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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 3 million readers. As featured on: ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, TODAY Show, NPR, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

The Beauty of Starting a Micro-Business

Tammy and Logan

In early May, I strapped my hot pink bike panniers on my bike and pedaled away from my little house. The weather was perfect for a short bike ride to the gym. It was seventy degrees, sunny and the birds were singing their tunes. I’d barely pedaled two blocks when my phone rang. Typically, I don’t stop and answer the phone when I’m on my bike. But, my instinct told me to pull over and answer the phone.

The phone call was from Logan, my husband, and after exchanging hellos Logan said, “Well, I have some holy shit, life changing news”

My stomach felt like it dropped to my feet and I said, “Ohhh no. You lost your job, didn’t you?”

“Yup. My boss has a job opportunity in Boston and she’s taking the research project with her. She offered me a job at the new lab, but I don’t think we want to move there. As of September 1st, I won’t have a job anymore.” Instead of freaking-out, Logan simply followed up with “So, now we’re free to do what we want again. Maybe it’s time for us to move back to California?”

Seven years ago this news would have been disastrous for us because we were living paycheck to paycheck and didn’t have a savings account. However, things have changed. We’ve paid off our debt, own a very tiny house and have dramatically changed our consumption patterns. Our expenses are relatively low, our house is on wheels, and my job is location independent; all of which give us freedom, flexibility, and the opportunity to embrace change.

To Move or Not to Move?

Over the next few weeks, we talked about how much we loved Portland, our friends, and our neighbors. But our hearts were telling us to move back home. We’ve both been homesick since we moved to Portland and the last seven months haven’t been easy. My dad was extremely ill and I spent a lot of time traveling to and from California.

Luckily my job is mobile. My little writing business gave more than money; it gave me the freedom and time to be there for my dad. As long as I have a computer, pen, journal, and an internet connection, I can write. As a result, I was able to help take care of my dad before he passed away in early June. Unfortunately, Logan didn’t have the same opportunity because of his traditional, 9-5 job. He had also missed the Christmas and New Year holidays earlier in the year because of the traditional job.

A Sabbatical + a Micro-Business

After making a lot of pro/con lists, Logan and I decided to move back to California. I’ll continue writing and Logan is going to take a sabbatical from the work world. I have a feeling that the career transition Logan is experiencing will be fruitful, rather than hurtful. He’ll have the time to rest, reflect, and figure out what he wants to do next. Change can be stressful and tumultuous, but it’s also a way to revamp your personal and professional life.

For example, Logan wants a career that gives him more flexibility and freedom. After a lot of brainstorming, he decided to start a small business that will help companies prepare for emergencies. It’s been two years since I started my smal business and I’ve learned a lot. So I offered Logan a few pieces of advice to help him get started:

1. Start a website. This website should be your home base on the Internet. It’s a place where people can learn about you and the services you offer. Plus, developing a website is a wonderful exercise to define your business goals, objectives, and the services you want to offer clients.

2. Network and then network more. Connect with your tribe on social networks and take time out to meet your fans and colleagues in person and off-line.

3. Pay attention to the details. What kind of entity is your little business? A sole proprietorship or a corporation? Do you have a business account for expenditures? Pay attention to the details so they can help inform your big decisions and help you focus on daily tasks. Paying attention to the little things will help you treat your business like a business and keep expenses in harmony with income.

4. Develop a product or service to sell. Selling a product or service is the core foundation of any business. Without this component, you’ll have trouble paying the bills. It’s essential to show how a particular product or service will benefit the buyer.

5. Diversify Your Moolah. I generate income through online courses, ebook sales, my book advance and through freelance writing projects. By diversifying my income stream I don’t have to rely on one source of cash to pay my monthly bills. I think this is beneficial regardless of your situation because it offers you resiliency and adaptability in the face of layoffs or swings in the market.

Parting Words

I can’t tell you what you should do for a living. But I will say this: Prioritize what matters to you. I did this by creating a micro-business that gave me the flexibility to do work I love and to be there for my loved ones too.

Tammy Strobel is a writer, photographer, and tiny house enthusiast. She created her blog, RowdyKittens.com, to share her story of embracing simplicity. Since then, her story has been featured in the New York Times, The Today Show, USA Today, CNN, MSNBC, and in a variety of other media outlets. Tammy’s new book is called, You Can Buy Happiness (and it’s Cheap).