With the rise of startups and the insane unicorn returns that have come with them, "lifestyle business" has become a dirty word. A polite way of saying "doesn't make money" or "not a real business."
It's not altogether wrong. Since Tim Ferriss's breakout hit, 4 Hour Work Week, thousands of idealists have flocked to Southeast Asia to "escape the corporate grind" and chase the promise of "passive income." Many return to a desk within a few years, but not after making lifestyle businesses look like the redheaded stepchild of "real business."
As a redhead, I think that label is redeemable.
If you have the itch to go off on your own, but don't want to build the next Facebook, lifestyle businesses might be for you. Here are 4 reasons why you should start a (legitimate) lifestyle business:
1. You can grow as quickly or slowly as you want
Paul Graham defines startups as "a company designed to grow fast." A lifestyle business, alternately, isn't about growth or speed, but rather providing the owner(s) with a comfortable lifestyle outside the business and fulfillment from within it.
It's up to you to define "comfortable lifestyle."
If you want to make $80k this year because you want to be more selective with clients that's your prerogative. If you want to make $2 million this year, that's cool too. Whatever your number, your growth is up to you.
There's no pressure from outside investors to hit quarterly goals or be IPO ready. There's only what works (or doesn't) for you.
2. You don't have to get fat or sick
I mean, you can if you want. But since lifestyle businesses are built with the explicit intention of serving your life, you can choose to cook all your meals or head to the gym at 2PM if you want.
Sure, you might be cutting into your revenue, but the point isn't to make a $10 billion exit. It's to not hate your life.
No special stars are handed to you for not taking care of yourself the way they are in other types of businesses. In fact, we'll celebrate you for sleeping 8-full-hours because that means you're up on the science and know your memory will function better, you'll be sharper for that presentation, and your emails will actually make sense.
3. If you're "not a tech person" you can still participate in the startup culture
There's lots of debate about how tech savvy you need to be to succeed in the startup world. But everyone agrees it's a liability not to have basic fluency in development, which doesn't leave much room for those of us whose core competencies lie outside of technology.
The first time I read Lean Startup I thought every business should be run that way and was disappointed to see that only tech companies lived and died by these rules.
Enter lifestyle businesses. Here, the startup tropes are still bible ("make things people want," "do things that don't scale," and, of course, "iterate!!!!!"), but you can apply them to other non-tech-related domains.
4. It's way better for women
I'm a big advocate for leveling-up and not being a victim of your circumstances. But if you're carrying a fetus, "hustle harder" isn't an advisable option unless you want a psycho-baby being shot with cortisol every 10 minutes.
The hustle guilt that comes with being a startup or traditional growth-oriented business is significantly lower for lifestyle businesses. You can continue to grow a lifestyle business (at your speed, see #1) without jeopardizing the health of you or that future baby.
Better yet, no one needs to know your pregnant or nursing if you don't want them to. Zoom calls don't reveal how your body looks and if you work from home none of your colleagues will know if you're barfing every 20 minutes.
You can continue to run your business without the requisite shaming that comes from being perceived as an invalid for being with child.
It's not for everyone, but it might be for you
If you have the itch to build something bigger than yourself, but don't want to run a multi-million dollar 500 person company, lifestyle entrepreneurship might be for you.
We are business owners who have families, but also care about revenue. We're not obsessed with hustle culture, but we're not overly neurotic about self-care. It's a nice balance, if you're into that sorta thing...