Summary of Business for Bohemians by Tom Hodgkinson

BookSummaryClub Blog Summary of Business for Bohemians by Tom Hodgkinson

Business and bohemians do not seem like two words that would go together. Bohemians, after all, are known for their free-spirited, wanderer lifestyles with little to no attachments. This does not sound like someone who wants to run a business that involves major responsibilities and working all the time. But what if there were a way to merge the two worlds so that you could get the perks of both? 

It might not be as farfetched as you think it is. In fact, a business may be just what every bohemian needs to make some money.

In this summary readers will discover:

  • Why going into business offers bohemians freedom
  • With great freedom, comes great responsibility
  • There is no escape from business plans and accounting systems
  • Getting money to make money
  • The Bohemian Wobble

Key lesson one: Why going into business offers bohemians freedom

Bohemians of the world would prefer to spend their time listening to music, having philosophical discussions or strolling through some exciting place. So, why should they be sitting in offices, working on dull and boring spreadsheets for their boss? They require freedom more than anything and unless they win the lottery or are born into wealth, they have to find a way to pay the bills. That is why they either have to have a job or a business.

Out of the two options, having a business will definitely allow bohemians to have more freedom than working for ‘the man’. Going into business can take many forms, you could be a small business owner, freelancer or entrepreneur. You get to choose what you do and how you do it. This means that you get to follow your own path and make the rules. There is no need to follow the path that someone else says that you should and answer to a corporate master. Is this not the freedom that every bohemian craves?

So, how do you stay a bohemian if you start a business? There’s nothing more unappealing to a bohemian than running a huge corporation. It’s probably what they avoided in the first place when they left their jobs behind. That does not mean they do not want a successful business, but they want it to suit their lifestyle. This is why you should make your business compatible with your bohemian values. 

Firstly, you can choose to keep it small and pursue what is called a lifestyle business. This small-scale operation could be run by yourself or with a partner and will provide you with enough time and money to live your life the way you want to. Lifestyle businesses entail jobs like consultants, a shopkeeper, coffee shop owner or a plumber. If staying small suits you, then by all means continue and support yourself and your bohemian lifestyle. That being said, it’s also okay if you have bigger ambitions. This does not mean you ought to abandon being a bohemian, it just means you might have staff members or might need some investors to grow your business. It’s all about what you want to achieve and what will provide you with enough income to live your best life. 

Tom Hodgkinson’s business Idler, for example, started as a magazine. It is now a publishing and events brand called the Idle Academy of Philosophy, Husbandry and Merriment. Now, this is certainly more ambitious than having a small coffee shop but Hodgkinson did not set out to make a fortune. He wanted to have an enjoyable business and make a positive impact on people’s lives. This is exactly what Idler does today with workshops, festivals and online courses. 

Key lesson two: With great freedom, comes great responsibility

Yes, having a business gives you freedom but it also means you will have responsibilities that you cannot dodge. Once again, taking Idler as an example, before it became a fully digital learning platform it was a coffeehouse, bookshop, events venue and adult education centre. Hodgkinson, his partner and a few staff members ran the store. They hosted lectures, served coffee – basically everything to keep the place running. 

Eventually, they started receiving complaints about slow service and cold coffee. Hodgkinson even tried to hire more staff to help with the complaints. He asked people who used to come to the shop if they wanted a job. They seemed like nice enough people, he was sure they could be nice to customers too. Needless to say, it did not work out well. His new employees did not do much besides smoke, drink and hang out with their friends and this left him to deal with the bulk of the work. And, to make matters worse, they were not making much in terms of sales. In fact, if someone asked for soy milk, Hodgkinson would sneak out the back of the shop and run to the store to get some. This often led to him losing more money than he made in the sale. It was not good for business, and, at the end of the day, it was a situation that would have been easily avoidable if they just said upfront that they didn’t serve soy milk. 

There are many small details that are involved in running a business like this and it is not easy if you are just winging it. There are some traditional business practices that you have to follow if you wish to make a profit. As much as ‘traditional’ is not what a bohemian wants to hear, you won’t be able to maintain your freedom if your business does not make some money. These business practices will help you do that. They will save you time and money and it will also prevent you, as a business owner, from having to constantly solve problems all the time. If you have to work this hard all the time, it is definitely not bohemian!

This is exactly why, when it became very clear that his way was not working, Hodgkinson turned to a more traditional recruitment process to hire new staff members. 

Key lesson three: There is no escape from business plans and accounting systems

Along with traditional business practices, business plans and accounting systems are also something you need to consider. Now, this may sound like we are moving away from being bohemian completely, but the truth is, these will actually support your lifestyle. How? Well, by allowing things to run more smoothly long-term. 

A business plan will give you a clear idea about your business. You will be able to outline its core attributes and why you set out to start a business in the first place. This will enable you, once again, to establish what you want to do and how you want to do it. Best of all, a business plan allows you to do this before you invest any money. And once you do, accounting systems will help you track your expenses and income. This is the bane of most business’s existence, having to keep track of money but if you don’t do it, you actually won’t know what is going on. You can’t fix any problems if you don’t know about it and the last thing you want is to end up bankrupt.

These traditional methods are far from bohemian but money is the key to your freedom and you need to plan how to make it and keep track of it.

Key lesson four: Getting money to make money

Unless your business is consulting or something else that requires little to no startup costs, you are going to need money to start your business. There are many options available to budding entrepreneurs. You could get a loan, find investors or even just asking friends and family members. Each one comes with its advantages and disadvantages and it is up to you to decide who you want to owe. Investors might end up having more say in your business than you would like and friends and family may become more involved in the business as they have a vested interest. Whichever route you choose, be sure to research what the payback terms are and what suits your bohemian mind. 

Next, you need to ensure that you are setting your prices correctly. As a bohemian, you might be inclined to keep your prices very low to make everyone happy. However, your business still needs to make money. You have expenses to cover and people to pay, you literally cannot afford to keep your prices low. Whatever you are selling, remember the two rules of price setting. Firstly, whatever the original price you have in mind, double it. Secondly, If people complain about the price, it’s probably right.

You can’t please everyone only to let yourself down. The bohemian needs to be happy too!

Key lesson five: The Bohemian Wobble

Running any sized business is difficult. There will be setbacks, complaints and disappointments. When this happens in a bohemian run business, it’s called the Bohemian wobble. This is when you start questioning your previous life of having a 9 to 5 job and stable income. The key here is to remember why you started in the first place. You wanted freedom and you wanted to make a change. Imagine how things will look if you succeed? Do not give up if this vision of success is what you really want.

However, if you feel that it is causing you more stress than happiness, then maybe a business is not for you. That’s the advantage of being a bohemian in business, you can step away if you feel like you don’t want to do this anymore. 

The Bohemian wobble will make or break you, it all depends on what you want to do in the future. Every new beginning is some beginning’s end.

The key takeaway from Business for Bohemians is:

Bohemians can run a business. It is possible with a careful combination of bohemian values and traditional business practices, you can have the life you have always dreamed of. The best part is, you get to choose the scale and scope of your business. It’s a fine balance, but if you get it right, a bohemian life could be yours for the living!

How can Implement the lessons learned in Business for Bohemians:

Before you quit your job, start thinking about what you want to do. What does your freedom look like? How involved will you be in your business? Do you need funding? These are questions best answered in a business plan. When you complete this, you will have all you need to ensure that your business will run as smooth as possible with fewer unforeseen complications. You don’t need to have more work than is necessary later on. Do all the hard work upfront and stay bohemian afterwards.

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