“What kind of life do I want?” Increasingly, this is the question on people’s minds, replacing “What kind of job do I want?” I often hear this from new entrepreneurs building e-commerce businesses, leveraging technology to shed traditional barriers to entry. The term “lifestyle entrepreneurship” was pioneered by a high-flying, highly visible group of savvy digital natives. They recognize the power of the web and have devised ways to create efficient, streamlined businesses that outsource everything beyond their core skill sets. Dubbed MMO (make money online), this innovative group’s lifestyle is on display all over social media.
The ability to outsource production and distribution of physical goods, along with other related services, is among many factors giving rise to the next generation of The 4-Hour Workweek types — lifestyle entrepreneurs who check in with their offshore assistants in the morning and go cliff jumping or skydiving in the afternoon. These days, anyone anywhere has the ability to strike out on their own, spend more time with family, eliminate long commutes and maintain financial independence.
If you’re hoping to use digital tools to help you on your way to becoming a lifestyle entrepreneur, first take advantage of what you already know by identifying and leveraging market opportunities related to your personal interests. Those interests are likely shared with a large group of potential customers, and knowledge of these subjects will help you establish and maintain a competitive advantage. For example, if you are a dog owner, you will be better at offering products other dog owners will buy. Avoid chasing new opportunities that will require a lot of extra learning.
Second, start slowly, and test the market. Try a few social media ads and see what kind of response you get. If your sales aren’t enough to cover social media advertising costs, try tweaking your ads or product mix, and look for new ways to drive traffic to your site. Seek out resources and experts to help guide your efforts.
The infrastructure enabling this new breed of entrepreneurs is based on easy-to-use platforms that connect them with opportunities. To choose a platform, I believe you should look for one that offers powerful, cloud-based global supply chain and logistics tools. This will allow you to build businesses that scale well beyond the hours in a day as you reach the entire global population of internet shoppers.
I’ve seen many lifestyle entrepreneurs generate millions in revenue per year, sometimes operating online storefronts on multiple platforms. I work specifically with print-on-demand merchandisers, so I know their overhead costs are typically a small fraction of the costs of firms that maintain in-house production and distribution operations. There are also a variety of other options that allow today’s online merchants to stock their virtual shelves; many leverage traditional drop-shipping platforms for commoditized products, while others search for specialized manufacturers through product sourcing platforms.
One of the advantages of the newer commerce enablement platforms is the availability to generate much more granular data analytics. Merchants leveraging these modern tools can get precise information regarding who is buying their products and when they’re buying them so that they can easily optimize their targeting and advertising.
The greatest thing about today’s online retailing environment is that modern tools allow anyone, anywhere to participate. The work required to launch and maintain a business can be done anytime, day or night, and does not have to be a full-time endeavor. Anyone can create a thriving business that frees up more of life’s most precious resource: time. And it’s a lot less risky than cliff jumping.