a minimalist approach to online business (working less and earning WAY MORE)

Is bigger always better?

The point of running a business is to make money — so more money means your company is more successful, right?

And a bigger business makes more money, right?

Well, not always.

While bigger businesses often generate more annual revenue, they do so at a much higher cost. That’s because with a “bigger” business comes a bigger staff, more complicated communication, less efficient systems, and higher expenses.

To give one example, a bigger business typically needs a bigger office space or storefront, resulting in much higher monthly rent.

And, even if your business is 100% digital, you’ll still find that the more people you have on your team, the more you have to pay for many software that charge per user or “seat.”

The end result is that, while bigger businesses typically make more total annual revenue, they often do so at so great a cost that their profit margins are significantly worse and their net profits are actually lower than much smaller companies.

In fact, you’d be surprised at the number of major companies that end up running into 0% profits. In just the last couple years alone, that list included:

  • Belk
  • L’Occitane
  • Christopher & Banks
  • Paper Source
  • Guitar Center
  • GNC
  • Hertz
  • Gold’s Gym
  • J.C. Penney
  • J. Crew
  • Neiman Marcus
  • Pier 1 Imports

Given these staggering examples of huge companies that couldn’t even manage to turn a profit, it’s clear that bigger definitely doesn’t always equal greater real financial success.

And even if your company does manage to grow in size while expanding its financial success — at what cost?

Most likely, you’re trying to grow a sole proprietorship, partnership, or some other type of small business that you bear the brunt of managing.

Meaning that, the more work it is to manage the company, the more effort, stress, and time you have to exert, experience, and spend.

(No cushion of demanding shareholders for you…)

And why are you even trying to grow your business in the first place?

Is it your sole passion — and your sole mission to grow it as large and successful as possible?

Not if you’re anything like most people who want to run their own businesses. Most entrepreneurs, when surveyed about their reasons for starting a business, share goals such as “freedom,” “a flexible schedule,” and “being their own boss” alongside goals of financial independence.

Even more specifically, many entrepreneurs are moms and dads who want to create a better lifestyle for their families. They want to be able to spend more time with their kids, homeschool, prepare home-cooked meals, and perhaps live in a nicer house or move out to the country. And they want the time, power, and finances to travel and enjoy fun experiences together.

If you’re working to build a business, or interested in doing so, what’s YOUR motivation? What possibilities or opportunities are you hoping running your own company will make possible?

And thus, we come to a “minimalist approach to business.”

Quite simply, we want to get the best results possible without significant sacrifices.

We don’t care about growing our businesses as big or as successful as they possibly could be, at the expense of our — or our family’s — lifestyle. Because that wouldn’t achieve our goals at all.

We don’t want to work MORE than our old day jobs so we can be financially successful — we want to figure out how to work smarter and be more efficient so that we can work the same amount (or a whole lot less) while creating better results.

Which, by the way, is totally possible, because when you work for yourself you get to keep 100% of the profits you generate, rather than having to split them with a boss who also wants to make money.

A minimalist approach to business is about keeping things simple and streamlined so that they can be efficient.

This means that you spend your time on the tasks and projects that will generate the most income — and don’t waste time on things that won’t earn you as much per hour.

It also means that you work with what you have and you don’t spend money on “big” for the sake of big. Instead, you accomplish as much as you can from your current office, with your current equipment, and with your current team — and you wait to expand until you’ve truly gotten everything you can out of your current resources.

The first business I started was an accident. I was 14 and wasn’t trying to start a business, I just knew that I few people wanted to pay me for my help. That quickly turned into a proper company with an office, small staff, and a couple hundred clients.

In that business, I got paid for my time, so the more I worked, the more I earned. That lead me to assume that that was how making money — and business — worked: the more you work, the more you earn.

So, a few years later, when I started my online business, I followed that formula. I poured in a lot of hours and spent those hours creating more and more products and building increasingly complicated systems to sell those products.

When I finally looked up in 2018, I had a dozen different products, plus eight other streams of revenue, I was working with 1:1 clients, offering services, and running live events.

I was spreading myself so thin that none of these things were becoming very successful, so I wasn’t earning much and couldn’t afford much help — meaning I was doing it almost all myself.

It was stressful, and wasn’t fulfilling my goals for working for myself.

Today, things look very different. I only have about three streams of revenue and only sell a few different products. I’ve more than 5X’ed my income from 2018 — and I’m working less than ever before.

What changed? Well, quite simply, I simplified.

I chose to serve a more narrow, niche market.

I chose to specialize in just a couple of things and gave up being a jack of all trades.

I scrapped a lot of products and chose just a few to sell.

And I simplified my marketing. I stopped trying to be everywhere or cast my net WIDE and instead focused on gaining as much traction here on YouTube as possible and using email as my primary selling tool.

Doing LESS allowed me to do each of those things much better and devote a lot more energy, attention, and time to each of them, which resulted in bigger and better results.

And I didn’t “lose” anything in the process — not only has my business become more financially successful, but it’s also become much easier to run and is finally creating that freedom I was looking for at the start.

Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus are best-selling authors, Netflix producers, and podcast hosts, and are known as “the minimalists.” Here’s how they define minimalism:

“Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.”

They, of course, are writing about minimalism in personal life, but these principles — and benefits — carry over into business as well.

Using a minimalist approach to business is about working smarter so we can work less and earn more, keeping things as simple as possible, being intentional about what you choose to work on, and always remembering your real goals for starting your business in the first place.

To learn more about how to start and grow a profitable online business that meets your goals, check out our free business course, Small Business 101. This no-fluff 8-video series will walk you step by step through everything you need to do to get your business off-the-ground and making money, as well as give you a big-picture perspective on where you’re going.

Gillian Perkins

Hi, I’m Gillian! I’m a marketing strategist who helps online entrepreneurs 10X their sales with FB ads + sales funnels. I love combining tech, analytics, and psychology to create powerful marketing systems. When I’m not helping my clients scale their businesses, I’m spending time with my husband and two little boys, exploring new places, or seeking out choice espresso.