What is a Minimalist Online Business?

August 29, 2019

A minimalist online business uses streamlined systems, low overhead and healthy profit to maximize time and freedom for its owner(s).

A regular online business, on the other hand, values traditional business goals like scalable growth and high revenue, in the hope it equals high profit.

The parable of the fisherman and businessman

I like to explain minimalist online business with the parable of the fisherman and tourist/businessman. Heinrich Böll is the original author, but it’s been told in various forms. Here’s my paraphrase:

One day, a beach-going businessman encountered a local fisherman coming in with the day’s catch. It was midday. 

The businessman approached the fisherman and said, “Great catch! What will you do the rest of the day?” 

“Oh, the usual, have lunch with my family, take a siesta and spend time with my friends,” the fisherman replied.

Seeing incredible potential, the businessman said, “But just think! With a full day’s work you could grow a business, scale your operation, hire help, get a bigger boat and make lots of money!” 

“Then what?” asked the fisherman.

“Well then, my friend, you could spend your days having lunch with your family, taking siestas and spending time with your friends.”

Takeaway? Know what you’re after. Don’t follow those who choose a different path to get there.

One of my favorite quotes from Seth Godin is this:

Don’t build a business because you want freedom. Build a business because you want to run a business.


There’s nothing wrong with growing a large business. Many do it exceedingly well and I applaud them. If your goal is to run a business, go for it! Michael Hyatt is a great resource.

But I’ve watched many people turn to online business for freedom. They might not use the same words, but they’re actually looking for a minimalist approach. The problem is, online business advice usually follows the “traditional” model. For a beginner, it’s hard to tell the difference.

So, people leave the 9-to-5 to start an online business. Their goal is to replace their income to have more time. However, the voices telling them to grow! and scale! are unrelenting. Eventually they realize they’ve traded the 9-to-5 grind for a different kind of grind. And the online grind can be just as brutal.

You might say they are looking for the fisherman’s advice, but unwittingly follow the businessman’s advice.

As a minimalist online business owner, my goal is freedom and time. Those two things have become far more valuable to me than money. Money is necessary but replaceable. Time is precious and irreplaceable.

You might also like 7 Questions I Ask Myself as a Minimalist Business Owner.

11 thoughts on “What is a Minimalist Online Business?”

  1. Hi Amy. Reading your post was refreshing. Happy to see others in the blogosphere share my sentiments. I want a simple, yet impactful online writing experience. Mostly free of the stress, comparison, and hurriedness that online writers are encouraged to do. I have a minimalist blog, and try to live in this way. I want my website to be a true reflection of my values. Which are simplicity, slow and intentional living. Thanks for making this fine point.

  2. This is a great summary and clear distinction of what I’m looking for! Thank you! A favorite quote of mine, author unknown, “Don’t live to work; work to live “

  3. You might say they are looking for the fisherman’s advice, but unwittingly follow the businessman’s advice.

    Agree, no doubt about it.

  4. The parable was also used by Tim Ferris. You really don’t need to be rich, just rich enough to cover expenses. It takes time to get there and a lot of people struggle with being supportive with those of us making that transition. It takes time to get them won over to the process when you do start making that transition.

  5. Hi, Amy.

    This article is just brilliant! In a world trying night and day to convince us that we need to chase after and acquire more and more, I love that you just say NO!

    I say NO too! It’s nice to know that I’m not alone. I have decided to focus on, ESSENTIALISM, SIMPLICITY, QUALITY and FREEDOM!

    Again, thank for writing this and making me feel less alone on my chosen path!

  6. Hey Amy, “Build a business because you want to run a business.” this quote ohh its beauty 🙂

    Thanks For Sharing an inspirational article. Your Blog all Post information is very unique and good for the reader because when I have read your blog looks very impressive for me. I want to say thanks to you. Most importantly I have bookmark your site for future updates.

  7. Amy you are refreshing to be around. I have had the same “epiphany” as you. There is so much pressure to scale and grow. And that is very distracting to those of us who want to pursue the more time and freedom aspect.

  8. I love that quote by Seth too.The minimalist business pleases me too.I just don’t want a meaningless grind.Thanks to you its easier to focus on things which are important.

  9. Hi Amy,

    I landed on your site while researching ideas for my blog. Curious about you, I had to check out your pages (Home, About, & Blog). It’s something I do now when I find a good blogger that is taking a path similar to what I think I’m planning to do.

    In my early 50’s now and realizing that time to do something to get better prepared for the future and retirement (I hope to be able to someday) is now.

    The process for starting a blog (WordPress) is challenging. So many themes and plug ins to choose from. It’s hard to make a decision on what to use when there are so many options available. Finally decided, just pick something for now and begin. Can change it later on.

    Enjoyed several of your blog posts. I like that you are more focused on freedom than on becoming rich. That you help others more than attempt to sell them something. I want to be like you in this and not be the kind of person that’s just looking for ways to earn, but to be genuinely interested in my readers and helping them succeed.

    You have a very nice site!

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