I’ve spoken before about the idea of creating a minimalist business — a zero-overhead location-independent business that practically runs itself.
Over the last year I’ve been able to successfully create my own minimalist business. During this year I’ve learned a good deal about how to create one successfully.
I’ve made some mistakes. I’ve also made some huge breakthroughs.
I conducted a lot of research, reading over 40 business books this year. Some of these business books were terrible, others like Timothy Ferriss’s 4 Hour Workweek and Seth Godin’s Tribes have set the foundation for what was to come.
The fundamentals of a minimalist business.
I’ve been thinking about the fundamentals that make a minimalist business successful, and I believe I’ve narrowed them down to just 7 decisive elements.
Not every minimalist business will need to use them all to be successful. However, I truly believe that if you ignore these 7 decisive elements, you’re going to have a more difficult time creating a minimalist business that works.
Why design a minimalist business?
We live in the age of day-job wage slavery. People go to work in the morning, do some stuff that they’re told to do, and then go home at night with a paycheck in hand. Somehow this feels empty, but we’re not sure exactly why.
The reality is that it doesn’t have to be this way anymore. The Internet has given every single individual with a dream the ability to make work online that will support them.
The idea of a minimalist business takes the location-independent business idea a little further. I want to give people the tools to create a business that allows them to work less and live anywhere in the world.
Obviously when you’re in the initial stages of creating a minimalist business, the work times will be quite longer than 10 hours, but eventually — if you follow the 7 decisive elements that I’ve laid out below — you will have designed a minimalist business that requires very little input.
Once you get to that point, you can sit back, relax, and watch the profits come in.
Designing a minimalist business isn’t for everyone.
Not everyone wants to be location independent or create a business that provides passive income while they live and work from anywhere. That’s okay! Creating a minimalist business isn’t easy, and I’d personally rather invite only the people who truly are interested in pursuing this path to freedom.
Whether you’re interested in creating a minimalist business, or simply want to apply these ideas to your work life or your not-minimalist business. Go for it! I hope I can be of help.
Here are the 7 Decisive Elements of Minimalist Business Design
A minimalist business must have no (or very low) overhead.
This means that you don’t spend any money until you are making money. Many business owners insist on buying expensive hosting packages, costly equipment, or intensive consulting programs, before their business idea is even conceptualized. Don’t spend a dime, until you’ve got an idea that you’re ready to put into play. Even then, it’s more than possible to get your message to the world without having major costs.
Some businesses will need to spend a little bit for supplies, but a good rule is to keep start up costs under $100.
We think we need to spend money to make money, because we’ve been brought up in a culture where brick and mortar was the norm. Now the web is the norm, and in most cases you don’t need to spend much money at all to operate on the web.
If you think your business will cost a lot of money to run, think about what you can eliminate to make the costs vanish. Obviously there are businesses that do require start-ups costs –and these are totally legit businesses, but these aren’t what we’re going for.
A minimalist business has no-overhead. If your business design has massive overhead, it isn’t a minimalist business plan.
The best part about having no-overhead is that the cost of failure is small. If your business doesn’t take off, no harm done. All you have to do is start over again with a new idea.
2. Location independence.
One of the big advantages of starting a minimalist business is that it allows you to live and work from anywhere. On May 15th I’m going to move to San Francisco Bay, and my business simply comes with me. Last year I spent many months traveling from Portland Or through Chicago to New York.
If my business was rooted in one spot, I wouldn’t be able to move as often as I do.
A minimalist business is hosted in The Cloud. For those who are still living back in 1995, The Cloud is the networking infrastructure that has been created by large web companies to support networked computing. Almost every computing task, transaction, etc can now be completed online.
This means you don’t need an extensive amount of equipment to run your business. I like to keep it as simple as possible: just use a small Laptop. I have a MacBook Pro, but maybe you want a PC. It doesn’t matter, as long as the machine is portable.
This means that a minimalist business owner can tend to their business from anywhere in the world using WIFI, which is very easy to obtain is most places in the world at coffee shops and internet cafes.
This means you also don’t need an office, or even a permanent home, which eliminates many unnecessary costs.
3. Use existing infrastructure.
So many newbie entrepreneurs insist on constantly reinventing the wheel, especially when the wheel already exists. The tools you need to create your minimalist business already exist, do not try to invent new ones. Let other people in established businesses invest in infrastructure.
Infrastructure varies for every endeavor, but here are a few simple examples: Instead of coding a blog from scratch, use a nice free template and host on a well regarded blogging software. Believe it or not, I’ve been approached by start-ups who insisted the only way to get started was to start creating a blogging platform from scratch (ahem, WordPress exists.) Don’t be this business, you’ll waste literally hundreds of thousands of dollars, when you could have started for free.
The same path goes for communications infrastructure. Use established networks such as Twitter, and Facebook to reach out to clients. These services are popular for a reason, use them to reach potential customers instead of going the door-to-door route that so many people choose.
A minimalist business needs to run itself. The foundation of passive income is that it comes in without you having to go looking for it.
Completely passive income is very hard to find, but that’s the ultimate goal. This doesn’t mean that you necessarily need to end up having a completely passive income stream, but just the possibility that it could go passive eventually.
Money coming in while you sleep is passive enough for most people. In order to do this, you need to automate everything. You can’t be accepting transactions by hand. You cannot be shipping and labeling individual orders as they come in. A minimalist business uses e-junkie, or another similar platform to handle all payments, transactions, and affiliate sales.
Once you automate all tasks that computers can do, this frees you up to do work that matters. And also allows you to travel and have massive amounts of free time to do what you want with your life. The ultimate goal in any minimalist business is freedom, and you need to automate in order to get to that point.
We’re constantly plugged into The Matrix: The Real World, that constantly on stream of information coming into your brain from social media, your cell phone, and any other stimuli that you allow into your space.
You have to turn it all off to create a minimalist business. Constant access to information leads to reactionary workflow — the most common symptom of this is sitting and refreshing your Gmail over and over every 35.5 seconds. Do you know what happens when you send and reply to email all day? You get email all day. This leads to nothing important getting done.
You aren’t creating the work which will be the foundation of your minimalist business if you’re just sitting around waiting for an email to come to your inbox so that you can reply to it.
Stop. Unplug. Sit in silence until you have regained the ability to have your own thoughts.
I recommend checking your email once per day if you’re trying to establish a successful minimalist business. I know this isn’t always possible, but it’s the end goal.
By decisively moving toward conscious isolation, you’ll be able to test if the automation systems are working, and also you’ll begin to create work that matters. Which brings us to…
6. Creating a movement.
Creating a movement the most important element. Your minimalist business needs to be about making the world better in some very specific way.
I’ve written about creating a movement before, and that’s because I believe it’s so incredibly important in any business model.
There are a number of different elements that come into play in any minimalist business movement. First, you need leaders. People who are willing to fight for the change that you believe in. When you have leaders, you will inevitably have followers. Followers are the people who support your minimalist business.
Second, a movement isn’t for everyone. Some people must be left out — the more the better (but not so many as to leave no one.) The reason for this is because if you create a minimalist business for everyone, you’ll end up helping no one. There are so many people in the world, they all need different things, they all have different beliefs.
Most businesses seek to create a product that suits everyone. Do the smart thing and create a niche business that you’re passionate about.
This is why I said above that creating a minimalist business isn’t for everyone, because it isn’t. Not everyone will have the skill or ambition to make location independent passive income a reality. Most people will just want to stay at their day jobs and go shopping on weekends.
A minimalist business has to focus on creating a quality product. This is the making or breaking point for any business, and it must be the ultimate focus of minimalist business design.
Create a product that helps people, which harnesses your strengths to make change in the world.
The simple fact is that the world doesn’t have any more room for crappy stuff. We can’t be creating minimalist businesses that give people something they don’t need.
The single most important factor in minimalist business success is creating work that matters. Every minimalist business I’ve come across that has failed because they created a lame product that people didn’t need. There are enough of bad products in the world, what we need now is work that matters.
The thing is, I can’t tell you where your quality work comes from, this work is different for everyone. For me it was writing The Art of Being Minimalist in order to encourage people to stop consuming and start living their lives — this has been a huge success and now enables my location independent life.
For your minimalist business, the change you create will be different. You have to look deep inside yourself and honestly ask yourself what you’re passionate about creating. This passion is the foundation of your minimalist business.
I hope this helps those of you who are thinking about starting a minimalist business. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments, I’ll do my best to answer the ones that I can.
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