More than skin deep: Cultivating beauty in your business

A few weeks ago one of the participants in the Profit Alchemy course shared this quote from William Morris:

“If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

It’s a rule that applies equally well to business.

Beauty inspires, nourishes, and sustains you. It connects you to the natural world. It’s an organizing principle that creates order and meaning.

And too often it gets overlooked in the effort to make a living at the work you love. And, as Galway Kinnell wrote: “Sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness.”

Where can you reteach your work its loveliness? Consider your business. Its surroundings. Its systems. Its relationships. What can you do to create or restore beauty wherever it is lacking?

Here are 50 ways to do that, in no particular order. Some are obvious; some may surprise you. I know from experience that all of them work.

50 ways to create or restore beauty in your business
1. Take an office spa day to de-clutter and organize.
2. Create an attractive email signature.
3. Save 10% of everything you earn.
4. Place flowers or plants in your workspace.
5. Balance your checking account (!)
6. Empty your email inbox.
7. Record an appealing voice mail message.
8. Play music that makes you feel wonderful.
9. Diffuse essential oils.
10. Let go of clients that don’t fit.
11. Delete the backlog of ezines and newsletters that you haven’t had time to read.
12. Light a candle before every client meeting.
13. Clean the windows in your workspace.
14. Clean your computer screen and keyboard.
15. Set a timer to remind you to stretch every 15 minutes.
16. Stop for a real lunch.
17. Hang photos and art in your workspace. If you can’t afford them, barter with an artist.
18. Hire a designer to make a template for your products.
19. Get a professional photo. It doesn’t need to be a conventional headshot.
20. Rewrite your bio so it reflects who you truly are.
21. Make a list of the five biggest time-wasters in your day. Stop doing them.
22. Delegate tasks that you don’t excel at.
23. Hire someone to clean your workspace.
24. Use a labeling machine to beautify your files.
25. Drench your workspace with color using colorful push pins, file folders, sticky notes.
26. Buy a colorful yoga ball and use it as a desk chair.
27. Give your Web site a facelift.
28. Write a snail-mail thank you card at least once a week.
29. Take a walk in the middle of the day, even in the rain.
30. Give yourself real days off.
31. Stop doing things that make you cranky or crazy.
32. Ask for help when you are confused or stuck.
33. Spend an hour learning more about your computer and its programs.
34. Schedule your creative projects when you are at your best.
35. Create a vision board that depicts the life and work you are building.
36. Choose a vision for your business that is so big you have to rely on a Higher Power to bring it to life.
37. Notice when you are bitching at yourself and gently stop.
38. Paint a chair, a wall, a table.
39. Keep track of everything you spend for a month so you can invest in the things that bring you joy and stop investing in those that don’t.
40. Go on a time diet. For one week don’t complain about time, how fast it passes, how much there is, how you spend it.
41. Polish your desk.
42. Empty the recycling and dust bins.
43. Raise your prices at least 10%.
44. Stop and do all of your billing now.
45. Keep track of when bills are due so you never have to worry about whether or not you are paying them on time.
46. Figure out how to filter your emails so that only the most important land in your inbox.
47. Unsubscribe from 90% of the email lists you are on. (Um, I hope you will stay on this one.)
48. Stop comparing yourself to others for 24 hours.
49. Wear something you love to work.
50. Keep a photo of you as a shining child on your desk.

Beauty is not just lovely, it’s practical.

In “A Chorus of Stones,” Susan Griffin writes: “What always seems miraculous is when aesthetic necessities yield an insight which otherwise I would have missed.”

Who knows what insights you might have into your life and work as you beautify your business?

NOTE: My friend Philippa Rowlands is doing deep work around beauty and business. One day soon she’ll have a Web site, which I shall be sure to share with you.


  1. Ellene/AuthenticAbundance

    Molly – I’m loving your list of 50 ways to beautify a work space.
    I like to use #4 – place flowers or plants in your workspace.
    My studio has several long windows and red geraniums grow beautifully there. The red seems to rev up the creative spirit!
    Also organization is very important. When everything is neat and organized it’s harder for the under minding gremlin to speak to my inner self and say “what makes you think you can paint that.”

  2. Sharon

    Molly, another one to print and post near my desk — already have the “3 keys to profitability” which I look at almost daily. Yours is one of the e-mails I never fail to open, really pause and breathe and read, and feel better for having done so. Thanks for the regular reality checks that remind me why I’m building this thing anyway (rather than go get a job, which sometimes sounds like it would be easier, but after 24 years doing my own thing would probably be closer to suffocation!). Plus you’ve turned me on to so many other great teachers. Blessings to you, Sharon~*

  3. Molly Gordon

    @Ellene: I second everything you say. I love plants so much. And even though I am a piler and stacker by nature, I also find having my piles and stacks organized essential to keeping the gremlins at bay.
    @Sharon: I’m touched by your words. Thank you so much for them. Also, i joke that I have become psychologically unemployable. Given that, might as well get good at biz, eh?

  4. Lydia

    right now, in my bleary-eyed state, this list looks HUGE and even a bit daunting (much as it’s totally up my alley and probably mostly already in place thanks to my natural tendencies…:) )
    My eyes went straight to item #47, recognizing that I hadn’t done that yet after moaning about information overload yesterday. I unsub’d from 4 out of 6 right away and without question. Boy, that felt good!
    Thanks for this (*once again*) perfectly timed post, Molly!

  5. Susanne

    I found just reading this list both comforting and relaxing. Beauty is important to me, so I already do/have done many of these things, but there were a few that I would never have expected to see here. The one that really jumped out at me is: “Ask for help when you are confused or stuck.”

  6. Kamala

    When we recognize and appreciate beauty, it feeds our soul, doesn’t it? And when the soul is fed, miracles are made manifest with greater ease. Less clutter, more space for the magic! Thanks, Molly! (Leave YOUR list? Never!)

  7. marsha shenk

    Another excellent blog, thank you, Molly. Every little thing really does matter: how you feel impacts how your customers feel doing business with you. The latter, as it turns out, is the biggest driver in customers’ choices

  8. Marilyn webster

    Thanks, Molly, for writing about this, a subject near and dear to my heart. As I explore the role of beauty in my everyday life and talk with others about it, I am learning how deeply it affects us in ways that we don’t always appreciate until we take the time to explore it.

  9. Karly Pitman

    Hi Molly,
    This was very timely for me! I’d let a lot of the business maintainence work slide this past year, and it felt terrible – like a big, nagging shadow tripping at my heels. Ugh.
    Recently, I’ve been scheduling time to tidy my affairs. Wow, it feels so good!
    I’m a girl who loves beauty, so I greatly appreciate your metaphor to look at business housekeeping as an act of beauty, an act of love. This inspires and motivates me.
    Thank you!
    XO, Karly

  10. Jennifer Manlowe, Your Memoir Mentor

    What perfect timing, Molly. About a week ago a very dear friend died (quite suddenly). Because she was one who saw beauty everywhere in “the great outdoors”—now I get what they call it that—as an homage to her I’m noticing how beautiful the natural world is. One funny thing is the day after I heard of her death, I got a “knock at my door” by a red-headed (like her), southern born (like her), golden-chested woodpecker. It gave me the strongest sense, almost a mandate to “Go outside and meditate today, bring your dog, Kayla Joy, just sit there. Meditation doesn’t have to be something done in the dark, first thing or else.” I felt both sad and renewed to experience beauty and ease as my new-found practice. Your essay today is absolutely an affirmation of what CJ knew so well. Thanks for the reminder.


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