This is an extract from the Simple Business book.
While building my miniature horticultural paradise on our balcony here in Copenhagen, I’ve been applying ideas from permaculture – an approach to agriculture that attempts to mimic the patterns and relationships we see in nature.
There are twelve key permaculture principles, and I’ve found that they apply pretty well to creating a simple business, too.
Some examples are catch and store energy, reduce waste, and creatively respond to change.
My favourite is simple: obtain a yield. I think this is an excellent principle for any new business to adhere to early on. How? By creating and sharing a simple product or service as quickly as possible.
Obtain a yield as early on in your business as possible
Early on in your garden or business, focus on the quickest, easiest way to obtain a yield to ensure you’re getting rewards from the work you’re doing.
This doesn’t mean learning or planning or waiting, it means doing.
In my little garden, this meant planting fast-growing pak choi that would be ready in less than a month.
When I decided to monetise my book blog, Tolstoy Therapy, this meant creating a seven-day course to help readers find more beauty and comfort in the world with the guidance of books.
For Live Wildly, my first product in 2020 was a low-cost digital workbook to help people figure out what they want in life and design a path towards it. Later, I replaced this with a more in-depth course, but you can still find the original PDF version for free on livewildly.co.
Think about your own work. What’s the easiest way that you can create an income stream fast? What’s your pak choi?
The first money you make in your business will probably be the best money you make. Even if it’s just $15 for a guided meditation you’ve added on your website with a PayPal button, it will feel different than every other salary slip. It can be the highlight of your year. You made it, your way. You’ve become a real entrepreneur. And it’s the first sign that your business can succeed.
Try to get to that point as fast as you can, even if your first clients are friends or family. Even if you have zero budget and need to make do with your spare time.
What’s the simplest product or service you can offer?
What can you do that is valuable to others? How can you give people a shortcut to reach their goals, save them time or money, or make their lives brighter?
Your idea doesn’t have to be the best thing ever. In fact, something super simple is best, especially to start with.
The purpose of this exercise isn’t to make millions. It isn’t to revolutionise your industry or create something unforgettable.
Instead, it’s to help you start selling things, sharing what you know, and learning about who you want to serve and how.
Try to think of offerings that will only take you a couple of days to get into the world. List three ideas that sound fun, and choose the one that is the easiest to create.
Simple offerings could include:
- An online workshop guiding customers through something you’re great at
- A “book now” button on your website for a 45-minute online coaching session
- Prints of your artwork you can easily produce and sell
- A guided meditation available to buy on your website
- Private yoga sessions in your local area
- A template or bundle of resources to help people solve a problem or reach a goal quickly
- A short ebook or workbook that teaches something people ask you for help with
A quick warning: as you create your first offering, you’ll inevitably find yourself going head-to-head with your own resistance. You’ll try to sabotage yourself without even realising it.
This can sound like, “I just want to make this a little bit better” or “I’ll hold off on sharing this until this other time” or “Maybe I should actually switch to another idea instead”.
You can mess about with a landing page for months on end, never feeling like it’s good enough, or you can make something in an afternoon, share it with the world, and improve it later.
Perfection is overrated
Later might never come, but that’s totally fine. Perfection is overrated. If you’re anything like me, you can probably think of a book you recommend to everyone with the proviso: “Ignore the cover, I know it’s really ugly”.
This reminds me of a trip Iain and I took to Mallorca last November to escape the cold and dark Danish weather. We were staying in a town called Sóller, and we’d heard that the Indian restaurant was pretty good. Its reviews were impeccable. And yet, when we turned up, it looked like the last place I’d want to go for dinner.
Think dubious kebab establishment (it was also selling kebabs), with poor-quality photos of the food on the storefront, and fake grass and flowers covering the walls inside. Really?
But we sat down, ordered, and had the best meal of our trip. From the pakora to the vegetable dhansak and mango lassi, it was so good.
Pretty isn’t everything. Done and valuable is. Stop messing about and just get the work done.
Then, put it online so people can find and try your product or service.
This offering doesn’t have to be the foundation of your business, or even something you sell long-term. It’s just one thing to sell first.
If you have lots of ideas
If you have lots of ideas, that’s even more of a reason to share things quickly with the world. Then you can quickly find out what you enjoy, what other people enjoy, and what accelerates without much effort.
This can be your starting point for making a lot, failing a lot, and seeing what works.
Finding a way to fail fast is your shortcut to figuring out what works best for you and the people you serve. When you find that thing, you can get their feedback to make it even more useful.
How can you get something helpful out into the world as quickly and easily as possible?