Maybe a Part-Time Online Work Week?

Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 11:00pm by Site Administrator

Shortly after asking Career or vacation, about whether a 4-hr work week was feasible or not, and whether you could be an expert at anything with so few hours, I actually found myself reducing the amount of time spent each day writing or researching.

It’s only been a few days, but I actually feel a bit of relief. While I initially felt guilty, I’ve reminded myself that after nearly 21 years of working 50 or 60 hours per week or more, I deserve a break today. Except that I have been taking mini-breaks since January.

In fact, if I really added up all the hours per week that I spent in focused work – that is, with no TV on – I might really only be doing 35-40, with the rest spent partially goofing off. I say partially because this includes trying out a variety of software and web services. A lot of my time is also spent in communicating with colleagues, and this activity seems to be taking up an increasing amount of time.

Any seasoned entrepreneur knows that success hinges on networking, and it’s no different online. So find efficient ways of networking yet spending a minimal amount of time has been a quest for me.

Aside from that though, I can almost fathom living a 20-hour work week. And if I can actually break through my workaholic nature, I know exactly how I’d spend the extra time, in no particular order:

  1. Learn more languages.
  2. Travel to countries where I can speak the language.
  3. Pursue my photography again, possibly set up a digital stock portfolio.
  4. Volunteer at the Humane Society.
  5. Volunteer at senior centers.
  6. Finish my science fiction novelettes/ novellas.
  7. Invest in property.

Obviously, you may have different ways to spend your time. The question is, can you handle a 20 hour work week without getting bored? What about that 4-hour work week that Tim Ferriss wrote about?

I can’t see myself dealing well with a 4 hr wk, maybe due to the work ethic that’s ingrained into me over a lifetime. However, with an increasing number of people dealing with poor health and sometimes unable to work a regular job, I think we’ll see more people pursue a part-time online career and find that they can earn enough to live on – possibly more than they could earn in any offline job.

Those with the entrepreneurial spirit – working online – will find that they have the option of a shorter work week. And the offline world will have to follow suit to some degree.

Being an Expert Online Entrepreneur

Wednesday, May 30, 2007 at 9:00pm by Site Administrator

It’s been said that to be an expert at something, you must spend 10,000 hours at it. In the normal course of a 40 hour/ week career job, that takes about five years at 50 wks/yr. This includes continually learning what you can about the subject at hand, not just doing the necessary activities.

This unwritten rule of 10,000 hours supposedly applies to everything (including meditation to become a monk, as I found out). But as with all such rules, there are qualifying conditions and exceptions. I’d have to say that when it comes to online endeavours, 5,000 hours of concentrated effort at some role can put you into the rank of an expert. That is, if you spend that time increasing your knowledge of the subject.

That’s about 2.5 years, if you’re working only 40 hrs/wk online. (Which may be a reason not to have a 4-hour work week.) But as any entrepreneur knows, they’ll spend a lot more than 40 hours/wk bootstrapping a business, not to mention more than 4 hours/week – though that could change with the profits that Internet businesses are generating for an increasing number of people.

Even those people working online spending 12 hrs/day, 7 d/week, only have to spend under 2.5 years to qualify as an expert of 10,000 hours. If we redefine the rule to be 5,000 hours, would you be willing to dedicate less than 1.5 years to spend 12 h/d, 7 d/wk to be deemed an expert at something?

You can start off just blogging about a topic, earn some money and a reputation, then find your self in the 8 circles of blog revenue. That is, you may find yourself being asked to write e-boooks, give seminars and workshops, consult, etc. After that time, you could quite possibly command top speaking rates or what have you, and thus reduce your work week.

This all sounds like freelancing, not so much entrepreneurship. But if you jump off from these activities and the reputation you can build, then launch a startup business, it’s quite possible that you can compress the bootstrapping timeline.

To summarize a potential course of action, from zero to entrepreneur:

  1. Build your knowledge.
    Work very hard for a year and a half, learning everything you can about the niche you’d like to launch a startup business in.

  2. Prove your expertise.
    Blog about it constantly and consistently during that time, setting the infrastructure for you to later give talks, workshops, or write an ebook you can give away.

  3. Leverage your expertise.
    Now you can do those workshops and conferences, and probably write an ebook that you can sell. Just do the math: write an ebook and sell 100 copies at $47, and you’ve earned nearly $5000. Just make sure you have a free teaser to give away, say an 8-page excerpt. Repeat the process again and again. You have the expertise now.

  4. Save the capital.
    While your blogging, talks, and ebooks are earning you an income, save capital towards the startup business you’d like to launch.

  5. Leverage your brand.
    If you’ve built up yourself as a brand, you can leverage that, your blog, your talks, towards your startup business. You may have to launch a CEO/corporate blog, too, but at this point you’ve established yourself enough that you can draw some attention to your startup project.

  6. Command funding.
    All the groundwork you spent that tough first year or two to establish yourself will quite likely help you gain funding sooner. That’s if you want it.

  7. Sell and start again.
    If you accept funding, at some point the loaning party will want to sell the business. Take the profit and start another project. You are an expert now. Or at least you’ll be perceived as such.

Career or Vacation?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007 at 11:00pm by Site Administrator

Is this a trick question, or what? Steve Pavlina puts forth a question (about halfway down the page, in the Lifestyle section):

Would you rather earn $5,000/mth working 5 hrs/week or $10,000/m working 50 hrs/wk?

This is asked in relation to Tim Ferriss’s book the 4-Hour Work Week (non-affiliate link). I haven’t read the book, but as a workaholic, I’d be inclined to say #2: 50 h/wk. That’s only 10 h/d on a 5 day schedule, and in my mid- to late- 20s, that was normal for me. Yet, I still managed to enjoy myself on weekends. A lot. That included mini-outings. So 50 hrs/wk is nothing, provided I actually enjoy the work. If I don’t, I move on and find work I do enjoy.

However, as an online freelancer cum bootstrapping publishing entrpreneur, I have been putting in more hours than I ever have offline and earning less (70+ h/wk). I made more money per hour when I was a web programmer/ consultant on contract. The difference is that the potential for more is there online, and in realizing that, I am actually starting to scale back my workload a bit and pursue projects I’ve been putting off. I actually think of these as mini-vacations from work – even if they’re only a few hours or days.

But here’s what really excites me about working online, and if you are thinking of it, or have recently started, this should be foremost in your mind:

  1. Fair game.
    The Internet levels the playing field. Twelve-year old bloggers are making some nice money that go beyond an allowance.

  2. Choices, choices.
    There’s a vast array of choice. What are you interested in? There is probably a way to monetize it, if you are creative, innovative, and find a way to stand out.

  3. A million vacations.
    If you’re an online worker and have either a self-sustaining website or can find a few guest writers to keep things running, you can pretty much take a vacation whenever you like.

I’m focusing on the latter. If can scale back my workload to just a few topics, I’ll end up with blocks of hours or days where I can run my web experiments – which will be the seeds of my envisioned great startup business. You can focus on this too: maybe you don’t feel comfortable with a permanent 5 hour work week, but surely you’ll enjoy this luxury once in a while, if you can make up for it at other times? That’s what I enjoy most about freelancing, if you can handle the wild variations of revenue.

Even better, if you score a web success, save the money, “seed” a new project, then go on vacation/ retirement for a bit, you come back fresh-minded for the new project. Is that something you’d enjoy? Because I believe that this can happen online. Just don’t give someone $4000 for the information when the answers are mostly free all around.

Now this advice applies to either freelancing or being an entrepreneur. Take it from someone who didn’t bother taking vacations most of his life: enjoy your life now, not “tomorrow”.

Carnival of Entrepreneurs #23 On

Monday, May 28, 2007 at 10:00pm by Site Administrator

Startup Spark, permanent home to the Carnival of Entrepreneurs, just posted the list of entrants for CoE #23. My post Essential skills for entrepreneurs made it on to this week’s carnival. The CoE is probably one of the biggest blogger carnivals I’ve seen. If you want to enter, use the CoE submission form.

Productivity and Entrepreneurship: From Zero To Startup

Friday, May 25, 2007 at 6:52pm by Site Administrator

Still deciding whether to jump from a salaried job to some sort of “freedom”? Maybe you need a bit of nudging.

  • Freelance Switch Hourly Rate Calculator.
    I know, this blog is about entrepreneurship, but in my experience, many freelancers leap into entrepreneurial endeavors. They’re used to working for themselves. So, that said, if you’re in the freelancing stage and want to know what to charge as your hourly rate, FreelanceSwitch has an easy to use rate calculator. That’s to save you from charging too little.

  • 25 Startups to Watch.
    You’ve had enough of freelancing, per se, and have an idea for a great startup up business. Check out CNN Money’s 25 startups to watch, and find out why these businesses have scored a lot of interest.

  • Honor the Commandments.
    Just before you actually decide to launch your startup, follow the some startup commandments.

  • Finding Expired Domains.
    A savvy netrepreneur knows a good domain name can make the difference for a startup’s website. Some startups name themselves after checking on available domains. Unique is always good. But if you’re not fussy and would rather pick up a domain name with a bit of age (and thus potential value), DotSauce has a list of where to find expiring domains. If you acquire keyword domains, these can be valuable for link building to your main website.

  • To Design or Not To Design.
    You’ve got your domain, time to build a website on it. As usual, you don’t have much to spend on design, and probably don’t want to spend it if you did. Well, apparently you don’t have to put a lot of design into a site.

  • Marketing a Website With $100.
    Now you have a website, and your puny bootstrapping budget doesn’t seem enough for promoting a website. Well, you can market a website for $100 (via SEOmoz). There are seven big names offering their tips, so be sure you read this before blowing your wad on marketing.

  • Building and Maintaining Website Rankings.
    Know what search engine marketing strategy battles to fight for your site, and which you should leave. While you may get organic search results, understand how you’re paying for this success.

  • Still Haven’t Found What They’re Looking For.
    If you do have a website, or more specifically a blog for your business site, just be sure you know what your visitors are looking for, and give it to them in a suitable way.

Seven Characteristics of Highly Successful Entrepreneurs

Thursday, May 24, 2007 at 7:00pm by Site Administrator

A mental survey of entrepreneurs I’ve known or read about over the last 30-plus years brings to mind some of the characteristics exhibited amongst successful entrepreneurs. Here are some of the more prominent characteristics, clustered into seven categories. Some of the items overlap with the skills listed in Essential skills for entrepreneurs. The list below is less polished, a raw collection of thoughts.

  1. Be insightful.

    • Have a vision
    • Have a plan
    • Have a backup plan
    • Keep it to yourself.
    • Know when to call it quits. Or better yet, know when to get funded. If you do want to get
      financed
      at some point, consider ahead of time when, at what point, from where, and how:
    • Be observant. Don’t think linearly – keep your eyes and ears open for disparate ideas that
      can actually be tied together and be relevant to your goals. People who do this are later called visionaries, provided they not only eventually share their vision and become successful.
  2. Be frugal.
  3. Be a DIYer and recycler.
    • Leverage your talents to do it yourself (via Small Business CEO), when possible. But be smart and delegate/ hire when necessary – usually in the second phase of a business.
    • Build it/ code it/ write it yourself. This is sort of similar to frugality.
    • Reuse equipment, resources. Everything does not have to be new, though depending on your business, items shouldn’t look battered and beaten either – especially if clients will see. Have an office that clients visit? Maybe you can score nice furniture finds at flea markets and do some refinishing yourself.
  4. Be patience personified.
    Sacrifice some entertainments for later rewards. Be patient and persistent, to get where you want to go with your startup business.

  5. Be a risk taker.
    To be able to take risks, you need to be a decision maker. To make good decisions, you need to be intuitive and be able to calculate the risks and rewards.

  6. Be intuitive.
    Intuition is an often neglected ability. North American doesn’t exactly encourage it.
    This might explain why so many immigrants come here with a dream and do well when they pursue it: they aren’t inhibited by such “rules”. Trust your intuition, your gut feeling, but only once you’ve weighed out the risks.

  7. Be calculating.
    This doesn’t have to be a negative thing, since I mean it literally: take the time to make the necessary calculations for your business’ success.

    • Weigh out risks and rewards.
    • Don’t think linearly about ROI (Return on Investment).
    • Remember compound interest.
    • Reinvest profits.
    • Network with entrepreneurs who are in a similar business. Competition is healthy, but online, websites in the same niche should promote each other.

Essential Skills For Entrepreneurs

Wednesday, May 23, 2007 at 8:30pm by Site Administrator

While working on an entirely different article about characteristics of entrepreneurs (coming shortly), some thoughts came to me about some of the skills entrepreneurs need, whether they’re bootstrapping or not. Some of these are even more important if you’re building a business online.

  1. Decision making.
    That’s the number one skill for an entrepreneur? Without the ability to make decisions, you cannot be a successful entrepreneur. This includes the ability to decide you made some mistakes, then trying again.

  2. Reasoning ability.
    This goes hand in hand with decision making. Can you apply logic, analsysis and sound reasoning to make your decisions?

  3. Smart bookkeeping.
    Take it from someone who knows first hand – keep all your receipts!! What’s more, organize them immediately. Don’t wait until the last minute. You’ll hate yourself and not to do it. Good bookkeeping isn’t that hard if you do it as you go along.

  4. Long-term planning.
    Can’t see the future, where your business will be in three to five years? Then you probably don’t have any goals written down either. You can’t get there from here if you don’t know where you’d like to go. Sometimes it’s as simple as following some product development guidelines or even just having a business vision.

  5. Self-promotion.
    You may have the greatest widget in existence, in industry X, but if you cannot promote yourself or your business, how will anyone know? The advantage these days is that it’s easier to promote via websites or even blogs. Yet you may still want to promote yourself offline. Either way, knowing something of public relations, marketing and (personal) branding may make the difference between success and failure. Dont’ know where to start? There’s a lot a you can learn from 15 must-read blogs.

  6. Knowing when to quit.
    Grandpa was wrong. There are times when you need to throw in the towel. It’s better to know when to quit an endeavor than throw good money after bad. A casual browse through the biographies of successful entrepreneurs throughout history will show that most self-made milionaires failed at least once, often twice, and that they didn’t succeed until later in life.

Worthwhile Free Applications For Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs

Tuesday, May 22, 2007 at 10:00pm by Site Administrator

During the past two years, there’s been an explosion of new applications – both web browser-based and old-school downloadable. Both have their merits, with web-based apps offering the ability to share files, sometimes to even collaborate remotely in real time. How much more ideal could that be for online entrepreneurs who may have colleagues, partners, or clients around the world?

With the explosion of online culture, there are now hundreds of new applications coming out yearly, covering a wide range of uses. It’s hard to keep up with it all, but there are some that have been immensely useful to me in my online endeavors. I’m not saying you’ll need them all, but if you’re bootstrapping your business, these applications may be very helpful to you for various reasons if you’re maintaining a weblog – even more so because they’re all free. I should point out that I’ve only tried the Windows XP versions, but some are multi-platform and a few are browser based.

  1. Audacity.
    A cross-platform audio editor that supports industry-standard VST audio plugins. Useful if you want to record audio podcasts for your website/ weblog. I’ve heard rumors of similar software running from a web browser, but I haven’t seen any yet.

  2. Camstudio.
    Screencast capture tool for “how to use this software” type of videos. Similar to TechSmith’s Camtasia Studio but not as full-featured. Actually works  better in some ways because it’s simple to use and generate video files. I use both, depending on what I need. There is no web-based equivalent, and for technical reasons, I can’t see how there could be.

  3. Freemind.
    Mindmapping tool for brainstorming ideas, organizing your thoughts, managing projects, setting and tracking goals, etc. I use it (and about 5 other mindmapping tools) to organize some thoughts if I’m planning something long-term. Web-based alternatives are bubbl.us, Mindmeister and Mindomo. These three allow some degree of online collaboration.

  4. Gantt Project.
    Project management tool similar to Microsoft Project. It’s still in its early stages and cannot yet handle tasks that are less than a day in duration. But if you can put up with that, it’ll save you the several hundred dollars that MS Project costs. Many web-based applications that categorize themselves as “project management” are nothing close to Gantt Project and MS Project, so I’m not mentioning them just yet.

  5. Gliffy.
    A very MS Visio-like diagramming tool. I find the interface a bit restrictive and prefer SmartDraw, though it may be a bit pricey for some. All of the diagrams you see on this site are from SmartDraw, though some could be created in Gliffy.

  6. Google Calendar.
    There are loads of web-based calendars out there that allow team members to share their schedules. It’s just my opinion, but I think Google Calendar is amongst the best, despite that are many things about it that could be fixed.

  7. Google Analytics.
    Google Analytics is by far one of the most full-featured web-based (or otherwise) web site analytics packages available, period. And it’s free. It’s great for marketing efforts, tracking and analyzing online ad campaigns, detecting visitor patterns, determining some visitor demographics and much more. Free alternatives include Sitemeter and Performancing PMetrics.

  8. Inkscape.
    Inkscape is still in early stages and buggy, though it’s a free alternative to vector drawing tools such as Illustrator and Fireworks. This tool is suitable to desiging a logo for your business, if you have some creative skills. (Though of course, if you don’t, go witih a professional.)

  9. Open Office.
    Even though I have a paid copy of Microsoft Office (MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) on 3 of my 4 computers, I only have MS Word on my primary desktop. So I started using Open Office exclusively and never use MS Word except when it opens on its own (when I click a .DOC or .RTF link on a web page). It’s a great alternative suite, and I don’t miss MS Office, despite about 20 years of using it. I also use the web-based Zoho Writer and some of the other Zoho suite of “office” tools, as well as Google Docs and Spreadsheets.

  10. Skype.
    While there are a lot of things I don’t like about the way eBay has handled Skype and PR (public relations, not PageRank) since purchasing the latter, Skype is one of the best VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) software clients available, with many millions of users worldwide. You can call other Skype users over your computer for free, and call out to regular phone lines. There are many good alternatives, such as SightSpeed (especially good for video calls), though they often don’t have as many users. Even after a nearly a year of writing about VoIP, I know no one well enough that uses it. On the other hand, because of the multitude of people I communicate with, I also have to use VoIM clients all the time, such as Google Talk, AIM, MSN/Live Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger. These are mostly used for text chat, though some offer member to member voice over the Internet. A few of these also allow calling to regular phone lines.

  11. SplashCast.
    SplashCast Media’s SplashCast player is my embeddedable video player of choice. Just try it and you’ll see why. You can create different channels, with multiple shows each, include documents, images, and videos. Very mixed media. It’s free at the time of this writing, though there may be a “pro” version coming soon. It’s ideal if you want to add lots of visual content in a single footprint – i.e., one media player.

  12. Wink.
    Wink is a complementary tool to Camstudio. It captures a single screen rather than a screencast video.

I’ve only given a brief explanation of each, not a true review. I use many of these tools regularly, even daily, as part of my regular online activities.

Reasons to Build a Business Online

Monday, May 21, 2007 at 10:00pm by Site Administrator

Many of you that will stumble across this blog probably are considering starting a business (via Bizinformer) online or are already running one. But how many of you actually “work” online? By that I mean earn your living from online activities, not just working online.

Depending on your perspective, there’s a giant distinction between the two. I’ve spent much of my career online since 1996, as a webmaster a web programmer. But I’m not sure I could say that I earned a living online. That has only really been true since last October – just over half a year, though I’ve been doing it part-time for over a year.

All my income is now earned due to online activities. That is, I have no income due to a “regular” job that I commute to. I work online, I get paid online. I don’t even need to go to my bank unless I need currency.

Now whether that’s all bad or good is up to you to decide. If good, is this something you’d like to do? All indicators are that more and more people will work online, and that often means the ability to work from home – possibly with a bit of travel to meet clients or go to conferences.

While having a steady job is the preference for most people, freelancing or running your own business (not exactly the same) affords you a lot of other opportunities and freedoms. Some businesses are simply conducive to operating online. You don’t even need to wait for that gut feeling that may be necessary to jump into other businesses. If you have the entrepreneurial spirit, you can probably make it work, bootstrapping your way to success.

What helps are the addtional benefits of working online:

  1. Freedom of schedule.
  2. No or little commuting.
  3. Easy to take a break.
  4. Free entrepreneurial resources in the form of websites, directories, etc.
  5. Free software and web-based applications.
  6. Online, supportive communities and forums.
  7. Ease of research, thanks to search engines.
  8. Free publishing platforms, such as WordPress.
  9. Ad networks for revenue (e.g., ) and ad platforms for advertising (e.g., Google AdWords)
  10. Higher productive as a net result of all of the above (and any benefits I’ve missed).

These are merely a few of the advantages of working online. Even if you need to maintain an offline business, there are probably aspects of marketing and promotion that you can do online. And in doing so, you might eventually discover that you can move operations completely online. Good luck.

Productivity and Entrepreneurship Roundup – Fri May 18, 2007

Friday, May 18, 2007 at 10:00pm by Site Administrator

Idea Cafe Accepting Business Grant Applications
IdeaCafe is currently accepting applications until May 25th for a $1,000 Inventive Mind Grant for innovative business ideas. [via BizInformer]

Is Your Business Ethical?
If you had to ask that, it probably isn’t, right? Well, some businesses might sit on the fence because the customers it serves feels that it helps them, while those outside the process feel that it assists cheating in some competitive situation. One example is college tutoring that uses collected old exam questions. [via New Venture Outsourcing blog]

100+ Great Productivity Tips
Ben Yoskovitz at Instigator Blog has been asking readers to submit their productivity lists. At present, he has a list of 23 lists totalling over 100 productivity tips.

One Important Productivity Hack: Eliminating Noise
Aside from the occasional barking of the dogs at home, meow of the cats, and roaring of a souped up passing car, I’ve been immensely fortunate to be working from a very quiet home in an otherwise quiet neighborhood. For me, that’s immensely important, as I do a lot of voice over work as part of my weekly blogging. If you don’t have the luxury of a quiet home office, though, it might get frustrating. Two Minute Commute offers a few suggestions to manage home office noise, including using carpeting or fabric.

Making Efficient Use of Your Time
Many people become workaholics because they’re afraid to take a break. Others do it for reasons known only to them. Fact is, taking a break is often the best way to be productive. What’s more, if you spend a little bit of time preparing for your next task before you take your break, you will often find the task completed more efficiently. My reasoning is that it’s because while you are on break, your subconscious will have a bit of time to process what you have to do next and come up with some options or answers.

40 Under 40
Depending on how old you are, you probably feel you have to be a success by a certain age. I gave up that feel quite some time ago, but not after chasing each new age level. Thing is, it probably doesn’t matter, but if it does to you, maybe you’ll want to check out Business West’s 40 under 40 list, which entrepreneurial blogger Bill Bither is on. It focuses on entrepreneurs under the age of 40 in Western Massachusetts state.

Is Bootstrapping Advantageous?
Bootstrapping Blog says that being a bootstrapper is not a disadvantage, despite what a lot of people believe, then gives 5 reasons why: determination, ability to sell now, fear of failure (equates with drive), less overhead costs, and total control.

Next Page »