The Fine Line Of Monetizing Minimalism

How do minimalist blogs make a profit? In most cases, they don’t. It’s only the most popular minimalist blogs that monetize minimalism. It’s a fine line. Should we be monetizing minimalism? Or does that contradict the very nature of the movement?

The fine art of monetizing minimalism: Photo of a stack of coins in front of a clock.

Money has never been extremely important to me. Sure, I enjoy enough money to live a comfortable life. But I refuse to sacrifice too much of myself in order to make more money.

Minimalists claim that time and experience are more important than stuff and money. That’s the whole idea behind the movement: to take the emphasis off working long hours and live more simply with less. Why then, do some successful minimalist bloggers work so hard monetizing minimalism?

An Argument For Monetizing Minimalism

Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist makes his living blogging. Granted, he has some scruples about how he generates income. He uses no advertising and uses less list-building strategies than many blogs. Most of Joshua’s income comes from book sales. But like most blogs, Becoming Minimalist has several streams of revenue:

  • Book sales
  • Amazon affiliate selling
  • Speaking
  • Hosting affiliation
  • Online courses

The argument for monetizing minimalism is simple. One has to make a living, so why not  make money spreading a message that benefits others? Like Becoming Minimalist, sites like Zen Habits, The Minimalists, and Be More With Less have all developed ways of monetizing minimalism. In that process, they are spreading the message of minimalism. They’re teaching others to be happy while living with less.

That’s a great thing, right?

Maybe not.

An Argument Against Monetizing Minimalism

Monetizing minimalism goes against the very nature of the movement.

Minimalists tell us to spend less money on stuff. Meanwhile, many of them have affiliate links leading to Amazon, hoping you buy more stuff.

Minimalists tell us we should own less clothes. But rather than leaving it at that, some create and sell us programs to teach us what clothes to buy.

Minimalists tell us we should spend less money. Still, they write books and produce movies with the ultimate goal of getting us to spend our money.

Minimalists tell us we should declutter our schedules and inboxes. But they convince us to read books and take classes that take up our time and space.

Some minimalists use programs like Kickstarter or ask for donations so that they can make products for you to buy.  

Do you see the irony? By monetizing minimalism, we do the exact thing to which we’re passionately opposed.

What Makes Hip Diggs Different?

When I first started blogging in 2011, my sole purpose was to have a public writing platform. Heck, I didn’t even know you could make money from blogging. It didn’t take long for me to discover all the promises about getting rich quick. The bug bit me!

I tried, without much success, to monetize danerickson.net. I started a handful of other blogs with the goal of making money. Nothing worked. Then I started Hip Diggs. At first, I had dreams of monetizing this blog, too. But with time, I’ve decided there’s something much greater than money here.

Hip Diggs has given me a platform to truly express myself. This blog allows me work toward my own goals while helping others. And it’s all free. Other than a small investment of money and time, it’s free to me. And it’s always been free to my readers.

Will I Ever Monetize Minimalism?

I’m not going to say that I won’t. But at this time, I feel a sense of freedom by not monetizing Hip Diggs. I’ve noted that as soon as bloggers monetize their blogs, they have to work harder. They go from selling books to online courses to offering personal coaching to making movies and more. All in an effort to produce income.

I already have an income. As a college professor, I’m able to teach others how to become better writers and speakers. My salary is decent. I have good health benefits. I’ll be able to retire with a nice little nest egg. Why would I want to spend countless hours monetizing minimalism and give up the simple life I’m already living?

Maybe, when my daughter is older and I have more time on my hands, I’ll put more effort into monetizing Hip Diggs. But when that day comes, it’s my promise to you, that I’ll only sell services and products that promote the lifestyle.

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12 Comments

  1. Great post Dan. People have often told us we should sell t-shirts with our stick man on it….as much as i’d love the revenue stream it seems hypocritical to say; sell all your stuff, but buy my t-shirt!

    1. It’s hard, isn’t it? I’ve thought about t-shirts, too. Books are a little better because they can be ebooks and they might be helpful to the cause. I have an idea of creating a store that only sells products that either support minimalism or are made to last a lifetime. If we buy quality necessities, we buy less in the long run.

      1. Definitely hard. I was sourcing eco-friendly products (minimal impact on environment). I learned that bamboo shirts are actually one of the least enviro-friendly types of shirts! I do like NoSidebar’s products under $50. Might be a start, but again, fine line isn’t it!

        1. I hadn’t seen that No Sidebar now has products under $50. That’s not a bad idea. I’ve thought about starting a store, but I didn’t like most of the affiliate programs I looked at because they primarily all support all the big-box stores and mega-companies that sell mass produced goods made in foreign countries. I’d like to offer products by companies like Filson and Pendleton (clothing) and other top-quality custom products in other product categories. I think this would require some legwork and networking directly with the companies I’m interested in supporting. That could take some time. We’ll see. For now I’m just blogging because I enjoy it and I hope to continue to spread the message of simple living.

  2. Hi Dan, I’m a fan of your blog, but I think this post might be missing the mark a little bit on this one:

    “Minimalists tell us to spend less money on stuff. Meanwhile, many of them have affiliate links leading to Amazon, hoping you buy more stuff.”

    >> Not necessarily – the message of minimalism is to get rid of things that don’t bring a significant amount value to your life. At its core, Minimalism isn’t really all about “stuff” – that’s just one tangible part of Minimalism.

    “Minimalists tell us we should own less clothes. But rather than leaving it at that, some create and sell us programs to teach us what clothes to buy.”

    >> Minimalism is about quality over quantity – not necessarily spending the least amount of money possible, although that’s desirable. There’s nothing wrong with buying a quality article of clothing that you’re going to use all the time and that will last you for a long while.

    “Minimalists tell us we should spend less money. Still, they write books and produce movies with the ultimate goal of getting us to spend our money.”

    >> Minimalism is about not wasting money. There’s nothing wrong with spending money on something that brings significant value to your life.

    “Minimalists tell us we should declutter our schedules and inboxes. But they convince us to read books and take classes that take up our time and space.”

    >> If this is true – isn’t reading this blog a waste? I don’t believe it is, which is why spending time learning doesn’t go against the core principals of Minimalism.

    I’m super glad you’ve taken the approach that you have with this blog in terms of not having annoying pop-ups, being over commercial etc.. I feel like a lot of other blogs really go overboard in the other direction.

    Anyway, I love what you’re doing – just wanted to give you an alternative viewpoint on this subject.

    1. Hi Forrest, and thanks for your comment. I understand that minimalism is primarily focused on what brings us value. I’m also a great proponent on quality over quantity.
      I actually appreciate and agree with all of your points, too. I just see that minimalism can be a dichotomy and I like to flip things around and look at them from the other side from time to time. I personally am a little hesitant to monetize Hip Diggs unless I’m very comfortable with the product and it’s value to helping others live more simply. Thanks for following and best to you in 2017!

  3. I appreciate the work you do on your blog, Dan, and I enjoy your point of view. I understand your argument that monetizing minimalism seems to be a contradiction. However, I don’t have a problem with minimalist bloggers writing books or creating courses for those who feel they would benefit from them. All the information and discussion may be on their blogs, but it’s difficult for their readers to find and learn from it in a focused manner, since that’s not how blogs function. A book or a course may be the perfect format for some. As long as the content of their blog remains free, and free of advertising, I think the blog still qualifies for the term “minimalist.”

    1. I agree, Karen. Courses and books are okay by me, too. Even other products, if they add value to people’s lives in a simple way. Many minimalist bloggers have paid courses. That’s okay, too, as long as it adds value to people’s lives. I might create a paid course one day, but I wrestle with that idea. I teach by profession and when I come home and write, I’m not sure I want to operate another course, too. This blog is a long, slow process for me. We’ll see where it leads. I appreciate your kind words about my work.

  4. HI Dan. I really enjoy your blog. I am happy to see that you feel it is okay for one’s blog to not make money. THANK YOU! I started a blog about a year ago…and was so overwhelmed by all the articles I was reading about monetizing a blog that I quit writing. I still don’t understand all the lingo! I believe I really started it to express myself and help others. I plan to get back to it soon. Your blog encourages and inspires me and helps me view things at a deeper level. I DIGG you man!!!

  5. Thanks for your article, Dan. I’m a little suspicious of the blogs that are supporting their creators financially. Eventually the content becomes about supporting them in their endeavours not about necessarily creating valuable content for the reader. The Minimalists are the most obvious example for me as they seem to lately just promote themselves rather than minimalism. With blogs such as yours knowing that you make your living by other means I feel as though you’re sharing your ideas and thoughts because you want to not because you’re creating an empire. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Suzanne. I would like to make an income from this blog someday as a retirement supplement, but it’s not my focus. I think as soon as the focus becomes solely monetary the message loses something. I hope to create an income in a way that is not blatantly self-promoting, but rather promotes books, courses and products that will all be valuable to those who choose to live simply. Time will tell.

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