Chapter 1

Profitability

Profitability means sustainability. Instead of treading water until a lifeboat comes along to save you, build your own boat.

Building a minimalist business is not a get-rich-quick proposition, but it is a get-rich-slowly one if you embrace profitability, not growth, as the key indicator of your company’s success.

On paper, it seems simple enough:

1. Narrow down who your ideal customer is. Narrow until you can narrow no more.

2. Define exactly what pain point you are solving for them, and how much they will pay you to solve it.

3. Set a hard deadline and focus fully on building a solution, then charge for it.

4. Repeat the process until you’ve found a product that works, then scale a business around it.

In practice, it’s not so simple. There are many complications that pop up, and most people don’t even know where to start. A “business”of any kind is too scary, too amorphous, or too unattainable. Luckily, there’s another way to get started today. Before you become an entrepreneur, become a creator.

Creators make things, charge their audiences for those things, and then use that money to make more things. They use the first dollars they earn as tools to fuel their own creative drive, not the other way around. With time and experience, creators show others how to turn their own creativity into businesses, and the cycle continues. In the end, there isn’t much difference between a business like Gumroad and a creator. It’s just semantics—one or more people using the tool of a business to make something new. Painters need brushes. Writers need pencils. Creators need businesses. It’s key for people to understand that, because it lowers the cognitive barrier to starting a business, and starting is really important. You don’t learn, then start. You start, then learn.

But where do you start? Take a good hard look at the people, places, and communities you care about. Where are the pain points? What isn’t working, but might, with a little elbow grease? These are all opportunities to make things better through minimalist entrepreneurship. It’s ironic how often people go around hoping to find a startup idea while simultaneously complaining about all the everyday stuff around them that doesn’t work properly. “Sure, I could solve that for people with a little effort, but the potential market just isn’t big enough to really scale.” That’s the kind of thinking The Minimalist Entrepreneur seeks to address.

While I do think the minimalist entrepreneur mindset leads to a near-100-percent success rate, I’m willing to concede that it may only happen over the course of many experiments. That’s why profitability matters. If you’re profitable, you can take unlimited shots on goal, virtually guaranteeing your success as long as you keep learning from your customers. I really do believe that starting a business should be an option for everyone no matter your background. But most people don’t start. Most people who start don’t continue. Most people who continue give up when things get hard. Many winners are just the last ones standing. Don’t give up.

The world desperately needs the solutions that only entrepreneurs can provide. Everyday problems are all around us, but they are often hidden from the view of the Silicon Valley software engineers and Ivy League overachievers who have been anointed as our entrepreneurial class. We need the help of entrepreneurs from every part of the planet and every stratum of society. It’s down to individual creators and entrepreneurs to set better goals for ourselves and our businesses. After all, problems don’t solve themselves. People do.

Key Takeaways

  1. You don’t learn, then start. You start, then learn.
  2. Minimalist entrepreneurs focus on getting “profitable at all costs” instead of growing at all costs.
  3. A business is a way to solve problems for people you care about—and get paid for it.
  4. Become a creator first, an entrepreneur second.

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