Earn additional income: Do something every week

Written by Sam on September 2, 2009 – 11:23 am -

Many people have the dream of becoming financially independent; starting their own business; being able to quit their job. Over the last several years we’ve seen a proliferation of literature focused on obtaining your goals and desires and manifesting the type of life you want. However, it can be a very daunting task to figure out where to start. When I lay out all my goals, I’m overwhelmed. The list is so large that it starts to give me anxiety. Then I feel overloaded and end up just not doing anything at all towards their achievement.

Well, a few years back I had a break through.

My Story

I decided after many false starts that I was going to set aside one night a week for the sole purpose of achieving my goals. I didn’t even know which goals I was going to pursue at the time, but I knew that I needed to start taking some sort of action.

I decided to start with one online business idea I’d had for a while – an online hour-tracking service for small businesses to keep track of hourly employees. Since I had a lot of professional online product development experience, this came pretty easily. I created wire-frame charts of how the site would flow and what functionality it would include. I spent about 2 weeks, or two of my nights, working on the idea.

Then, one night while on a walk I was hit by inspiration to create Getting Finances Done. I had a flood of ideas and once I got back from my walk I filled up several full sheets of paper on ideas for the site, topics I would write about, and experiences from my own life. My wife got in on the discussion and added even more ideas.

I put aside the first project and started working on creating GFD (at the time I didn’t have a name for the site).

It took several weeks (about 4-5 if I’m remembering correctly) to get the site up and running to a point I was satisfied with. It was actually a challenge to launch the site because I kept wanting to make things perfect. I finally realized I was just delaying and asked myself “what do I consider the bare-minimum requirements to launch the site?” I made a list that night and committed that when those things were accomplished, I would launch. Just as a side note, I had to do the same thing with the re-launch of GFD a few days ago. There are still several things I need to add or fix, but I reached my “good enough” criteria, so I launched.

Well, I launched and started writing. I wrote for several weeks. Nothing happened. I would look at my site traffic and couldn’t tell if I was actually getting visitors or if the hits were just from me.

Then one day I looked at my stats and saw a huge spike in traffic to my site. My heart stopped beating and I got a huge rush of adrenaline. I had been featured by LifeHacker, one of the largest blogs around. I looked in my AdSense account and had made $5.00 that day. I started jumping around and was sooooo excited. In fact, I don’t know if anyone’s been more excited about $5.00 in their life than I was at that time. I knew at that moment a couple of things: one, that my writing provided enough value for people to be interested in it, and two, that I could actually make money from doing this website stuff. I knew that if I could get one article featured, I could get more; if I could make $5.00 I could make $50 or $500, or more.

After that, things picked up for GFD. My articles were regularly picked up by other sites and I’d see regular spikes in traffic and in readership. Within a year I’d been featured on Yahoo!, Dow Jones MarketWatch, the Washington Post, About.com, and many other sites. I just kept putting in my weekly night. Sometimes that would extend over into other days and sometimes I’d come home from working 8 hours at my full-time job just to spend another 8 hours or more working on my side business. I only posted once a week, because that’s all I could do, but it seemed to be working just fine.

I had successfully built a side-business working on it just one week a night. Now, there’s much more to the story, but that’s for another post. The point for now is that I took action and made something happen.

So, what are some of the lessons I learned in this process?

The Fluidity of Action

The first lesson I learned is that good things happen when you take action. It doesn’t even have to be the right action. Bodies in motion tend to be easier to direct than bodies at rest. This applies in the physical world as well as in our lives.

Take a card for example. Have you ever been in a car without power steering and tried to move the sterring wheel while the car is at rest? It’s very difficult to move it very much. But as soon as the car starts moving, it becomes almost effortless to move the steering wheel.

This example is a perfect analogy for our lives. When we are standing still, it’s hard to direct our lives. It seems almost impossible to change direction. But when we start moving, it becomes much easier to steer our lives. We may start out going in the wrong direction, but that’s ok because it’s easier to make corrections and to steer in a different direction.

In my case, I started out working on a project and soon realized that there was an even better, more fulfilling project waiting for me. Since I was already in the mode of taking action, I quickly adjusted and was off and running on the new project.

Focus On Completion

When I decided to set aside an evening a week to work on my goals, I didn’t think I would be able to accomplish much but I knew it was better than nothing. I was surprised at how much I could accomplish in one evening. Of course, I had to be very focused and tried to be very goal-oriented.

Each night when I started working, I would look at a list of all the things I wanted to accomplish with the site and asked myself two questions: 1) what is most important to get done, and 2) what items could I accomplish 100% tonight. I would then narrow down the list and work on the items that were both important and that I could fully complete that night. With that type of results-oriented focus I was able to make very quick progress. I learned that it was much better to do ONE thing to completion than to work on SEVERAL things and end the evening with many loose ends.

Consistency Works

One of the reasons I was successful starting my site is because I was consistent. Rather than attempting to do everything in one week, I spread it out over several. While this caused me to move a little slower than I might have otherwise, it helped me to not burn out. I just kept chipping away and making steady progress.

Don’t give up hope

I wrote for many weeks before getting any substantial traffic. In that time I could have gotten down and depressed and given up, but I kept going. Doing so had some positive side effects. One side effect is that I improved my writing skills. Another was that as I wrote, I would think of more things to write about. Yet another, and maybe the most important, was that by the time I got featured I had a site with some substance. Visitors weren’t just greeted with one or two articles, but many. This made visitors more sticky and likely to come back and visit again. Thank goodness I didn’t just give up.

If you can make $1, you can make $10 or $100. If you can make $100, you can make $1,000. Etc, etc, etc.

One thing that was clear to me when I made the $5 is that it represented way more than just the monetary value; it represented the possibility of additional income streams. I knew that the hardest part was making your first dollar. Each dollar after that gets easier because you already have a product. You already have at least somewhat of a user base. You’ve done the work it takes to provide some sort of value. That’s not to say that your work is over, but by the time you make your first dollar, you’re already in a mode of action. It’s much easier to provide more value, tweak your approach, or try something new.

Don’t Be a Perfectionist – Use The “Good Enough” Philosophy

I have pretty strong perfectionist traits, but they haven’t served me very well in my life. Mostly they’ve just kept me from doing things because I know how much work it will be to get it perfect. Maybe this comes from my previous life as a pianist and bassist. What has become clear to me in the business world is that things don’t need to be perfect. If they are, you’re usually spending too much money and taking too much time in developing your offering.

That’s not to say you should strive for excellence or have standards. However it IS saying that your actions don’t always have to be perfect. Take my site for example. I re-launched on Monday and yet there are many things on the site that aren’t the way I want them yet; I want to improve the navigation even more; I want to tweak some of the look-and-feel characteristics; etc, etc. However, before launching I made a list of things that I considered to be requirements for launching. What can I live with without violating my conscience or being embarrassed? This process also helped me identify what things were nice to have but not necessary. I added those items to a list of future tweaks and additions. Once I had finished make these lists I was much more motivated to act and get the site launched because I had defined and clarified in my own mind what specifically was required.

Do Something – Anything – Once a Week

The real bottom line for me and what I’d recommend to others is that if you want to start a business, earn additional income, or reach your goals in general, commit to setting aside time each week to take action. Then be attentive to your intuition and don’t be afraid to adjust. Remember, if you’re moving, it’s much easier to steer your life. As you’re successful you can then adjust and spend more time if you want; you’ll have more options in general.

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Posted in Makeing Money, Motivation | 2 Comments »

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