton of money because they had no clue what they were doing. Every time they wanted to make a simple change, they would have to contact their developer and pay an additional fee to get things done.
The problem was that they had no clue how much time or effort was required for each task and as a result they were taken advantage of by their contractors.
Take some time and understand the underlying principles of what you are trying to outsource! And try to learn as much about the technology as possible so you understand the effort involved and what is actually feasible to implement.
Establish A Routine And Stick With It
The key to starting a successful business is to not burn yourself out by pulling a bunch of all nighters and getting things done all at once. Instead, you should establish a set routine and plan on slowly making progress over time.
For my wife and I, we devoted Sundays mornings and certain nights during the week towards working on the business. And our objective was to just accomplish one thing per day. By creating a priority list and checking off our goals one at a time, we always made consistent progress and our shop was ready to launch before we knew it.
Treat Your Customers Like Royalty
To this day, I’m still shocked by how fast word of mouth travels. When you treat a customer with the utmost of respect, they will return the favor and tell all of their friends about your business. On the flip side, if you treat a customer poorly, you will lose a lot more than just a single customer.
Treat all of your customers like royalty and your business will be guaranteed to grow. Never underestimate word of mouth and social media.
Get Some Exercise
When my wife and I were working our butts off starting our first business, I stopped exercising and it took a tremendous toll on my psyche. I’d feel listless from a lack of energy. I’d lose focus easily. But once I set aside some time to lift weights, run and play sports, I found that I was way more productive afterwards.
If you don’t treat your body right, your mind will gradually deteriorate. Don’t neglect your health!
Just Ship It
I remember wasting a ton of time tweaking the aesthetics of my website and having endless debates with my wife about the “right” way to do things. There’s no way to find out how good your business is until you actually go live and get feedback from real customers.
If you find yourself making too many minor tweaks or second guessing yourself, then you are likely stalling your business on purpose because you are afraid. Break things down into small obtainable goals and constantly work towards your launch!
Don’t Be Too Cheap
I’m probably one of the cheapest, most conservative entrepreneurs that you’ll ever meet. But over the years, I’ve started to factor in the costs of my time when it comes to making purchases that make things more efficient. These days, if a piece of software or a tool will save me a decent chunk of time, I’ll usually pull the trigger..
Don’t neglect the costs of your own time and efforts!
Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
I’m not that intense of a person and I rarely take myself too seriously, but I know a lot of people that do. Hell, I sell wedding linens. I can barely say that with a straight face! As you are running your business, take some time out and simply enjoy the process.
Chances are, you are learning way more than you ever have before so take a break every now and then and just take it all in. You are doing something that 90% of other people never dream of doing! Enjoy it while it lasts!
My final tip is to hang out with the right people and get inspired. If your current social group is bringing you down, find some other like minded entrepreneurs and start a support group.
After all, the best way to stay motivated is to be amongst those who inspire you to push yourself beyond your comfort zone!
- My Thoughts On Jealousy, Inadequacy And Finding Work Life Balance
- How To Make Money By Knowing When To Work Hard And When To Outsource
- How Working From Home Has Helped Me Get Through the Recession
- The Top 5 Ways a Blog can Boost Online Store Sales
- What Makes A Small Business More Likely To Succeed