Running Smalltopia: Thoughts on money, education, gratitude, and comments

by Tammy Strobel on December 1, 2010

I’ve been burning a lot of energy lately worrying about how other people perceive me, my writing, and my little business. I’m a recovering people pleaser and it’s easy for me to slip back into that mode of thinking. And it’s not healthy for my business or for my personal life.

My hero Danielle LaPorte eloquently pointed out, “What some people will read as enthusiastic stamina, others will interpret as a pushy intruder. It’s your job to show up as you, passion and all, and let the right customers make up their mind about you.”

So let’s talk a little bit about why I keep showing up and why I’m so passionate about simplicity …

I write to help others, to constantly reevaluate my own beliefs and to be part of a community. I started this blog as a personal journal and to rethink my world view. My goal is to create social change through simple living. A social movement of people who are living simple, authentic and uncluttered lives.

It’s my hope that the writing on this blog will inspire you to join a movement of change and to rethink your perspective on life, community and relationships. This blog has never been about scolding or trying to make you feel bad. Rather, I want to foster a community where we focus on positive change and how we can help others. Further, my hope is that you will question the status quo, your consumption choices and your world view.

I think it’s important for activists in any movement for change to examine problems from a holistic perspective. I consider myself to be a systems thinker. System thinking means considering an issue’s effects on broader systems, like the economy, the environment and public health. That’s part of the reason I write about such a broad variety of topics, from downsizing to living a car-free life. Money, jobs, and people operate within systems. How we chose to live our lives and whether or not we’re involved in our community has a huge impact on broader social systems.

I wrote that in early March and it still rings true to me. My goal on RowdyKittens is to teach people that living a simple, minimalist lifestyle is possible. And more importantly you can do what you love for a living and get paid too. I’m revisiting these concepts because I’ve received a few emails and comments from readers saying it’s contradictory to run a business selling books and other products, especially since materialism doesn’t make people happy.

I welcome the criticism because it prompted me to re-evaluate my intentions. And after a lot of thought, I have to say I strongly disagree with the critics.

First, my blog is important to my business model. It’s a platform that allows me to sell my books, services, and participate in affiliate programs.  Of course, I don’t want RowdyKittens to become a virtual billboard. 90% of my content is free and it will stay that way. However, the folks who support my work keep this blog going and help me pay my bills. And I deeply appreciate their support.

Second, reading books and taking classes has opened my mind to new perspectives and ideas. Continuing my education gave me the tools to overcome my eating disorder, dig out of debt, recover from depression, and start my own small business. Of course you can’t keep buying educational products to make huge life changes, eventually you have to take action. But in my experience, a little knowledge can go a long way.

And finally, I’m a huge believer in education and the Internet is a powerful educational tool. Blogging is one way to teach people to live better, healthier, and happier lives.

Smalltopia Income + Expenses

For those of you who are wondering how I pay my bills and what my expenses actually look like, here is the back story and details:

When I started my small business in February 2010, my goal was to earn about $24,000 this year from writing and other creative projects. I’m on track to hit that number by early 2011. Over the past 11 months, my income streams have come from freelance writing, creative projects (like ebook and web design), affiliate sales, and sales from my ebooks.

Since my little business is non-traditional, I don’t have huge upfront costs (like a storefront or inventory). My main expenses include renewing my domain name, paying for a server to host the blog, my ejunkie account, books, classes, and my time. This year I’ve spent thousands of hours on my business and about $1000 on business expenses; half of which has gone toward books and classes.

Right now our personal expenses are around $1,800 a month (that includes rent, food, utilities, our cell phone bill, my monthly yoga membership, food for the kittens, and a travel allowance). My income stream gives us a little extra cash to save, buy small pleasures, and donate money to charities. And that makes me happy. I don’t live an extravagant lifestyle and never will. I tried that before and it didn’t make me very happy.

I’m extremely fortunate to do what I love for a living. I get to write, connect with amazing writers, and interact with my readers on Twitter, Facebook and on Skype. Would I do this for free? Of course! I love writing and connecting with awesome people. While some folks argue that I shouldn’t sell my books or promote other products, the reality is we live in a capitalist culture. And unfortunately we all need to make money to pay bills and eat.

So is it possible to make a living doing what you love, without selling out?

I believe having multiple streams of income is essential to financial security. For instance, if my book sales decrease one month, I can easily take on more freelance writing projects and adapt accordingly.

If you’re laid off from a “traditional job” you’re stuck with no income stream. So in reality, I don’t think traditional jobs are very safe. It’s a myth that many of us have bought into. The generation of folks working for one company and building a pension is fading away. The collapse of Enron and recent bankruptcy of many financial management corporations demonstrate the illusion of “stable” income. Everything changes with time so it’s better to build a diverse and dynamic income model.

That’s my long way of saying, yes you can do what you love for a living. But it will take a lot of hard work and a major reduction in your expenses. Making more money is an option too. However, when you’re just starting out I think it’s important to keep your expectations in check.

Gratitude + a break from comments…

“I worry that my new artistic format might come across as ungrateful. And that would suck hard, because I am so deeply, madly, appreciative of every heart that clicks my way and gives some extra meaning to all of this. The value of being recognized as useful cannot be overstated.” ~Danielle LaPorte

The quote above deeply resonates with me because I have the same concern.

I’ve decided to close comments during the month of December. I’m going to be traveling a lot this month and I don’t want to worry about moderating comments while I’m visiting family. Comments may or may not be turned back on in the new year. The more I ponder comments, the more I agree with Danielle and Everett’s take on the topic.

Please know that I’m grateful to all of you who have take the time to leave comments on the site. I sincerely appreciate the comment love and the feedback. As always, I’m available to chat and answer questions. You can connect with me via email, Facebook, or on Twitter. And if you’re a blogger, I’m happy to share my experience through a written or verbal interview.

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And today is the first day of Reverb! Go sign up and start writing. It’s free. :) I’ll be answering the prompts in 750words and I might post a few of the responses to the blog.

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