How to Design a Creative Lifestyle Business

A creative lifestyle business is one that uses your creativity to deliver success on two fronts: commercial and lifestyle.

The process of ‘Designing Your Creative Business’ is about deliberately designing a business model that will deliver success in multiple ways. If we define success in the broadest of ways, it needs to include not only financial reward but also a sense of purpose and a well-balanced, happy life.

Many businesses are successful commercially, yet the business owners feel dissatisfied, under too much pressure, or even trapped in the enterprises they have built. They achieve success in one dimension, at the expenses of other aspects of life.

The term ‘lifestyle business’ is often used in a derogatory way, meaning that the business cannot scale and grow, to be sold at some point in a lucrative ‘exit’. I totally understand the logic of scaling and exiting, and the business models that are used. Indeed I’ve advised creative entrepreneurs about this route. But it’s not for everyone. Sometimes, we choose deliberately not to follow that model. Or the nature of our creative business means that it’s not feasible.

There’s a different approach we can take. The objective of those who pursue the growth and exit route (the vast majority of whom fail; we only get to hear about the spectacular successes) is to become rich. Why? So that they can eventually, if they are lucky, have a great lifestyle. The alternative is to have the lifestyle in the here and now, not in some distant dream, by building into our businesses the quality of life we desire. This is a Creative Lifestyle Business. This is also a valid approach. It’s how I have chosen to build my own business. It’s not just about work-life ‘balance’ (as if those two things are opposites) but ‘work-life integration’. I am proud to have a ‘lifestyle business’! See Business Design for Lifestyle Success.

Unfortunately, many creative, digital and cultural businesses fall between two stools, with neither the possibility to exit and become rich, nor with a creative lifestyle business that brings both financial and lifestyle success. Lifestyle benefits are regarded as a trade off against financial reward, as if we have to choose between being rich and being happy. What if we can have both?!

If we are smart in the way we design our business model, we can have the best of both worlds. This is what I mean when I use the term “T-Shirts and Suits”, a metaphor for creative talents and smart business thinking. We can be creative in the business office as well as the studio. We can choose business techniques that fit with our values and objectives. We can adapt the ideas of business to suit our own situation. We can devise creative business models that deliver what we want.

This is what my books, toolkit, training workshops, speeches and business advice are all about. Helping creative entrepreneurs to achieve the success they define, by being smart with business, is my profession and my mission. And it’s the way I run my own business.

An existing business can be ‘RE-Designed’, but this is difficult to do when the business is operational, since the underlying business model often needs to be restructured. Sometimes it’s easier to simply start again, with a totally new business. Another option is to start a new ‘parallel’ enterprise running alongside the old one, but again, it’s not easy because there is no spare time if the existing business is a kind of ‘treadmill’ for the owners.

A crisis (such as the COVID-19 Pandemic) can provide an opportunity to make changes.

A crisis can partially destroy a business so that it needs significant rebuilding, providing an opportunity to reconstruct it in a different way, reconfigured for lifestyle success as well as business performance.

Sometimes a business is destroyed completely, which creates an opportunity to start afresh.

A crisis can also create an opportunity to make changes that you have always wanted to make, but there was never enough time or headspace. And in any case, things weren’t all that bad.

The tools and techniques of ‘Designing Your Creative Business’ are relevant in a crisis, they can by used by startups, and they can help existing businesses to develop in the right direction.

More details of the Designing Your Creative Business process, toolkit, workshops and business advice, plus associated articles, methods and resources are online here.

My Creative lifestyle business. Working at Dolphin View Beach in the Solomon Islands.
My Creative lifestyle business. Working at Dolphin View Beach in the Solomon Islands.

See also Business Design for Lifestyle Success.

“And then there is the most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.”
– Randy Komisar