Lifestyle business - solopreneur

Solopreneurship 101: How to Build A Lifestyle Business to Become A Successful Solopreneur

In the previous post on Solopreneurship, we saw how the entrepreneurial panorama is evolving and what we can expect from the future.

In the last century, the “Conglomerate Myth” grew exponentially. If you asked any entrepreneur how a business looked like, the answer would have been something along those lines:

You raise a million dollar of capital. Employee a hundred people. Have your company grow until you reach a thousands employees and billions of revenues, only to see a slim profit margin!

Yet this was the old world. Entrepreneurs and Solopreneurs have increasingly focused on solving problems, rather than growing. On the other hand, while solving someone else’s problem, you also want to make sure to have fun along the way and build the lifestyle of your dreams.

Tim Ferris is the emblem of this paradigm shift. The author of the revolutionary book “The 4-Hour Workweek,” entrepreneur and consultant in the early stage of companies like Twitter, Uber, and Evernote; Like him or not, Tim Ferris is a game-changer. From drunk dialing to psychedelic research he made the world his playground. In fact, he likes to define himself “a Human Guinea Pig!

If I had to translate Ferris’ vision about entrepreneurship it would be something along those lines:

Start small. Find your muse. Experiment and if it works make it yours!

What Is a Muse?

Tell me, Muse, of that man of many resources, who wandered far and wide, after sacking the holy citadel of Troy

That is how Homer, started his masterpiece, the Odyssey. Other poets, from Vergil to Dante Alighieri used the same invocation. In fact, the Muses were Greek goddesses that inspired the work of poets, literates, and scientists.

Finding a Muse is nothing mystical, metaphysical or mysterious but rather a way to connect to your creative self. From the entrepreneurial standpoint, a Muse is something more specific. As Tim Ferris puts it a muse is:

A low-maintenance business that generates significant income. Such a muse is leveraged to finance your ideal lifestyle

In other words, the muse is not only a way to find a venture that fits yourself but also a business that is intended to finance your ideal lifestyle. Let’s see how to create your muse in few steps.

Step One: Set Your Ideal Lifestyle

According to Tim Ferris, the first step toward finding a Muse is setting up in detail the TMI or target monthly income. In fact, the biggest problem for those who are employed but aspire to become solopreneurs is a change in mindset in the way they think about revenues and expenses. We are often used to think regarding annual salary and expenditures. But our estimates are often so inaccurate that we always miss our targets.

Therefore Tim Ferris suggests thinking in detail about your monthly cash-flows. In short, all the expenses that you are going to incur. Imagine, for instance, that you always dreamed of traveling the world. What does that mean? How many countries are you going to travel while setting-up your Muse? For how long will you stay in each country? How much would you pay off rent, travel and living expenses?

It might sound complicated at first, but once you set this up, your goals will be much clearer. In fact, Tim Ferris makes your life easier by making a great tool available: The Monthy Expense Calculator. In short, this tool tells you line by line what expenses to take into account. After you have to divide by 30 (to get the daily budget) and add a 30% buffer (you must be ready for any emergency).

The objective is to come up with a daily budget. Why? Because once you zoom in into the detail of your project, you realize that it is possible. For instance, I computed the monthly expenses that would finance my ideal lifestyle, and they turned out to be $3,350. Once we add the monthly buffer (an additional 30%) my TMI becomes $4,355. It seems a lof of money, doesn’t it? If we zoom in and divide this amount by 30 (to get the daily budget), it becomes $145. That’s it!

In other words, I know that my muse must be a low-maintenance business that generates about $150 on a daily basis. Although, I am simplifying things up because we are going to focus more on some practical examples of muses you can consult the whole step by step process of setting up your ideal lifestyle here.

Great, so how do you find a Muse?

Step Two: Few Basic Principles to Follow

Even though Homer needed the Greek goddess to find his muses, you don’t need any deity but only to follow few core principles.

  • Frist, make it automatic. Remember that the Muse must be a business that generates cash flow but also the lifestyle of your dreams. Therefore, you want to ensure the business will (at least in the long run) go automatically. In fact, EarPeace’s creator Jay Clark when asked by Ferris what idea he considered before starting his muse. He replied to be about to start a yoga studio but realized that was not going to make him happy in the long run. Why? The yoga studio was a “business trap,” with no way out. In other words, you will be better off in picking up a business that will run on its own and leave you untied.
  • Second, find a niche. For instance, in another case study showed on Ferris’ blog Dan Bradley explains how he started “Hewley L-Carnitine Shampoo” which generates #2,500-$5,000 per month. When about to consider the idea to sell fish oil, he gave it up because there was too much competition. Instead, he focused on a product where there was less competition but more potential customers. In short, he narrowed his market until he found the right niche. It may sound counterintuitive, but it is not. Why? When you pick a huge market, you also end up swimming in a red ocean, plenty of sharks ready to fight for a little piece of meat (profit). Instead, by niching down, you can find a part of the ocean that the shark cannot reach. Thus, although smaller, you will have an amazingly higher conversion.
  • Third, keep it simple. Bob Maydonik of “Square 36,” a muse that generates $10,000 to $25,000 per month, by selling oversized yoga mat, explains how he left the idea of making a free-standing pull-up bar because the manufacturing process was too complicated. Keep in mind that a Muse has to run smoothly on its own.
  • Fourth, minimize your financial risks. Chris Guillibeau, explains how on 1,500 responders to his survey, a staggering 36% started a business with $100 or less! Why is it crucial to minimize your financial risk? Simple, if your Muse won’t work you will have to let it sink. By reducing your financial risk, not only you are making your life easier if things won’t work out. But also feel less pain for your failure. Also, you will shorten the amount of time to recoup financially and mentally, and try out a new muse. Keep in mind that it may not work out the first time.   

In conclusion, if you have a Muse, which is simple, automatic and has the little start-up costs, you are almost ready to go.   

Step Three: Praemeditatio Malorum 

If you never picked up a philosophy book, I can understand that. Most of them seem only a bunch of useless fluffing that brings you nowhere near to your life’s goal. There is one exception to that, and it is the stoic philosophy. In fact, stoics where the only philosophers that used clear, understandable and practical anecdotes, useful in life. Here Tim Ferris gives a crash course in stoicism.

In the last decades, “positive thinking psychology” became hugely successful. Everyone started to believe that to be successful one must always be an optimist. But there is a huge drawback to that. Life is unpredictable and dangerous things happen quite often. When those bad things happen, your paper’s castle may be swept over very quickly. Instead, we want to build a solid psychological foundation. How?

Through the stoic “Praemeditatio Malorum” (or negative visualization).

In short, instead of closing your eyes and visualizing yourself as successful, you will take a counterintuitive approach. You will imagine what if your Muse will not work. What consequences would this have on your personal life? How would that look and feel like?

Imagine as many details as you can. Why will this approach empower you?

For few simple psychological reasons. First, it will lower your expectations. Our mind is way faster than our body. The mind is not bound to time and space. It can travel farther away. By practicing negative visualization, will be like attaching a leash to your mind. It will keep you focused. Second, it will empower you. Why? Often we do not take action because we fear the abstract consequences of an event. But when those results become concrete we do not fear them as we thought we would have. Finally, what stops us is not the concrete, the known. But rather, the abstract, the unknown.

Once you take this last step, you will be ready to go!

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Gennaro Cuofano

Creator of | Head of Business Development at | International MBA

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