For many people, starting their own business is the ultimate dream. Some are spurred on by the thought of building a successful company and having the opportunity to earn more than they could as an employee, others by the lure of achieving a better work-life balance, while some find their hand forced when the threat of redundancy looms.
It’s a big leap, though, especially if you’re considering starting a business where you’ll need to hire staff, lease premises and secure finance. Which is why lots of budding entrepreneurs opt instead for a ‘lifestyle’ business. A lifestyle business is usually owner-run, provides a reasonable living and offers some freedom to pursue leisure activities. It’s about working in a way that supports the life you want rather than consuming every waking hour.
Lifestyle businesses operate in a wide range of market sectors and usually combine a personal interest with a business opportunity. If you’re a keen home crafter, you could earn a living running workshops or selling specialist materials, while railway model enthusiasts might find a market offering build-and-restore services to like-minded collectors. If you’re an expert in the benefits of aromatherapy, you may even find a niche blending and supplying beauty products. It may be possible to start part-time and build up your lifestyle business before quitting your regular job – which could give you a more secure basis for growth.
A lifestyle business is still a business. Your goals may differ from an entrepreneur looking to build a business empire, but if you’re not making money, it’s just a hobby. That said, there are many advantages to having a real passion for your products or services. You’ll not only get more enjoyment out of your day-to-day endeavours, but you’re also more likely to build a loyal customer base who’ll appreciate your depth of knowledge and recommend you to friends and family.
You don’t have to start from scratch. If you target a lifestyle business that’s already up and running, you can jump straight in and acquire a revenue stream from day one. Sellers often have good reasons for listing their businesses – it may be time to move on, move away or retire, for instance. Have a think about what you’d be happy doing – whether it’s running a B&B, making artisan chocolates or hand-stitching wedding dresses – settle on a location, then start searching!
Most would-be business owners say they’re attracted by the thought of escaping the 9-5. If it’s important to you to set your own hours, rather than being tied to a specific working schedule, you’ll need to rule out those businesses that require you to commit to shop hours or restaurant hours, for example. If your idea of a lifestyle business is that you have the freedom to choose your working hours, and do as little or as much work as you want, right from the offset, choose wisely.
If you are going to take the plunge and buy a lifestyle business, think carefully about where you really want to be. Some businesses are location dependent, whereas others can be operated over the internet or maybe from a regional HQ. Factor this into your search. If it’s your dream to run a yurt camp in Devon, confine your search to that specific area.
You’ll obviously need to make a profit from your lifestyle business in order to live the dream. Some people make amazing financial gains that give them the best of both worlds, while others just tick along. Most go down this route to make gains in other areas of their lives – spending more time with family, enjoying shorter working hours and doing something they love and believe in. So you’ll need to decide what you truly need and what you can live without – especially in the early days. Will you be gutted if you can’t have a new car every couple of years or have to forego your fortnight in Florida?
When you first start up or take over your new business, you’ll probably need to outsource some of the work – especially if you need to create a website or ecommerce portal. Make sure you retain control of as many processes as you can – even if this just means understanding how things work so you can get involved as and when you need to. If you’re selling products or services, don’t rely too heavily on a single route to market as you can’t know what will happen in the future. The more self-sufficient you can be, the more control you’ll have over your own destiny.
Work out what your priorities are and allocate the time necessary to achieve them. If you need to spend time making big batches of face cream to fulfil an order, delegate your other tasks to someone else. Try not to take on more than you can comfortably handle (easier said than done) and track your progress so you can see what you’ve achieved. Make it a big priority to treat your customers well and you’ll be sure to see business grow.
Running your own lifestyle business puts you in the driving seat and allows you to create a lifestyle and work life based on quality of life and your own interests. It also offers you the opportunity to use the skills, expertise and knowledge you have to build a business to be proud of.