Next summer I'm taking three months off to travel through Europe with my family. No, I didn’t just get bought out by Google. No, I'm not retired. I don’t have a million dollars in the bank. I’m not “between careers”. And I won’t be 100 per cent disconnected from my work.
The reason I can get away for such an extended period is that I’ve designed my business around my life, not the other way around.
With my son recently turning one, sharing the world with him has heightened my awareness of how empowered we are as entrepreneurs. These days, we can do anything for anyone, anywhere, at any time we want. Think about that.
We can do anything for anyone, anywhere, at any time we want.
It’s a crazy thought, isn’t it? But it’s so easy to get trapped by what we’ve been doing, that we forget we can change course at any time. If you feel walled-in by the demands of your work, ask yourself these questions and rebuild your business so that it supports the lifestyle you want to lead.
Where do you want to work from?
Thanks to speedy internet and online tools like Basecamp and Dropbox, I was able to bring my video production company with me when I moved to a different city six years ago. Today, I use Slack with my designer in the UK, Pivotal Tracker with my developers in the Czech Republic, Evernote with my clients, Todoist with my employees, and dozens of other tools to support the operation.
As U.S. citizens, myself and the family can stay anywhere in Europe’s Schengen Area for up to 90 days every six months, without the need for an EU Passport or a working visa. If we time those 90 days perfectly, we can skip almost every 100-degree day in Phoenix and return home just in time for some mild Fall nights (every Phoenician’s dream!).
My point? Unless you’re a solopreneur or employee performing a physical service that only you can do, you really can work from anywhere.
The only thing you’ll need to decide is where you’d like to log in from.
When do you want to work?
The number of hours you put in is a different conversation altogether -- that depends on your business model, your margins, and your personal financial goals. But the way you structure those hours will have a significant impact on your lifestyle.
For example, in the past you might have used Calendly to book an appointment with your Bench bookkeeper, your employee, or one of your clients. It’s an awesome service for sharing your availability with anyone who needs your time. However, you can tweak the app so that you’re only free to connect with others on certain days of the week. Limiting your availability in this way means you engage in meetings when you want to.
For those times when I don’t want to direct someone to my calendar link, I use Clara. Clara is a super-smart artificial intelligence scheduling assistant, backed by humans. She can email back and forth with anyone you introduce her to, setting up meetings and calls based on your time and location preferences.
Taking control of your schedule opens up a world of possibilities. My brother, a content marketing consultant, makes himself available later in the day, and uses his mornings to go hiking with his dog. A client of mine takes every Friday off, and dedicates the downtime to personal development and picking the kids up from school. I schedule my consulting sessions in the second and fourth weeks of the month, so that I can travel or take on smaller projects every couple of weeks.
What types of customers do you want to work with?
Most entrepreneurs start backwards when they develop their ideas. They come up with a product or service, and try to figure out who the right customer is. If you want to build a business that supports your lifestyle, it’s important to think the other way around.
Ask yourself: Who do I want to work with?
When I started my consulting business, I knew that I wanted to work with owners of small businesses. More specifically, owners of small businesses with 5-50 employees who felt buried in the day-to-day chaos of running a business, and who wanted to break the cycle.
I knew that I could relate to these people. I knew their challenges, I knew their values, and I knew their needs. I also knew that they would be results oriented people who were too busy to micromanage me.
Taking the time to determine who I wanted to work with helped me tailor the perfect service for those individuals, without sacrificing the lifestyle that I was looking to maintain.
As you form an idea of who your ideal customer is, think about:
- How often they’ll want to interact with you
- How price sensitive they are (this tells you how many customers you’ll need to find)
- How frequently they’ll purchase your product or service
- How long you’ll work with them (also known as their Lifetime Value or ‘LTV’)
- Where they’re located, and how many of them are out there
Once you’ve decided who you want to work with, figure out what they need by talking with them. You’ll recognize where you can add value to these people’s lives pretty quickly, and you’ll be looking for opportunities in the right place rather than chasing opportunities with customers who won’t gel with the needs of your lifestyle.
Will you do the work, hire a team, or outsource?
Before you can set your own hours and step away from your work for any given amount of time, you’ll need hire people who can help run your business. Whether those people comprise an in-house team or a handful of remote contractors will depend on the nature of your operation.
For instance, if you run a restaurant you’re going to have a hard time outsourcing your work, so it’s important to have a reliable management team in place who can run things while you’re away. On the other hand, if you own an online business, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to run and grow your operation with a project manager and an army of freelancers.
If you’re new to outsourcing, services like Upwork and Crew are great for finding vetted professionals with the safety of a company to process your transactions and guarantee your results. However, I’ve had the most success with direct referrals from other entrepreneurs who are doing what I want to do. If you can’t find the human resources you need via your immediate network, ask one of the specialists on Clarity.fm to help connect you to whoever you’re after.
Remember, you’re in charge
As you plan to build or rebuild your business around your life, remember that you’re in charge.
Skeptics or fear might tell you that building a business to support the lifestyle you want to enjoy is impossible. But in my experience, the reward is worth the risk. Lead the life you want, then fill it with business opportunities that match.
Maybe I won't be traveling through Europe next summer. But if I don't, it won't be because I can’t. It will be because something more exciting came up in my life that I chose to do instead.
Chris Ronzio helps entrepreneurs organize chaos and get things done. Download a free copy of his latest ebook, 100 Productivity Hacks to Improve Your Business, here.