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.source
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!
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.