You can have the personal and professional life of your dreams by starting a sustainable lifestyle business, says columnist Lorrie Thomas Ross. (Credit: Simon Maage on Unsplash)
You can have the personal and professional life of your dreams by starting a sustainable lifestyle business, says columnist Lorrie Thomas Ross. (Credit: Simon Maage on Unsplash)

Female entrepreneurs have a unique (and too often untapped) superpower – the ability to architect careers that build and sustain wealth, health AND happiness. Why work hard professionally if you aren’t fulfilling yourself personally? If you are looking to build a sustainable lifestyle business or want to adapt your career to support personal goals, here are steps you need to take.

1. Identify Your Values

A lifestyle business sustains income while building the quality of life chosen by the business owner. You can and deserve to work and live on your terms. When I ask female entrepreneurs about the value their products or services offer, answers flow freely. When I ask women what their values are, the answer to what matters to them often comes slowly and with reservation. But remember: A sustainable lifestyle business is not just what you can do for others…but what you want to create for yourself.

Ask yourself: What do I love? What’s important? What do I want to do more of?

Don’t hold back. Values may include: travel, volunteer work, reading, cooking, sports, date nights, quality time with children, cuddling with your adorable dog or watching sappy romantic movies.  Whatever your values are, take time to get them clear in your mind – big and small.

My values include family time, being unplugged in nature, having unscheduled free time, travel, supporting the arts and indulging in fabulous food. When I looked at how I could do more of what I loved, flexibility emerged as a key business requirement to support this. When I started my marketing agency, I designed it to be work-from-anywhere (for example, I wrote this article from a charming café sipping Earl Grey tea while my daughter took an art class). Get clear on what your values are – you can’t have what you want if you don’t own what you want.

2. Shift and Adapt

Once you have identified what your personal values are, you can begin adapting how you deliver your professional value to support a happier, healthier, wealthier life. If health is a big focus, start scheduling non-negotiable times to exercise in your work calendar. If you need to start work earlier to accommodate bigger breaks in the workday, make it happen. The best shift I ever made was hiring a team to free my time up so I could work more on the business and less in it.

Shift happens.

To build a sustainable lifestyle company, you have to be able to shift and adapt. Don’t wait for your job to work for you, own what you want and need, and make changes to help you do more of what you love.

3. Make Relationships Everything

The foundation of a sustainable lifestyle business is rooted in healthy relationships. Sales come from awareness, communication, connection and great service. If you voice your professional value and personal values, you will attract and maintain ideal customer and team relationships. Female entrepreneurs who have sustainable lifestyle businesses don’t think about earning revenue from a transactional perspective. Money is critical — don’t get me wrong — but make sure you are thinking about how to sustain income the right way.

Think relationships, not transactions.

Relationships pump life into your business. Solid customer relationships equal repeat sales and referrals, compounding the revenue that will sustain your business. If you serve and support your ideal target market, you will always sell. Beyond customers, investing in your relationships with employees, contractors and vendors (like CPAs, bookkeepers or graphic artists) is imperative to the health of your business. Build a team that supports you. If you have relationships that aren’t working for you, close those doors so new ones can open.

Lastly, don’t forget to have a healthy relationship with yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

Keep yourself well. Work healthy hours, eat well, sleep well, love yourself. The way you treat yourself will attract the way others treat you. Respect is reciprocal.

4. Invest, Invest, Invest

A female entrepreneur who has a sustainable lifestyle business invests in herself, her team and her company. Spending and investing are two very different things. I don’t look at my health costs (like vitamins, food and gym) as spending; I see the investment in my wellness, which helps me be the best I can be for myself, my team and my clients. I had a CPA tell me years ago that I was overpaying my team. All he could see was dollars — I saw people that I love, trust and want to have on my team for the long life of my company. I let that CPA go and now have an amazing (and female) CPA who has been a tremendous asset.

How will people care about working for your company if they aren’t making good money and living the life they want?

Investing in the right assets will also help you sustain your company. Sometimes you have to spend money — on things like business cards, your website and your marketing campaigns — to make money.

Investing can also come in the form of giving back. Being generous attracts abundance. Volunteer work is a big piece of my company; we also donating marketing support to causes we believe in. Making time to give back is a small step that can make a big difference, for everyone you work with.

Lastly, remember this: There is a difference between a lifestyle business and sustainable lifestyle business. Sustainability means that it can live on. Build a company that you love, and helps you do what you love, and you will want to keep it going for years. Voice your professional value and your personal values, and claim the life and business you want and deserve.

Lorrie Thomas Ross, MA, is a marketing expert on a mission to help more women brand, build and boost business to be happier, healthier and wealthier. Her agency, Web Marketing Therapy is a full-service marketing agency that diagnoses, prescribes and guides healthy marketing solutions. Her Wild Web Women community supports women in launching and growing web-based businesses. She wrote the McGraw-Hill 36-Hour Course to Online Marketing and several (now Linkedin Learning) courses.