This post is one in a series about creating and running a business your way, without the bullshit. Find it useful? Let me know or hit the <3 button after the post.
After I quit my office job back in 2018, I quickly built up a consulting business. This was my most logical first step, and it was one that I fell into rather than intentionally curated.
I had contacts from my previous job who wanted to work with me immediately. I just needed to set up the business framework and start billing them.
Because everything moved so fast, I didn’t immediately do things the way I wanted. I did what I thought I should – or what I had to do to make things possible. I didn’t think about what I really wanted.
I usually billed by the hour or day. I was exchanging my time for money, and that meant having a stable internet connection and booking meetings.
But that’s not really how I want to be doing things.
Honestly, I don’t like working from coffee shops and having to run around searching for wifi.
I went on a ten-thousand-mile train journey from Moscow to Southern China while keeping up my client work, but with hindsight… I’d absolutely rather not be working when I’m exploring the world (or even just chilling in my home country).
I’d rather have the business foundations to be able to just relax instead. To open a non-business book and find some inspiration from other writers when I visit a coffee shop, or just doodle in my notebook for a while.
Some people set a goal to be able to work from the beach, but then there’s actually enjoying the beach. I know which one I’d prefer.
So I made some changes. I designed my own off-grid business.
What I mean by an off-grid business
There’s just one key component of my off-grid business model: you can take months off at a time without causing problems. Nothing spontaneously combusts. You don’t lose all your income or customers.
When you design your business around flexibility, this also means you’re not constantly searching for wifi or fixed to a strict schedule if you want to head out for a hike instead. Things can tick along just fine without you. And that’s fantastic.
This does require a conscious effort to make happen. But it’s totally doable. Here’s what it takes to create an off-grid business model for your own company.
How to create an off-grid business that runs without you
1. Visualize your dream way of running your business
What does your dream future for your business look like? What would you ask for if you could put it on a wishlist to Santa?
To get to where you want to be, you first have to know what it looks like. You might need to experiment at the beginning to work this out, but over time, get super clear on the dream version of your business. This includes:
- How many hours you work
- How much time you can easily take off at a time
- How much money you make in a month
- What you focus your attention on
- What you outsource
You can find more design prompts for visualizing your ideal business here: How to design your business to be a utopia
2. Choose the way you make money
An off-grid business model depends on the type of business you have. If you have a coaching business that relies on 1-1 services, you’re not going to be able to totally go off-grid without losing income. At least not unless you hire others to do the 1-1 client work for you.
That might be fine for you, especially if you earn enough in 75% of the year to allow you to take the other 25% off with no need for passive income during those months.
But for the most sustainable and freedom-oriented business, you can introduce products that market, sell, and deliver themselves. These are a great way to complement any 1-1 services you offer, or they can be the foundation of your business model.
Products that market and sell themselves:
- Ebooks and audiobooks
- Online courses (these don’t have to be cringey – here’s a natural navigation course I love from Tristan Gooley)
- Done-for-you toolkits (such as spreadsheet templates, website templates, or other DIY solutions)
- Paid apps
- Physical products fulfilled by a warehouse (I used this option for my book for a while, but ultimately it caused too many headaches and poor quality results for the price I was paying)
Other passive ways to make money:
- Affiliate income (this provides the bulk of my income from my book blog, but I’m trying to move away from this to promote my own products instead)
- Advertising income – such as from Google Adsense or Mediavine. My ideal business is absolutely not covered in ads though, so I avoid this.
3. Have several streams of income (and satisfy your curiosity at the same time)
There are big advantages to picking one cash cow and focusing all of your attention on it. This could be one flagship product – such as a course, app, program, or physical product.
You’re building an audience for one thing, and only marketing and selling that one thing too. All of your messaging can be calibrated to focus on it.
For it to work, you need focus and dedication. (Also, knowledge that you’re putting all of your eggs in one basket, which can introduce more risk). If you can do that, kudos to you.
But that’s not how I work – I need way more diversity and opportunities to be curious, imaginative, and creative. I love thinking up new ideas (unfortunately, way more than actually finishing things).
So for me, I prefer the other type of approach: generating several streams of income and satisfying my curiosity at the same time.
4. Focus on what matters most
To amplify your freedom around your work, don’t waste your time on what doesn’t matter. When you’re working on your business, ask yourself what really matters – and what doesn’t.
What is the 20% of the work that will give you 80% of the results?
What is the product that will bring you the most revenue in the easiest way?
What is the best way you can be useful to your customers?
What is the one marketing strategy that will get you the best results?
These questions should help you gain some clarity on where your focus should be.
Outsource what you can, but try to eliminate even more. Remember that the most unproductive thing you can do is working hard on a task that doesn’t even need doing.
5. Don’t make things depend on you
There’s a business quote I love by @jeffseibert:
“As the founder/CEO, you have one job: Look at where you’re spending your time, then fire yourself from that position”.
Make this a key part of your business philosophy. If you want a lot of freedom to live the life you want outside of your work, you need to ensure that things don’t depend on you to function in your business.
When you design your business to run like clockwork even when you’re trekking in a jungle with zero phone service, you know you’ve nailed it.
6. Keep things simple
I recently wrote about one of the most important questions to keep asking in your business (and life): what would this look like if it were easy?
This isn’t about cutting corners, but it is about taking the easiest route to your desired results. This saves you time, energy, headaches, and money – and means you can do more of what really matters, instead of faffing around with time-wasting meaninglessness.
What is the simplest, quickest, and most pain-free way to get the results you want?
Design your business for freedom. Diversity your income. Focus on what matters. Don’t make everything depend on you. Find the easiest route to your ideal work situation.
Don’t make things complicated to make it seem like you’re a success. Instead, quietly thrive while you’re off on your next adventure and enjoy what actually makes your life meaningful.
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What can you do right now to optimise your business for freedom, adventure, and spontaneity?