How to Build a Minimalist Online Business

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Minimalism has become all the rage these days with folks like Marie Kondo, Leo Babauta, and The Minimalists. But how can we apply those values toward creating a minimalist online business?

When people hear “minimalism” they tend to think of a millennial who is traveling the world with 30 possessions in their backpack. And that certainly is one form of it.

That’s not so much my style though, and it’s probably not yours either. I like a drawer full of clean underwear and that gadget in my kitchen that turns zucchini into noodles. But, I’m a minimalist too.

 “Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom.” - The Minimalists

I don’t know about you, but freedom is why I started my business. The freedom to work when I want, where I want, with whom I want, on what I want. Freedom to see a movie with my best friend at noon on a random Thursday. Freedom to be who I am outside the confines of a cubicle.

If minimalism can help with that, shouldn’t we be all in?

What is a minimalist online business?

For most online businesses there aren’t many physical possessions. It’s basically just your desk, computers, and office supplies. You can certainly cut back on those things (hello, paperwork!), but there’s much more to a minimalist online business, and lifestyle, than just ditching the physical objects.

A minimalist business starts with a mission

What is the primary focus of the business? It could be teaching, providing a product, helping clients with their pain points… whatever it is, your mission is your starting line. And freedom is the finish.

Everything in your business should be intentional. Purposeful. Your decisions, your services and products, your team members and contractors, your systems and processes - everything points back to your mission.

Why do you need a minimalist business?

Your mission should be driving everything you do. It creates a laser-like focus for your work and keeps you from wandering off the path to success. Simplifying your business will help you hone in on that mission.

Eating too much - bad for your health. Spending too much - bad for your bank account. Using too many tools, taking on too many projects, subscribing to too many “helpful” newsletters - all bad for your focus and therefore bad for your business.

By keeping things to the minimum for your business, it’ll become healthier and more successful.

How do you build a minimalist business?

Here are a few questions you should be asking yourself before you commit to something for your business:

  • Does this help me achieve my mission?
  • Is this the simplest solution?
  • Can I easily reverse this decision?
  • Does this align with my values?
  • Will this add joy to my business? (channeling a little Marie Kondo here)

You can probably think of some questions to add here that are specific to your business. Take what you need, leave the rest. But if you’re answering ‘no’ to these then it’s obvious you need to reanalyze what’s going on with your business.

Take Action

It’s time! Following these steps will help you eliminate unnecessary things from your business so that you can gain clarity and…. Freedom! 

You won’t be able to accomplish all of these in a single day (or will you??) so schedule them on your calendar. I recommend spreading them across 3-4 weeks and doing them in order. I’ve arranged them in such a way that you will build more momentum if you go straight through the list instead of jumping around.

Stuff.

I know I said that the physical stuff is only a small part of your business, but it’s the most obvious place to start cutting back. A cluttered desk hinders creativity while a clean one welcomes it with open arms.

Remove anything that isn’t related to your business. Put books and journals on shelves. Collect all your pens and pencils in one location. Limit yourself to one writing pad or Post-its stack. Donate things you’re no longer using.

Try to do a weekly clean up so that your desk never gets too out of control.

Paper.

Sometimes it’s necessary. I get that. Go for it!

But… stop printing every damn thing you receive!! You have a computer and probably a smartphone right in front of you. Everything you need is right at your fingertips.

Set up a great cloud storage organization system so that you can access every file, from all devices, at any time or place.

Here’s a list of everything you should be printing:

  • Tax documents for your old school accountant

Here’s a list of everything you should NOT be printing:

  • Every. Thing. Else.

Negativity.

There are a number of things in this business world that can create negativity in your space (physical space, head space, web space, etc…). It could be customers or clients. It could be tasks that you hate doing. Or it could just be setting an alarm in the morning.

Give yourself permission, right this very second, to get rid of all of it. You. Are. The. CEO. Judge, jury, and executioner. Be ruthless in protecting yourself and creating the kind of work environment you’ve always dreamed about.

Tools.

THERE ARE SO MANY TOOLS! As a techie, I want them all and it can be a real challenge to choose which tools I actually need versus the ones I just want.

Several months into building my first online business, I realized I was wasting hours upon hours researching all the available tools. By trying to choose the perfect tools, I wasn’t using any! My calendar was a paper agenda I picked up at Target that cost me time each week because I was writing in recurring tasks by hand.

The best tools for you are the ones that fit your business budget AND that you are using

Try to find tools that are multipurpose. For example, with Teamwork you can manage projects, track time, and communicate with clients. Or you can use a tool like Kajabi for email marketing, landing pages, and course creation. This will help you limit the number of tools you need.

You should also look for tools that integrate like Trello and Google Calendar. They work together so you’re able to save time by automating different processes.

Social Media.

If someone is telling you that you need to be present everywhere, just walk away. You don’t need that kind of crazy. Be present where your people are.

You DO NOT need to be on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and LinkedIn and YouTube and Pinterest and… Check your metrics and see which platforms are helping you achieve your goals. Then, get rid of the rest (but keep you username/handle/whatever reserved in case you want to use it in the future).

Going deep on 2-3 platforms is infinitely more effective than going wide on many. Show up where your audience is hanging out and call it a day.

Distractions.

What is keeping you from your goals? It could be all those social media sites (but you’re going to cut back on those right?). Or it could be kids, pets, smartphone games, podcasts, email, texts… getting the picture?

We’re constantly getting interrupted which causes a disconnect in our flow. Try to eliminate distractions for blocks of time when you’re doing focused work. I like to schedule 3-hour blocks with 15-minute breaks after 45 minutes of work. Find what works best for you.

Creating a minimalist online business is no more difficult than minimizing your overstuffed closet. You just have to take the time to do it. Be ruthless with eliminating anything that doesn’t advance your mission.

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Hey, I'm Becky!

Engineer turned CEO.
My mission is to reduce the overwhelm that comes with starting and growing your own business by getting you organized.

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