A conversation I’ve had with a friend about my interview on the I Date Money podcast made me realise that there are people who have some confusion about what it means to have a lifestyle business, and how it’s different from being a lifestyle influencer (which is one common form of having a business in the lifestyle sector).
And, of course, this has some repercussions when it comes to personal branding, which is one of my passions. Although, underneath it, is a passion for helping people (especially women) build thriving businesses that support their financial needs and give them freedom to live the lifestyle they want.
Lifestyle business originated as a derogatory term to mean businesses that are set up and run by its founders primarily with the aim of living or maintaining a certain lifestyle.
They have limited scalability, which makes them not popular with investors, and it’s a model better suited to the creative industries and some types of service businesses. Most businesses of this kind that you would be familiar with are coaching businesses.
Tim Ferris’ book “The Four-Hour Workweek” is possibly the most famous example of trying to bring the lifestyle model in areas where the ideas underpinning it would be seen as absurd, namely the Silicon Valley.
The benefits of a lifestyle business
Everyone on the internet nowadays seems to be proposing that lifestyle businesses are the only recipe for success and happiness, but a world where everyone went this route would be unsustainable, or at least would require a lot of adjustments that our fast-paced society is likely not keen to make in order to make it sustainable.
However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t benefits for society at large in embracing this slower way of doing business, since it puts the person at the centre of it all.
- Rest increases productivity. This is controversial as many people believe the idea of productivity itself is damaging and should be dismantled, but there is plenty of evidence that businesses benefit from creating rhythms that promote the health and wellbeing of their employees.
- A shorter workweek benefits the economy. More time for rest and leisure at the same wage means more money spent on consumer goods and services.
- Time constraints improve work focus, which in turn improves work output. One key aspect of a lifestyle business is that it builds the business around your lifestyle, not the other way around.
As such, it reduces the impact of the so-called Parkinson’s law, which states that work expands to fit the time container it has. Research has demonstrated that we truly can only focus for 3-5 hours, and companies have started to adapt.
The lifestyle industry, of which lifestyle influencers are a part, refers to all businesses in areas that have to do with our lifestyle. Most brands that you purchase from are likely in the lifestyle industry, as it covers both the bare necessities and the more leisurely things (unless you’re Venusian, and lace is a necessity for your survival. Totally not talking about me and my period panties).
Most of these brands do not run like lifestyle businesses, although they can be key to their success. In fact, it’s mutual. Unless the background to your videos would be a Hakuoki calendar (again, not me 👀).
In recent years, the idea of a lifestyle brand has started to take the world of business by storm. With more and more competitors entering the market, businesses have started to differentiate themselves from each other by starting lifestyles around them.
As Joseph Hancock, Joseph explored in Brand/Story: Cases and Explorations in Fashion Branding, modern businesses “embody the values, aspirations, interests, attitudes, or opinions of a group or a culture for marketing purposes” and “seek to inspire, guide, and motivate people, with the goal of making their products contribute to the definition of the consumer’s way of life”.
One famous example of a lifestyle brand is Apple. Not only are their products innovative, simple, and stylish, and a major contributor to marital tensions in my former marriage. Apple’s products are status symbols of your belonging to one or more of a few social groups, from the hip creative professional to the lifestyle influencer with the instagrammable life.
Influencers are a phenomenon that has evolved over the past decade as social media has become a key component of our way of life. We are all both consumers and creators of content, and the internet allowing us to gravitate towards people who have things in common with us beyond the geographical area we live in or being related by blood has expanded the potential for word of mouth marketing.
While the word influencer is mostly used to talk about big content creators with thousands of followers, everyone is an influencer in their sphere of influence, and many brands have started to seek partnerships with micro-influencers who can offer a small but highly specific loyal audience and higher ROI at a fraction of the cost of working with big content creators.
There are influencers in many spaces online, from business influencers writing tips and tricks on all things from marketing to productivity, to influencers in the lifestyle sector, which are what most of us think of when we think of influencers.
They entertain us with their aspirational lifestyles, and give us pointers for brands we should buy and places we should frequent if we want to match their level. Many lifestyle businesses are also lifestyle influencers, since they derive some of their passive income from affiliate marketing and they post about their lives online, fitting the promotions seamlessly into the promotion of their services.
Not all personal brands online are lifestyle influencers, though, and you don’t have to be. You also don’t have to be on social media as a brand (I’m not, although I would occasionally share about my work since it’s part of my life).
I wouldn’t be in integrity if I marketed my services from a place of creating a false need, since only the images you truly need (those on your website) are fewer than if you had content to put out at least once a day.
Anyway, if you are marketing yourself online or offline, you have a personal brand. I talked more about it here. That’s true whether your business falls in any of the categories discussed above, or not.
If you have a personal brand for a business that is centred on you, though, the line between the business and you becomes blurred in a way that having a personal brand as the founder of a product-based business doesn’t, and not because you have to share your life or even your personality.
Being personal in your brand
A personal brand has to be personal and has to be authentic. That doesn’t mean we aren’t multifaceted beings who wear different hats at different times, or sometimes at the same time.
Our businesses have their own personalities too, even when they are built around us. That’s what allows us to delegate and grow teams even under brands that revolve around the founder all the way down to the name (think of Martha Stewart’s lifestyle empire).
Personal branding is the delicate alchemy of the elements of you that come out in your work and best support the personality of the brand, which is one of the elements of the brand experience.
While I am known to make jokes at my expense on this blog, if you are a potential client I want you to know me as a competent person who can hold space sensitively at a stressful time and is enjoyable to work with for several hours.
I show you my sense of humour so that you know I don’t take myself too seriously and working with me won’t be like being a debutante presented at court in 1815. That allows you to make an informed decision about whether I can create the space for you to relax despite a camera in your face and the significant pressure to get the best possible images to connect with your clients.
I also talk about my lifestyle to normalise certain things that are often brushed under the carpet in an effort to look put together and professional when the truth is, building a business is a messy affair. They may be things that you’d want to know if you were vetting me for a friendship or dating too, but they are shared intentionally with a purpose that circles back to my business goals.
Being clear on your zone of genius and your business goals allows you to find the overlap that informs what business model best suits you.
If you are interested in diving deeper into these questions of building the correct business foundations with me, you can sign up to the waitlist for my upcoming business alchemy workshop series.