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You’ve seen the Facebook ads promising that “you too can have your own business making six-figures from your couch while wearing yoga pants — or no pants! Just download this quick guide, and you’re on your way.”
And you can’t miss the countless Instagram accounts of burgeoning entrepreneurs who (at least according to their carefully curated social media feed) seem to constantly be working poolside, traveling the world with just their laptop, and generally living it up now that they’re self-employed.
Maybe you’ve even read The 4-Hour Work Week, or another one of the countless entrepreneurial books that have hit the bestseller list in recent years, promising huge payoffs and tons of freedom in exchange for just a few hours a week of running your “lifestyle business” online.
In case you’re not familiar with the term “lifestyle business,” it’s a popular way of describing a business you create with the primary intention of it supporting your ideal lifestyle. Usually that means having location independence, total creative freedom, schedule flexibility, and unlimited income potential.
Sounds amazing, right?
People want more flexibility and autonomy in their career than ever before, so a lot of us find the idea of a lifestyle business especially alluring.
I’m sure you’re sensing a “but” coming, and you’re right. Well, more like a yield sign. Because I’m obviously a big fan of lifestyle businesses! I’m the freaking co-owner of one.
And it’s actually because I’m so intimately familiar with the inner-workings of this type of entrepreneurship that I want to make it super clear what it’s REALLY like behind-the-scenes.
That way, if you’re considering starting your own lifestyle business — or if you’re feeling tempted by those perfectly posed Instagram posts of laptops in exotic locations — you’ll have a real picture of what it’s like so you can make the right decision for you.
WHY HAVING A LIFESTYLE BUSINESS IS AWESOME
Let me first assure you that I love my business, and I wouldn’t trade it for any other career in the world (although you could tempt me with a job at Black Jaguar-White Tiger, one of Rachel’s and my Instagram obsessions).
There are a LOT of perks to having a lifestyle business:
- I’m fully in charge of my own schedule. Which means I can take a random Wednesday off just because I want to, go to yoga in the middle of the day, or have a 2-hour lunch with a friend without checking the time … and never have to worry about how many vacation or sick hours I have left.
- I get to make the impact I most want to make. I’ve worked for companies that had respectable missions that I genuinely cared about (along with a few that I never cared about), but it wasn’t nearly as fulfilling as doing the work I most want to do in the world: helping people become more self-aware and really know themselves on a deep level so they can create a life and career that perfectly suits them.
- I have total creative freedom over my work. Everything about Clarity on Fire — from the design choices to the programs we offer to each individual blog post — is 100% representative of who we are and what we stand for. I never have to pretend to care about something I don’t, or hold back my opinions, or in any way alter who I am in order to “succeed” in my career.
- I work with amazingly cool people. Not only do I get to work with my best friend of over 10 years, but my clients (and our program participants) are incredible people, too. Which makes sense, if you think about it — if I’m “promoting myself” by simply being myself, I’m going to attract people who resonate with me, and we’re bound to get along swimmingly.
- I have unlimited income potential. Unlike a traditional job where I’d have a set salary and have to ask for a raise if I wanted to make more, owning my own business means there’s no cap on how much I can earn. So I get paid according to how much effort I put in, not how many hours I clock.
THE UGLY SIDE OF HAVING A LIFESTYLE BUSINESS (THAT NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT)
But running a lifestyle business is not all a freakin’ walk in the park, let me assure you.
There are more than a few “shit sandwiches” that come along with it … things you’re not likely to see on social media or hear many “lifestyle entrepreneurs” talking openly about.
- Income instability — often for YEARS. Some months you might rake in the dough, and other months you’ll watch your bank account balance drop without knowing exactly how you’re going to replace it.
- Never knowing if you’re “doing it right.” Since no one’s telling you what to do to build and grow your business, you’re never totally sure you’re doing the “right” or “best” things. You constantly feeling like you’re throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks, which can be seriously frustrating.
- A TON of responsibility — for your own financial wellbeing, for your customers/clients’ needs, for the future of your business, etc. The weight of the responsibility can be heavy at times.
- Never being able to totally disconnect from your business. I always have to take my laptop on vacation just in case someone has an immediate question or needs technical help. Sure, you could hire a team, but that requires paying and managing a team, which gets into even more responsibility.
- Essentially having two jobs. You have to be equal parts a business owner AND an expert in the product/service you offer, which are really two totally different jobs.
- Sales. Need I say more?
- Being fully accountable to yourself. Being your own boss means you’re 100% in charge of managing your time, energy, and priority list. It also means you have to hold yourself accountable — procrastination only hurts YOU when it’s your business.
- No guarantee of success. There’s no magic formula that, if you follow it, guarantees you’ll be successful in business. You’ll likely spend years pouring yourself into your business with no proof that it’s going to pay off.
- Feeling like a slob because you haven’t put on real clothes in Or brushed your hair. Or put on makeup. Or gone outside except to get the mail.
- Loneliness & isolation. Running a business can be lonely. This is less of an issue for me than it would be for a solopreneur, since I have a business partner. But even Rachel and I feel isolated sometimes. Not only are you working alone a LOT, but it can feel isolating to be doing something somewhat unconventional, especially if you don’t have entrepreneurial friends/family to talk to about it.
HOW TO TELL IF YOU ACTUALLY WANT A LIFESTYLE BUSINESS
Here are a few big things to consider before deciding if you really do want to work for yourself:
Consider your values. How strong is your value of stability compared to your desire for autonomy and freedom? What’s your risk-tolerance? (Pssst, your Passion Profile will help you identify your values, especially when it comes to HOW you should be working.)
Are you willing to eat the “shit sandwiches”? Sure, the perks of working for yourself are pretty fantastic. But you’ve got to be willing to put up with the downsides that come along with them. What’s your level of willingness?
Explore all of your options before diving headfirst into entrepreneurship. Is there another way you could be just as happy and get some of the same perks of self-employment without full-out quitting and working for yourself? For example…
- Remote work. If you really value flexibility, then working remotely for someone else might scratch that itch with WAY less responsibility and unpredictability.
- Intrapreneurship. If you really value leadership, then being an “Intrapreneur” — someone who champions an idea or spearheads a mission within a company — might be perfect for you (and way less lonely).
- Commission-based work. If you really value unlimited income potential, but don’t want to be in charge of the whole business, you might thrive in a commission-based environment where you’re paid more for your effort than your time.
- Side business/project. If you really value creativity and autonomy, then you could pursue a side business or project to express yourself, help others, and create something that’s all your own, without the pressure of needing it to fully replace your income.
I’ve heard entrepreneurship described as “living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t,” and that’s pretty much spot-on.
The question to ask yourself is … does that excite you or turn you off?
Tell me, have you considered working for yourself? How do you feel after seeing this behind-the-scenes perspective? Or, if you already do work for yourself, do you have more to add to my lists of pros/cons? Share with me, in the comments below!
Kristen (& Rachel)