If you read this blog over a decade ago, you know that my first taste of living a Laptop Lifestyle came long before I started blogging – in fact blogs did not even exist back then, at least not the way we know them today.
It’s about 15 years since I first started sitting at cafes with my laptop, making money from the internet. I thought it would be fun – and potentially useful for you too – to review the three different business models I’ve applied to fuel a Laptop Lifestyle.
This is top of my mind right now because I’m focused on the opening of the Laptop Lifestyle Academy. I want people to realize that this lifestyle doesn’t have to come from blogging only.
There are many paths online to make your living. In my case I can show you three that I have used. Let’s start with the obvious choice, blogging…
Perhaps I should split this into two sections, since for many years I blogged and made a living without any digital products of my own.
From 2005 to 2007 my income from blogging was entirely from advertising and promoting affiliate products like other people’s ebooks, conferences, software and online courses. I made $5,000 to $10,000 a month, enough to cover all my expenses as a young adult.
From 2007 onwards I focused on my own digital products. I started with a membership site, that turned into a course, followed by two more courses.
Slowly I phased out advertising completely, and stopped doing any active affiliate promotions. I still have some small affiliate income streams promoting software and services, things like AWeber or GetResponse for email marketing, Bluehost for new blogs/websites and Ontraport for more advanced marketers (the system I use), but these account for less than 5% of my income.
In the last three years I’ve significantly ramped up my own product creation, rolling out three ebooks, two short courses, a plugin for WordPress, an interviews club and a flagship course. These products are how I make the bulk of my income today, which has grown to as much as $70,000 a month.
I’m bias, because I’ve made the most money using this business model (almost two million dollars) and I’ve helped many others do so too, hence I think it’s a great path for you.
This is particularly true if you’re already some kind of teacher, author, speaker, trainer, coach or freelancer. You already know your area of expertise, your job is to take your knowledge and turn it into blog content and teaching products you sell online.
The main skill you have to learn is how to sell with blogging and email marketing, which is much of what my own training products teach you.
No matter what kind of Laptop Lifestyle business model you choose, learning how to sell online is mandatory, which is why so much of the training in the Laptop Lifestyle Academy focuses on this.
Thankfully, the fundamentals of marketing and sales don’t change, so once you learn these skills you can use them to sell basically anything you want to.
You might be surprised to know that the first place I learned how to sell online had nothing to do with blogging or digital products – it was selling services.
During the mid-2000s my income came from an editing business called BetterEdit. I wasn’t delivering the services though, I hired contract editors.
This business was born from a simple idea – I could find freelancers online to deliver services, and I could build a website to get customers for these services (I later called this model ‘Services Arbitrage‘).
My beta test of this idea actually began with language translation services, because I found this amazing database online full of highly qualified language translators.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, I started with what today entrepreneurs call an MVP – Minimum Viable Product (a website to sell a service in my case).
I built the website, listed all the languages we could translate, then promoted the site online.
It didn’t take long before the first job came in. I took the details of the job, found three translators in the database, asked them all for quotes, then took the best quote back to my potential customer (with an additional 50% added on as a profit margin for me).
The customer said yes and I was in business!
To cut a long story short, my language translation business morphed into an editing business, then narrowed in to become a specialized Academic English editing service focusing on international students with English as a second language, studying at universities in Australia, Canada, America and Britain.
This business was where I learned about things like testimonials, copywriting, optimizing the sales process, customer service delivery, hiring contractors and so much more.
BetterEdit was also the first business I created specifically designed to power a Laptop Lifestyle. I studied concepts like passive income and leverage a lot back then, and thus my business was built to focus on freedom above everything else.
It took a while, but eventually BetterEdit reached the point where it ran almost entirely without me (just 2 to 4 hours a week to check in on things) and delivered a full time income.
During peak years, I turned over $100,000 worth of editing work annually. In 2007 I sold the business for $100,000 USD, because I wanted to focus all my energy on the blogging business.
What I started back in the early 2000s with BetterEdit and call the Services Arbitrage model, is very similar to what emerged later at sites like 99Designs, Elance, Rentacoder, Freelancer, Upwork, and countless other outsourcing sites and apps today.
Most of these sites leverage technology as a matching service, allowing people to place jobs, and then contractors to bid or apply to win the project.
The problem as a result of this is that contractors get paid terribly because bidding for a project is often a race to the bottom in terms of price. On the other side of the fence, as a small business owner looking for quality work, finding competent contractors is very hit and miss (I know this from plenty of bad experiences).
One of the aspects that made BetterEdit work so well was charging higher prices. This meant I could hire better editors and deliver a better service. It also meant I had more profit margin.
While I was briefly tempted to develop technology to handle the matching service, I decided instead to focus on human powered customer service (it ran entirely by email between the client, the editor and my customer service staff).
This is an advantage because it keeps things personal, allowing editor, client and customer rep to get to know each other. The personal touch helps to further justify the higher price.
This is exactly the same path I advise you take today, if you are considering selling other people’s services as your Laptop Lifestyle business.
You need to specialize on one specific type of service and focus on quality and customer service, with a higher price.
You can’t compete on price against the large freelancing hub sites, but you can build a reputation for quality and be rewarded with higher paying and better clients.
By delivering human powered customer service, you also avoid any large upfront technology costs. You can literally start this business tomorrow with just you and a website.
When your first job comes in, get quotes to deliver the work and build from there. Foster relationships with good contractors and market your service until you have a steady client base and income.
I see this business model as the perfect starting point for anyone who doesn’t have expertise to build a teaching/blogging business, or a physical product to sell. Anyone can do it, if you’re willing to put in the time to find good contractors and learn the fundamentals of selling online.
While you can start this business by being the person delivering the service yourself (freelancing), I do not recommend this. Instead, focus on hiring other people from the beginning. This will allow you to spend your time marketing, without getting stuck ‘doing the work’ yourself – which take s a huge chunk of time.
I wasn’t an editor, which was a huge advantage when growing BetterEdit. It forced me to focus on the business model I wanted – one that granted me freedom – not one that would see me sitting at the computer editing essays all day.
A Services Arbitrage business is highly scalable (you can hire as many contractors as demand warrants). Once you have a couple of good contractors ready to work, some jobs under your belt, word of mouth will help you grow and existing customers will come back for more.
It’s a beautiful business model in my opinion, one that could still work today if you focus on premium services at premium prices.
The first dollar I ever made online came from selling old video games on eBay during the late 1990s.
By 2001, I had built a thriving content site about the Magic: The Gathering card game. The main income stream for this website was an e-commerce store, where I sold cards individually, and in packs and cases.
I hesitate to call this a true Laptop Lifestyle business because I spent so much time taking trips down to the local post office to send off cards, plus I never made a full time income from it.
That being said, I did run this business from my bedroom living with my mom. The main reasons it didn’t grow to become a full time income was because I lost interest in the game and got hit with credit card fraud because frankly, I was very much a novice entrepreneur (not surprising at 20 years old!).
Today with things like Amazon Fulfillment, dropshipping, not to mention great tools for selling products like Shopify, sourcing products like Alibaba, and communities for connecting with customers like Etsy, the world of e-commerce is an obvious choice to build a Laptop Lifestyle business around.
This is an easy question to answer…
If you already have a product you love or a range of products you are passionate about, and the idea of spending your life devoted to these products appeals to you, launching an e-commerce site is a great choice.
Bear in mind you don’t have to be the product creator or inventor. There are many products already in existence you can sell. What matters is you are willing to devote yourself to promotion of the product(s) you decide to sell.
You still have to do things like write articles, drum up press coverage and connect with people in order to market your product, so you better be excited about what you are selling or you will struggle.
It’s also important you understand that an e-commerce business becomes a Laptop Lifestyle business only when you tap into online services and contractors for things like fulfillment and customer service.
If you spend all your time answering customer support emails, running down to the post office, dealing with suppliers, not to mention all the marketing activities you have to do to spread the word about what you sell, you’re not living a life of freedom.
Thankfully as I mentioned, the Internet today offers countless tools to support small e-commerce stores, so this path is a very realistic one for a Laptop Lifestyle income stream.
I’d like to mention two other potential pathways for establishing Laptop Lifestyle businesses before we wrap up. I personally never focused on them full time, but the potential to make big money with these is definitely there!
For a good number of years I invested money I was making from blogging and my editing business into purchasing other blogs and websites as a way to diversify into new income streams.
My goal was to generate as close to passive income from these investments as possible. As you can imagine, this makes for a perfect Laptop Lifestyle business opportunity because you have plenty of free time.
To put this into perspective for you, over the period of one year, I purchased a blog about branding that I took from making $400 a month to $1,500 a month, and a set of online forums about miniature motorcycles, which delivered a steady $2,000 a month.
Collectively these websites cost me approximately $12,000 USD to buy, and delivered between $3,000 to $4,000 a month after completing my ‘renovations’, minus $500 to $1,000 in costs (paying someone to look after them, work with volunteer writers, find new advertising sponsors, etc).
When buying websites today you face a lot more competition, but the amount of websites available to purchase, and the platforms dedicated to helping connect buyers and sellers, have also increased. The industry has matured, which in many ways is a good thing.
If you just bring in $2,000 USD a month after acquiring one or two or three websites, that’s enough to live very well in many countries. If you really get serious, there’s no reason why you can’t build an entire portfolio of websites and bring in upwards of $10,000 a month or more
Of course like any business, there are things to learn and risks, especially given you have to first invest money to purchase sites.
I also mention software as an option because many people are creating plugins, blog themes, and software as a service companies that deliver great income and can fund your Laptop Lifestyle.
I personally have only ever sold a plugin – The Smart Slider – which frankly delivers far from a full time income at just $29 each sale. However, there are many people who do very well financially creating tools for bloggers, entrepreneurs, hobbyists, musicians, authors, and other groups of people online.
Buying a website is by far the easiest way I know to very quickly create an online income stream to fuel your Laptop Lifestyle, regardless of your background.
The risks are obvious – you could buy a dud site and waste the money you spent to purchase it.
This is why I strongly recommend you start small and focus on industries and business models you understand when looking for sites to acquire. I teach you exactly how to do this inside my How To Buy And Sell Websites Package, which you also get access to with Laptop Lifestyle Academy membership.
Software is a completely different kettle of fish. If you’re not a programmer, then your biggest challenge is hiring the right person and keeping your idea as simple as possible so you don’t rack up huge coding costs.
If you are a technical person, building software, plugins, blog themes, apps and tools is a great path to a Laptop Lifestyle income stream. Just make sure you understand the needs of your customer before you go and invest your time to build the product.
Regardless of which business model you intend to use, I’d love to offer my help to coach and support your journey to create a Laptop Lifestyle business.
I have a lot of experience — over 15 years — of running various businesses. However, unlike most entrepreneurs and coaches, my motivation has always been the Laptop Lifestyle.
I focus on freedom, leverage, passive income models, and starting projects that you enjoy, but won’t consume your life.
This is not about creating a startup company that will suck every hour of your day, all in the hope of one day earning a multi-million dollar exit (which is a one-in-a-million chance anyway!).
This is about creating online income streams as quickly as possible, building real cash flow positive businesses, that stand the test of time, are built on systems that work, and can be run from anywhere in the world with your laptop.
If that excites you, and you want to work with a coach, other mentors and a group of people who are also pursuing the Laptop Lifestyle, then you are the perfect person to become a member of my new Academy.
You can learn more about the Academy and become a member (doors close January 30th 2017) on this page –
I’ll see you there,
Living The Laptop Lifestyle