How to be a lifestyle entrepreneur


You’ve collaborated on homework projects, but have you ever considered working with your children?

Angela Neustatter is a well regarded journalist and writer. A former editor of the Guardian Women’s page, she has freelanced successfully for years so when her son Cato Hoeben decided to leave a secure, but long hours office job for a new world as a ‘lifestyle entrepreneur’ she could spot a book opportunity. ‘I said that could be quite a good idea for a book. We laughed at the idea, but then I was talking to my publisher and they said they would be interested and could draw up a contract quickly. Cato and I sat down together and thought ‘now what do we do?’, says Angela.

They decided to collaborate on the book, but from the outset both had very different approaches. Angela likes to work surrounded by heaps of paper and post it notes. Cato thought this was very inefficient. He preferred to start with a mind map. Angela had never used a mind map before, but took the approach that ‘you are never too old to learn’.

They began with what a lifestyle entrepreneur is and built out from there. Angela said it’s a method she might use in the future.

The book starts from Cato’s experience of ditching his job to start living off the things that really interested him. He loves to compose music so he used internet platforms to build that side of his work. He also increased his income stream by using other internet platforms to get work such as web designing and doing voiceovers.

He had come to a crunch point in his life where he was working long hours as a web editor and commuting between London and Spain where his girlfriend lived. He was stressed and exhausted. He couldn’t see any promotion in site and he felt freelancing would leave him worse off and dependent on whoever was his main source of employment. That was four years ago. Through building a multiple earnings stream he has increased his music work and innovated as he has gone along. He can be in Spain or London for as much time as he wants and has married his girlfriend. Part of his motivation for becoming a lifestyle entrepreneur is because he is keen to be a parent.

Blow ups
The aim of the book is to show others how they can also become lifestyle entrepreneurs and have more control over how they work.

Angela focused on the human element and started interviewing other lifestyle entrepreneurs. Cato worked on the more practical information about digital platforms, building online communities and running different income streams.

Initially they were both going to write the same chapter and merge the material, but Angela says they had very different styles of writing, resulting in several ‘blow-ups’. She had some doubts about whether it would work and memories of struggles over homework flickered at the back of her mind. Cato then went to Spain and the two communicated by email and decided to do different chapters. This worked much better. As the book progressed they would have meals together to discuss it. As the book is about Cato’s experience and Angela has been skilled in putting her parts into Cato’s voice, he has been the one promoting it most, but the two have recently been asked to do a joint course on the book at the London College of Communication. Cato has also been asked to give a lecture at another university as part of their social enterprise course.

Angela says the process of writing together has brought her and Cato closer together, with a mutual respect for their different ways of working. ‘I’ve got to know Cato as a working person and I am impressed. He’s a very hard worker. I’m proud of him,’ she says. ‘I think he also understands much better how journalism works too. It’s a useful skill for what he is doing. He’s a scientist and his writing can be quite academic. He’s learned to write in a more relaxed way.’

Asked if it is possible to make a decent living from internet platforms, Angela says some platforms can offer low money at first, but adds that it is possible to use these to get a foot in the door and build different streams of income, often doing so while working a regular job. ‘The idea is that you are building up a work stream which can also involve a passive income,’ she says. Cato, for instance, submits his music to an online library and gets paid every time someone uses it. There is a big emphasis in the book on creativity and innovation and being proactive.

Angela also says there are definite personality traits of lifestyle entrepreneurs, including self confidence and self motivation. She counsels that people should be wary of those who say they can make millions in a short time, but says most of the lifestyle entrepreneurs she has spoken to are ‘doing it from the heart’. It’s not about the money, she says, it’s about the lifestyle. ‘I interviewed around people for the book,’ she says. ‘All of them said they loved working in this way, even when they earned a lot less. It’s quite interesting. Their quality of life counted for more.’

Angela went freelance when her oldest son Zek was a toddler and has written about how difficult that decision was and how she feels Zek is still affected by her having to return to work when he was four months old. Cato, on the other hand, grew up with his mum being around, even if she was ‘glued to the typewriter or phone’. Asked if seeing his mum making her own way in the working world made an impact, Angela says: ‘He understood writing was not something that happened far away and could see the process.’

She says that around 40 years ago when she had Zek the ‘having it all’ scenario was in vogue. ‘It was very much that you went back to work and could do it all, even if you were ready to shoot yourself in the head by the evening,’ she says. She’s not overly optimistic about recent trends and feels children miss out as a result of Britain’s long hours culture. ‘Work demands the bone marrow. Kids get what’s left,’ she says, adding that she doubts it will change until childcare is free and there is an acceptance by employers of more moderate hours for both men and women. She feels examples like Marissa Meyer of Yahoo saying she will rush back to work rather than taking a long maternity leave set a bad precedent. ‘I think it’s a kind of child neglect,’ she says.

At the end of The Lifestyle Entrepreneur, the book points to a new wave of creative and innovative thinking, ‘a determination from a growing number of people that they must generate their own solution to the work-life balance as well as making work pleasure, not pain.’ It announces that lifestyle entrepreneurs are ‘creating a way of living and working that is good for the soul as much as the bank balance, representing real and sustainable re-shaping of what work means in our lives.’

The Lifestyle Entrepreneur: How To Turn Your Interests Into Money by Cato Hoeben and Angela Neustatter is published by Gibson Square, price £8.99. For more information, click here.

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