The 5 Types of Lifestyle Designers

The 5 Types of Lifestyle Designers post image

Have you read Simon Black’s post about the 7 Types of Expats? I thought of it yesterday as my friend was buzzing me through the mountains near Chaing Mai, Thailand (beautfiul!). We got to talking about the lifestyle design “scene.”

Make no mistake— it’s a scene for sure. Here in Chaing Mai there are easily 100’s of nomadic internet types. One well-placed tweet will land you at a cafe where the conversations will hover loosely around topics like Singapore vs. Hong Kong, Galaxy S3’s vs. iPhone 5’s, Pandas, Penguins, Paypal policies, and link building strategies.

One thing unites us all— love it or hate it— nearly all of us have read the 4 Hour Work Week and have a lot of varying opinions about the book and “lifestyle design” in general. In the book, Ferriss doesn’t offer a concise definition for the term he introduced, so I’ll take stab(ish) at one:

Lifestyle design – n – the state of affairs created when basic living wages can be earned with an increasingly tenuous connection to time-input or physical location. This ‘modularity’ of personal income calls into question those lifestyle elements which traditionally correlated more closely with earning— namely— time, mobility, purpose, passion, and autonomy, among others.

The criticism that “lifestyle design has always been around” is fair enough then, but it’s only really been available to rich people– people with property, companies, or other assets that generate cash without their assistance. What used to take a company, employees, start-up capital, can now get done with a website and a Paypal account. It’s easier than ever to try and strike it rich, and I guess in a way that’s what lifestyle designers are after. But unlike previous generations of business owners, they aren’t just counting cash.

Here’s some of the types of lifesytle designers I’ve met in my travels. What type are you?

The Gamer. Gamers are very often poker players, affiliate marketers, SEOers, or paid traffic guys. Gamers are often very bright, and are attracted to the opportunity to “hack” everything. They often find it difficult to build a business that scales. They tend move on to new money-making challenges fast.

What do Gamers think the 4 Hour Work Week all about? Using data driven strategies to put up effective offers on the web. Launch, test, optmize, and repeat.

The Passionate Practitioner. Much like many of my blogging co-horts, I thought the biggest promise of the 4 Hour Work Week was the opportunity to trade income and mobility in order to win back time. PP’s are excited about the opportunity to make money from work that they’d want to be doing anyway. Copywriters, bloggers, product designers, public speakers, fans of parkour, juicing, or practically anything under the sun can now dream of monetizing their passions without signing any leases.

What do Practitioners think 4 Hour Work Week all about? Earning back your time so you can do what you are truly passionate about.

The Entrepreneur. Probably the most natural audience for the book, the 4HWW movement caught legs and extended much further beyond the over-worked business owner in the bay area. That said, I can’t tell you how many multi-million dollar business owners I’ve seen putting up e-book landing pages (some to great success!) after having been exposed to lifestyle design concepts.

Entrepreneurs are business people first, so they enjoy freeing time to do more business oriented side projects, or to spend time with family and friends. Given their history growing organizations and cash-flows, entrepreneurs don’t struggle as much with “filling the void.” In my experience, it’s entrepreneurs who have taken the impact of 4HWW most in stride. “Yeah, I put up a blog and backpacked through Europe— now what?”

What do Entrepreneurs think the 4 Hour Work Week all about? Asking yourself what your business can do for you and not the other way around. Your business should empower you to find the things you want to do, not dictate a list of things you should do.

The Natural. Naturals, either by extraordinary personal experience, luck, special DNA, or necessity, are compelled to live outside of inhereted cultural scripts for making a living, educating themselves, and identifying projects to take on. The natural was doing it since day 1.

What do Naturals think the 4 Hour Work Week all about? “Me!”

The Tourist. The tourist is drawn into the community by the most immediate and compelling promise of lifesytle design— the prospect of unlimited world travel. The tourist often cashes in assets or takes a step back in their career in order to test out life on the road. The tourist isn’t yet sure about owning their own means of production, or what that might mean exactly. But screw it, let’s travel!

What do Tourists think the 4 Hour Work Week all about? Working your whole life away is a waste, we should go after our true passions– like travel– while we are young and still able to enjoy it. We’ll figure out the income thing later. And anyway, those jobs aren’t going anywhere. Are they?

Got any more?



Published on 10.30.12
  • woo I’m a PP, which is also the initials for my blog.

  • There are the “leather and feather” lifestyle designers… dancing to trance in India for 6 months of the year, whilst hustling up a “collection” of some description, so they can come back and do it all over again next year! Old school…pre 4HWW… likely to have had purple hair at some stage. Love those guys!

    The ;”tribal” lifestyle designer…building up a following – always talking about doing ‘awesome shit’…they come in two camps…the travel/personal development blogger (kumbayah-ish type-). And Chris – Balla – Guillebeau (and a few select others).
    They manage to curate this tribe of money hemorrhaging, evangelical followers…but occasionally I get the feeling that they sometimes feel like underachievers next to even bigger players with more zeros in the bank ( I could be wrong here – I hope so)?

    Then there’s…

    …the risk taker…always a misfit, a rebel, the one thinking outside the box.There is
    no ‘exotic travel’ bandwagon to jump on – they’d been exploring the world for years for funseys! Long before terms like “Digital Nomad” became trendy, or marketable as anything other: than backpacking with laptop and a little hustle in your blood. They have the multiple battered passports, tales of life threatening sickness in foreign places, arrests by corrupt police officials, and countless other things. For years they have been living like this…going ‘home’ when the money or the annual leave runs out….until one day they realise that they have to find a way of making this lifestyle of: sunshine, freedom, sunsets, culture, temples, rice fields and scooter riding whilst being constantly blown away by beautiful vistas, scenery and people, permanent – or they will die unfulfilled!

    At that point they pack a bag, buy a ticket, identify their portable skills and find a way to make shit happen. They either become English teachers or learn to make money online ( usually doing something that they love, otherwise what’s the f*ing point)…quickly!

    Maybe you can call them the RTPP?

    Sorry about the length of this comment ( come essay) – hope at least some of it made sense.

  • Nate

    Really enjoyed this, thanks! Makes me antsy to get back to Chiang Mai for the tweet ups!

  • ok I’m classic “the gamer”. Guilty as charged.

  • Quite the Myers-Briggs of LD…I guess there is an overal lap to some degree. PP and N for me. But interesting nonetheless. Where would the restless womanizers or love tourists go?

  • Piers | Kickstarters’

    What does it mean when I can check ALL of those boxes? “The Multiple Personality Disorder Lifestyle Designer”?! o_O

  • According to Simon’s post, I’m an internationalist aspiring to be a nomad. Always leads to awkward conversations with the tourists:

    Tourist: “OMG you LIVE in Brazil?!? You’re so LUCKY!!!”

    Me: [explains what I do]

    Tourist: “Wait, what? You work? Like… a lot? What do you mean you can’t go out tonight? You say you haven’t been to the beach in months?!?”

    Me: “I haven’t completed my 1000 days yet, dammit!”

    According to your post, I’m… hmm, debating between Passionate Practitioner and Entrepreneur. While I am passionate about my subject, I wouldn’t be putting this much work into it if it was “only” a passion (…if that makes any sense!)

    P.S. Take that apostrophe out of the word “Members”! ;-)

  • lol

  • I am a combination natural entrepreneur, or entrepreneurial natural, or the demon spawn of Satan… depending on whom you ask.

  • Gaming Tourist for me, with ambitions to consider myself part of the ‘entrepreneur’ crowd too.

    How about something like “the freelancer”. The guy or gal who already had a career as a freelancer but only after reading 4HWW did he or she realise, “screw it, I can do this shin dig from the road!”

    Also, that’s just made me think about the corporate escapee that Tim talks about in 4HWW. If you remember, he advised that the book is not just for entrepreneurs but also for people who want to stay in their job but hack a remote working agreement with their boss. Thinking of it, I don’t think I’ve met any real life versions of that type of LD’er. Have you? Maybe they are out there but just keep quiet about it!

  • Dan

    Daryl, first off… I’d absolutely add freelancer to the list. Great call.

    Regarding the remote work agreements, I’m very familiar with them having done something sorta-close to it myself, and many friends have done similar stuff. “Your employer is your first client” is something I’ve heard James Shramko say and its spot on. I’m going to try and include a section about this with case studies in my book because it’s a boss way to make the entrepreneurial switch. Cheers!

  • Dan

    haha. I like that! You’re actually a very nice guy. So much for your tough-guy avatar image. BTW, when are you going to get rid of that suit?

  • Dan

    good on you for making a college try and explaining what you do! i have a whole stable of stock no-answers. :)

    You are lucky though! :D

  • Dan

    Ah yeah me and you both!

  • Dan

    I like where you are taking this.

    And regarding your question: Where would the restless womanizers or love tourists go?

    Philippines for boys, Bali for girls. :P

  • Dan


  • Dan

    DO IT!

  • Dan

    I smell a blog post! Yeah I like these categories… the first category is pretty widespread, it’s like the work/save/travel crowd.

    I’m fascinated by the whole cult-of-personality as a business model as well… I’m glad I didn’t go down that road or this would have been a monster :D

    Thanks for the bike ride and the inspiration … can’t wait to catch up again!

  • Dan

    me too! Except about the initials thing…

  • I can never make you happy with the goddamn pics, you disliked the cartoon avatar, and now you are hating on the pinstripes.

    Need to get a new pic, just dread having my photo taken. There is so much work to be done in post-production as with all of hell’s army, my reflection does not appear on film.

  • Ditto on being a “gamer”. Maybe I’ve got a bit of “entrepreneur” in there somewhere also.

    For Simon Black’s post I’d be somewhere between internationalist and nomad.

    “You count air miles as an asset and talk about ‘running down to Panama for a few days’ as if you were going down the street to pick up a quart of milk at the grocery store.” – love that quote

  • I’ve got to go PP.

  • I like to believe I’m a mix of all of them – though, maybe i’m just a confused young man?

    I found similarities about myself in all of the above; fact that i’m an SEO guy, the idea that i want to earn to save time to learn and do other stuff i’m passionate about, I currently run a business with a list of things to do and am trying to slowly turn that around and i simply stumbled upon the whole lifestyle gig.

    I think the only one i’m not is natural. But i almost don’t like the word you’ve used, as it makes it sound like because it’s not happening on it’s own and i’m actively trying to achieve these it’s not natural? Anyway. Interesting post!

  • Dan

    Thanks Michael! I think it probably makes sense that we all have a little bit of each in us….

  • Pretty good categorizing. In Vietnam, it’s a less focused expat for sure without the fundamentals for running a business..I’d say 95% “The tourist”. Jeez, I need to get out of Vietnam and network a bit more.

  • Yeah I’ve got one more: The Serial Pattaya Guy. We’ve been around for over 30 years. We’re the original ones. Living on state benefits, inheritance, insurance frauds, scams, etc. We don’t need to “build businesses”, “do some networking” and the like, because we just don’t give a shit… that stuff doesn’t thrill us a bit. We’ve been there, done that, “lifestyle designing” long time before the internet.

    Now we’re seeing all those little 30ish guys landing in droves in South East Asia – for the pussy, just like any whoremonger – but with their laptops and huge validation needs in addition – and they think they’ve just invented hot water. Don’t play your “dynamic-successful player” game too near us or we might get irritated…

  • marc

    Then you meet the wrong people, I live in HCMC for over 4 years now, and make a full-time living online for the past 9 years :)

  • Ipadders go home

    I should make a site marketing “Do not come to Southeast Asia unless you’re a whoremongering pisshead”… Those ipadder/online business types are really bringing the place down.

  • Great list Dan! Like many others, I’ve got a bit of a mix of PP, Entrepreneur, and the Naturalist. I’ve always been a bit different and now finally have a label for it “lifestyle designer”! Perhaps you could throw up another category – The Gypsy: a hybrid of the above mentioned categories with one key difference, they bring their entire clan with them. The typical gypsy will be seen surrounded by two or more family members and/or friends. (For the weirdos like me and my wife that dragged our kids into our lifestyle designing ways. Ha ha!)

  • haha i like that!!! :D

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