On a weekly, and sometimes daily, basis, I meet a new individual looking to build a location independent (LI) business. If you’re new to this term, running an LI business means you can run the business from anywhere in the world. It doesn’t mean that you’re generating the fabled “passive income” while sipping piña coladas at the beach, while checking your bank account and laughing with glee at the number of commas in your bank balance.
I mean, that sounds nice. But the reality is that most of us running LI businesses are doing just that: running our businesses. Yes, some of us have built consistent passive income. Yes, some of us are making incredible livings doing what we love (raising my hand here!). And yes, some of us enjoy the occasional drink at the beach.
Whether you’re new to building an LI business, in the early stages of building your business, or haven’t yet seen the success you’d like with your business, read on. Below are the top five mistakes I see people make when starting, running, and growing their businesses, accompanied by resources to help you be successful.
Mistake #1: Dreaming way too small
I get on a number of mentoring calls every month with people who are in the early stages of starting or building their businesses. And the number-one line I hear? “I just want to replace my current income.”
I get it. That was my plan when I started my business. But I find that so many business owners never move past that level-set figure in their head, and they also don’t account for the costs to run a business. For example, if you make $75K in your current job, you’ll likely need to bring in much more in revenue—maybe $100K or more.
Aside from the math, the other problem with dreaming too small is that you will put limits on your own success. There is nothing wrong with desiring to make not just a decent living but a great living. You are not greedy if you want to double your current income or even triple it. You’re not materialistic if you desire to hit six figures or seven figures in your business and if you take active steps to make those goals happen.
Because here’s the thing: when you dream big, you act big. You send proposals to clients that own your value. You take risks to grow. You invest in yourself.
To help you dream big, read my article, “How to accomplish your next Big Thing.”
Mistake #2: Focusing on building a local brand instead of a national or global brand
If you truly want to build an LI business, start and run it as an LI business, even before you make the move or completely change your lifestyle to be able to travel and work. Too often, I see business owners focus on their local market to build their businesses; when it comes time to finally make the move to true location independence—living and working in another city or country or traveling full time—their local clients and network have a hard time adjusting to this new way of working and new time zone.
Because I started my business in the Dominican Republic; built it in Vietnam; grew it in Ohio, Idaho, and Thailand; and am now scaling it in Portugal; I’ve been forced by circumstance to create a global brand. Since day one, I’ve focused on reaching people across the globe (including you!) and going after opportunities that weren’t limited to my locality. While I absolutely love doing local media or participating through mentoring efforts, I have never focused on my local market to make money. That has allowed me to change where I live without changing my revenue. In fact, my revenue has grown with every move.
Clients and customers will be attracted to your brand because they resonate with your story and life perspective. Or not. Some will be turned off and will go find someone else to work with. Some clients really want to work with someone local, and that’s OK. Just know that you’re building a business based on purpose—and embrace a global mindset while building your client base and seeking opportunities, like speaking engagements or media placement.
Building a global brand starts on the inside. To help you get started, listen to my interview on intrinsic branding with brand strategists Emily Soccorsy and Justin Foster. You may also enjoy my interview with publisher Naren Aryal on building a thought leadership brand.
Mistake #3: Building a business only to make money, without tapping into your talents and passions
This might seem obvious, but I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with people who are grasping for a business that will make money. They’re willing to totally switch fields without genuine interest in the business model they’re exploring, with a focus solely on making money.
The key is to find the intersection of your passion and a business model that works. That, my friend, takes exploration. Most likely, you won’t land on the exact perfect business model, and you’ll have to make some changes along the way. That’s OK! I, for example, started out as a travel writer nearly thirteen years ago and quickly learned that an hourly rate of $free.99 for “exposure” wasn’t going to pay the bills.
One of the best ways to uncover what this looks like for you is to uncover your life vision, including your passions and interests, which you can do using my free Life Visioning Guide. Once you understand the life you want, you can then have smart conversations with people who are making money doing what you love to do. Your business won’t look exactly like theirs, but you can be inspired by their journey. Which brings me to the next point.
To help you develop your life vision and uncover the intersection between your vision, passion, and how you can make money, download my life visioning guide: https://stacyennis.com/lifevisioningguide/.
Mistake #4: Trying to copy someone else’s story, thinking it’s a straight line from point A to point B
Another common question I’m asked by LI hopefuls: “How did you get to where you are today?” Each time, I can’t help but smile and take a deep breath, because I know the brief synopsis of my entrepreneurial journey is not going to provide the listener with what they’re hoping for: a linear path from point A to point B.
Like most people, my story is not neat and tidy. I hit some big bumps in my path. I failed. I moved a lot. I said yes to a lot of opportunities, some of which were not-so-fruitful and others that opened up incredible new worlds to me.
While I love the practice of doing informational interviews to gather inspiration and guidance, I would never advise that you try to copy the path someone else followed, because their path is not replicable. The human experience is not a step-by-step process. You are not them. Your background, passions, drivers, opportunities, and so much more about who you are are unique.
That said, you can learn quite a lot from others—especially from their mistakes and failures along the way. So, in those informational interviews, ask the hard questions: What was your biggest “failure” and what did you learn from it? What do you wish you’d known when you started your business?
If you’re curious to know more about my story, read “How writing my first book led me to live in Portugal” or listen to “Ask Stacy: What did you overcome to reach where you are today?“
Mistake #5: Giving up too early; staying at it too long without adjusting and innovating
The truth is, building a business is hard. Motivation, focus, grit—these are all qualities you’ll need to develop to be successful.
Many times, I see entrepreneurs give up too early in their journeys, usually within the first three years. As someone who has been in business for nearly thirteen years, I know that three- to five-year point is often when things click into place and the business really takes off. Most of us like things to work; we like to see instant returns on our hard work. But LI business ownership is a long game, and you have to stick with it.
Conversely, I see LI hopefuls stick with poor business models for too long. They run their heads into a concrete wall for months or years, never stopping to ask themselves: Is this the best way? Can I tweak my process? What can I do better? How can I get scrappy to be successful?
One way to support your success is to become part of a network of like-minded entrepreneurs. You can join a group online, form your own mastermind group, or ask someone you respect to meet with you quarterly to mentor you in your business.
To get inspired by public speaking expert Misty Megia’s amazing story on overcoming an incredible obstacle in the early days of her business, listen to “How to deliver a phenomenal virtual keynote and recover from business disaster.”
There is so much more I could add to this, but I’ll end with a message of hope: building a life you love—with a business supporting your livelihood—is so worth it. I truly can’t imagine any other life for myself and my family, because we get to live a life we designed for ourselves. Sometimes it can feel unsettling to go down a path that is unique to us, and build a business of my design, but I wake up with purpose each day, excited for the day ahead. Isn’t that the ultimate goal: to feel joy in the everyday?
What about you? What business do you dream of building or are you actively working to build? How does that business fit into your life vision? Share with me in the comments!