Don’t Try to Fill a Leaky Bucket

Let’s start with the basic visualization. You’ve got a bucket and you’re trying to fill it up with water. Maybe you want to transfer that water from your sink and faucet over to your garden. Maybe you’re collecting the water for a later purpose. In any case, this bucket has a big hole in the bottom of it, so any water that you pour into it inevitably falls out the bottom.

If the hole is especially large, then your problem is obvious. The water from the faucet literally goes right through your bucket and you never get to contain any water at all. If the hole is smaller, you might not notice at first, but the water is definitely leaking out the bottom. No matter how high you turn up the faucet, the water will inevitably leak. It’s a waste.

Now, what if we were to think about your online business as this bucket. Is it leaky?

Throwing Money at the Problem

Now, chances are that you’re not in the water business, and the quantity of usable water you have on hand probably isn’t integral to your business model either. Of course, we’re using metaphors here for the purpose of visualization. The first thing that the water can represent is your money.

It’s undeniable that money will always be a part of the equation. It’s also true that spending money can save you a lot of time, time that you can then dedicate to the business activities that not only leverage your specific expertise and talents, but also those that actually move the needle. It takes money to make money, without a doubt. 

It’s also true, however, that money can’t solve all your problems. Let’s say that you want to grow a successful YouTube channel. Even if you buy the most expensive camera with the fanciest lighting and the best audio, if the actual content of your video isn’t interesting or of value, no one is going to care. All that equipment is just a giant gaping hole in the bottom of your bucket.

If you’re in the business of affiliate marketing, if you simply choose to throw a giant budget at PPC advertising, but your landing page stinks or you didn’t effectively optimize your keywords, you will never achieve a profitable ROI. Those advertising dollars are several holes in your bucket. 

All It’ll Take Is More Time?

Money isn’t everything. Or at least, it’s not the only thing that could be leaking out of your bucket. Far more valuable than money is time. It is truly a limited, non-renewable resource. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

And, again, it’s true that you will not achieve success overnight, so you need to be prepared to stick it out through the tough times. You have to think not about how you’re spending your time, per se, as much as how you’re choosing to invest in it. Your online business might not turn a profit or generate enough page views in the beginning, but it’s an investment into a potentially very lucrative future… assuming you’re not wasting your time on other random online activities like watching videos on YouTube or laughing at memes on Facebook.

At the same time, you also have to recognize when you’ve fallen for the sunk cost fallacy. Yes, you may have dedicated untold hours of your time toward a project, but if it really isn’t turn out a profit and you’re not really on the cusp of a big breakthrough, maybe it’s time for you to abandon ship and to explore other endeavors. Simply pouring more time into a hopeless project really isn’t going to get it anywhere. The leak is too big.

This is a big reason why you need to build your online business (and your skill set) to be as versatile as possible. If your MySpace business shutters, will you be able to pivot to Instagram? If your podcast dries up tomorrow, will you be able to find an audience on YouTube?  

Every Bucket Is Leaky

In an ideal world, every bucket that you choose will be perfectly sealed and it’ll continue to grow larger as you needs continue to expand. That’s how you scale your business. Of course, an ideal world exists only in our imagination. Every bucket is going to be leaky to some degree, because nothing you do will ever achieve 100 percent efficiency.

Even so, it’s worthwhile to keep this kind of visualization in mind as you work on your business. If you find yourself leaking out too much time and/or money without seeing an adequate reflection in tangible benefit, maybe it’s time you look into getting another bucket.