Raw Truth: Making Money Ain’t Glamourous

blog 141 copy

The other day I saw this great graphic comparing How People Think Professional Photographers Spend Their Time vs. How They Actually Spend Their Time:

glamourous jobs don't pay well

How People Think Photographers Spend Their Time


fun and glamourous jobs have a dull-normal side

How Photographers Actually Spend Their Time

(Click “display images” if you’re reading this by email.)

People who work in “glamourous” industries often face these misconceptions.

“Oh, you’re a journalist! You can jet off to Paris as an international correspondent …”

“Wow, you’re a freelance writer – like Carrie Bradshaw! You write whatever’s on your mind without doing any research or interviews and you make $5 a word!”

“You do public relations or event planning? That’s cool. You go to swanky parties …”

It Ain’t All Champagne and Caviar

A friend of mine applied for an editor position at Maxim magazine. He wrote in his cover letter: “Don’t worry. I’m not under the impression that the office is filled with bikini-clad models spraying champagne on each other.” That line earned a good chuckle with the hiring editors — and landed him an interview.

It’s funny because its true. Loads of applicants carried that impression.

Years ago, I applied for an editorial position at a boutique wine magazine. During the interview, the managing editor told me that my application stood out because I emphasized the work — being an editor — rather than the hook, wine.

“I read hundreds of applications from people who said they’re passionate about wine,” he told me, “and I thought, well, that’s great, but can you edit a magazine?”

Will had the same experience when he ran a solar energy company. He’d receive a deluge of applications from people who said “I love solar energy!” or “I’m passionate about the environment!”

“That’s fine,” he thought, “but how proficient are you with Quikbooks?”

Conversely, when he entered his current line of work — running a highway construction company — his buddies from his eco-preneur days predicted that he’d hate it.

“Road work? That’s so boring!” they said. He transitioned from a glamourous industry to an industry that kills conversation at cocktail parties, and no one could figure out why.

“I like growing companies,” he explained. “I like managing a business. That’s the appeal.” But few people understood. They heard the words “asphalt” and “traffic cones,” and they tuned out.

Most Millionaires Work in Boring Industries

But here’s a reason they should tune in: most millionaires work in “dull-normal” industries, according to Thomas Stanley and William Danko, authors of The Millionaire Next Door.

“We are welding contractors, auctioneers, rice farmers, owners of mobile-home parks, pest controllers, coin and stamp dealers, and paving contractors,” the book says.

Why are millionaires clustered in dull-normal jobs? It’s partly because there’s less competition. Millions of people flock to glamourous industries. Heavy competition drives down profit margins and payrates.

Few people, by contrast, are elbowing each other for a slice of the pest-control pie. It’s a dirty job. When competition is lower, profits and payrates may be higher.

The bottom line? Making money isn’t always glamorous.

Source: International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers

There’s No Such Thing As Paid Vacation. (But There’s Something Even Better!)

blog 142 copy

theres no such thing as paid vacationToday is my first day back at work after a one-week “unpaid” vacation. I’ll earn less this month than I did in the previous few months, since I only worked three-fourths of the time.

This is because I trade my time for money. I have a huge limitation on how much I can earn.

Everything I do these days – including my pledge to invest 100 percent of my income – is intended to cut the relationship between time and money. I’ll have “real” wealth the day I can unplug for one year without suffering a hit to my income. Wealth is measured in time, not dollars.

Some people believe that they already have stints in which they get paid to do nothing. They refer to this as “paid vacation.”

I’ve written before about my belief that paid vacation is a myth, but its such an important concept that its worth devoting a post to.

There’s No Such Thing As Paid Vacation

Casey searches for a job with paid vacation.

“Can you imagine?,” she says. “Laying on the beach and getting paid for it?”

She finds a job as a marketing assistant. Her new gig pays $50,000 per year, plus three weeks of paid vacation, health insurance and a three percent retirement match.

Casey is elated. During her first year on the job, she jets off to Aruba, visits friends in West Hollywood and goes skiing at Whistler. As she cruises down the slopes, she thinks, “Wow. I’m getting paid for this.”

Except … she’s not.
real paid vacation comes when you can unplug for a year
Casey’s boss, Shannon, launched the marketing company 10 years prior. For the first few years, he worked round-the-clock with only meager pay to show for it.

Shannon watched in jealousy as his friends enjoyed their steady flow of paychecks, paid vacations and company-sponsored happy hours. At times, he contemplated quitting. But he continued to build his business.

After two years, he was ready to hire his first employee. A year later, he hired a second person. Today, a decade into the company, Shannon has eight employees.

Casey became employee number eight. Shannon estimated that her efforts would help the company’s revenue grow by an additional $100,000.

So Shannon made an agreement with Casey: I’ll pay you for 49 weeks worth of effort per year. I’ll pay $53,300 in total — $50,000 in the form of paychecks, $1,500 in the form of a three percent retirement match, and $1,800 worth of health insurance, which has a fair market value equal to a $150 monthly premium.

In other words, I’ll give you $1,087 for every week you work for me. ($53,300 divided by 49). I estimate that my investment will add $2,000 per week in value to this company, so I’m happy to give you half.

For the sake of simplicity, Casey, I’ll space those payments out in regular two-week intervals. It makes the bookkeeping a heckuva lot easier.

And hey, Casey, if you take time off at the end of the year, then I’m paying you in installments for work you’ve already done.

Shannon Gets Real Paid Vacation

With eight trained and talented employees, a well-organized system and strong client relationships, Shannon isn’t worried about the day-to-day management of his company anymore.

He jets off to Aruba, West Hollywood and Whistler, just as Casey did. Shannon’s company turns a strong profit, even while he’s away.

Each of his employees create an additional $1,000 per week of net earnings, so Shannon collects $8,000 every week that he’s on vacation. He can do this, in perpetuity, forever, barring any sort of catastrophe. When he returns, his company is running even more smoothly than it was before he left.

Shannon gets a true paid vacation. Everyone else just gets paid in installments.

The Time Paradox: A Surprising Way to Prioritize Your Life

Last week my friend sent me this text message:

Leaving tomorrow for New Orleans for work. Have a free seat and hotel if you’re interested. Coming back Tuesday.

Anyone would have jumped at that offer. New Orleans? Free?

But my knee-jerk reaction was, “I’m too busy.”

I’m about to fly to Cincinnati for a 24-hour visit, then fly to the Caribbean for 10 days. I have an enormous stack of “to-do’s” before I leave.

So my first inclination was to say: Sorry. Too busy. Bad timing.

Then I realized: if I stay home, I’ll work less efficiently. If I feed myself tight deadline pressure, I’ll perform at peak efficiency.

Work Expands to Fill the Time Allowed

In 1955, an obscure British historian named Cyril Northcote Parkinson wrote an essay in The Economist beginning with a line that would become known as “Parkinson’s Law”:

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

By keeping a relaxed schedule, you’re denying yourself the need to prioritize. Suddenly it becomes okay to waste 20 minutes channel-surfing, watching YouTube videos, or just staring into space.

Does Your Performance Peak Before a Deadline?

College students experience this the night before a term paper is due: they write faster in one evening than they have for the past month. When a deadline is looming, they cut the fluff, focus on the most critical research, and type, baby, type.

Breaking-news reporters (I used to be one) experience this when they’re reporting from the scene of a fire, explosion, or press conference. They don’t have time to fret about word choice, grammar or style. They ruthlessly prioritize: gather facts, cut the fluff, and write fast.

Start Timing Yourself

Stanford professor and bestselling author Jim Collins famously carries a stopwatch everywhere he goes. He budgets time for certain tasks — 30 minutes for this, 1 hour for that — and doesn’t allow himself to spend more than he’s budgeted.

He ruthlessly sets priorities, both consciously and subconsciously, throughout his day. When he glances at his stopwatch and sees he only has 7 minutes left to complete this task, his mind is forced to instantly make decisions about what to do — and what to leave in the dust.

Paula Times Herself.

I have this problem: given a limitless amount of time, I could spend hours — DAYS — writing a magazine article or a blog post.

So I decided to start following Jim’s footsteps.

I set a digital eggtimer and force myself to contain the task within the limited amount of time I set. When the timer buzzes, the task must be complete. The article must be written. The post must be posted.

So here’s your challenge: “Schedule” brief chunks of time. Set deadlines. Be ruthless.

Like This? Check Out This Related Post: Do More By … Doing More? A Counterintuitive Way to Boost Your Productivity

Do More by … Doing More?

“Work expands so as to fill the time available …” – Cyril Northcote Parkinson

Do more by … doing more?

Today I’m going to share a piece of contrarian advice: You can maximize your productivity by increasing the obligations on your plate.

Conventional wisdom says that you should limit your obligations. Focus on just a few things. Say “no” to requests.

That’s good advice … but only after you’ve reached a certain “busy-ness” threshold.

But what about Average Joe, who’s only moderately busy? Sure, some days seem more packed than others. He wakes up at 7 a.m., grabs a cup of coffee and a piece of fruit, and drives to the gym. He runs on a treadmill from 7:30 to 8:15, jumps in the shower, and arrives at the office at 9 a.m.

He clocks out at 5 p.m. and drops by the grocery store for 30 minutes on his way home. From 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., when he goes to sleep, he enjoys five leisurely, unstructured hours of making dinner, hanging out with his 15-year-old son, surfing the Web and watching TV.

He tells himself he’s being productive by watching the news. It makes him a more informed citizen. And of course he’s also being productive by clipping coupons during the commercial breaks. He’s saving money, right?

Yet at the end of the evening, he finds himself wondering where the time has gone.

He’s so efficient in the morning — shaving in a few minutes. Getting dressed for work quickly. Showering at the gym quickly. He has a routine, and it’s down pat.

But in the evenings, Joe realizes, he’s not moving at the same speed.

Please Subscribe! Free Updates: 

Joe Packs His Schedule.

Now let’s pretend Joe signs up for some other obligation — a side business, perhaps, selling puppy toys online. Suddenly his evening needs to be more carefully planned. He compresses cooking dinner and spending time with his teenager into a two-and-a-half hour affair from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., during which time the father-son duo bond over conversation about cars, sports, school, and their usual conversations.

Afterwards, his teen slinks off to his room to play video games, while Average Joe works on his side business. He devotes two hours each night to the business, then spends another 30 minutes on household chores: watering the plants, unloading the dishwasher, shaking out the rug. He hits the sheets at 11 p.m. for a full eight hour night sleep.

How Busy Are You Really?

By scheduling a commitment into a wide, unstructured block of time, Average Joe learns to use that block of time more efficiently, rather than letting it pass by before wondering, at the end of the night, how his evening disappeared.

By setting limits — and forcing himself to work inside these limits — Joe ruthlessly culled his priorities. He blocked out chunks of time for the things he found most important: 45 minutes on the treadmill, 30 minutes at the store, 2.5 hours with his son, 2 hours building a side business, and a solid 8 hours of sleep.

Don’t Be Productive. Be Intentional.

What if you scheduled your evening in the same way? Pretend you’re in high school again:

  • 6 pm – 7pm is Dinner period
  • 7 pm – 8 pm is Paying-my-Bills, Checking-my-Credit-Score and Opening-my-Mail period
  • 8 pm – 9 pm is Reading a Book period

Heck, you don’t even need to be productive. You just need to be intentional.

That’s the beauty of not being in high school anymore: you can schedule yourself for an hour of watching romantic comedies while eating chocolate ice cream straight from the carton, followed by another hour of chatting with your best friend on Skype.

It doesn’t matter that you’re not “achieving” anything (I’d argue that you’re achieving lots: expanding your movie repertoire, bonding with a friend, savoring ice cream life.) What matters is that you treat your time with full intention. You don’t just wonder how the evening slipped away.

Readers, have you “scheduled” your evenings? What have you found?