Leaving Work Behind

How to Believe In Yourself

Written by Tom Ewer on October 29, 2013. 46 Comments

"Success" written on a notepad.When it comes to building a successful online business, you can typically split “candidates” into two groups: those who largely believe in themselves and those who don’t.

Upon reflection, I would say that I fell into the first group. While I certainly had my doubts during that first and most important part of the journey to leaving work behind (quitting your job and building a successful online business), the negative voice in my head was never loud enough to discourage me from my overriding conviction: that I would succeed.

However, over the past few months I have spoken to more and more people who fall into that second category. I have witnessed firsthand how a great deal of potential can be wasted due to nothing other than a lack of self belief.

I hate that. I hate seeing potential wasted and I hate seeing someone unhappy in their life when they have the ability to enact positive change.

And that’s why I’m writing this post. If you are desperate to leave work behind but feel that you lack the self belief to make it happen, please read on.

What Makes You Tick?

Let’s explore how you feel.

There are probably a number of words that you might use to describe yourself when it comes to the prospect of leaving work behind: unable, incapable, or inadequate.

You may have more concrete “reasons” (dare I call them excuses?): lacking the necessary skill or technical know-how, lacking a good enough idea, or not knowing how to start.

The lists can go on (feel free to add your own).

However, leaving work behind is far less about your capabilities and far more about the belief that you have in yourself. It’s not about how good you are, because you are almost certainly good enough at something to leave work behind. It’s about believing that you are good enough.

Your biggest barrier to success at this stage is your belief (or lack thereof). That’s what needs to change — not your ability, technical skill, or whatever other excuses that you have told yourself stand in the way.

Putting It All Into Perspective

When it comes to building self belief, the worst thing you can do is convince yourself that what you want to achieve is a pipe dream.

It’s not.

As I have said before, there are countless people out there less able than you who have already achieved what you want to achieve. That is one of the most important realities that you must face up to and admit.

What you want to achieve is just a drop in the ocean of human achievement. There are people out there doing truly outstanding things: furthering the boundaries of human understanding, curing diseases, creating works of art. But we’re not setting our sights that high. Not even close.

It's a big world out there. Plenty of room for modest success.

It’s a big world out there. Plenty of room for your own success story.

All we want to do is create an online business that matches our outgoings and affords us a level of control that we do not currently have. In terms of financial goals, the first step will not even be to earn more than what you currently earn. It could in fact be to earn far less (if you are willing to sacrifice earnings in order to have a far better quality of life — something you should seriously consider).

Stop telling yourself that what you want to achieve is an absurd notion. Might it be difficult? Sure. Could it take a while to achieve? Yep. Probably. But it is not impossible and you are more than capable of achieving it.

Consider this: you’ve probably surpassed more difficult challenges in your life. I know I have — quitting my job and building a successful online business was a cakewalk compared to other things I have overcome. And yet I built it up to be something far bigger than it was.

The greatest “mental gift” I have now is the belief that I can achieve anything that I set my mind to. It is not a gift I had before I left work behind, but boy would it have been a fine belief to have. It would have made things a damn sight easier.

I am trying to give you that gift now. Stop telling yourself that you can’t achieve your goals. You’ll look back from a position of success, laugh at how you doubtful you were, then look towards future achievements that eclipse your original goal with utter confidence.

Defining Leaving Work Behind

Let’s consider for a moment what you want.

You’re probably fed up with the limitations and impositions of your job. You have a strong desire to live a freer life — one that you are in control of. One where eight (or more) hours of your every working day isn’t conducted at the behest of an employer.

The problem is that your perspective on how to wrest that control is terribly distorted. Leaving work behind does not have to be about launching a highly successful business or making vast amounts of money. You can leave work behind with a very modestly-performing business. In fact, you may consciously choose to operate a low-income business in order to suit a quality of life that is far more important to you than money in the bank.

If you can truly understand and embrace the above concept, you’ll be far better placed to leave work behind.

I am reminded of a comment on a recent post here on Leaving Work Behind left by Mark:

…I work 4 days a week, I make only $60k, no weekends, and I leave work behind once I close my door.

With that said, I would gladly leave that job behind, make half as much, and work the same amount from my virtual office.

My family of 5 live in the condo I bought in 1989 when I was single. It’s big enough for us. The mortgage is less than renting a 1 bedroom apartment.

We drive old cars. The newest car that I drive has over 180,000 miles on it. No car payments for over 20 years. I can afford a $1,000 repair bill and not even flinch. Our cars rarely break because I do preventative maintenance myself.

We buy all of our clothes from thrift stores. My wife makes all our food from scratch. We are in several food buying co-ops. I roast my own coffee at home. No starbucks or buying expensive lattes and what not.

Mark’s got his head screwed on straight — he understands the clear distinction between making money and being happy (and that one does not necessarily lead to the other).

Jason and Danielle Wagaksy, who live off just $14,000 per year.

Jason and Danielle Wagaksy, who live off just $14,000 per year.

His story is just one example. How about a family of six living on less than $28,000 per year or a family of four living on just $14,000 per year?

I’m not saying that leaving work behind is about living frugally. What I am trying to do is give you a broader perspective on what you can do to leave work behind. It’s not necessarily about building a six-figure online business. It’s certainly not about working yourself into the ground trying to build a six-figure online business.

Consider this: if you examined your finances and what you truly needed to live, you might discover that you could leave work behind tomorrow if you truly wanted to.

Perspective has a huge part to play when it comes to leaving work behind. Be sure that your perspective isn’t skewed by conventional thinking.

Focus On What You Can Definitely Do

If you break leaving work behind down into its constituent parts, there are three major things you can (should) do:

  1. Reduce your outgoings
  2. Build a financial safety net
  3. Create a source of income that matches or exceeds your adjusted outgoings

You can definitely reduce your outgoings right now. You can probably start to build a financial safety net (or at least work towards paying down your debt so that you can in the future) now too. And while you may blow the third step out of proportion, creating a source of income is far easier than you may think.

So if you’re lacking confidence in your abilities in achieving the third step, why not focus on what you know you can do to start with? You may find that doing so gives you the necessary momentum to work on creating money as well as saving it.

But What About That Third Step?

When it comes to creating an income stream, the issue is often not finding an idea, but believing that you can actually succeed.

Let’s consider some of the potential issues that stand in the way:

  1. Viability
  2. Market demand
  3. Competition
  4. Your own ability
  5. Your willingness to give it a go

I want to focus on that last one, because all of the other potential issues are irrelevant by comparison.

I major on the concept of building bootstrapped businesses, so when we’re talking about giving it a go, all other considerations may be potential roadblocks, but they’re never dangerous. After all, you’re not going to be pouring your life savings into your business — probably less than a few hundred dollars (if that).

So when it comes to facing up to your demons (i.e. how you think you’ll fail), we’re not talking about a fear of financial security — we’re talking about the fear of failure.

That’s it. The worst thing that can happen to you is that you fail. And if you do fail, you’ll be in a far better position than you were before. You’ll have the myriad benefits of experience and will be better placed to succeed in the future.

Although I may not convince you that you’re ready to take the leap, I do hope that I open your eyes to a rational understanding of risk in the context of leaving work behind. it’s not about losing your way of life — it’s about risking failure in the pursuit of success.

It’s On You

Ultimately, these are just words.

If you strongly believe in your perceived inability to succeed then it will be very tough for me to persuade you that you are capable of anything.

Perhaps it’s not time for you yet — not in terms of your ability, but in terms of your belief. Or perhaps it’s not time for you yet because you simply don’t have a strong enough motivator. Because let’s face it, leaving work behind is tough.

Do you really hate your job that much, or are there simply some elements of it that you dislike (like any other job)? Please be honest with yourself — it’ll help. Don’t make excuses. If you’re not ready yet, admit that you’re not ready. It’ll make waking up and coping with each day far easier (i.e. “This sucks, but clearly it doesn’t suck enough“). Furthermore, your enlightenment may even give you the necessary push to take the leap (i.e. “This sucks; perhaps i didn’t care enough in the past, but perhaps I should“).

With that said, I am sure there are a number of you reading this who are ready. You just needed a push.

Consider this your push.

What Next?

Let’s not overcomplicate this process — just work on the first step.

If you’re not working on reducing your outgoings and building a financial safety net, start doing that now. But that’s a piece of cake. Your first real step is to start building your online business.

With that mind, answer this simple question: “What is the next action I can take that will contribute towards the creation of my online business?”

Do that thing. Complete it. Then repeat the process. At the most basic level, that’s all there is to it.

Photo Credit: seeveeaar, Pelintra, Danielle Wagasky

The Blogger’s Style Guide: How to Write Stellar Blog Posts

Written by Tom Ewer on October 22, 2013. 87 Comments

BloggingAt its most basic level, blogging is remarkably simple. After all, just about anyone can blog if they put their mind to it. All you need is a computer and an Internet connection.

However, there is a big difference between the act of blogging and writing something that is truly worthy of consumption. If you are serious about becoming a blogger then you should be keen to improve your craft.

That’s where the list below comes in: fifty of the most important tips I can give you about the art of blogging. I have gathered them over a period of 2 1/2 years or so, during which time I have written more than a thousand blog posts for over a hundred blogs.

Don’t forget to check out the comments section too, where you can share your own tips and read tips shared by others. Enjoy!

The Blogger’s Style Guide

  1. Grab yourself a copy of The Elements of Style and The Yahoo! Style Guide. They will teach you 90% of what you need to know.
  2. Let your personality shine through — you’re writing a blog post, not a text book.
  3. Stuck for topic ideas? Consider the following: common questions, breaking news and current events, pain points, desires, and personal experience.
  4. Still struggling? Set aside a non-time sensitive block to brainstorm ideas. Try to come up with ideas in batches — not one by one as they’re needed.
  5. Write with your audience in mind — who are you writing for and what are their motivations for reading?
  6. Create a headline that touches on one or more of the following: urgency, speed, ease, desirability, intrigue, controversy, outlandishness.
  7. Write a draft headline when you start a post but don’t finalize it until the end — the writing process will probably inspire you.
  8. Pick a headline/sub-header formatting style and stick to it. I recommend title case — in my opinion, it looks the most professional.
  9. Keep headlines and sub-headers short and snappy — treat them as an exercise in word economy.
  10. Include search-friendly keywords within your headline if doing so does not interfere with its readability.
  11. Don’t use the <h1></h1> tags within your post (they’ll be used for the header) and nest your sub-headers as appropriate (i.e. <h2></h2>, <h3></h3>, etc).
  12. As Ernest Hemingway once said, “Write drunk, edit sober.” Get your thoughts down first and worry about how to package and present your post afterwards.
  13. Start every blog post with a short introduction (100-150 words as a rule of thumb) that clearly states what can be expected from reading the post.
  14. End every blog post with a conclusion that highlights the key point(s) made in the post and gives the reader a clear call to action (e.g. “Share your thoughts in the comments section below.”).
  15. Break up your content regularly with sub-headers (every 3-5 paragraphs or so).
  16. Make sure that your sub-headers are consistently phrased (see point six here).
  17. Write using short words, short sentences and short paragraphs. Keep it simple!
  18. Pare out all unnecessary words during the editing process. The fewer words you use, the better. As Strunk and White put it, unnecessary words should be omitted “for the same reasons that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”
  19. Use bold to highlight key phrases (but use sparingly!).
  20. Use italics to add emphasis to a particular word.
  21. Use exclamation marks sparingly (and only ever use one (e.g. not “I am so excited!!!!”).
  22. Never use ALL CAPS (it seems like you’re shouting) and do not underline anything (it will look like a link).
  23. Always use apostrophes correctly — both in terms of indicating possession (e.g. “Tom’s blog”) and when abbreviating words (e.g. “you’re”).
  24. Don’t screw comma usage up. The simplest way to prevent this is to speak your writing aloud, as it is written, to determine whether the flow of the words are natural.
  25. Never use ampersands (&) in place of “and” (unless it’s called for, such as in a company name like Johnson & Johnson).
  26. Use hyphens (-) to create compound words and double hyphens (–) to create a break in a sentence.
  27. Do not use double hyphens as a replacement for commas — they are very different.
  28. Semicolons should only be used to separate two statements within a single sentence that are grammatically complete and not joined by a conjunction (e.g. “I like KFC burgers; they’re really tasty.”). An easy test is to ask yourself if the two phrases could be separated by a period (i.e. “I like KFC burgers. They’re really tasty.”). If they could, use a semicolon.
  29. When creating links, it is only necessary to include title text if a further explanation of where the link directs to is necessary.
  30. Links that are supplementary to the post (e.g. a link to a longer definition of a particular word) should be set to open in new windows. Links that are intended to move the reader through to a separate part of the site (e.g. the next blog post in a series) should be set to open in the same window.
  31. Use lists whenever possible. They’re attractive to readers and make the text far easier to digest.
  32. Include plenty of graphical elements to break up the relative monotony of your text when possible: photographs, screenshots, blockquotes, tables, charts, and so on.
  33. Images should either be full width or half width (or slightly less) and aligned to the right.
  34. Images should never be aligned to the left — moving the left margin makes the reading process less comfortable.
  35. Make sure that your images aren’t too big (as a rule of thumb, they should be under 100kb and preferably far smaller).
  36. Only use Creative Commons images. My favorite resources are Compfight, Google Advanced Image SearchStock.XCHNG and Icon Finder.
  37. Always credit image authors — I recommend doing so at the bottom of your post in the following format: “Image Credit(s): Author Name
  38. Save images with descriptive file names (e.g. “red-car.jpg”).
  39. Use descriptive alt text for images (e.g. “Red car”).
  40. Don’t include an image for the sake of including an image. It should be in some way relevant to the post.
  41. Never use poor quality images.
  42. Always proof read your posts — ideally by speaking them aloud (you’re far more likely to notice mistakes this way).
  43. If you are able to, leave a post to “mature” overnight and come back to it the next day. You’re likely to want to make some further changes.
  44. Don’t use your spell check as a crutch and never assume it is always right (it isn’t).
  45. Always check the definition of any word you’re not sure about.
  46. Use a thesaurus to expand your vocabulary.
  47. If you can afford to, only write about topics that interest you. Doing otherwise will quickly make you jaded.
  48. Read a lot and write lot — doing so is the best way to become a better writer.
  49. Blogging should be an enjoyable pastime; don’t lose sight of why you’re doing it.
  50. Check out the comments section below for even more tips.

Your Turn

That’s it folks! The fifty most important tips for blogging that I could think of.

Now it’s your turn. I want the list on this page to ultimately be far more than fifty, and that’s where you come in. I don’t care if you’re brand new to blogging or an pro — share your own blogging tips with us in the comments section below!

Image Credit: Kristina B

What Fight Club Can Teach You About Motivation

Written by Tom Ewer on October 17, 2013. 41 Comments

Fight ClubBefore Fight Club was a cult film starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, it was a cult book written by Chuck Palahniuk.

For those who are familiar with the story, it might be considered an unlikely source of any kind of motivational lesson. However, its pages contain one of the most important things one should know about getting motivated and succeeding. In this post I want to share it with you.

How Raymond K. Hessel Got Motivated

Towards the end of Fight Club, our protagonist (played by Edward Norton in the film) approaches a grocery store worker named Edward “K. K. K. K. K. K.” Hessel as he waits for the late night bus and puts a gun to his head. What follows is (in my opinion) one of the most engrossing scenes in the book (a video of the scene is included below).

Fill in the blank. What does Raymond Hessel want to be when he grows up?

Go home, you said you just wanted to go home, please.

No shit, I said. But after that, how did you want to spend your life? If you could do anything in the world.

Make something up.

You didn’t know.

Then you’re dead right now, I said. I said, now turn your head.

Death to commence in ten, in nine, in eight.

A vet, you said. You want to be a vet, a veterinarian.

That means animals. You have to go to school for that.

It means too much school, you said.

You could be in school working your ass off, Raymond Hessel, or you could be dead. You choose. I stuffed your wallet into the back pocket of your jeans. So you really wanted to be an animal doctor. I took the saltwater muzzle of the gun off one cheek and pressed it against the other. Is that what you’ve always wanted to be, Dr. Raymond K. K. K. K. Hessel, a veterinarian?

Yeah.

No shit?

No. No, you meant, yeah, no shit. Yeah.

Okay, I said, and I pressed the wet end of the muzzle to the tip of your chin, and then the tip of your nose, and everywhere I pressed the muzzle, it left a shining wet ring of your tears.

So, I said, go back to school. If you wake up tomorrow morning, you find a way to get back into school.

I pressed the wet end of the gun on each cheek, and then on your chin, and then against your forehead and left the muzzle pressed there. You might as well be dead right now, I said.

I have your license.

I know who you are. I know where you live. I’m keeping your license, and I’m going to check on you, mister Raymond K. Hessel. In three months, and then in six months, and then in a year, and if you aren’t back in school on your way to being a veterinarian, you will be dead.

You didn’t say anything.

Get out of here, and do your little life, but remember I’m watching you, Raymond Hessel, and I’d rather kill you than see you working a shit job for just enough money to buy cheese and watch television.

Now, I’m going to walk away so don’t turn around.

Raymond K. K. Hessel, your dinner is going to taste better than any meal you’ve ever eaten, and tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of your entire life.

Powerful, no?

There are few (if any) greater motivators than the fear of death.

If someone holds a gun to your head and tells you that you must do something, you are likely to try your damnedest to achieve it, no matter what it is. Your survival instinct will kick in and you will accomplish things you never thought you were capable of doing.

And that fact carries with it one of the greatest lessons one can be taught about motivation: the strength of your motivator can make all the difference to your likelihood of success.

The Fallacy of Dieting

Cheeseburger

You don’t need someone to tell you that this is bad for you.

Consider for a moment the dieting industry, which is forecast to grow to $66b this year.

How can such an unnecessary industry exist? Let’s face it: when it comes to dieting, we all know what we need to do. Eat less bad stuff, eat more good stuff, exercise more. It’s a foolproof process if you’re willing to make the necessary sacrifices. Yet we spend literally billions of dollars on fad diets in the vain hope that they provide the key to stress-free weight loss. We’re looking for a shortcut; an easier way.

What many of us don’t appreciate is that the key to stress-free weight loss is motivation. We all know how to lose weight, but what we need more than anything is a strong enough motivator. We don’t need a foolproof dieting solution (which is a good thing, considering that no such thing exists). We need a gun to the head, just like Raymond K. Hessel got.

How to Waste Potential With a Lack of Motivation

A couple of months ago I went out for a few drinks with my girlfriend. We met up with a group of her friends in a bar and I got chatting to one of them.

Before long the topic of discussion moved onto our jobs. I explained what I did and he listened with interest. I then moved the conversation onto his job and discovered that he was a graphic designer, working in a job he hated. He needed a change.

I told him that he was rather fortunate, given that his particular skill set lends itself to freelancing perfectly. There was no reason why he couldn’t build up a client base on the side while working in his current job and quit when the time was right.

But I had something even better for him. At the time I had been looking for a graphic designer for the redesign of Leaving Work Behind for a while without any joy. I made him a deal: he would design a logo for my newest blog (Healthy Enough), and if he did a good job, I would commission him to work on the Leaving Work Behind design. Furthermore, I’d promote him as the designer to my audience (that’s you guys!), which would almost undoubtedly lead to more work in the future.

This should have been a dream for an aspiring freelance graphic designer. Not only would he get on the ladder with a client with ongoing needs, but that same client would be happy to promote his services to his not inconsiderable following. He certainly seemed keen at the time.

But that was seemingly the beginning and the end of the dream for him. After a couple of weeks I received a handful of unusable designs (which probably took a few minutes to cobble together). I sent him a response with my thoughts and he replied with assurances that he would give the project far more time.

Fast forward another six weeks and I had heard nothing. In the end, my girlfriend had to harass him into sending an email just to tell me that he “didn’t have time” to work on anything else due to his commitments to his job. That might be a reasonable statement if it weren’t for the fact that my girlfriend knew all too well that he was far from weighed down by other professional commitments.

The simple fact is this: he wasn’t motivated enough. He didn’t have a gun to his head. While he said he hated his job and wanted to quit it, that clearly wasn’t a strong enough motivator in itself to persuade him to take the relatively simple step of spending just a couple of hours on a logo design for me. Who knows where that could have led. He’ll never know.

Finding a Big Enough Reason

Many LWB readers are in a job that they want to get out of, but in terms of creating motivators, they never get much further than that.

In my opinion, that is where so many of us go wrong. While you may dislike or even hate your job, that does not automatically make it a strong enough motivator to undertake such an enormous transformation as quitting your job and building a successful online business. You may need more.

I recognize that better today than I ever have done before. When I look back to my motivators, I see much more than just a desire to quit my job (although that was certainly a big piece of the puzzle). In reality I had a number of motivators, all strong. I wanted:

The list goes on, but my point is this: I had something far closer to a gun to my head than my girlfriend’s friend did. All he had was an abstract notion that he didn’t like his job and wanted to quit it. That wasn’t enough.

Put Yourself in Raymond’s Shoes

In my opinion, being suitably motivated is often far more powerful a factor in determining your success than your abilities or experience. I truly believe that every single person reading this post has the necessary potential to build a better life for themselves. The key is not in whether or not you can do it, but whether or not you are willing to take action.

That’s where your motivators come in. While you’re not going to be able to recreate Raymond’s gun-to-the-head epiphany (thankfully), you need to figure out what really drives you.

Your motivator cannot be an abstract notion that exists ambiguously within your head. It needs to be as real to you as it possibly can be. It needs to be as real as a gun to the head.

So take this opportunity to think critically about your situation. I advise that you create a complete list of things that you like and things that you dislike as outlined in my previous post on the meaning of life. What changes can you make in your life to reduce the number of things you dislike and increase the number of things you like? Often there will just one, or perhaps a small handful of solutions (as there was for me).

Once you understand what you don’t like about your life and what you need to do to make your life better, your motivation should be far more charged. If it’s not, then you may want to question just how much you dislike your life (and if in fact you’re relatively satisfied with your current situation).

There’s no fooling motivation in the long run — you either have it or you don’t. If you don’t then your motivators aren’t strong enough. It’s that simple. Don’t beat yourself up about it and don’t be afraid to admit it to yourself. The human mind has a knack of achieving equilibrium — if you find yourself lacking the motivation to achieve something, perhaps it’s just not the right time. Perhaps your lot in life isn’t so bad after all.

Don’t fight for something that you’re mind isn’t really willing to fight for. Pick your battles.

The Darker Side of Motivation

It would be remiss of me not to highlight the clear causation that exists between motivation and stress. If you do find a strong motivator then you will likely to feel pressured into achieving your goal, which in turn can cause a great deal of stress.

It is unavoidable. It’s like the first law of thermodynamics (that energy can be transformed from one form to another, but not created or destroyed): the energy that motivation supplies must be transformed into something else. That energy most often transforms into the stress that such a high level of motivation unavoidably leads to.

Consider Raymond’s predicament. He now has an enormously strong motivator to go back to school and study to be a veterinarian. However, the stress laid upon him will be enormous, as he knows that failure could lead to death. He has been “blessed” with an extremely strong motivator, but at the same time, he will experience an extreme amount of stress.

This is not intended to discourage you from seeking to achieve your goals. If that motivation exists, it should not be ignored. For the most part, if it is ignored, you will still experience stress due to your inaction. It works both ways.

True Motivation Cannot Be Ignored

I’ll conclude by saying this: if you are truly motivated, your only option is to succeed in your goals. If you do not, you will be miserable. Fortunate, you will have so much motivation that your likelihood of succeeding will be high (on the assumption that you have not set yourself an absurd goal).

And believe me: most of our goals, when examined relative to the achievements of mankind, are laughably small. I’ve touched upon this before.

If you’ve identified your true motivators and they are strong enough, trust in them. Let them guide you. You’ll be amazed at where they will take you.

Photo Credit: Ack Ook

The Meaning of Life

Written by Tom Ewer on October 8, 2013. 77 Comments

ContentmentI read today that statistically speaking, the self-employed are less happy than the employed.

That statistic is irrelevant. Or at least, it should be.

Why? Because life isn’t about being in a job or working for yourself. In fact, the concept of leaving work behind isn’t fundamentally about quitting your job. It’s about understanding and embracing the meaning of life: to be content.

That’s it. That’s the whole enigma blown wide open. Be content.

Every day you live should be marked by a conscious effort to improve your contentment — to do more of the things you like and less of the things that you dislike.

This process can start today. Consider the things that you like and the things that you dislike. Make a list. Be specific.

Now do whatever is necessary to increase the items on list one and reduce the items on list two. Be sure that your actions don’t inadvertently add items to list two.

You may be surprised by what you put on the lists and how it affects what you do next. Share what you come up with in the comments section below.

Next time you’re not sure where you’re going, remember to refix your sights on attaining contentment. On a fundamental level, that’s all there is to it.

My Monthly Income Report — September 2013

Written by Tom Ewer on October 1, 2013. 66 Comments

MoneyThere will only be a handful of people reading this who haven’t heard of The 4-Hour Workweek. For many of us it is the dream — while the title of the book is not to be taken literally, the concept of running a successful online business in just a few hours per week is exciting.

I know it is for me. Upon re-reading The 4-Hour Workweek while on vacation in Turkey back in July, I came home with big ideas to revolutionize my online business. I publicly stated that I expected to be making “far more money” within the next three to six months. It has been nearly three months since I made that statement.

What I didn’t fully appreciate at the time was that I was getting caught up in the idea of working less rather than earning more. I was adopting a mindset of laziness rather than dynamism. My inaction over the past three months has taken its toll and this income report is evidence of that.

We all need a wake up call every now and then. I got mine this month.

What Happened in September?

September was a month in which I achieved my goal of doing very little work.

I have got to a point now where I could feasibly work perhaps 5-10 hours per week and make a living. I write a post a week for Leaving Work Behind and also need to handle editing and administration for my writing business. Any work beyond that could be classed as “business development” rather than “business maintenance”.

So there I was, living the dream. But little did I know that working few hours is not exactly a dream. When you’re in the moment it’s great. I had freedom and flexibility to work as I pleased. In the short term it was awesome, but it hasn’t taken me long to understand that living in such a way is ultimately unfulfilling.

As human beings we have a predisposition to work. While there certainly are many people out there who will quite happily go through life achieving nothing, most of us want to feel like we are doing something. Not just existing, but growing through our actions.

I haven’t been growing in September. I have merely been existing. I have languished in a state of inaction, all the while thinking that doing so was what I wanted. But it isn’t. I know that now.

I got some things done in September, but to draw attention to them would be to hide the fact that I did not do nearly as much as I should have done. It would detract from the most valuable lesson that I have learned in some time: there is no such thing as a free ride.

While getting yourself into a position where you can work flexibly is a noble goal, doing so with the intention of doing as little work as possible is not. Ultimately I want to build a legacy — a tangible thing that I can point towards as a result of all my hard work. That requires hard work. I have not been working hard, and boy has it shown.

Monthly Income Report — September 2013

  1. Freelance writing:
    • Income: $5,307.53
    • Expenditure: $1,845.48
    • Profit: $3,462.06
  2. Websites:
    • Income: $56.58
    • Expenditure: $55.04
    • Profit: -$1.54
  3. Affiliate Marketing (Leaving Work Behind):
  4. Information Products:
    • Income: $1,299
    • Expenditure: $172.67
    • Profit: $1,126.33
  5. eBooks:
    • Income: $28.61
    • Expenditure: $0
    • Profit: $28.61

Total profit for September 2013: $4,529.12

There you have it folks — my worst month since December 2012. And I deserve it. My propensity for inaction over the past several weeks has led to this.

A True Disaster?

In reality, the situation is far better than the numbers look, but am loathe to detract from the lesson to be learned here. However, it only seems sensible to point out mitigating elements of my earnings this month.

WesthostFirst of all we have my biggest affiliate earner: Westhost. I started to get rather concerned by 20th September because I had made zero sales. Given that I have typically averaged approximately 8-10 sales per month, it seemed like something was up.

There was. Due to some issue with link cloaking, I was registering no sales. I removed the link cloaking on 20th September and racked up six sales in just ten days. I should have earned much more from Westhost this month.

Secondly we have some exceptional expenditure — a not inconsiderable $1,000. This was the cost of a 99designs competition for the new Leaving Work Behind design. The competition went very well, I am absolutely delighted with the outcome and I can’t wait to unveil the new Leaving Work Behind. However, it hasn’t come without its cost, hence the four-figure bill.

If I hadn’t had the issue with my Westhost sales and hadn’t put down $1,000 on a new design for LWB, my net income for the month probably would have been something like $6,500. While that wouldn’t have broken the bank when compared to other recent months, it would have been a far healthier picture.

A sneak peak at the new Leaving Work Behind design.

A sneak peek at the new Leaving Work Behind design.

But like I said, I don’t want that to detract from the main lesson to be learned here: when it comes to Leaving Work Behind, your main goal shouldn’t be to work as little as possible. While working fewer hours can certainly be one of your goals (that should be considered alongside other goals which may conflict with it), to make it a driving force in your plans is to sabotage your chances of creating a legacy.

With the advent of a new month I feel like I have a fresh perspective on what I want. It’s not working an hour a day. It’s creating something of true worth and helping as many people as I can.

Motivation

It is fitting that I wrote a huge post on motivation last week. Although I have been motivated over the past few months, I have been motivated to do the wrong thing. I have been motivated to work as little as possible, when in reality that is not what I truly want.

I made the point in the aforementioned post that leaving work behind is ultimately about pursuing happiness. It is clear to me now that barely doing any work does not necessarily make me happy. Sure — not working 60 hour weeks and having flexibility in my working hours are both big motivators for me, but working an hour a day is not.

Upon reflection my strongest current motivators are as follows (in no particular order):

  1. Financial security
  2. Flexibility of working hours
  3. Doing work that I love
  4. Earning enough to visit my sister and her kids in Texas more often
  5. Moving to a nicer location and a nicer house
  6. Helping people
My sister's kids: Maggie, Auggy and Jack.

My sister’s kids: Maggie, Auggy and Jack.

I know that my quality of life will be improved drastically by achieving the above goals. I know that the hard work will be worth it — especially if it is work that I love. These motivators have re-framed my actions over the coming months and I hope that they will galvanize me into a great deal of action.

2013 will be gone before long. While I would consider the year to date a success, I know that I could have achieved so much more. The only value in regret is what it can teach you about your future actions, which is why I will use my regret over past inaction to fuel future action.

What’s in Store for October?

I’ve got a lot of projects on the horizon — projects that have been ongoing for many months. All of them have the potential to build the LWB brand and make money, yet I have not executed on any of them. That will change in October.

I’ve already mentioned the LWB redesign and in last month’s income report I mentioned the ambitious re-launch of my guide to freelance blogging. While I don’t know what will go down in October yet, I do know that I will be working my ass off to bring both those projects to fruition as soon as possible.

I’ve got three months to make 2013 a huge year and give me huge momentum going into 2014. I don’t intend to disappoint.

Photo Credit: JDR