It’s more than 20 years since I first started sitting at cafes with my laptop, making money from the internet. I thought it would be fun – and useful for you too – to review the three different business models I’ve applied to fuel a Laptop Lifestyle over the years.
This is top of my mind right now because I’m focused on the opening of the Laptop Lifestyle Academy. I want people to realize that this lifestyle doesn’t have to come from blogging only, there are other ways to earn a living online. In my case I can show you three that I have used.
Let’s start with the obvious choice, blogging…
1. Blogging And Digital Teaching Products
From 2005 to 2007 my income from blogging was entirely from advertising and promoting affiliate products like other people’s ebooks, conferences, software and online courses. I made $5,000 to $10,000 a month, enough to cover all my expenses as a young adult and keep some savings.
From 2007 onwards I focused on my own digital products. I started with a membership site that turned into a course, followed by two more courses.
Slowly I phased out advertising completely, and stopped doing any active affiliate promotions. I still have some small affiliate income streams promoting software and services, things like Aweber for email marketing, Bluehost for new blogs/websites and Ontraport for more advanced marketers (the system I use), but these account for less than 5% of my income.
In the last few years I ramped up my own product creation, rolling out three ebooks, two short courses, a plugin for WordPress, an interviews club and a flagship course. All of these products have done well, but it terms of profit my flagship course Blog Mastermind 2.0 and my coaching community the Laptop Lifestyle Academy are by far the most successful.
Should You Follow This Path?
I’m bias, because I’ve made the most money using this business model (almost two million dollars in revenue) and I’ve helped many others do so too, hence I think it’s a great path for you.
This is particularly true if you’re already some kind of teacher, author, speaker, trainer, coach or freelancer. You already know your area of expertise, your job is to take your knowledge and turn it into content and teaching products you sell online.
The main skill you have to learn is how to sell with blogging and email marketing, which is much of what my own training products teach you.
No matter what kind of Laptop Lifestyle business model you choose, learning how to sell online is mandatory, which is why so much of the training in the Laptop Lifestyle Academy focuses on this.
Thankfully, the fundamentals of marketing and sales don’t change, so once you learn these skills you can use them to sell basically anything you want to.
2. Selling Services (Services Arbitrage)
You might be surprised to know that the first place I learned how to sell online had nothing to do with blogging or digital products – it was selling services.
During the mid-2000s my income came from an editing business called BetterEdit. I wasn’t delivering the services though, I hired contract editors.
This business was born from a simple idea – I could find freelancers online to deliver services, and I could build a website to get customers for these services. I later called this model ‘Services Arbitrage‘, arbitraging the connection between customers who need a service and the freelancers who provide the service.
My first test of this idea actually began with language translation services, because I found this amazing database online full of highly qualified language translators who offered freelance services.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, I started with what today entrepreneurs call an MVP – Minimum Viable Product (a website to sell a service in my case).
I built a simple website myself, listed all the languages we could translate, then promoted the site online.
It didn’t take long before the first job came in via email. I took the details of the job (a request for Spanish to English document translation), found three translators in the database, asked them all for quotes, then took the best quote back to my potential customer with an additional 50% added on as a profit margin for me.
The customer said yes and I was in business, making about $120 profit from my first job!
To cut a long story short, my language translation business morphed into an editing business, then narrowed in to become a specialized Academic English editing service focusing on international students with English as a second language, studying at universities in Australia, Canada, America and Britain.
This business was where I learned about things like testimonials, copywriting, optimizing the sales process, customer service delivery, hiring contractors and so much more.
BetterEdit was also the first business I created specifically designed to power a Laptop Lifestyle. I studied concepts like passive income and leverage a lot back then, and thus my business was built to focus on freedom above everything else.
It took a while, but eventually BetterEdit reached the point where it ran almost entirely without me (just 2-to-4 hours a week to check in on things) and delivered a full time income.
During peak years, I turned over $100,000 worth of editing work annually. In 2007 I sold the business for $100,000 USD, because I wanted to focus all my energy on the blogging business.
My selling services story does not end there. In just the last few years I launched a brand new business, InboxDone.com, to offer email management services. It follows the exact same ‘Services Arbitrage’ business model and has grown into a six-figure business within two years — and is still growing today.
Should You Follow This Path?
What I started back in the early 2000s with BetterEdit and call the Services Arbitrage model, is very similar to what emerged later at sites like 99Designs, Freelancer, Upwork, HireMyMom, Fiverr and countless other outsourcing sites and apps today.
Most of these sites leverage technology as a matching service, allowing people to place jobs, and then contractors to bid or apply to win the project.
The problem as a result of this is that contractors get paid terribly because bidding for a project is often a race to the bottom in terms of price. On the other side of the fence, as a small business owner looking for quality work, finding competent contractors is very hit and miss (I know this from plenty of bad experiences with freelancers).
One of the aspects that made BetterEdit work so well was charging higher prices because we focused on being a specialized, premium service provider. This meant I could hire better editors and deliver a better service. It also meant I had more profit margin.
While I was briefly tempted to develop technology to handle the matching service, I decided instead to focus on human powered customer service (it ran entirely by email between the client, the editor and my customer service staff).
This is an advantage because it keeps things personal, allowing editor, client and customer rep to get to know each other. The personal touch helps to further justify the higher price.
This is exactly the same path I advise you take today, if you are considering selling other people’s services as your Laptop Lifestyle business.
It’s the path I took for a second time when I launched InboxDone.com. You see it in how we describe our service – “elite email concierge”, and you see it in our pricing model, a premium price for a premium service.
You need to specialize on one specific type of service and focus on quality and customer service, with a higher price.
You can’t compete on price against the large freelancing hub sites, but you can build a reputation for quality and be rewarded with higher paying and better clients.
By delivering human powered customer service, you also avoid any large upfront technology costs. You can literally start this business tomorrow with just you and a website.
When your first project comes in, get quotes to deliver the work and build from there. Foster relationships with good freelancers and market your service until you have a steady client base and income.
I see this business model as the perfect starting point for anyone who doesn’t have expertise to build a teaching/coaching business, or a physical product to sell. Anyone can do it, if you’re willing to put in the time to find good freelancers and learn the fundamentals of selling online.
While you can start this business by being the person delivering the service yourself (freelancing), I do not recommend this. Instead, focus on hiring other people from the beginning. This will allow you to spend your time marketing, without getting stuck ‘doing the work’ yourself – which takes a huge chunk of time.
I wasn’t an editor, which was a huge advantage when growing BetterEdit. It forced me to focus on the business model I wanted – one that granted me freedom – not one that would see me sitting at the computer editing essays all day.
A Services Arbitrage business is highly scalable (you can hire as many freelancers as demand warrants). Once you have a couple of good freelancers ready to work, some jobs under your belt, word of mouth will help you grow and existing customers will come back for more.
It’s a beautiful business model in my opinion, one that still works today if you focus on premium services at premium prices. My own experience with InboxDone.com is proof.
Membership into the Laptop Lifestyle Academy includes full access to my complete Services Arbitrage course. I explain how to start a services business, how to find your first customer, work with freelancers and provide plenty of case study examples so you can see how other people made this business work.
Join the Laptop Lifestyle Academy today then go straight to the Training Library to find the Services Arbitrage course.
3. Selling Physical Products
The first dollar I ever made online came from selling old video games on eBay during the late 1990s.
By 2001, I had built a thriving content site about the Magic: The Gathering card game. The main income stream for this website was an e-commerce store, where I sold cards individually, and in packs and cases.
I hesitate to call this a true Laptop Lifestyle business because I spent so much time taking trips down to the local post office to send off cards, plus I never made a full-time income from it.
That being said, I did run this business from my bedroom living with my mom. The main reasons it didn’t grow to become a full-time income was because I lost interest in the game and got hit with credit card fraud because frankly, I was very much a novice entrepreneur (not surprising at 20 years old!).
Today with things like Amazon Fulfillment, dropshipping, not to mention great tools for selling products like Shopify, sourcing products like Alibaba, and communities for connecting with customers like Etsy, the world of e-commerce is an obvious choice to build a Laptop Lifestyle business around.
Should You Follow This Path?
This is an easy question to answer…
If you already have a product you love or a range of products you are passionate about, and the idea of spending your life devoted to these products appeals to you, launching an e-commerce site is a great choice.
Bear in mind you don’t have to be the product creator or inventor. There are many products already in existence you can sell. What matters is you are willing to devote yourself to promotion of the product(s) you decide to sell.
You still have to do things like write articles, create videos, run sales campaigns, drum up press coverage and connect with people on social media in order to market your product, so you better be excited about what you are selling or you will struggle.
It’s also important you understand that an e-commerce business becomes a Laptop Lifestyle business only when you tap into automation technology and hire people to help for things like fulfillment and customer service.
If you spend all your time answering customer support emails, running down to the post office, dealing with suppliers, not to mention all the marketing activities you have to do to spread the word about what you sell, you’re not living a life of freedom.
Thankfully as I mentioned, the Internet today offers countless tools to support small e-commerce stores, so this path is a very realistic one for a Laptop Lifestyle income stream.
Bonus Option: Buying Websites And Selling Software
I’d like to mention two other potential pathways for establishing Laptop Lifestyle businesses before we wrap up. I personally never focused on them full-time, but the potential to make big money with these is definitely there!
For a good number of years I invested money I was making from blogging and my editing business into purchasing other blogs and websites as a way to diversify into new income streams.
My goal was to generate as close to passive income from these investments as possible. As you can imagine, this makes for a perfect Laptop Lifestyle business opportunity because you have plenty of free time.
To put this into perspective for you, over the period of one year, I purchased a blog about business branding that I took from making $400 a month to $1,500 a month, and a set of online forums about miniature motorcycles, which delivered a steady $2,000 a month.
Collectively these websites cost me approximately $12,000 USD to buy, and delivered between $3,000 to $4,000 a month after completing my ‘renovations’, minus $500 to $1,000 in costs (paying someone to look after them, work with volunteer writers, find new advertising sponsors, etc).
When buying websites today you face a lot more competition, but the amount of websites available to purchase, and the platforms dedicated to helping connect buyers and sellers, have also increased. The industry has matured, which in many ways is a good thing.
If you just bring in $2,000 USD a month after acquiring one or two or three websites, that’s enough to live very well in many countries around the world. If you really get serious, there’s no reason why you can’t build an entire portfolio of websites and bring in upwards of $10,000 a month or more.
Of course like any business, there are things to learn and risks, especially given you have to first invest money to purchase sites.
Inside the Laptop Lifestyle Academy, once you contribute to the community you can unlock access to my entire ‘How To Buy And Sell Websites’ package, include my complete eGuide, a recording of a live presentation I did explaining all my best website deals, and an example prospectus I used to sell my editing business for $100,000 USD.
Join the Laptop Lifestyle Academy and you will find this package in the Training Library after you login.
I also mention software as an option because many people are creating plugins, blog themes, and software as a service (SAAS) companies that deliver great income and can fund your Laptop Lifestyle.
I personally have only ever sold a plugin – the now defunct Smart Slider – which delivered far from a full-time income during its lifetime at just $29 each sale. However, there are many people who do very well financially creating tools for bloggers, entrepreneurs, hobbyists, musicians, authors, and other groups of people online.
Should You Follow This Path?
Buying a website is by far the easiest way I know to very quickly create an online income stream to fuel your Laptop Lifestyle, regardless of your background.
The risks are obvious – you could buy a dud site and waste the money you spent to purchase it.
This is why I strongly recommend you start small and focus on industries and business models you understand when looking for sites to acquire. I teach you exactly how to do this inside my How To Buy And Sell Websites Package (you can download a free introduction here), which you also get access to with Laptop Lifestyle Academy membership.
Software is a completely different kettle of fish. If you’re not a programmer, then your biggest challenge is hiring the right person and keeping your idea as simple as possible so you don’t rack up huge coding costs.
If you are a technical person, building software, plugins, blog themes, apps and tools is a great path to a Laptop Lifestyle income stream. Just make sure you understand the needs of your customer before you go and invest your time to build the product.
Your Invitation To The Laptop Lifestyle Academy
Regardless of which business model you intend to use, I’d love to offer my help to coach and support your journey to create a Laptop Lifestyle business.
I have a lot of experience — over 20 years — of running various businesses. However, unlike most entrepreneurs and coaches, my motivation has always been the Laptop Lifestyle.
I focus on freedom, leverage, passive income models, and starting projects that you enjoy, but won’t consume your life.
This is not about creating a startup company that will suck every hour of your day, all in the hope of one day earning a multi-million dollar exit (which is a one-in-a-million chance anyway!).
This is about creating online income streams as quickly as possible, building real cash flow positive businesses, that stand the test of time, are built on systems that work, and can be run from anywhere in the world with your laptop.
If that excites you, and you want to work with a coach, other mentors and a group of people who are also pursuing the Laptop Lifestyle, then you are the perfect person to become a member of my the Academy.
You can learn more about the Academy and become a member on this page –
I’ll see you there,
Living The Laptop Lifestyle
Congratulations Yaro on 15 years of entrepreneurship! It seems to have been quite a journey and I look forward to your next phase of development.
Perhaps your blogging and podcast channels will transition over to larger mainstream media. Maybe for now get that book deal signed and become a published author.
Whatever direction you decide to take, 15 years of experience will definitely help.
How do you go about buying websites exactly? I’ve looked around at places like Flippa, but I just get a bad feeling that a lot of sites that are sold there aren’t worth buying. I mean, I figure there must be something wrong with them because why would someone sell a website that supposedly makes $x,xxx every month “with little work needed”?
That’s why you need to do your due diligence David. You start to get a feel for things too after you make a couple of deals, which is why I recommend you start small – less risk of wasting too much money.
There are some things you can do to protect yourself as well – like do an escrow purchase, so the money is not transferred until you have a chance to review the site as the owner.
Congrats Yaro, I, as I’m sure many others hope some day to have the same successes you’re currently enjoying. Success isn’t given – it’s earned and you’ve done well to earn what you have.
Congrats on 15 years Yaro! That’s so awesome.
I just started my laptop journey about a year ago. I’m currently on the “Blogging And Digital Teaching Products” path. It’s been a lot of fun so far. I can’t wait to see where it takes me!
Thanks for all the inspiration and guidance!
hi yaro, living with laptop is amazing and cool. as a programmer i know about our worth. I like our business models and also likes your podcasts.
Congrats on 15 years Yaro! That’s really amazing.
I too had started my laptop life 3 years back and I am currently in Blogging and Internet marketing business. I am promoting affiliate products like Bluehost, Long Tail Pro etc etc.
I have also made some micro-niche website. Let see how I do in this field. Hope I would get better results in future.
Thanks for sharing this amazing post here with us. 😀
When you say that you hope you have more success in the future, has your efforts in what you’ve already done fallen flat? I would be interested in hearing the side.
Why did you make it appear like that every business you laid your hands on was successful? I rather find this unrealistic considering you were still learning and odds are high you weren’t making all right decisions.
I’d be glad when the mentors share their failures as well so that we can identify with them and leverage their success. If you make it appear like you always have an upper hand then we might as well label you a genius and stand aside, watch and marvel at your success.
Hi Bans, dig into my blog archives and you will see I talked about failures a lot. My English school that didn’t do well, my websites on MP3s, young activism, trying pay per click marketing – all the failure stories from my last 20 years in business are in there.
I missed this. Got to know about this opening lately.
When are you starting the next session? I’m an author and I’m already running my business blog. But I’m still struggling to make $1000 monthly.
Some great advice. As you point out, if your approach is that of an arbitrage play, ie, selling someone else’s product or service then it is very much about getting your financials right. You need to make enough of a margin to not only provide a decent profit but you also need to cover your marketing costs plus allow a contingency for returns/refunds.
Once you get the maths right and the marketing working you can hopefully sit back and enjoy the rewards.
Thank you Yaro. I have been toying with the idea of doing some online teaching for my business counseling company. this post has lit a fire inside of me and have decided to push my way through the heard . Thanks for the encouragement.