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Smalltopia A Practical Guide to Working for Yourself

by Tammy Strobel 1 | Smalltopia

Dedication for Logan: my life partner, best friend, and support system.

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Table of Contents Introduction!


What It’s All About!


My Background!


The Not-So-Small Disclaimer!


Smalltopia Philosophy!


What I’ve Learned Since I Left My Day Job!


How to Turn Your Dreams into Reality!


How To Stop Doing Stupid Work!


Turn Off the Internet and Focus!


Quiet Your Mind and Do Work that Matters!


“No” Isn’t a Dirty Word!


Avoid Becoming a Workaholic!


Kick the Cubicle Habit By Simplifying Your Finances!


Smalltopia Essentials!


What Your Small Business Needs!

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The Business Plan?!


How to Find Your People!


Why You Need a Blog!


How to Cultivate Ideas!


The Benefits of Testing!


Hunting and Gathering: How to Diversify Your Moolah!


The Money Game!


Who’s on Your Inspiration Council?!


Invest in Yourself!


NO Spam Marketing!


Collaborate with Queens + Kings!


Smart Sourcing!


Smalltopia Case Studies!


6 Lessons for New Entrepreneurs by Leo Babauta!


How to Improve Your Utopia Day-by-Day by Chris Guillebeau!


$5,000 Changed My Life by Jessica Reeder!


Creating a Small Work Life by Chris O'Byrne!

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Stop Consuming and Start Living by Everett Bogue!


This Office Has No Walls by Russ Roca and Laura Crawford!


How To Automate Your Business Growth Using A Free E-mail Course by Karol Gajda!


The Accidental Entrepreneur by Chloe Adeline!


Trying Smalltopia on for Size by Victoria Vargas!


Small Steps Lead the Way by Karen Yaeger!


the story of stonesoup | minimalist home cooking by Jules Clancy!


Why Being Unemployed Is the Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me by Heather Levin!


How much are you worth? by Matt Cheuvront!


Say "Yes," and 6 Other Ideas for a Thriving Smalltopia by Tyler Tervooren!


Smalltopia Resources!


About the Author!




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Introduction I have a secret to share with you: I was absolutely petrified to write this ebook. I kept thinking: What do I know about running a small business? And how can I possibly compete against some of my favorite business writers? People like Pam Slim, Chris Guillebeau, Everett Bogue, Danielle LaPorte and Karol Gajda? And then I thought: What would I tell one of my clients or blog readers? My standard response goes something like this: First, this isn’t about competition. Writing a book is about helping other people do what they love. Second, just do it. Everyone has a valuable perspective to share with the world. Third, fear is an emotion that’s always present. Try not to let the emotion hold you back from new opportunities. Besides,

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what is the absolutely worst thing that could happen? And finally, the world is a magical place. You just have to open your eyes long enough to see it. Big institutions have a vested interest in keeping us stuck and scared. So how do we get so stuck? For most of our adult lives we’re supposed to get to work on time, follow the rules laid out during our education and generally be good boys and girls. We’re used to watching the clock, giving our lives away for money and going after gold stars in school. We’ve become so good at censoring ourselves we don’t know who we are anymore. And we’re even less likely to ask hard questions about consumer culture, capitalism or the nature of work. People feel dissatisfied, depressed and unhappy because they buy their identity through consumerism. Folks have bought into messages promoted by advertisers; messages that tell us we need a big house, a nice car and a traditional job to find meaning and purpose in life. By downsizing your life and spending habits you’ll have the freedom, time, creative energy and resources to start working for yourself.

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For example, living a simple, minimalist lifestyle gave me the freedom and self confidence to leave my day job and start my own business in February 2010. Since then I’ve received hundreds of e-mails from blog readers asking how I was able to build a profitable business around my blog. This book is my response to those e-mails and a call to action. Remember: You can create your own reality. You are capable of following your dreams. By starting a small business you can build your own utopia.

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What It’s All About Working for yourself is similar to creating your own utopia. By producing your own stellar work environment, filled with rewarding challenges, you have the freedom to choose how to spend and prioritize your time. It’s the perfect balance between freedom and hard work. This book will benefit anyone who is interested in leaving a traditional 9-5 job. It’s full of tips, tools and strategies that will help you create personal freedom through a very small business. More specifically, this book is about the fundamentals of getting a small business off the ground and rethinking the nature of how, where and when we do work. I’ve structured this book to be a series of small guides that will help you start a small business. Dedicated blog readers may notice that I’ve integrated some of my older articles into this book. Not all of the ideas are new, but the material has been revised and updated. In addition, the book contains embedded links to informative articles, books and websites. This book is divided into three sections:

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• Smalltopia Philosophy: This section focuses on doing work that matters, building community and living small, while thinking big. • Smalltopia Essentials: This section covers essentials, including business planning, marketing, income diversification and a variety of other topics. • Smalltopia Case Studies: This section contains business tips, tools and stories from small business owners and from people who are preparing to escape their cubicle. It’s my hope that this guide will inspire you to start your own small business and pursue a lifestyle that brings you satisfaction and happiness.

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My Background My background gives me a unique perspective on running a small business. During the last decade of my career, I spent a number of years in the investment management industry and working in the movement to end violence against women. I directed outreach programs, provided counseling services to victims of violence and learned how to run a nonprofit. In “Minimalist Health,” I talked about the importance of taking care of your physical and emotional health. You only get one body and mind. If you don’t take care of both, I don’t think you can effectively help others. This is especially true for folks who work in social services where burnout is common. Your health is a fundamental priority even if it means asking for a reduced work schedule or leaving a “good job.” With that in mind, I knew it was time to make a serious career change. Over the last decade, I've learned a lot about what it takes to sustain a vibrant, fully inclusive movement for change. More importantly, I learned that we are all connected through business. 11 | Smalltopia

Starting a small business is something I’ve always wanted to do. However, I never had the confidence to actually do it. I was living a life society said was “good” but I couldn’t figure out why I was so unhappy. Thanks to the encouragement of mentors, I finally stopped talking about my dreams and made them a reality. Life is too short to be stuck in a career you hate or that leaves you feeling “burnt out.” I truly believe anything is possible, especially if you build relationships and start getting involved with your community. The time we have on this planet is too precious to be wasted.

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The Not-So-Small Disclaimer This book is for educational purposes and I am not responsible for any losses you might incur. Before you make any big decisions talk to your friends, family members and mentors.

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Smalltopia Philosophy The Smalltopia philosophy is simple and includes three points: 1. Live small. Think big. Do something. 2. Focus and don’t engage in stupid work. 3. Build a strong community by helping people improve their lives.

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“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” ~Seth Godin, Tribes

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What I’ve Learned Since I Left My Day Job As we’ve learned from the economic downturn the world is always changing. At the end of January, I forced change upon myself and decided to leave my stable, “good” job. Change is scary, risky and part of every day life. We should embrace change by acknowledging its presence and preparing for its effects. I’m grateful for the time I spent at various day jobs. However, I’ve never felt “safe” in a traditional job because of changing office politics, potential funding cuts and the constant talk of “re-structuring.” So I knew I had to take a risk and try something new. I wanted to set up a life where I had more freedom. A life that didn’t require sitting under florescent lights or working traditional hours. Some of my co-workers discounted my idealism and told me to just accept the nature of a traditional job; however, I knew that my idealistic utopian life could be built by starting my own tiny business.

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The author Seth Godin talks about the concept of sheepwalking in Tribes. He defines “sheepwalking as the outcome of hiring people who have been raised to be obedient and giving them brain-dead jobs and enough fear to keep them in line.” I don’t want to be caught sheepwalking or stay at a day job just because the salary and benefits are good. Do you? It’s so easy to get caught up in fear. When you start freaking out, go for a walk or write down the reasons you might be feeling anxious. Activities like walking, writing and talking with mentors can help you figure out where your fear is coming from. Usually, fear has no basis in reality. Let’s review a few tips to help you fight fear and focus on producing work that matters:

1. Don’t listen to the lizard brain. Seth Godin describes the lizard brain as “the resistance.”

“The resistance is the voice in the back of our head telling us to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise. The resistance is writer's block and putting jitters and every project that ever 17 | Smalltopia

shipped late because people couldn't stay on the same page long enough to get something out the door. The resistance grows in strength as we get closer to shipping, as we get closer to an insight, as we get closer to the truth of what we really want. That's because the lizard hates change and achievement and risk. The lizard is a physical part of your brain, the pre-historic lump near the brain stem that is responsible for fear and rage and reproductive drive.� Your job is to acknowledge this voice and then push past it to continue doing work that matters.

2.Give more than you receive. How can you help others in your niche? Can you mentor a colleague or promote a blogger’s work? The more you give, the more you’ll receive. By contributing to a community you can grow your niche together and foster greater resilience in a changing market.

3. Ignore the trolls. Trolls are people filled with negative energy and do things like leave nasty comments on blog posts or send mean e-mails. 18 | Smalltopia

Don’t worry about these folks. Think about how you can help your clients, fans and community.

4. Stick to a schedule. Sticking to a schedule can be really helpful. For example, I do a majority of my writing early in the mornings because that’s when the words flow onto paper. Figure out what times in the day you’re most productive and start getting stuff done.

5. Be open to feedback. Constructive criticism is one way you can improve your art. Be open to that feedback, even if it’s bad.

6. Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep impacts productivity, relationships and your sense of self worth. Do yourself and your family a favor and go to bed early.

7. Network and then network more. Connect with your tribe on social networks and take time out to meet your fans and colleagues in person. 19 | Smalltopia

8. Content is king.


Develop your idea and think about its effects. For example, how is your blog post useful? What can you teach your readers?

9. Work is not spending hours on Twitter and Facebook. Social networking is a lot of fun, but it’s not work. If you spend hours every day on Twitter or Facebook, how is that impacting your art?

Take a break from reading and answer the following questions: 1. What is the worst thing that could happen if you left your day job? 2. If the worst case scenario actually occurred, what steps could you take to make your life better?

10. Treat your small business like a business.

3. What would you do today if you were fired from your day job? Are you prepared emotionally and financially?

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.

4. How can your community help you, if the worst-case scenario happened?

11. Politicizing your work isn’t a bad thing.

5. What are you waiting for? What is holding you back from pursuing your ideal career?

Everything is political and I don’t think you should be afraid to make your political viewpoints known or donate a portion 20 | Smalltopia

of your profits to an organization you believe in. As Jeff Schmidt points out: “Professionals control the technical means but not the social goals of their creative work. The professional’s lack of control over the political content of his or her creative work is the hidden root of much career dissatisfaction … Professionals are licensed to think on the job, but they are obedient thinkers.”

12. Find a mentor and listen to their advice. Mentors are invaluable. They are in your life to offer you support, encouragement and advice. So listen to them! Even if they suggest taking on a task you’re not sure about, do it!

13. Use your extra time to volunteer and give back to your community. Give more than you get. By restructuring your work life you’ll have the time to volunteer in your community or start your own revolution. For instance, check out Chris Guillebeau’s Clean Water for Ethiopia project. This is an amazing example of how you can use the Internet for good.

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14. Learn to say no. Make a list of the number of times you say “yes� during the week. If you suffer from the "need to please" disease, the number of times you say "yes" in one week might be shocking.

15. Focus on one task at a time. Focusing on one task at a time has been my mantra for the last few months. When working on a project either for personal or professional gain, focus. For instance, when I work on projects for clients I set a timer and focus solely on that project. Time is a valuable commodity. So if a project takes longer than expected, I start billing by the hour. (Make sure you specify this in a contract.)

16. Continue to expand your knowledge base. Learning is a lifelong process. Try new things and challenge yourself. Learning new skills will give you the knowledge base to get your little business off the ground.

17. Learn to get more from less.

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Think about what you really need to start and maintain your little business. Going small is an elegant solution to many complex problems. Do you really need a fancy office? Or can you work from home? Do you need business cards, fancy letterhead, or brochures? Do you truly need to hire a professional web designer or can you create a simple website yourself? I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. Running a business doesn’t require a lot of excess stuff or a big office. You can get by with far less than you think and still be extremely successful.

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Smalltopia: A practical guide to working for yourself  

This book will benefit anyone who is interested in leaving a traditional 9-5 job. It’s full of tips, tools and strategies that will help you...