Lessons Learned From 10 Years Running a Lifestyle Business

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Well that was a F**king disaster!’ I exclaimed as I turned to my partner at the end of one of my first ever webinars, which had ended with me unable to turn Go To Webinar off and having to embarrassingly enlist the help of one of my audience members to do so. The screen lit up in front of my eyes as a slew of ‘We’re still here Jo!’ & ‘We can still hear you’ comments flooded my computer. Oh My God! I still hadn’t turned it off!

And this is just one of many faux pas along the journey of running an online business.

I remember being in floods of tears for 3 days straight when uploading and embedding videos required umpteen apps and a degree in internet programming. I’ve launched products with pay buttons not working, have ran between pubs to get internet connection during an interview with an expert who had to do the bulk of it himself when our internet failed, deleted my entire email list once by accident & lost everything on my computer twice over when it broke down in the days before dropbox & the cloud.

For the last 10 years, my small family & I have been traversing the seas chasing the sun around the world!

In order to do so we had to make some money along the way and so between us, my hubby & I, we built two very successful, life-changing online businesses.

Businesses which gave us the freedom to live anywhere, work anywhere, for me to pack up work for a couple of years and also for us to start to build a nest egg and make our money work for us over the long term.

Whilst I’d love to tell you we did all of this while sipping cocktails on a beach that is only partially true!

I say partially because there have been plenty of times we have been toiling away on our computers while sipping a bottle of Chang by a pool or by the beach, such is the nature of working from anywhere!

But there have also been many many times I have watched the dawn break over the top of my computer screen as I realize I’ve been at it all night or we’ve holed ourselves away somewhere for days on end to just work our butts off to make things happen.

Many frustrations, lots of tears, a bit of burn out at times and more moments than I care to admit when you ask yourself whether just going home and getting a job would be easier.

But overall it’s 500% worth it.

The lifestyle we live, the freedom we have, the experiences we have been afforded and can continue to expose our daughter too.

I wouldn’t give up what we have in a heartbeat and to be honest right now I feel a huge second wind coming and the next few years are pure excitement to me!

But before I get carried away, let’s have a look at some of the key lessons I have learned along the way.

Lessons I hope will inspire and help you with starting and running your own lifestyle business.

1. It’s hard work

There is no getting away from it my friend. Building a business and I mean any business is pure and simple hard graft.

There are no short cuts. No quick hacks. No magic buttons. No matter what copy and paste headline you have just read.

Yes, there are more complicated business models vs simpler business models, but each and every business model, no exception, requires commitment and hard work to get it off the ground.

There’s no getting around it.

When I first started back in 2010 every headline was a promise to make you rich with the click of a button and because the internet was so new and shiny and the opportunity was abounding it seemed so feasible!

People were creating companies out of thin air, investors were getting rich off of technological startups catapulting businesses into the billions overnight, kids were starting businesses in their bedrooms.

The last 10 years have been like the 60’s for entrepreneurs – Anything goes! Dive in, envelop yourself with the entrepreneurial euphoria man.

And yes while certainly, the odds are way more in our favor to start and run a lifestyle business now, and I would personally recommend it to everybody and anybody, to reach the heady heights of financial freedom you have to put down the metaphorical bong and put your back into it!

2. You will need time or money or both.

I remember walking through the foyer of a large internet marketing event in London back in 2010. I bumped into the event organizer after hearing a multitude of rags to riches stories on stage.

Remember them? His particular story (the organizer) was from memory some huge emotional journey through a cemetery or something where he was practically homeless and down and out and had an epiphany by a gravestone and went on to make a million, or something ridiculous like that.

I asked him – ’so what does it really take to make a million’, he looked at me with a slight smirk on his face as he adjusted the sleeve of his Hugo Boss suit and said ‘how much money have you got?’.

I didn’t really understand him at the time, but it is true that money begets money.

If you have money you can buy your way into a well-connected mastermind and network with those who can give your business a huge boost or even partner with you making you an overnight success.

If you have money you can invest in a team and resources to help you build your business including advertising, great design, great video production etc, all of which certainly help to grow your business faster.

If you have money you could buy an existing business and simply look for ways to make it better, more efficient, more profitable, etc.

But even with money, you’re still going to have to do the work or pay handsomely for someone else to do so.

We chose the route of time to make our first million as that’s what we had as opposed to oodles of money.

We laser-focused on our goal, like looking at the bullseye of a dartboard and consistently worked hard every single day.

It took me one year to hit 6 figures. Another 4 to hit the very high 6 figures. Then in the 5th year, we hit 7 figures.

It took time and energy and focus and commitment and certainly the more money we made and invested back in, the easier it got to reach that high number.

The good news, the low cost to entry of building a lifestyle business is what makes it so attractive, so if you have no money but reckon you could work your butt off for a good few hours a week, and have a solid focus and a good work ethic, then you too have the same opportunity we did to make it happen.

3. You must follow your passion and not profit

I say this with certainty but even as I write I still wonder if this depends on your personality and without being gender bias, whether this actually applies more to women than men.

The reason I say this, is that my partner is passionate about money so he doesn’t really care what business he’s in as long as it’s turning a profit.

I, on the other hand, cannot passionately invest myself in a business unless it’s something I’m passionate about!

When we started our Amazon business we did so in a niche that was popular rather than something I felt I could build a brand around.

I have no interest in kitchen products whatsoever! I hate cooking and am terrible at it so I wasn’t about to become the next Pioneer Woman if you know what I mean.

That’s why all my focus moving forward is on Your Lifestyle Business which is what I’m super passionate about. My experimental eCommerce site is aimed at empowering women which I’m also super passionate about and next year my hubs & I are launching a new travel brand which of course we’re both incredibly passionate about!

The more you LOVE what you do, the easier you’ll find it to do it.

Those cold mornings when you do not want to get out of bed and get on your computer, those dark nights when you really just want to go to sleep, those moments when things don’t work and you want to pack it all in.

They will all become infinitely easier if you’re working on something, talking about something, posting about something you absolutely love!!!

Sorry to sound twee, but life will pass by in a flash my friend, why waste it just chasing money when you can have so much more!

4. Get super clear on the direction you want to go in and stick to it!

Ok, so time for a bit of honesty and vulnerability here folks!

If there is honestly one thing I could change about my journey over the last 10 years and that would be that I’d had a clear vision of what I wanted at the start.

Which I kind of did, but I kept getting distracted and veering off which I’ll talk about in lesson 5, but I also lacked confidence which was a huge proponent to following trends rather than my heart.

I knew when I started I wanted to work with people who wanted to start and build their own business.

But I’d only had a couple of failed businesses up to then, who was I to guide.

So even though I started with a brand called The Entreprenette, I didn’t have the gumption to keep it going.

One day I fell over facebook so immersed myself and started teaching that. From that the Social Networking Academy was born, but social media wasn’t enough, so a bit later, Online Marketing Addicts was born, but that sounded too scammy & focused on just marketing in my mind and, so after that Jo Barnes Online was born.

Then we got sidetracked with Amazon and I started playing with a brand specifically for training on Amazon.

I’m actually pretty ashamed to say, that the years of indecision, planning, thinking about the overall direction of my business and still not having a super clear direction had exhausted me. I burned myself out through lack of clarity.

So after 6 years with an email list of over 50,000 subscribers, a blog getting 25k or so hits per month and a decent social media following I just stopped.

It was probably the best thing for me at the time, but now some years later the world has moved on and I’m essentially starting again and it’s a tough and competitive world out there!

Look I’m a huge advocate of any decision being better than no decision. I promote it as a strategy when you can’t make any decision at all, and I’m glad I had all the experiences I had. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t followed the path I had and here I am with the freedom to not work if I choose to.

But have the courage of your convictions as my Mum would say.

I knew what I wanted right from the start, but my own self doubt stopped me from pursuing it single mindedly. I danced around the houses confusing my audience, my peers and most importantly myself.

Look deep within yourself, you know that thing you don’t want to do because it seems too big & scary? That’s probably the thing you need to be pursuing.

5. Distraction & Indecision is your enemy

So that brings us to the subject of bright shiny objects!

Once you have decided your path it’s so important you stick with it.

Our challenge today is not lack of opportunity, rather too much of it! We are bounded by opportunity. There are now hundreds of ways to start a business that will supplement or completely replace and supersede your income.

Blogging, influencing, self-publishing, coaching, ghostwriting, web developing, teaching, eCommerce, freelancing.

You name it. You could literally pack up your job and start to create an income today.

(That’s got to be my next episode right, ‘how to pack up your job and create an income today’).

But seriously, there are so many things you can do, you have to just make a decision based on what you love to do and then stick with it.

Have a listen to episodes 36 & 40. 36 goes through the different business options available to you and 40 walks you through how to make the decision!

But once the decision is made do not let fear, self doubt, lack of confidence stop you.

Have the courage of your convictions my friend and make it happen!

6. Network as much as possible and get to know people in your industry

‘Be so good they can’t ignore you’ – Steve Martin

I love this quote.

I love it because networking online, especially with ‘influencers’ can be super hard.

Take me to an event or place where I can meet people face to face, I’m happy. But online when you’re trying to network with influencers and start relationships it’s hugely time-consuming and they’re overrun with comments and people liking and sharing so how do you stand out?

My strategy is to be so good they can’t ignore you. Focus first on being amazing yourself.

Create a great business, focus on your customers and be inclusive! Never worry about competition, instead embrace others in your industry, talk about them and share their quality content with your customers.

The fastest way to network with your peers is to be so good at what you do that they notice you because your customers love you and you have been open-minded enough to share them with your audience.

Also, it doesn’t hurt to like & follow their content online when you can with the occasional interesting comment.

The best strategy of all is to get in a room with them, so if you can attend industry meets, go. Take their courses if they offer them and be a vocal part of their groups and masterminds and if you run a podcast or youtube channel, try to get interviews to help them promote their new thing whatever that may be, in the meantime, making a connection.

Don’t be an island my friend, nothing great was ever built alone.

7. Stay away from Charlatans. Do the work.

I know how easy it is to be sucked into what sounds like an incredible opportunity.

Seriously my hubby calls me a ‘marketers dream’.

To this day I still remember when I was about 15 years old, I was at one of these Sunday morning farmers markets. You know the ones where they sell meat & produce from the back of a van.

There was a guy selling electrical goods and he had this huge boom box (we are in the 80’s at this time). Double cassettes, recording, playback, radio, etc.

I didn’t really want it because I couldn’t afford it. I was 15!

But he sold it and sold it and I found my hand going up and next thing you know I’m reluctantly walking home with it!

To be honest I’ve been a bit like that my whole life!

But the key is to stay away from the charlatans because they’re just out for your money and I guarantee you, they do not have a magic solution which means you do not have to work as hard!

There is no magic solution, see lesson 1.

You’ll know the people who are real and those who aren’t.

Those who are real share for free. They practically give the farm away before they ask for a penny of your money.

They don’t harp on about the millions they’re making and post pics of themselves with Ferraris and big houses because if they do, that’s a huge red flag for me.

Either because they’re a complete charlatan or because they’re engaging in old school marketing which in my opinion is just as bad.

There’s no need for it in today’s transparent and open social media world.

Just be you, people! I guess if you run around in a Ferrari and live in a big house then it can’t be helped but you know what I mean!

Look whenever you’re faced with an offer that looks too good to be true the only way forward is to ask yourself if you trust the person making the offer.

Have you consumed lots of their info, do you know people who have been through their courses and have made it work. Have they given you so much value that moving to the next step is a no brainer.

That’s my personal favorite.

When I know that there’s no question it will be valuable because I’ve got to know them through their videos, podcasts, books etc and so I don’t even give it a second thought.

Lastly on this point, if you do decide to get some education, make sure it’s moving you closer to your goals!

Don’t just buy a course because it’s the next best thing that’s definitely going to make you money.

If you have a clear vision of what you want your business & life to look like, do not veer off. Stay on your path and use courses only to leapfrog you forward towards your goals.

8. Create an avatar that you can look at every time you create any content

Ok so this has been a recent one for me.

I have flipped & flopped over the years as to whether having an avatar is actually any use whatsoever.

Just yesterday I read a blog post which used the word ‘rubbish’ when the writer talked about getting clearly defined on your audience and there are times when I agree with that to be honest.

When I talk about a lifestyle business, for example, I’m just as likely to attract a 25-year-old go-getter who can’t stand the thought of working for someone else as I am a 65-year-old retiree who wants to supplement their retirement fund.

But if you don’t know who you’re talking too it can make creating content very tough.

So I have found since sitting down and defining my avatar it comes in very handy when I’m wondering what might make a great blog post or podcast or how to write the opening paragraph.

I have a quick look at my avatar and the picture the person in my head and the kind of questions they might be asking at that very second and it helps immensely!

So if for no other reason create an avatar for yourself.

9. Believe in yourself, stay true to your values & do what feels right to you

This is so important!

You do not have to follow the crowd.

In fact, Warren Buffet warns against it!

Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful‘ he says, specifically about the stock market, but the same can be said of building your business.

Just because everyone right now is following one method doesn’t make that method right for you.

In fact, it was part of the reason I burned out as per lesson 4.

When I first started online product launches were all the rage.

I had learned from Jeff Walkers product launch formula, my closest mentor Jason Fladlien, Mike Filsaime, Frank Kern.

This was back in the day!

And for a while, it was super fun. My favorite model was to teach people to live in a closed group. So a typical launch for me was entry to a six – twelve-week program, hosted live with support & coaching along the way.

Great model, absolutely exhausting if you’re doing them back to back which is pretty much what I ended up doing in 2015.

Because you’re not only constantly creating and improving content, you’re 24/7 support for people all around the world and then gearing up to a new launch with videos and testimonials etc.

And frankly, I hated the sales process.

With a passion. Hated it.

But felt weak for feeling like this. I felt that perhaps I was in the wrong career.

My mentor said I must be selling, Brian Tracy said you must always be selling. Dan Kennedy god rest his soul, always be selling.

Every ‘expert’ I knew said sell, sell, sell!

So even though I hated it, it was all I knew until I’d just had enough.

Until I realized how unhappy I was and I didn’t want to do it anymore.

So I took a huge step back to regroup. And some years later here I am. I will not sell, sell, sell my books, any courses I may choose to do in the future, or anything I’m offering.

There is a multitude of ways to put your products, offers, and services in front of your audience without ‘always selling’. In fact, I would say ’never sell’.

Offer, demonstrate, describe, extol the virtues, highlight the benefits, but never sell.

My good pal Chris Farrell once said to me ‘people hate being sold too but they love to buy’.

You have to do what’s right for you. Just because everyone else seems to be following one model does not make that model right for you. Even if they are the expert!

Question everything!

Do what you know in your heart makes you feel good and creates a win-win for everyone involved.

Be self-aware and belief in yourself that you know deep inside what works for you.

10. Don’t think, do!

This is intrinsically linked with lesson 4, get clear about what it is you want to do.

With clarity comes action. Oh my gosh, that’s shareable.

With clarity comes action!

I’m am literally the best in the world at planning.

Seriously I have life plans coming out of my arse.

What was it that John Lennon said;

Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans

Oh never has a truer word been spoken.

I used to be a huge advocate of goal setting. I mean years and years ahead. Goals for 10 years from now, 5 years from now, 1 year from now.

Here’s what 20 years of doing that has taught me.

Somewhere deep inside me, I had some non negotiables. I may not have known it at a conscious level but subconsciously there were some things that I just knew in my heart of hearts would happen.

  • I knew I would meet a life partner who would be my best friend.
  • I knew if I had kids I would raise them abroad.
  • I knew I would run my own business and achieve financial freedom.
  • I knew I would have absolute freedom in this world from the moment I sat on a rock in Faliraki overlooking the med.
  • I know right now I will make a living for the rest of my life as a writer, an author, and an angel investor.

Do you know? Are you conscious of your non-negotiables?

If not, stop planning, stop goal setting and look for your non-negotiables.

Take a day and visualize your life exactly as you want it to look.

Have as clear a vision of what you want your life to look like as possible. It may not end up like that but at least it makes you consciously aware and gives you something to aim for.

Then, in all honesty, I don’t really plan more than 100 days in advance anymore.

I don’t know if that’s right or wrong but it works for me.

For example, I have two goals to have launched and generated $5k revenues on my experimental eCommerce store and finished my first book (for my daughter) within 100 days.

Both goals take me closer to the vision I have for my life and because the end is so close, ie just over 3 months, I know exactly what I need to do every day to move them forward.

This means rather than endless planning I’m just doing.

You have to get yourself into the position of just doing.

Like cleaning your teeth, you know what you need to do that day to move you closer to your short term goals and long term vision.

Does that make sense?

Another Buffet quote – “It is not necessary to do extraordinary things to get extraordinary results.

Every day I get up and write anywhere between 500 – 6000 words. Every day. Every day. Every day.

I’m not doing anything extraordinary.

I’m just doing what I need to be doing every day to achieve my goal of finishing my book.

As an aside when we made our first million on Amazon do you know what we did?

We got up every day and secured reviews & discount sales. Every day we made sure we got more reviews and discount sales. Every single day, 7 days a week.

We didn’t do anything extraordinary. We just did what we needed to do to achieve our goal.

Don’t think too hard my friend. Start doing. Action is the key!


Phew that’s been a bit of an outpouring!

I do hope it’s helped and inspired and made you think.

It’s certainly been a ride and although I say in Lesson 4, I could have done it differently, had I done so we may not be where we are now.

My path may have gone in a completely different direction which may have been good or bad who knows.

Someone once said you are exactly where you’re meant to be doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.

A bit deep but hey, who wants to live with regret right?

If you were sat across from me now we’d crack open a bottle of champers and toast the next 10 years.

I wonder what my podcast episode will include 10 years from now!

Have an awesome week my friend and remember Live Life on Purpose and as always Make It Happen!

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