How to Create Your Own Smalltopia: An Interview with Tammy Strobel

August 31st, 2010 § 0 comments

I don’t really need to say much about Tammy Strobel, because I’m sure you all already know her.

Tammy runs the super-popular small living blog Rowdy Kittens. She was recently featured in not just The New York Times, but also, Yahoo Finance, and a bunch of other places. Why? Because she’s one of the pioneers of the minimalist movement that is changing the foundations of our society.

Tammy just released an amazing digital work: Smalltopia: A Practical Guide to Working for Yourself.

I was lucky enough to still be able to interview her after all of her recent media coverage.

I’ve read the e-book from start to finish, and it is one of the more remarkable guides to self-employment that I’ve read this year. I’m not going to say anymore, and let the interview with Tammy do the talking. I even contributed a small bit on my own experience creating a minimalist business.

On to the interview! We spoke about developing multiple streams of income, quitting your day job, and how simplicity is the ultimate freedom:

Everett: For our readers who haven’t been following your exploits religiously on your blog, Rowdykittens, can you briefly describe what a Smalltopia is?

Tammy: Smalltopia is a practical guide to working for yourself. The guide reviews tips, tools, and strategies that will help folks leave a traditional 9-5 job and create personal freedom through a very small business. The guide is broken up into three sections: Smalltopia Philosophy, Smalltopia Essentials, and Smalltopia Case Studies.

The part I’m most excited about is the case study section. It features stories from more than a dozen folks that run the gamut of experience. From those who are just getting ready to break up with their day job, to crazy successful small business owners. The list of rockstar contributors include: Leo Babauta, Chris Guillebeau, Jessica Reeder, Chris O’Byrne, Russ Roca, Laura Crawford, Karol Gajda, Chloe Adeline, Victoria Vargas, Karen Yaeger, Jules Clancy, Heather Levin, Matt Cheuvront, Tyler Tervooren, and the one and only Everett Bogue!

Everett: Imagine I’m the average reader of Far Beyond The Stars, why would I want to create a Smalltopia?

Tammy: You said in a recent blog post that Far Beyond the Stars is about one very specific thing, freedom. Creating your own Smalltopia will give you the structure to live life on your own terms and the freedom to pursue your dreams.

Everett: You recently quit your job in order to build your own very small business. Why did you decide that working for other people wasn’t what you were into?

Tammy: During the past ten years, I spent time working in the investment management industry and then transitioned into the social service sector. I learned a lot in both of these fields, but working for someone else wasn’t fulfilling.

I love working with others, but I disliked the rigid routines and unequal ranking of people in traditional office environments. And spending over 40 hours a week trapped indoors was starting to make me feel crazy. I wanted the freedom to be able to work on projects that made me happy, and more importantly, I wanted the freedom to choose when, where, and with whom I wanted to work with.

Everett: In Smalltopia you talk about the importance of diversifying your “moolah”. Most people have all of their income coming from one source, which obviously means if you lose that job you’re sunk. How important is it to have multiple streams of income?

Tammy: I believe having multiple streams of income is essential to financial security. For example, my income streams currently come from freelance writing projects, books sales, consulting, and some web design work. For instance, if my book sales decrease one month, I can easily take on more freelance writing projects and adapt accordingly.

Like you said, 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 (including myself) buy 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.

Everett: How has living a small lifestyle allowed you to focus on creating multiple income sources?

Tammy: Living a small lifestyle has reduced my expenses tremendously. I can afford to gamble on “risky” opportunities to develop more markets for my work. Now that I’m not shopping so much or constantly worrying about maintaining my stuff, I have the time and energy to focus on a variety of projects.

Everett: How has living a minimalist life contributed towards building your successful Smalltopia?

Tammy: Minimalism allows me the freedom and focus to pursue projects I’m passionate about which makes a huge difference in the quality of work I’m producing. Being happy and motivated comes through in my work and has contributed to a greater success in my business :)

In addition, I have the time to build relationships with people. And that is critically important to creating a resilient business.

Everett: What is one action that our readers can take towards moving towards building a Smalltopia of their own?

Tammy: Well you only asked for one action, but I’m going to give our readers two tips.

First, get your finances together and pay of any outstanding debts. This is essential because it will give you a lot of freedom and flexibility in the long run. Make sure you prioritize paying off your debt by setting aside part of each paycheck. Little by little your debt will decrease and you’ll have more freedom to do what you love.

Second, start a blog. Blogging is an incredible way to connect with like minded individuals, the perfect place to test business ideas, and build a fan base. For instance, all of my freelance writing contracts and books sales have occurred because RowdyKittens. Without a home base on the Internet, building a small small business can be difficult.


You can check out Tammy Strobel’s new e-book Smalltopia: A Practical Guide to Working for Yourself here.

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