Most jobs create overwhelm.
Hundreds of emails. Endless backlogs. Crazy bosses. Office politics.
You can try to put up with it. Or you can find a minimalist job which eliminates these distractions.
Learn about the five criteria for minimalist jobs, real-life options, and ways to improve your current job.
5 Characteristics of Minimalist Jobs
To understand what the perfect minimalist job looks like, we need to realize why people get into the minimalist lifestyle in the first place.
The five most common reasons are:
- Focus. The fewer elements you have to manage in your life, the more clarity you experience.
- Mobility. The fewer things you own, the easier it becomes to uproot yourself. You can easily move to a new city or travel the world.
- Spirituality. Minimalism supports spiritual development. It leads to introspection, as ascetics throughout history have understood.
- Sustainability. If we all stopped buying stuff, carbon dioxide emission would drop overnight. The planet could still be saved.
- Anti-consumerism. We tie our identity to what we own. Minimalism calls this dynamic into question.
So, if this is the matrix for minimalism, the ideal minimalist jobs should tick all five of these boxes:
- The ideal minimalist job will allow you to work on a specific task, instead of juggling many projects.
- The ideal minimalist job would be a remote position that you can do from anywhere in the world.
- The ideal minimalist job would allow you to deepen your spiritual practice.
- The ideal minimalist job would not contribute to the further destruction of the planet.
- The ideal minimalist job would not play into the logic of consumerism (“earn more, buy more”).
In reality, rarely is one job going to tick all five of these boxes.
And that’s okay. Because not every minimalist is the same. For example, I value focus and mobility above all else. So, my perfect minimalist job will look a lot different from someone who is deeply spiritual.
With that in mind, let’s look at minimalist jobs that fulfill at least some of these requirements.
List of Minimalist Jobs
I put all the following minimalist jobs into eight categories:
At the end of each category, I will evaluate how it holds up in regard to our five criteria.
Minimalism is often seen as a call back to nature. Where the modern world creates overwhelm, being in sync with the elements simplifies your life.
Job options include:
- Organic farmer
- Animal breeder
- Park ranger
- Adventure guide
- Marine biologist
Obviously, all these jobs score high in the sustainability department. You are helping plants and animals grow and survive.
In the same vein, all of these jobs support anti-consumerism. The natural world is under attack by industrialization. You would be standing up to that.
There is also a spiritual component. Being deeply in touch with creation leads to more awareness. It’s no coincidence that monks often chose a hermetic life in nature.
On the flip side, none of these nature-based jobs lend themselves to a mobile lifestyle. Your job requires a particular environment, like a national park.
When it comes to focus, nature-based jobs are neutral. As an organic farmer, you might only plant a few crops. Or you might plant a large variety, and also take care of cattle, sheep, etc. It’s up to you.
Minimalism is often a reaction to a complex digital world. Yet, many minimalists work in tech.
I think that’s because of the difference between the overwhelm you experience on the frontend — e.g., your social media feed — and the lean, almost elegant systems that you work with on the backend.
Common job options are:
- Web designer
- App developer
- Database admin
- Data scientist
- Project manager
- Tech support
Tech-based jobs can score high on the focus front. If you only code in Python, writing automated scripts, that is as narrow as it gets.
Likewise with mobility. As long as you have Wi-Fi and can communicate with your team members via video call, you can work from anywhere.
Sustainability and anti-consumerism are not inbuilt features, but you can make it about them. For example, you could become a “hacktivist” attacking oil companies or big pharma.
Spirituality is where tech-based jobs fall short. Being immersed in a digital universe makes it hard to live in the “now.”
Minimalism as a lifestyle is intertwined with a certain aesthetic. So it comes as no surprise that many minimalists are drawn to design work.
Common job options include:
- Graphic designer (Photoshop/Illustrator)
- Web designer
- Freelance photographer
- Video editor
- Game designer
All of these jobs score high in the focus department, as specialization is financially rewarded. For example, being a specialist for logo work, you can charge much more than an all-rounder.
The graphic designer and the video editor also score high on the mobility front. These jobs can be done from anywhere, provided you have fast Wi-Fi.
All other jobs mentioned tend to be more location dependent. Most photographers work with local clients, having to attend weddings or company events; so do videographers. Game designers tend to be employed rather than work freelance. So they also have to be at the office, at least occasionally.
Concerning all other factors — spirituality, sustainability, anti-consumerism — design-based jobs are neutral. You can incorporate these aspects if you choose to. For example, I know a design agency that only works for sustainable clients. But it’s not a feature of the category.
The minimalist appeal of language-based jobs is that in the process of creating content, you organize your own mind. By describing the world, we understand it better.
Good writing is an illusion: what people call good writing is actually good thinking, and of course good thinkers are rare.Paul Graham
Language-based options include:
- Copy editor
- Indie author
Like I said, writing scores high on the focus scale. It gives you clarity.
But it’s also an extremely portable profession. Most writers these days work freelance, as there is no good reason for them to be in a noisy, distracting office environment.
In regard to spirituality and sustainability, writing is also a contender. There is a market for these topics, and several writers I know do well with these specializations.
When it comes to anti-consumerism, the language-based option tends to fall short. Most commercial writing is about selling products, so it promotes the cycle of consumption.
Many minimalists, for better or worse, have a sense of mission. They want to let others know about their insights, educate them, and “make the world a better place.”
Common job options include:
- Language teacher
- Online tutor
- Yoga instructor
- Martial arts teacher
- Music teacher
It is easy to integrate the sustainability and anti-consumerism angles into teaching-based jobs. A good teacher will always make you question the status quo and look for alternatives.
Teaching also tends to go well with spirituality. This is most apparent with meditation teachers, yoga instructors, and martial arts coaches. But many therapists and regular teachers also have spiritual leanings.
Teaching-based jobs score relatively low on the focus scale. Naturally, teachers need to be universalists to respond to a wide spectrum of questions.
When it comes to mobility, teaching used to be a bad option, but that has changed. Ever since Covid, e-learning has seen a massive rise in acceptance.
And if you educate your audience through YouTube videos or podcasts, you can even teach on your own time instead of adhering to a class schedule.
The help-based category has some overlap with the teaching category. But where the latter is about passing on a skill, the help-based option is specific to the person. You are helping them with their problem.
Minimalists tend to be attracted to this type of work, as they are good at finding alternatives. After all, their whole lifestyle rivals the status quo.
Job options include:
- Life coach
- Telemedicine jobs
- NGO work
- Charity work
Help-based jobs allow for a high level of focus. We want someone who specializes in our problem, like a coach for building better habits.
In terms of mobility, help-based work is similar to teaching. Since Covid, most therapy, coaching, and doctor’s appointments can be conducted online. But you still have to work at the other person’s convenience.
Sustainability, anti-consumerism, and spirituality are also easy to integrate in these professions. From holistic coaching to plant medicine, you have plenty of options to go with.
So, help-based jobs can tick all the minimalist criteria we defined earlier. That arguably makes them the ultimate minimalist job category.
Minimalism is ultimately a type of process optimization. The process you are dealing with is called “life.” And you are trying to come up with the most stripped-down version of it.
Hence, why so many minimalists take to process-based occupations. They enjoy looking at convoluted patterns and streamlining them.
Job options include:
- Virtual assistant (“Let me streamline routine tasks for you.”)
- Product support (“Let me help you with that new process.”)
- Accountant (“Let me guide you through financial processes.”)
- HR manager (“Let me take care of the hiring process.”)
- Consultant (“Let me optimize your business processes.”)
- Social media manager (“Let me manage your content process.”)
Process-based occupations are great for focus. You must become an absolute specialist of your chosen process.
In terms of mobility, process-based jobs generally score well. But it depends on the job. Some, like HR manager, are very communication-heavy. So, you at least have to be available during office hours.
When it comes to sustainability and anti-consumerism, process-based jobs do less well. Most processes still focus on increasing production and sales. But in the face of climate change, that is starting to change.
Spirituality and processes tend to cancel each other out. Processes are based on a mechanistic view of the world, the nitty-gritty. In contrast, spirituality tries to overcome that mechanistic logic.
Marketing is another field that attracts lots of minimalists. It is really a subset of the process-based approach, as you are developing marketing systems for your client.
Common job profiles are:
- SEO specialist
- Content marketer
- Paid ads expert
- Social media marketer
- Marketing consultant
There are few other job categories that allow you to focus as much as marketing.
For example, I offer content marketing for mostly IT clients. A friend of mine only does content marketing for life science companies. And I know of another marketer who only offers TikTok for orthodontists.
Mobility is another plus. Provided you have decent Wi-Fi, you can sell marketing from anywhere in the world. Client calls take place maybe once a month. So it doesn’t matter much in what time zone you are, either.
Now to the minuses. Anti-consumerism and sustainability don’t sit well with marketing. Unless you do online marketing for Greenpeace, the goal is to sell as much as possible, no matter the consequences for the planet.
Similarly, the spirituality aspect is not very high on the list. Profit fixation does not help with karma.
But if you can justify those downsides, marketing is a great profession to be in. In terms of independence — financially, geographically, creatively — it’s hard to beat.
How To Find a Minimalist Job
Here is how you go about finding the perfect minimalist job, or at least reimagining your current job.
1. Pick Your Minimalist Values
To find the perfect minimalist job, you must first become aware which minimalist values appeal to you the most:
It’s as easy as ranking them by importance to you, one to five.
Realistically, you will never be able to integrate all those values into one job. Instead, shoot for the first two on your list.
With these values in mind, go through the job categories above and see which option fits you best.
2. Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses
You must also understand what you are good at (and what not).
Because nobody is going to pay you if you don’t provide value.
This is especially relevant for minimalists. Because the more you cater towards your strengths, the more you are going to get paid per hour. And this will allow you to work less.
But the less valuable you are, the more you will have to make up for it by attendance.
How do you identify your strengths and weaknesses?
Ask people that know you. Tell them to not hold back. Make sure to include people who don’t particularly like you.
Do this at least 20–30 times, and certain patterns will start to emerge. Take these patterns into account for your job hunt.
3. Combine Several Jobs
Job A might have certain shortcomings. But by combining it with job B, you can make up for that.
For example, being a park ranger is great if you like to work in nature. But it doesn’t fit the mobility criteria well.
But what if you combined it with YouTube? You could travel the national parks, providing breathtaking videography and virtual tours.
And you could then monetize your personal brand (“Rick, the Ranger”) by selling merchandise.
4. Mold Your Job to Yourself
Mold your job to your personality. The more it fits you, the less friction you will have to deal with.
For example, I have a friend who works in HR. By making it very clear to her boss what she is good at and what not, she has been able to create her (almost) ideal minimalist job:
- She only works part-time
- She does mostly virtual events, as she is good at that
- She rarely crunches any numbers, as she is bad at that
- She works from home several days a week
- She got her boss to buy her the exact laptop she wanted
- Her boss even pays for her travels to another office branch, which happens to be in the city her boyfriend lives in
Lead with your personality, and you will experience similar benefits.
5. Build Systems
How much overwhelm we experience is not just about the job we hold. It is also about having a trusted system for self-organization.
Most people just wing it. Or they have partial systems in place, like a calendar and a basic to-do list. But that won’t cut it.
To experience a calm mind, you must create a “second brain.” You must download all the stuff taking up your mental bandwidth into an external system.
A word of warning — such systems have a learning curve. You’ll have to take on more complexity first, to arrive at more simplicity eventually.
6. Manage your Energy
To make your job more minimalist, you need to actively manage your energy. Spend it wisely, and you will get more done with less.
Here are two ideas to help you do so.
One, never check your phone, emails, etc. first thing in the morning. Instead, always start with your most important task. Once that is out of the way, you can do busy work.
Two, get the best sleep possible. When you are always well-rested, work won’t feel so overwhelming.
Best practices include:
- Cut out all screen time at least two hours before you go to bed
- Read some fiction to calm down
- Always go to bed at the same time, even on the weekends
7. Inject (Some) Variety
Focus is one of the cornerstones of minimalism. Having said that, sometimes it is necessary to inject some variety. Just enough, so you can return to your minimalist job refreshed.
The best thing is to do something physical, like taking a short walk or doing a quick body weight workout in your office.
If you work from home, doing some chores around the house is also a great option. Vacuuming or doing the dishes always act as a reset for me.
8. Keep Your Physical Environment Tidy
For minimalists, it should go without saying — always keep your workstation meticulously tidy.
Ideally, you have so few things, that you couldn’t make a mess, even if you tried. This is why I practice extreme minimalism.
Being very tidy is not some obsessive tick. Our environment influences our thinking. If there is chaos all around, don’t expect mental clarity.
9. Set Boundaries
In the digital age, it’s easy for work and private life to overlap, e.g., your boss expecting you to answer emails on the weekend.
For many minimalists, that is a problem. They like life clear-cut. Work is work, your private life is your private life.
If that is you, say something. Be nice, but also be clear. The other person should know exactly what needs to change.
If after that they still don’t respect your boundaries, you have every right to ignore them. Protect your peace.
10. Identify Your Essential Activities
Not all work activities are created equal. A few essential activities will provide a much greater ROI than most other activities.
The first step is to identify what these essential few are. Is it answering your emails first thing in the morning? Probably not.
But blocking out two hours each day to make sales calls that will grow the organization exponentially? Now that is a contender.
By focusing on these activities, you will create tremendous output. And this in turn will buy you clout with your boss.
Now you’ll be able to reshape your job according to your minimalist values. High-performers get preferred treatment.
11. Consider Part-Time
For most minimalists, it’s not about the money, but about freedom.
That’s because minimalists are less dependent on physical stuff to feel happy. They would much rather improve their quality of life through experiences.
Therefore, consider going part-time. Yes, you’ll have a little bit less buying power, but you’ll get 10–20 hours of your time back. Those hours translate to time spent with friends, long walks in nature, working out, etc.
Just agree on a test period with your boss. If you don’t like it, no harm done. But if you find that your quality of life is much higher, you will be glad you tried.
The Case for Escaping Your 9 to 5
Minimalist jobs are a great starting point. But they are still subject to the 9-to-5 paradigm. For several reasons, they can never be ideal:
- There are power structures that you must adhere to. If your boss is an idiot, you’ll be expected to take it. Such a victim mentality is at odds with a true minimalist mindset.
- Even after the pandemic, 9-to-5 jobs are rarely fully remote. You are expected to show up at the office at least occasionally. Employers cannot stand the idea of losing control over you.
- Minimalism is about choosing the essential few and cutting out the noise. But that is never completely possible with a job where someone else decides what you must do.
- Many people working minimalist have passion projects outside of work. But if it’s truly your passion, it shouldn’t be a consolidation prize. To actualize your dreams, you must give them all your time.
For these reasons, you should strive to escape your 9 to 5.
It is the only way you can choose work that is truly meaningful to you, work on your own schedule, and collaborate with competent people.
Here are three important strategies to make that happen.
1. Define Your Life Goals
To do meaningful work, you must first explore what that means to you. What is it that you want out of life?
Two ways to find out:
No single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.Antoine de Saint Exupéry
2. Develop a hypothesis what your most important work is. Then try it out. Rest assured that your first hypothesis will at least be partly wrong. But this is how you discover yourself — through application.
Ironically, if you want to become a minimalist entrepreneur, for a while, you will have to juggle several jobs.
The problem is that you won’t be able to quit your 9-to-5 job right away. After all, you still have bills to pay. So, you keep your day job, and build your side hustle after hours.
To make matters more difficult, passion businesses rarely pay right away. This is usually due to the large amounts of content you need to produce first. It could be years before you even see a few dollars.
So, realizing this, many aspiring minimalist entrepreneurs now start a service business, like copywriting or graphic design.
That’s a smart idea, as these gigs make you money from day 1. But now you have three jobs.
This is pure agony for a minimalist mind. But it has to be endured. Sometimes, it has to get worse, before it gets better.
The way to resolve this is:
- As quickly as you can, move from your day job to your service job full time.
- Then build out your service business just enough to survive.
- Resist the temptation to turn it into a cash cow (unless you want to get rich).
- Then invest every minute of your time into your passion business until you break even.
- Finally, drop the service business.
- Then, if you want to scale, work on your business, not in your business.
3. Embrace Frugalism
The number one reason why employees don’t create their own passion business is that they are too afraid of the temporary financial decline.
It is insane, but it is true — they would rather keep making $80,000 a year (and be miserable), than make $30,000 for 3–5 years, but then move up to six or seven figures (and be happy).
Understand that temporary frugalism is part of the game. You must cut your costs, so you can spend less time on your day job, and more time on your side hustle.
And once that takes off, you must stay frugal, so you can reinvest more money into your business and grow it faster.
This is how you win — by postponing wealth.
If you’re not willing to downgrade your lifestyle for a year to have a lifestyle you want forever, you care too much about what other people think.Jim Carrey