Recently I was the willing target of several audio interviews. The topic of course, was blogging, however as is customary, most interviews begin with a little background study of the person in question.
As a result of telling my recent business history I found myself reminiscing about some of the ventures I was involved in during the previous 8 years or so. Most of them were online enterprises, but there was one experience where I was running a start-up based in the real world, an English tutoring school called “Aussie Tutor”.
If you dig into my earlier archives you will find several posts and podcasts were I mentioned my English school. It was an interesting time in my life, which taught me many lessons about business and in particular what I want from a business and what I don’t want.
Working 9 to 5 by Choice
While in charge of my school I came to fully realize what I had always known – I do not like having to be anywhere nine-to-five, five days a week.
Before I avoided a full time job specifically because of not wanting to be anywhere for such long periods of time to work for someone else. Not surprisingly, despite working for myself, I still did not like that I had to be somewhere during working hours.
Unfortunately, as a business with a physical premises, the English school demanded my presence every day unless I was willing to forgo any possible patronage that might walk in off the street. Ironically, despite my immaculate attendance, many days my English school was empty and I spent the time working online.
It didn’t take long for me to realize, despite my passion for the idea and my entrepreneurial spirit, my tutoring service was not going to work unless I made a significant commitment to it. I would need to either shut it down, or invest money and time and treat it like a true start-up.
At the time I had a growing Internet based business demanding my attention that was profitable (BetterEdit – an online proofreading service I sold in 2007). It wasn’t too hard to decide what to do next. I closed down Aussie Tutor, broke my lease and went back to working at home.
A Web Based Life
I am very thankful that I grew up during a period where the Internet also grew up. My very first casual job was web based (crafting websites for the business school at university) and my very first self created income stream came from the Internet too.
I can’t remember what life was like before the Internet, but I know it wasn’t nearly as good as it is now.
Tomorrow I hop on a plane and fly to Fiji. I’ll be there for 5 days before I board another plane where I’ll head to Hawaii. I’ll spend a week in the land of aloha, before jumping on another flight, this time to Vancouver, where a week of fun awaits. I’ll then make a short flight to Winnipeg, visit my grandmother, before settling in Toronto for 5 months. I intend to visit the USA for conferences and other fun things during my time in Canada too.
In Fiji I will be in a hotel but during the rest of my travels I’m staying in rented apartments with kitchens, private double beds and all the usual trimmings, at two thirds the price of equivalent standard hotels (I’m practicing a little 4-Hour Work Week accommodation hunting). I’ll have ample time and funds to do what I want and it’s all thanks to the World Wide Web. There’s not many occupations today that grant you this much freedom.
Ever present during this trip will be my laptop. My computer that connects me to the online world will serve as a communication tool to keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues. I’ll blog, create content, work on products, market, network and effectively live a very similar life to what I usually do at home in Brisbane.
The scenery might change, but the purpose and lifestyle doesn’t – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Live the Stereotype – Laptop on the Beach
We all know the archetypical image of the entrepreneur sitting on the beach with their laptop, logging on to check how much money they made during the previous night and then settling back to a day full of sun, sand and sleep – a perpetual holiday.
I’ve already written about my disdain for the traditional non-working holiday, however the gist of the laptop on the beach image is definitely something I appreciate because it represents fantastic freedom. A business that can function – and even grow – despite your absence or location in the world, and the freedom to choose when to work, how to work and what to work on, is a great business.
This is a far cry from waking up at 8am to open the doors to a 3rd floor English tutoring school.
How To Build a Framework for Life Portability
The Internet provides the tools for a mobile lifestyle, yet very few people who make money online can realistically leave their computer during normal working hours. If you lack key systems or follow bad models, the web can become just as much a trap as an offline business or job.
Only in the last two years have I been able to lead the life I want to with (nearly) all my criteria met. Here are three of the criteria, which I suspect you are striving for too –
- The freedom of choice in terms of activities you choose to undertake for work (you want to do some work, just not all the time)
- Significant enough income to do what you want without worrying about breaking the bank (we are not talking about needing millions of dollars)
- Cashflow that continues regardless of your personal involvement each day (passive income is critical, as are systems and the people you work with)
Previously, despite understanding how passive income works and what real business freedom is, I held myself back. Roadblocks existed because of where I was on the business development lifecycle, and many more limitations were in place because of my thought process and consequential decisions.
If you want to realize a lifestyle that is supported by an Internet business but not dominated by one, then you need to become clear about what you really want. You can be an extraordinarily successful business person, yet live on a treadmill of constant work with little true freedom.
Mistakes You May Not Realize You Are Making
Here are some of the more common limiting behaviours that stop entrepreneurs and bloggers from realizing true lifestyle freedom, many of which I have personally had to overcome in the very recent past myself.
Mistake 1: Bloggers, Are You A Pageview Slave?
I’ve been a massive proponent of the two hour workday for bloggers. I never liked the idea of 16 hour days spent blogging like a mad person, writing multiple posts to multiple blogs and becoming what I call a “pageview slave“.
Most bloggers follow a terrible business model. They rely on advertising income that is dependent on the number of pageviews delivered. The return on investment using this model is very low per visitor since you exchange traffic for pennies per click (contextual ads) or cost per impression banner fees (CPM advertising).
This is not a sustainable model because you have to work your butt off to keep it going and growing. Without a constant stream of daily fresh content your income fluctuates significantly. This model lacks stability and is far from passive. You can read more about this in the series of articles I wrote about blogging as a sustainable business model.
As Blog Mastermind students and people who have read the Blog Profits Blueprint know, I suggest a more traditional information business format. Use your blog as a point of leverage to build credibility, open communication channels and drive traffic, but use those outcomes to feed a real business model based on a sales funnel.
Using the sales funnel model, your dependence on pageviews is reduced since you don’t rely only on advertising for income. Your per visitor value is higher, hence you are not a pageview slave and can make much more from much less traffic.
A few very elite bloggers who establish top of the food chain status can become wealthy thanks to sheer volume of traffic they attract. These bloggers work long days too, but their yearly income is so high that retirement is possible in a year or two, if they can manage to extract themselves from the high intensity blogging lifestyle. In this case the short term slave labor can lead to long term financial freedom, however most bloggers will never experience this situation.
If you want true lifestyle freedom, you can’t follow the format of mass content publication with the hope of one day delivering enough pageviews to earn a full time living. This is certainly an attainable outcome for the average hard-working blogger, but you won’t have any freedom to enjoy the fruits of your labor because you will have to keep working or the cashflow will drop. Retirement is not an option in this case, only perpetual work is.
Take my trip to Fiji, Hawaii and Canada as an example. If my income was dependent on this blog featuring three new posts every day because I relied on the pageviews for my living, unless I work like a mad man and pre-write a ton of posts (and even that wouldn’t work if I wanted to cover current news), I simply could not enjoy my travels. I’d be chained to the laptop and Internet, writing posts and keeping the system running.
I will definitely blog on my journey, but that will be for a couple of hours each second day or so. I’ll do it when I want to write for the pleasure of writing and to help maintain my income, but it’s far from a full time job.
Thanks to recursive affiliate revenue, stable traffic flow brought in from pillar articles, a sound business model based on a funnel and an email list, and some great people working with me, I’ll enjoy a relatively stress free time and make good money during my travels.
Mistake 2: The Work More/Earn More Linear Model
One of the huge traps I fell into previously and thousands of other Internet entrepreneurs follow every day, is a business model that is not scalable without your workload scaling along with it.
Your current business may be profitable but if the money increases in proportion to how much you work, there is a problem.
Freelancing is a classic example of this situation. Freelancers often perform most of the roles in their business independently. Each new client represents a nice cash influx, but it also means there is more work to be done, and only you can do it.
When you add a new client or a new project, you have to subtract some time from the life of the freelancer. With time a finite resource, there is only so far a freelancer can grow a business. They do not have any scale because the only point of leverage for income is themselves.
At the heart of this problem is a control/mindset issue or simply a lack of business acumen. Freelancers are often great at what they do, but what they do does not include business building. They make for great chefs but terrible restaurateurs.
Freelancers must learn how to rely on other people the way their clients rely on them. Without assistance from others, time away from the office will be rare and punctuated by phone calls and emails supporting clients, or a significant drop in income because no work is done, which for some is simply not an option given financial commitments.
Mistake 3: Running the Goal Chasing Treadmill and Swapping Today’s Peace of Mind for Tomorrow’s False Promise of Success
This next issue is more insidious and difficult to overcome, especially because our society constantly reinforces is as acceptable behaviour.
If you live each day in the pursuit of meeting a deadline or achieving a goal that only leads to the creation of another goal with more deadlines, then you are on a treadmill that for most people, is very difficult to get off.
The trap is always chasing more and unfortunately, there is an infinite amount of “more” available. If everything you do is about climbing further up a status ladder, increasing your wealth or your fame and essentially – your ego – you can never become satisfied.
Until you decide to get off the treadmill and accept what is present today, you will forever live for tomorrow – for the next sale, the next launch, the next product, the next milestone in your RSS count, the next big pay cheque – some form of boost to your ego.
This is a formula for perpetual stress.
Why so many people continue to ride the treadmill is because of the occasional punctuation of euphoria at the point of achievement and success. Unfortunately, in between you live in a state of incongruency, wanting something in the future that ultimately leads to wanting more. Each success you enjoy is short lived and leaves you wanting to taste it again, hence you become a slave to yet another new project based on material success.
If your present life building a business or working a job is a continuous marathon, running from one deadline only to discover the next one, then you know what this situation is like. The only way to change is to stop chasing perpetual more and find life balance. Take contentment from what you have today, learn how to stop from time to time, find out what you really value in your life and then set up systems that create the freedom to enjoy these values.
Your values, not surprisingly, are not entirely focused on having more money, yet that seems to be what so many people seek each and every day. If you open your eyes, become aware of what you are doing and then take steps to change, you will be amazed at what can occur. This can be life changing, if you let it be.
Freedom of Choice
There’s a good chance, since you made it to this point in my article, that you already have the key ingredient necessary to create the lifestyle you want:
You have the luxury of choice.
Each day you wake up and decide what you do with your allotted time on this planet. Some steps can take you to what you want, others can lead you astray chasing what you think you want, only to realize that it’s not quite right.
With a little help, a little adjustment to how you think, some education, time spent on self reflection and above all else, the decision to make changes and not accept what everyone else does as what you want, you can realize true freedom.
It’s not easy, nor is it instantaneous, but it’s definitely worth working towards.
And of course, I’m happy to be here (with my blog anyway), to help you as best I can.
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