The “Minimalist Movement” is a topic that’s become wildly popular in the last few years. People are now concerned with eliminating what’s not important and focusing on the things that truly matter. Some have even gone as far as getting rid of most of their possessions and living on the bare necessities. (Personally I like the idea of minimizing clutter, but I can’t imagine wearing the same three shirts for the rest of my life.) With that said, there’s a lot that can be learned from using this concept on different areas of your life. Specifically you can use it to run a minimalist online business. Let me explain…
Introducing the Minimalist Online Business
During my travels I’ve learned the value of the 80/20 rule. Since I have about fifteen hours to work each week, I’ve had to concentrate on those unique activities that bring the best results. Any task that’s not part of my core genius has been eliminated or outsourced to another person. In a way, I’ve accidentally created a minimalist online business – One that’s successful without a lot of mental or physical clutter.
Today I’d like to talk about a minimalist approach to Internet marketing. Although I’ll be using my approach as an example, I think it can be applied to the way you run an Internet marketing business.
A Minimalist Approach to Information
The first thing I did before leaving for Europe was to go on a complete information diet. I cancelled my subscription to a couple of Internet marketing mastermind groups. I stopped buying online business products. And I eliminated the habit of reading online news. With the exceptions of checking out the scores of the New York Yankees/Giants games and reading a few blogs, I’ve managed to completely isolate myself from what’s happening in the world.
Why did I do this? The reason is I pretty much know what needs to be done to create a successful online business. No flashy new product or site is going to teach me what I already know. And if I’m stuck with a specific problem (like how to get traffic from Facebook) then I’ll buy the best information product on the subject and take immediate action.
One of main reasons people fail is because they feel like the secret to success lies within the next product or blog post. The truth is you probably already know what it takes to succeed. Stop wasting your time reading that hot new product everyone is promoting. Instead, eliminate all the noise that brings zero value and focus on getting things done!
A Minimalist Approach to Online Business Equipment
I have to admit the equipment for my online business is pretty sophisticated:
From the image you can see that it consists of the following:
- Toshiba NB300 Laptop- This is complete with a “Hello Kitty” sticker a friend gave me because she said I looked grumpy while working. So I simply call this laptop my Hello Kitty Computer. Cute, right?
- Pad of Paper- This is where I keep track of my weekly to-do list. During my travels I’ve averaged twenty (45 minute long) tasks which is about fifteen hours of work each week.
- My Idea Book- This is where I jot down random blog post topics or ideas for growing my business. This one little book has been an invaluable resource that I use on a regular basis.
- Pen- You know, to write things down.
- USB Thumb Drive- This is used during those rare moments when I need to print something or to use another computer when Hello Kitty Computer isn’t connecting to the Internet – Which happens with dodgy Wifi signals in various countries.
Hopefully you can see that you don’t need a lot of fancy computer equipment to run a successful online business. I’ve been using a very low-tech approach to Internet marketing during the last seven months and I’ve still managed to work without many problems. In fact, the only obstacles I’ve encountered have come from something to do with traveling – Not from a lack of fancy computer equipment.
A Minimalist Approach to a Desktop
Similar to my business equipment I need a lot of stuff to do work. In fact, here’s what sits on my desktop:
Basically I have six icons that await me when I turn on Hello Kitty Computer-
- Firefox- You know, to connect to the Internet.
- Recycle Bin- I hate to admit this…I don’t know how to find the recycle bin when it’s not on my desktop. So even though I rarely use this tool, I still keep it there because I’m afraid of what happens if I delete it.
- iTunes- I always need music while working. In fact, I’ve now made iTunes playlists to use whenever I’m not up for writing.
- Ideas and Long-Term Projects Document- This is used to de-clutter my mind whenever a great idea pops up. Right now, I can’t take action on anything. So I use this document to record the things I’ll be doing when I get home.
- Outsourcing Master Sheet- One of my weekly tasks is to do a few tasks for outsourcing. Most of this is simply reviewing the work or others or replying to emails. Unfortunately this is a task I’m always forgetting to do. So I keep this document on my desktop as a constant reminder to get things done.
- Files Folder- This folder contains all the documents I use to run my professional (and personal) life. We’ll cover this in the next section.
Again, on my desktop are only the items I use on a regular basis. I’ve learned you can lose a lot of time if your desktop is filled with hundreds of different files that are nothing more than distractions.
A Minimalist Approach to Folder Management
A place for everything, everything in its place – Benjamin Franklin
The files on your computer shouldn’t be scattered all over the place. I recommend having one master folder that contains separate sub-folders for the tasks you do on a regular basis. As an example, take a look at what my files folder looks like:
I have a total of ten sub-folders. These are all segmented into the different activities I do on a regular basis. For instance, here’s what’s contained in each…
- Affiliate Marketing Site- This folder contains all my emails, ezine articles and the autoresponder publishing schedule I use for my affiliate site. I only spend three hours a week on this business – Most of which is done at the same period of work.
- Assorted Files- Here I have all the sub-folders and projects I no longer do. I don’t want to lose these files, but I also don’t want to see them whenever I open my main folder.
- Business Documents- These contain all the files I use to track and manage my business.
- Information Product Site- This has everything that’s involved with my information product. There’s a lot in this folder, so I’m glad I only look at it once every week.
- Internet Marketing Education- Here I have every PDF, video, and audio course that’s taught me the principles of Internet marketing. For awhile I was a bit of an information junkie, so I have a ton of material on how to build a successful online business. This is an active folder because I sometimes get stuck with a problem and need to refer to a specific document.
- Long-Term Projects- Here I have a few sub-folders that contain different long-term products I hope to release in the next year. Right now, they’re not being used so I prefer to keep them away from the main folder.
- Outsourcing- This contains all the emails and files I use to manage my outsource workers. I probably don’t need a special folder for this, but I hope to increase my reliance on outsourcing. So I’m trying to develop a habit by treating outsourcing as a separate business.
- Personal Stuff- These are all the things that have to with my personal life. Top secret stuff here!
- Pictures- I have a ridiculous amount of pictures – Almost 30 GB. The good news is I’m pretty thorough at categorizing them according to date and country.
- Steve Scott Site-Here you’ll find everything that has to do with this site. Mostly it’s filled with images, my publishing schedule and copies of each blog post.
I’ve found that it’s helpful to separate the major areas of your life into different folders. That way you know where everything is and can quickly find it. Sure this might seem a little OCD, but it’s one of those little tricks that helps me work in a very efficient manner.
A Minimalist Approach to Working
Another trick I use is to separate tasks into Internet vs. non-Internet time. Most of my time is spent writing. So I try to do this when I don’t have an Internet connection – Like in a café or while riding a train. The logic is this prevents me from succumbing to the temptation to read email or check Facebook.
If you do a lot of writing, I highly recommend disconnecting from the Internet when doing it. This little trick will save you hours of time wasted on websites that don’t provide real, genuine value.
A Minimalist Approach to Task Management
Like I said at the start of this post, I only work on the activities which I consider to be my core genius. These are the tasks I think bring the best results. I’m sure some of them will be outsourced in the future. But for now they’re what I do on a weekly basis:
- Create Autoresponders- I make almost all of my money with email marketing. That means each week I spend a few hours creating and posting autoresponders on Aweber.
- Answering Emails- Even though I have four email addresses I tend to get a low number of messages. With my information product account I try to be diligent about responding quickly because most emails are from customers or affiliates. But with my other accounts I only reply back once a week. Most people tend to understand because I have limited Internet time while traveling.
- Outsourcing Tasks- These are the few tasks that help me manage all the outsourced work that’s being done. Right now this isn’t much. But I’m sure this is going to change when I ramp up the number of tasks I need done.
- Blog Content Creation- This is where I spend the majority of my time. Usually it’ll take me almost ten hours to come up with content that’s posted on a regular basis – That’s even after having one or two articles a week posted by someone else.
- Long-Term Activities- When I get home on November 8th, I’m going to add an additional 20 to 30 tasks each week. All of this will concentrate on activities that’ll turn this site into a legitimate source of income.
I feel like all of these activities are things that only I can do. Furthermore, they provide the best usage of my time. I recommend doing a complete 80/20 analysis of your online business and see which tasks are providing the best results. Then concentrate on doing just them. You’ll find that this is one of the quickest paths to Internet success!
Final Thoughts on a Minimalist Online Business
Well, this is how I’ve managed to create and run a minimalist online business. I’m not saying this method is perfect, but it’s a system that I’ve used to keep sane and accomplish a lot of work during my travels. I’m also sure I’ll change things around when I get my new place back in New Jersey.
I recommend taking a look at the way your online business is managed. You might find that there are a few activities that are cluttering the way you do work. Then you need to eliminate what’s not working and focus all of your time on the things that bring legitimate results. What do you think?Take Action. Get Results.