A few years back, I wasn't stoked about my position as a financial analyst, and I knew I wanted to run my own business. The problem was, I had no idea what I wanted that business to look like.
I could go one of two routes. I could take one of my crazy ideas and go the startup path, try and chase down funding, spend 80 hours a week to found a company, and take years off my life while trying to make it happen.
Or I could build a lifestyle business, where I was the only employee and made just enough to support myself while having more freedom to do the things I really wanted to.
I took off to Thailand and decided to give the latter a shot. Three years later, I’m absolutely convinced that for the majority of people with entrepreneurial aspirations, you’re better off starting a lifestyle business than pursuing a startup. Here's why:
- You are not Instagram. For every startup that sells and makes millions, there are hundreds -- if not thousands -- that fail or, even worse, continue to just barely make it, sucking the life out of you in the process.
- Building a startup is building a 9-to-5. While it’s fun to start up running on nothing but adrenaline and Red Bull, the excitement wanes and the monotony sets in after a few months. Many startup companies turn into really bad 9-to-5 jobs for the founders. They get mired in day-to-day details and work harder than anyone else, but they don’t get the benefits they signed on for as an entrepreneur in the first place. For example, Jun Loayza who, after getting over a million in funding and successfully selling two companies, left his current startup to pursue a lifestyle business.
- You won't wait years to turn a profit. So someone gave you a bunch of money and told you to go build your business -- cool. But that doesn't mean you’re profitable. When you work for yourself, your overhead is limited. Salaries, office space, benefits? That’s all on you. I started my most recent business with less than $500 and it took me three sales to become profitable. Most startups are lucky to be profitable after three years!
- You can work from a beach with a Mai Tai. You know that dream everyone had after reading "The 4-Hour Workweek" where they're chillin' on a beach with a cocktail, working from a laptop? That really is possible. Sure, those haven’t been the most productive days of my life, but a lifestyle business lets you choose when and where you work -- generally, all you need is an Internet connection. This year I’ve already worked from places like Vail, Playa del Carmen, Cuba, New York, China and Jordan among others -- all without skipping a beat in my business.
- You'll have more flexibility than Gabby Douglas. You say you wanted to become an entrepreneur for increased flexibility and control in your life? Fat chance in a startup, especially when you’re playing with someone else’s money. As a lifestyle entrepreneur, you truly have the flexibility to set your own schedule. Take Laura Roeder, for instance -- she moved from Southern California to spend a few months in London last year, where she got to attend the Olympic games. A lifestyle business is one that promotes the lifestyle you want to live. For many, that’s more time with friends and family; for others, it’s travel and adventure. You get to decide.
- Stress is minimized. As an entrepreneur, stress will never go away -- it comes with the territory. But you’d better believe that while starting up, it has the potential to be much worse. Thoughts like "How am I going to make payroll this month?" and "Revenues were 30 percent less than projections, what will the investors think?" or "My partners and I have drastically different opinions of where the business should go, what do I do?" are all common issues in a startup. A lifestyle entrepreneur has no one to answer to but themselves, thus reducing the stress that comes with common business problems. The stress of getting started can be minimized even further by running your business from abroad, where it's cheaper to live.
- You can become a modern-day Renaissance person. I can’t focus on just one thing; I’m always all over the place. Being a solopreneur has forced me to learn how to handle all aspects of business -- marketing, accounting, sales...you name it, I do it. In this position, you grow your expertise and become a more well-rounded business person, and that will undoubtedly help you in any future endeavors. The phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none” isn’t always a bad thing.
Are all startups bad? Of course not. Are all lifestyle businesses beaches and daiquiris? Not a chance. However, if you’re looking to maximize your enjoyment while having the freedom and security that comes with knowing you have full control of your life, then a lifestyle business may be exactly what you need.
Sean Ogle is currently doing the things that most people just talk about doing -- traveling the world, building businesses and helping others doing the same thing via Location Rebel.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.