19. Question 13. How much time do I have to spend on my business for it to be successful?

An understandable question as it's nice to know exactly where you stand with anything, and how much time it takes to create and run your own online business is no exception. The real problem is that this is an extremely difficult question to answer, not only because our businesses are going to vary, how much we get done per hour is going to vary but also because different tasks require different amounts of time.

First up, let me give you an example of exactly what I mean. I run my business full time. Although I say full time it really isn't in most cases. Let’s take a look at a typical day. I'd get up, jump on the computer, spend twenty minutes or so checking my mail and such, replying to customers and talking to people on my IM list about what’s been happening overnight. I'd then check my sales, check that everything is running smoothly, then log off for the day and go and do something with family or friends. Great huh? Well that’s not quite the full story.

Example two. I wake up, jump on the computer with the intention of developing a new product that I've either been thinking about recently or have started the design outlines for to pass onto a programmer. Well at this stage, there’s a heck of a lot to do, so I'd do my usual, log on, check my mail, have a chat to people on my messengers and find out what’s been going on, then settle down to create this product. It might take a few hours, or it might take a few months, in which case you'll find me at my computer for anything between five and fifteen hours in a day. That's not so bad, because really it only applies to two or three months of each year in total so far.

But then comes example three. Site launches, a most exciting time, especially when you've been working up to it for many weeks, or even months as in the case of this particular project. Six or so hours before everything is set to go, you'll find me checking and double checking everything, making sure the payment system works and doesn't have any sudden outages (major disaster for set time joint ventures) getting backups, testing the software, making sure the product is ready to download and so on. General final preparation work. Not forgetting to check my mail and have chat to people on my IM list at the same time.

Then comes the product launch itself. Sometimes things can go perfectly, and on rare occasions things go horribly wrong. I want to make sure that I'm there for the initial drive, so zero hour, I'll be sitting by my computer, waiting for mails to come through and the sales to start coming in, and again making doubly one hundred percent sure that nothing goes wrong. Not to mention keeping an eye on my tracking to see if I can spot any short term anomalies and problems that may have occurred but not been reported.

If all goes smoothly after the first twelve hours or so, I'd head to bed and get some rest, but on the occasions that something is reported and needs to be fixed, it usually has to be fixed quickly, due to the nature of how each resource ties into the next one. You may in fact find me sitting at the computer shouting at the screen 48 hours after the product has gone live. In my eyes this needs to be done, and as crazy as it sounds, if launch day goes pear shaped, I don't hold out much hope for the rest of the promotion drive. I like to be there until everything is flowing perfectly.

So you see, depending on the circumstances, you may find yourself at the computer for an hour a day five days a week, or you may find yourself glued to the screen into the early hours of the morning (and the next morning even). I think the most important thing to get out of this is that the need to be flexible is definitely there, without a doubt. When you're logging on and checking e-mails, it's not so bad, and when something needs to be fixed, it's obvious what you have to do, so it's just common sense to go ahead and do it.

The problem comes when you're looking at the bits in the middle. The long hours don't bother me, and I'm sure they wouldn't bother you either if you could take most of the rest of the year off anyway. What does bother me though is the non directed work that everyone needs to be doing to make a success of their business. It’s not really a case of being lazy, but it's definitely very strange going from working where everyone tells you what to do and when to do it, right on over to you being in total control, just like that.

This is where I believe most people fail, and it's also where it's most important to succeed, and that’s getting started working on your own projects. It's not easy sometimes to give up the day off so that you can type fifty straight pages of text about your chosen field of expertise, but it's something you have to prepare yourself to do, because if you don't and only wait for those times where you're in a position of, do this or lose something, you're missing a lot of new development and designing time. At least fifty percent of your online efforts, excluding promotion, should go towards new product designs and development.

That doesn't mean you have to work overnight or sixteen hours a day seven days a week. I understand that many people have jobs, and others started their businesses to have more free time, not less. So my proposition to you is, next time you're doing a task, ask yourself, is this something that I've been forced to do through circumstance? Fixing bugs, answering mails and so on, or is this something that I picked up, and decided to do off my own back, with no one there to tell me what to do and when to do it. Product creation for example, or report writing, or designing a product, writing sales copy, making the first move in trying to score joint ventures. This kind of work is important, the type that you aren't forced into by circumstance, the only type of work that will move you forward instead of holding you in the same place or even pulling you backwards.

The more time you put in to these aspects of your business, the more you will get out. The more you stick to forced circumstance work, the less you will get out. So the answer is really making the question void. It's not how much time you spend working on your business, it's what you're doing with that time. Spending ten hours with circumstantial tasks
like this won't get you anywhere compared to spending one hour doing tasks of your own free will. Control your business, don't let it control you, and you can be sure no matter how much time you spend working your business, it will be time well spent, and you are moving forward. That’s the most important thing.

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