Individual Potential and Scaling Your Online Business

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the vast majority of people reading John Chow dot Com are interested in making money online. I’m also going to say that most readers are interested in getting rich and living the dot com lifestyle. That’s all pretty safe to say. It’s also pretty safe to say that “making it” on the Internet requires a completely different kind of mindset than the one you’d use to approach a more conventional 9-to-5 kind of job.

When you run an online business, you tap into theoretically limitless potential. Your blog could suddenly explode in traffic and you could earn far more ad revenue than you could have ever imagined. Your affiliate marketing campaign could see astronomical spikes in clicks and conversions, pumping more money into your bank account. The possibilities are endless.

But when you think you have good luck on your side, it’s also true that earning a living on the Internet still requires hard work. You have to put in the effort. You have to be willing to take a chance and invest in yourself. This is no magic get rich quick scheme.

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At the same time, you have to ask yourself about how much you really want. This may sound like a stupid question to ask, but it is incredibly profound and relevant when you do stop to think about it. Of course you want to make as much money as possible, but how much are you willing to sacrifice to get there?

Are you willing to put money ahead of family? Are you willing to sacrifice the relative freedom that the dot com lifestyle affords in order to drive a fancier car or live in a bigger house?

Let’s make a couple key assumptions. These aren’t going to hold up to scrutiny, but they’re necessary for this current conversation.

  1. If you work more hours, you’ll make proportionately more money. In other words, a 40-hour work week will net you twice as much income as a 20-hour work week.
  2. Even working just 10 hours a week will net you enough money to sustain a modest, but reasonably comfortable life.

The second assumption will vary based on the cost of living in your preferred area, but let’s use $50,000 a year as a nice round figure. At that level, you can afford to pay the rent (or mortgage), eat out now and then, and enjoy a couple of small splurges a couple times a year. It’s hardly a bad life and you’ll have lots of time freedom to spend with family, sleep in late or take 3-hour long lunches.

Now, let’s scale your online business so that you now work twice as many hours. Let’s say that you now have to put in 20 hours every week, but you’re now netting $100,000 a year. You have less time freedom, because you’re stuck “at the office” for twice as long, but you also have more cash flow to indulge in fancier meals more often. You can also take more vacations and buy fancier toys.

What if we kept going with this thought experiment? What if you started working 60 hours every week, earning $300,000 every year? You’re probably rolling around town in a far nicer car, you might be living in a bigger home, and you could have an amazing home theater. But do you know what the problem is? You have no time to enjoy these things! You don’t take fancy vacations either, because you just can’t leave the office. What about 80 hours for $400,000?

It’s clear enough that you will experience a very dramatic change in lifestyle and in work-life balance when you’re at the 60-hour work week. What isn’t as clear is whether you’ll actually feel all that much wealthier earning $300k, compared to $100k. The actual numbers here are less important than their relative difference to one another.

We all want to make more money, but is scaling your business in this fashion really worth it? And that leads us right back to the notion of the dot com mindset. It’s not about working more hours; it’s about earning more per hour… and then choosing to work fewer hours.

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