Every so often I’ll stumble upon a blogger who is lamenting the impact of the lifestyle design trend. “Tim Ferriss makes it sound like it’s so easy to get started with your muse business and mini-retirements…”
Cry me a river.
One thing the 4HWW doesn’t do is give a clear idea of how the ideas have been implemented by entrepreneurs, and what their experience looks like when they do.
There are some huge misconceptions out there about muse businesses.
Less than 1%* of lifestyle designers make their money by selling eBooks and courses on how to be lifestyle designers, travelers, mobile business owners, or similar.
I only know a small handful of muse business owners who make their money this way. Contrast that with the 100s of mobile entrepreneurs I’ve met in the past few years and interact with daily. Most lifestyle designers are too busy with their business to blog about it. Be sure to thank the ones who do! Off the top of my head, I’d say less than 1% of 4HWW inspired businesses are in the business of “selling the lifestyle.”
So How Do You Pay for Your Rockstar Lifestyle?
So how are 4HWWers making money? Here are the 5 most popular ways I’ve seen:
- Software developers. They own a web app, a popular forum, do freelance database management, or similar. Developers are highly represented in the muse business world, and there is no question they are the most successful freelancers.
- Old school marketers. Long form sales letters? Yes. Affiliate marketing? Yes! Porn? Sheebang! These folks have been on the trail way before 4HWW. These were some of the few sources of online income available before Skype changed the game and made mobility a possibility for freelancers and people with virtual teams.
- Classic entrepreneurs. These are the deal cutters, the folks who have built something scalable. They have teams, they have processes, they have crazy ambition. They cut deals and make hay. They own valuable stuff. They rarely blog about it.
- Online gambling and trading. I suppose you wouldn’t be surprised if I told you tons of people living the lifestyle are making money grinding at online poker tables, day trading, or something similar. A lot of the guys who got involved building muse businesses got their feet wet in poker or trading first. Me included… another story for another day.
- ‘New’ marketing. The emerging crowd of social media oriented freelancers, often focused on PPC, SEO, copywriting, niche blogs, you name it. This crowd is newish and generally operating at lower levels of income, but this income can come fast since these markets are developing and scattered.
The 1000 Day Rule
I was chatting with my friend David from Greenback Tax Services the other day about these misconceptions. I said: “people don’t understand they need to be poor for 1000 days.”
Our basic hypothesis: you’ll be doing worse than you were at your job for 1000 days after you start your muse business.
I’ve seen it happen a bunch of times. For many of us it’s been almost exactly those 1000 days it took for us to get back to the level of income we enjoyed in our corporate days.
In my experience, here is what those 1000 days often looks like…
Before Your 1000 Days (the yearning**)
- You are writing a blog about YOU. The reason you do it is “networking.”
- You are hating your job.
- You quit your job and travel on savings.
- You are buying products from blogs that make a little money on how to make a little money with your blog.
- You talk about this stuff with your family and friends.
- You are failing at affiliate marketing.
- You try to partner up with your best friend or girlfriend/boyfriend.
- You are buying a bunch of domains, starting a bunch of projects, and stopping when competition shows up.
- You love Zen Habits. You think you could probably do something similar.
- You write bitter blog posts about 4HWW.
Day 1 to Day 333 (the great hope)
- You stop playing around with your GoDaddy account and get to work on putting a buy now button on a website.
- You start calling potential clients and customers.
- You regularly use expressions like “margin pressure” and “QC.”
- You stop talking to friends and family and start hanging with entrepreneurs and people who share your journey.
- You work out some funky deal for cash runway. You start working during your lunch breaks.
- You take on freelance work.
- You negotiate a severance package.
- You ask friends for money (like an idiot!)
- You wonder what the FUCK you are doing.
- Everyone thinks you should take a vacation and get back to your old self ASAP.
- Most people quit here. You do not. You have the eye of the tiger.
Day 334 to Day 666 (the grind)
- You have customers. You have clients.
- You have too much work.
- Your friends and family think you have gone mental.
- You don’t visit your family even though you are “location independent.”
- Your old friends think it’s a fraud. You are chasing a dream. “Get a real job!”
- You have no money.
- Your business gets written up in that thing you wanted to be mentioned in– no clients come from it.
- Constant paranoia. What if my shit is hacked? My competition just made an update!? What did he say?!!?!
- You get by with a lot of help and hustle. Stuff you could have never planned for starts working out.
- Clothing and dinners on the town used to be your indulgences. Now you’d take an extra virtual assistant.
- Your developers are totally fucking you over (you think, but you just don’t know about development yet).
- You wasted a bunch of money on that one thing that you don’t want to talk about.
- You are trying to cut some big deals. They’ll “think about your proposal.”
Day 664 to 1000 (the sunrise)
- Your friends ask “so what does your business do again?”
- Family is thankful for your extended vacation time.
- Your VAs are doing good work, but still pulling the disappearing act.
- You love to travel, but won’t spend 1 day away from your inbox. You don’t understand people who’d want to.
- Meeting other entrepreneurs and learning from them becomes a huge priority.
- You could make money, but instead you think you’ll hire somebody.
- You have too many business ideas to act on.
- You are thinking… this just might fucking work!
- You are thankful.
- You want more.
- You’ve got a list of high quality problems.
- Despite your intensity, you can still do all the Zen Habits stuff, if you so chose.
What day are you on?
*made it up.
**yes, that is a Coheed reference. LISTEN UP!
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