My newest interview this week is San Francisco entrepreneur Corbett Barr, who runs the blog Free Pursuits: www.freepursuits.com and company, Think Traffic: www.thinktraffic.net. Free Pursuits is a blog for people who are interested in lifestyle design, and Think Traffic is for business owners who want to create a high traffic website. I caught up with Corbett recently to discuss how he got started, his transition from the corporate world, and where he’s going in the future.
Q: You run an online business, Think Traffic, plus a blog about lifestyle design, Free Pursuits. Can you share about them and how you got started?
A: Yeah, sure. In early 2009, my wife and I took off on a 7-month road-trip / sabbatical to Mexico. We wanted to unplug, relax, learn about a new culture and consider what we wanted to focus on for the next several years. While in Mexico, I found a lot of clarity as “normal life” faded into the background.
We met a lot of people on that trip who were either living in Mexico permanently, on extended trips, or who lived part-time in the country every year. Surprisingly, few of them were rich or retired. Most of our new friends had figured out ways to live a “location independent” lifestyle through flexible careers or small businesses.
I started Free Pursuits to explore those topics for myself and because I thought other people would be interested. The blog grew quickly over the first year, and I launched Think Traffic this year as a way to help people build popular websites for themselves.
Q: For part of the past 2 years, you’ve taken off with your wife to live and work remotely in Mexico. I find it absolutely fascinating! Can you tell me how you’re able to do it? And do you have a virtual team(s)?
A: Since our road-trip to Mexico last year, we returned for three months this year, and are headed back again next year. We absolutely love the simplicity of living down there, along with the low cost (and the sun and surf, of course).
I committed to myself on that first trip to make sure my business supports the lifestyle we want to live. The Internet and web-based tools available today make it easy to work from anywhere in the world. The idea that you have to be face-to-face or congregate in an office to get work done is ridiculous.
I don’t have a “virtual team.” I don’t have any employees actually. I sometimes subcontract work out, but for the most part I like running things as a “solopreneur.” It’s the ultimate in flexibility.
Q: You left the high-flying, high-paying world of corporate consulting to start your blog and business. You even soon took off for six months to Mexico. Didn’t you encounter lots of fear? And what was the biggest factor that led you to successfully transitioning?
A: You’re right about encountering lots of fear. Leaving my comfortable job led to the most stressful period in my life. But that has now led to the most fulfilling time in my life.
Fear and uncertainty are necessary parts of doing anything important or life-changing. For me, I always had a little voice pushing me to be my own boss. I knew I’d never be happy with myself unless I really tried. It was scary as hell to begin with but one of the most important things I’ve ever done.
Q: What are your future plans for Think Traffic and Free Pursuits?
A: At Free Pursuits I help people successfully work for themselves and make their ideal lifestyles possible. At Think Traffic, I help people build big audiences for their online projects. In both cases, I’ll be developing new ways to help people experience the freedom and fulfillment they want from self employment.
Q: What great advice can you give readers who want to start a high-traffic, online business?
A: There are a few things to remember.
First, unless you’re passionate about your business’s purpose, you probably won’t be able to put in the effort necessary for it to really succeed.
Second, you have to have a “unique selling proposition” which sets you apart from every other business and answers the question “why should I buy from you?”
Third, online business isn’t much different from offline business. You have to help your customers learn or accomplish something meaningful, and legitimately care about helping them.
If you do those things, the technical knowledge of succeeding online just becomes a minor detail.
If you enjoyed this article, please check out last week’s interview with Emmy Kuehn, CEO of Posh Maids: www.dampfang.com/x-51780-Denver-Startup-Business-Examiner~y2010m7d26-Interview-Series-Emmy-Kuehn-of-Posh-Maids