…For those among us with the bend for entrepreneurialism, even on the smallest of scales, simplicity isn’t a point of pride. The business world is all about the hustle, growth, expansion and exorbitant profits.
But what if it’s not? What if now, in this uncertain age of coronavirus and collapsing governments, we embrace voluntary simplicity in our businesses too.
My message here is for the solopreneurs or the microbusinesses. The simple souls who are dusting off an old side hustle idea because their job has evaporated in this pandemic or the active sidehustler that’s now doubling down on a business that already has a tiny profit.
Our self-education in business is to grow, grow, grow. Expand. Hire. Increase the profits. Grow your audience. Run the ads. Lean in to the chaos. Struggle. Push. Grow. Grow. Grow.
But what if you don’t. What if you simply did your work as an extension of your soul, an activity in pure joy that was as simple as humanly possible. You provide a good or service for someone. They pay for it and receive it. They love it. Gratitude is exchanged. A relationship is created- or not. Rinse and repeat.
What if it was that simple? What if you capped your growth potential? What if you made business decisions that don’t require contracts, lawyers or staff? What if you simply did your work, made your product, found your customer, exchanged goods and washed your hands of it?
What would that look like? How would that feel? What would your life look like? What if you contracted your personal life and monetary obligations and leaned into a joyful business that allowed you to spend more time with your family or more time in nature? What would it feel like?
I’m asking you to explore this because we’re at a time in our evolution as a species where we are being forced to contract. And while that may seem intimidating, I’m proposing that it is actually liberating.
For years I ran a business that revolved around technology and serving clients. I enjoyed it, but I never felt true joy. I was filling time, providing a service and paying bills. I loved getting to know some of my clients better, but that’s really the only part I loved. I didn’t dislike most of it (except WordPress databases) but it didn’t bring me joy. And there were many instances where it was complicated.
I had a hard time letting that business go. Until this year, when life got real, fast. I’d been transitioning into my product-based crystal business for several years but never had the time and space to really lean into just that one business. Until this year. The pandemic crushed all the things. It even crushed my crystal business just as I was starting to turn a profit selling at in-person festivals. So, I pivoted. Fast. I doubled down on the Etsy shop I had set up several years ago. I already had monthly sales, and while they were low, I knew I could expand it easily. So, I put my entire festival inventory on Etsy and just paid to run daily ads. If it worked, great. If it didn’t, I’d figure it out.
It worked. And I found joy. It was right in front of me all this time. But here’s the thing, the business is simple. And I’m not expanding beyond the obvious. I’m adding an online popup shop to act as a “festival replacement” for a spell, until the world re-opens and I can do real popups and festivals again. I began making lapidary art again, something I’ve been waiting almost a decade to do. And I’ve come to love the more mundane aspects of the business that I never took the time to appreciate– until time was all I had.
When I’m in that personal space of unease because I’ve expanded my life too much or the outside society is just too frayed and chaotic and impacting my mental health, I turn to one of my favorite books to remind me that I’m not crazy. The Good Life Lab is a gorgeous little book that explores a decommodified life. It’s part story, part guide and part how-to. When I’m unsettled, I just open it up, read a few chapters or explore a few charts and I’m grounded again.
The Hustle, Hustle, Hustle Version…
And the Voluntarily Limited Growth Version…
Right now, this chart about running a cottage industry is resonating. Well, it always resonates, but now even more so. I’ve chosen the Voluntarily Limited Growth side of this chart repeatedly in the past and it’s served me well. The few times I’ve chosen the left side, I’ve been burned. I’m still paying monthly for the mistakes I made the last time I chose the left side.
I post this here as inspiration to those who are exploring or expanding their businesses and needing a little guidance or just a framework. I’m posting this here to give you permission to stay small. Empowering you to keep your business simple and to keep your life simple as well.
There’s something beautiful in keeping your life and your business simple. I implore you to lean into the voluntary simplicity in this chart (and in this book) and be OK with being small. Let joy be a deciding factor in your work, even if that means living a life of simpler means. Trust me, it’s worth it.
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