Review: Smalltopia

By Melissa Batai

Is your dream to work at home? If so, one book that will likely help you on your journey is Smalltopiaby Tammy Strobel, the creator of the blog, Rowdy Kittens.

Like so many, a few years ago Tammy found herself going in circles. She was caught up in consumption--buying a nice outfit to go to the clubs, paying for the clubs, living in just the right apartment. To pay for it all, she had to work hard at a job that was unfulfilling. Because she was unfulfilled at work, she felt the need to buy some more things, which meant she had to work harder.
When she decided enough was enough and that she wanted to work for herself, she and her partner had accumulated $30,000 in debt.

They paid off the debt in two years, downsized their apartment, and stopped the endless cycle of consuming.

This book is a guide for making the step to working at home, but it also contains important information about how to make the financial leap to working at home.
Book Features

The book is broken down into three main sections:

Smalltopia Philosophy

In this section, Tammy recounts her experiences with being unfulfilled and how she made the leap to self-employment. She addresses the fear that many have when making the leap, and she also suggests that being self-employed is easier if you have fewer financial obligations. Downsize your life so you can do the work that you love.

The section I loved most was "Quit Doing Stupid Work." If you've worked a 9 to 5 job, you know all about stupid work such as sitting through a 3 hour meeting where nothing gets accomplished. If you make the leap to self-employment, you often get to leave stupid work behind.

She also gives vital information about how to use your time wisely when working so you'll have enough time to do other important things in your life like spending time with family and friends and volunteering.

Smalltopia Business Essentials

There are two main parts to this section.

First, your business probably needs less than you think. When you are first starting, don't rush out to buy business cards and hire a designer for your website. Instead, be conservative and do what you can yourself. Once your business begins to make money, you can spend some money to upgrade.

Second, you need a blog. Tammy gives many reasons why a blog is important, and then she gives suggestions for making your blog a success. In fact, the majority of Tammy's work opportunities have come from her blog.

Smalltopia Case Studies

For this section, Strobel interviews some of the biggies in the work at home industry. Each person, including experts such as Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, Chris Guillebeau of The Art of Non-Comformity, and Jessica Reeder of the blog, Love and Trash, to name a few, give advice about how to successfully be self-employed.

There are 13 case studies total, and each story is unique. What is most inspiring is learning how each person made the leap from a less than fulfilling 9 to 5 work life to a fulfilling life working for themselves. Many of the people also did what Tammy suggested and downsized their lives so they needed to make less money. When the pressure is off to make so much money, many report that the money just naturally came to them.

Each expert writes several pages and gives insight into how to make the leap to self-employment. Just this section alone makes the book worthwhile, though I found the whole book valuable.

The Cost

The Verdict

Unlike most work at home books that simple address the issue of working at home, Strobel's book starts from the first time you have an inkling you may want to work for yourself. She explains how to prepare your life to support your work at home dreams, which is an important piece of information. The book also focuses on how you can live your most fulfilling life, with working at home being just one piece of the puzzle.

For those who are looking for fulfilling work AND work/life balance, this book is essential reading.

Melissa, a mom to three little ones (ages 7, 3 and 1) blogs at Mom's Plans where she writes about living a fulfilling life on less and focuses on cutting expenses, budgeting, paying down debt, saving money and once a month cooking.

*Photo by Kumaravel via Flickr.

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