A few months ago I was out to brunch with my book club and we started to talk about work. As I looked around the table and listened to each of these smart, high achieving women, I realized that no matter how much I may protest, my business brings with it a certain lifestyle.
(The book that month was my choice which was Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty which I recommend if you want a good read. Also, soon to be a HBO series, but I digress.)
You see, each of those women has a traditional 9-to-5, and when I asked them why they are so focused on retirement, one of them simply said, “I want the kind of freedom you have. The flexibility to do what I want, when I want.”
This was a total light bulb moment.
I’ve been my own boss for so long, I take that completely for granted. While each member of my book club knows exactly how long it is until they can retire, I can’t even imagine wanting to retire. Like – ever.
The difference is that through my work, I’ve been able to create a certain lifestyle based on my family’s needs and my personal priorities, dreams and goals.
But until that day, if you had asked me if I was a “lifestyle” entrepreneur, I’d have laughed at you.
To me, a lifestyle entrepreneur is something far different than what I am, or the type of business I want to run. It’s someone that’s working towards “passive” income and building a business where they get to travel all year long or spend months on the beach.
And it’s time for that to stop. Lifestyle entrepreneurship is really about running a business that’s on your terms and lets you live the life you want. It’s about having a small business where you get to call the shots, versus building a startup where you’re beholden to the big kahunas at the VCs who invested in you.
Don’t let the term “lifestyle” fool you either. If you’re doing your own thing in pursuit of the life you want, that’s the lifestyle part.
Here’s how you can embrace the lifestyle part of entrepreneurship as you gear up for 2017:
Choose Your Approach to Your Lifestyle
As an entrepreneur, you get to choose how you approach your lifestyle. You started a business to do this on your terms, which means that you don’t have to accept anyone else’s ideas for you of what this “should” be.
Want to be a nomad roaming the world? Do all your work in your PJs from your cozy home? It’s your choice, and we all need to check the rampant tendency to borrow other people’s dreams.
Your business gives you a lifestyle that you can design. No matter what that looks like. No matter where you want to live. Even if you don’t own leather pants and you’ve not left the house in three days. (Or wait, is that just me?)
That’s the beauty of it. You get to choose what that lifestyle part of it is, and mad respect to you for getting clear on what YOU want and not paying attention to what other people “think” you should be doing or not doing.
Be Proud of Your Business
As a woman and a business owner, I bet you have a tendency to downplay what you’re doing.
For years, when people would ask me about work or my business, I’d give them some pat answer like “things are good” and then move on.
After all, it’s not polite to brag, and it’s hard to explain what you’re doing, so it’s better to just not talk about it, right? And God forbid we make any one uncomfortable with how awesome we are.
We all need to cut this shit out. Seriously.
Make 2017 the year you’re loud and proud about your business and everything you’re doing that’s amazing. You may not see it, but what you’re doing is something most people you know don’t have the guts to do.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last 18 months is that people actually want to know how things are. They’re genuinely interested in what I’m doing and have so many questions.
And that anyone who doesn’t believe in me or what I’m doing isn’t someone I want in my life. For the record, my friends, family and especially my husband are ridiculously supportive, even if they think I’m a bit nuts.
I’m sure the more you talk about your business and share what you’re doing, you’ll find the same. As a lifestyle entrepreneur, the professional is personal and you’re doing yourself a disservice by hiding it away.
Realize that Your Lifestyle is a Privilege
Yes, I’m going there and I’m going to say it. It’s time for all of us to realize that getting to create a business and life we love is a privilege, not a right.
The more I’ve been thinking about lifestyle entrepreneurship in the context of my own life, I’ve realized that I’ve been afforded opportunities other people simply don’t have. From access to education, to the color of my skin, to the fact that my husband has the mother of all benefits packages…I’m incredibly privileged.
That’s not to say I’ve not worked hard for what I have (or that you’ve not either), but let’s start calling our privilege for what it is is, a head start and a serious advantage.
Instead of purely focusing on how we as individuals can get ahead – we need to find ways as lifestyle entrepreneurs to impact the lives of those who don’t get that head start.
We have a unique opportunity as our own bosses to help level the playing field so starting your own business isn’t the just the domain of upper middle class white ladies.
How exactly you do that is up to you, but the important thing is that each of us commit to doing this on a day-to-day basis. (I’m totally figuring this out for myself, so I don’t have all the answers, not by a long shot.)
As you set your goals and think ahead to 2017, I hope you’ll join us in reclaiming what it means to be a lifestyle entrepreneur. We’d also love your comments on what you’ve learned this year about lifestyle entrepreneurship or anything this post brought up for you!