We live in unprecedented times. Any entrepreneur today can develop or source products from one of thousands of manufacturers and suppliers, open an online store and reach a global audience of buyers -- from anywhere in the world!

Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? It is, but it’s a dream come true if you know how to design your business for maximum flexibility and leverage.

The following are seven secrets my colleagues and I have used to build businesses that give us the ultimate flexibility to decide when, where and how we want to work.

1. Choose your business wisely. Certain business models allow for much more freedom than others, so you must choose a business model that matches your desired level of freedom.

Many entrepreneurs start their business with freedom in mind, but then choose a business model that gives them anything but.

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After three years of hard work, they are miserable because they feel like they can’t step away. The easy-to-grasp example here is the person that opens a restaurant with the conflicting goal of being able to travel the world whenever they’d like.

Sure, there are globetrotting chefs that live a glamorous lifestyle of travel and celebrity parties, but that’s very rare. Most restaurant owners are there at 6 a.m. to receive the morning delivery of food, and there at midnight to finish cleaning and close the place down.

Be careful to choose a business that has the ideal characteristics to provide the lifestyle you are after.

2. Automate everything. The software that is available to help you run your business today is like magic.

Software systems such as Infusionsoft have eliminated so much manual work and cost from building and running a business that it almost feels like cheating when you know how to use it to your advantage.

Consciously work to find how you can automate every task possible at your business.

3. Only use online systems. When it comes to creating a lifestyle business, nothing has done more to make it possible than the Internet. To completely leverage the potential of the web, you should only use business systems that live on the Internet and can be accessed from anywhere in the world.

Not only does this allow you to operate from any place with an Internet connection, but it also makes it much easier to integrate your business systems together, and integrate with your various suppliers and vendors.

Doing so means less manual tasks and processes, faster communication and increased flexibility.

4. Outsource instead of employ. Not everything in every business can be automated (wouldn’t that be nice?). For those things that still need to be done by a living, breathing human being, you should be aggressive about outsourcing everything that doesn’t absolutely, positively need to be done by employees.

Employees are expensive, can require a lot of hand-holding and are hard to get rid of once you have them. You can find outsourced help for every imaginable task, at prices that will shock you.

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5. Empower front-line decision-making. If you want to truly have a sense of freedom from your business, you can’t be glued to your email and phone all day long answering basic questions for your team. You must learn to delegate the “front-line” decision-making -- things such as customer support, refunds, minor operational changes, etc. -- as effectively as possible.

We give everyone on our team three simple guidelines to work from when making a decision. We have them ask the following:

  1. Is it good for the company?
  2. Is it good for the customer?
  3. Are you willing to be held personally accountable for the decision you are about to make?

If they can answer "yes" to all three of these questions, they should go ahead and make the decision.

6. Market and sell online. There is nothing cooler than the first time you wake up to a customer order from someplace on the other side of the world. Marketing and selling online makes this possible.

By being able to market and sell online, you give yourself the gift of a much, much larger potential customer base, and the ability to reach them at a cost that is unheard of in history.

If you master marketing and selling online, you’ll never have a shortage of qualified prospects and customers in your sales pipeline, which means more consistent revenue for you.

7. Create recurring revenue. The ideal business doesn’t just sell something once to a customer and then say goodbye. The ideal business creates revenue that comes in multiple times, and ideally very consistently.

It takes a lot of hard work to find a new customer, so once you do, you want to make that relationship as lucrative as possible. There is nothing more liberating than knowing that you have predictable income coming in, month after month.

In some businesses, this is more difficult than others and you have to get a little creative to generate a recurring relationship, while others are naturally recurring in nature.

But you’ve no doubt seen businesses that have taken normally one-off purchases and turned them into recurring revenue models. Businesses such as Dollar Shave Club and MeUndies.com come to mind as two recent and successful examples. If underwear can be turned into a recurring revenue model, just about anything can!

Get creative with your business model. Recurring revenue is quite possibly the best thing you can do for your business, so make this a priority.

I’m a big believer that building your ideal lifestyle doesn’t have to wait until you are done building and selling your business. Follow the seven secrets outlined above and do both at the same time!

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