|Packing a carry-on bag with running shoes and two changes
of clothes, I head out into the world via a short connection from Portland
to Vancouver International Airport. Later that evening, the twelve-hour
Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong gives me two hours to watch a movie,
six hours to sleep, and four hours to write emails.
On this trip Iím headed on to Vietnam and Laos, but I could be going anywhere. After I adjust to the time difference over the next couple of days, I settle into a routine of morning work and afternoon exploration. At least one week a month, I live in this dream world of travel, work, and frequent coffee breaks. The business is structured around my life, not the other way around.
I know what some people think: It sounds like a fantasy. Well Ö it really is happening, on a broad scale, for thousands of people all over the world. My example is just one of many; letís hear about a few others.
Case Study: The Music Teacher
In 2009, Brandon Pearce was living in Utah and working as a successful piano teacher, meaning that he got by and paid the rent while doing something he enjoyed. But Brandon was also intensely curious, and wanted to combine an interest in technology with his passion for music education. As he thought about colleagues he knew, he found the convergence point between his skill and what they needed.
ďMusic teachers donít want to deal with business administration; they want to teach music,Ē he said. ďBut in the typical music teacherís workday, they have to spend much of their time dealing with administrative tasks.Ē Scheduling, rescheduling, sending remindersóin addition to time, all these things take up a lot of attention and distract from teaching. Furthermore, many music teachers arenít making all the money they should, since payments are sometimes overlooked and students fail to show up.
Brandon didnít intend to create a business at first; he just wanted to solve what he called the ďdisorganized music teacher problemĒ for himself. The answer was Music Teacherís Helper, an interface that Brandon created for personal use before turning it into a one-stop platform for music teachers of all kinds. The teachers could create their own websites (without having any technical skills) and handle all aspects of scheduling and billing, thus enabling them to focus on the actual teaching they enjoyed.
Was this a market in search of a solution? Yes, and the market was substantial. Was Brandon giving them the fish? Yes, and because music teachers are often on a low budget, Brandon made sure to highlight the fact that paying for Music Teacherís Helper might actually save them money over time, but to ensure the businessís profitability, he didnít skimp on the price. The service is available in several different versions, including a free version for limited use and going up to a $588-a-year version depending on the number of students.
Three years later, Brandonís life is quite different. Instead of living in Utah, he now wakes up in sunny Escazú, Costa Rica, where he lives with his wife and three young daughters. He has ten employees living in different places around the world. He carefully tracks his time and estimates that he spends eight to fifteen hours a week directly related to the business. The rest of his time is spent with his family and on various side projects that he pursues for fun.
Brandon and his family used to live in Utah and now they live in Costa Rica, but thatís not the whole story; the whole story is that they could live anywhere they want. When they needed to do a visa run, they went over to Guatemala for eight days, and since Brandon and his wife are ďunschoolingĒ their children and can easily take them anywhere, thereís no telling where theyíll end up next. (A tentative plan involves moving to Asia.)
Oh, and one more thing: Music Teacherís Helper is currently on track to earn at least $360,000 a year. Because his customers commit for the long term and pay monthly, itís unlikely that this number will ever go down. Instead, it will continue to increase as more and more music teachers join the ranks.
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