How to Think About Productivity as a Dot Com Pro

The basic concept of productivity likely rose to prominence some time during the Industrial Revolution. Sure, people who worked on farms up until that point were probably interested in how much their fields could yield each season or how many eggs they could get their chickens to lay, but the rise of manufacturing really got the bosses interested in how much they could produce each day.

Remember that the root of the word “productivity” is “product.”

In the context of manufacturing, the number of units a factory worker can output in any given shift is instrumental to how much money that company can make. If every widget you sell brings in five bucks, you’d certainly be making more money if the factory worker manufactured 100 widgets in a shift as opposed to 10 widgets. Let’s just set the complications of supply and demand aside for the sake of simplicity.

Today, this manner of conceptualizing productivity still rings through how most people approach the world of work. If you are in the business of making physical things, maybe it’s still relevant, but so many of us work in industries that deliver far more intangible value. Just getting things done isn’t enough and this is especially true if you want to make money online.

The way that we think about productivity has to change, because it’s not just about how many hours you put in each day or how many “units” you’re able to produce. It’s far more complicated than that.

One guy might be able to bust out ten different logo designs in one day, because they’re all from templates that he only alters slightly for each client. He delivers these logos to his customers on Fiverr for five bucks a piece, putting $50 in his pocket (before fees and such). That’s ten logos.

Meanwhile, someone else came up with a new logo for the City of Vancouver in 2017 and got paid $8,000 for it. Some people might think that rate is atrocious, given the similarity to the logo it replaces, but at the end of the day, that’s how much was paid.

Let’s assume the new Vancouver logo took more than a day. Let’s say it took 20 business days (one month). Even at that pace, the rate works out to $400 a day, eight times what the Fiverr logo designer is making. The Fiverr guy may be more productive in the traditional sense, coming up with 200 logos a month (if he keeps up the 10/day pace) for $1,000, but just a single City of Vancouver logo netted $8,000. Who’s more productive?

There is a reason why John focuses most of his energy on higher ticket value items for affiliate marketing. Convincing one person to spend a few thousand dollars on a training program is arguably just as much work as convincing someone to spend $5 on a widget, but the former results in a much heftier commission. If you’re going to put in the same amount of work, you want to maximize your earnings from that work.

That’s one point.

The second point that you need to understand as a self-employed online professional is that you cannot assign a dollar value to everything that you do. This is not an hourly job where you get paid simply for showing up to work (and that is arguably the greatest advantage to the dot com lifestyle, as your earning potential is literally limitless even if your time isn’t).

A great example of this might be if you are writing an ebook or developing a membership site.

A great example of this might be if you are writing a book or developing a membership site. You could spend days, weeks or even months (or years!) toiling away at this project without bringing in a single penny for your efforts. You may have written 200 pages, but can you really measure your productivity based on raw word count?

It won’t be until you actually publish the book or launch the membership site that you will have any idea how “productive” you really were. And even then, there are so many side benefits that extend far beyond the number of copies you sell or the number of paid memberships you’re able to get. Putting your name on the cover of a book adds credibility and developing that membership site adds to your skill set.

When you take on a longer term perspective, you may reconsider just how “productive” you were for those days, weeks or months you were working on the book or membership site. If the project is a total bust, maybe you weren’t being especially productive and your time could have been better spent. If the project is a huge hit, then maybe you were being way more productive than you could have imagined. You just never know.

Don’t worry too much about how “productive” you are each day. Don’t dwell on your daily earnings too much. Instead, look further down the horizon and think about how you can do better rather than simply doing more. Being busy is not the same as being productive.

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