“Cutting to the chase”… Strictly selling hours of your life for dollars is the inverse of a practical and profitable business plan. The word “selling” is very important here because that’s what happens in every business transaction. A product is sold and purchased at an agreed upon price. The corporate exchange of hours for dollars is no different; it just has a different twist.
Everyone is the CEO of Their Own Corporation
What most people don’t realize is that you never really work for anyone but yourself. The only question is: What are you selling, and to whom? Even when you have a full time, salaried, “Corporate America” position, you are still running your own business. You are selling one unit of your existence (an hour of your life) at a set price (the associated fraction of your salary) to a customer (your employer).
Good Business vs. Bad Business
Selling hours for dollars is a flawed business plan. Let’s take a quick look at the components of a good business plan vs. that of the standard hours for dollars routine.
A good business plan:
- Multiple Products – Providing multiple options to your customers.
- Product Development Growth – Innovating and expanding the core capabilities of your product.
- Multiple Customers – Your total income revenue is acquired from several sources. The loss of a single customer will not jeopardize your sustainability.
- Scalable – Your business can grow naturally without disproportionately increasing costs. Also, it cannot be shutdown by the absence of a single worker.
- Inventory Expansion – Inventory can be expanded to meet increasing customer demands.
The business of strictly selling hours for dollars:
- One Product – A single hour of your life.
- Static Product Growth – You can change your level of productivity within an hour, but you can’t change the dynamics of the hour itself (which is the metric you are being paid by).
- One Customer – Your employer. If you lose your one customer, you lose your business.
- Single Point of Failure – If something happens to you (injured, ill, etc.), your business suffers.
- Ever Declining Inventory – Life has a limited inventory of hours. They cannot be reproduced.
The Silver Lining: You Must Find Your Passion
There is, however, a silver lining. When you are passionate about your work, even in an “hours for dollars” environment, you open the floodgates to a world of accelerated personal growth and contentment. Suddenly, you are working to learn, mindfully indulging in the task at hand. This passion is the byproduct of interest. You have to be genuinely interested in the subject matter of your profession. In other words, dollars cannot be the primary source of motivation. Once you find your passion, here are some ideas for maximizing your career growth potential:
- Learn as Much as You Can – This becomes a natural process when you are truly passionate about your work. Obviously, the more you know the more valuable your time will be to others.
- Pursue Unpaid Growth Opportunities – Get out of the “hours for dollars” mindset. See if you can barter your skill set with others in your industry. You educate them as they educate you. Knowledge is worth far more than money.
- Provide Value from Within a Black Box – This is how you increase your level of impressiveness. Your efforts must make someone think, “Wow! How does he/she do that?” They can easily see your inputs and your results, but aren’t 100% sure how you got from point A to point B.
- Innovate – If you think there might be a better way, try it. The worst case scenario is you’ll have to revert back to the way things are now.
- Help Other People – The best way to get what you want is to help others get what they want. This will also aid you in establishing strong professional relationships.
- Market Your Visibility – Don’t be bashful. Take credit where credit is due.
Avoid the “Hours for Dollars” Mentality
Even when working in an “hours for dollars” environment, you can avoid the “hours for dollars” mentality. Find something you’re passionate about and take it to the next level. Become a guru. This should help you to strategically position yourself as a “go to guy/gal”, someone your superiors (and industry insiders) see as a vital asset.
Doing so will ultimately free you from the bounds of an arbitrary hourly rate, because you (your business) will become entwined with the future objectives of your employer (and maybe even the industry as a whole). This typically translates into big raises, bonuses, etc. You’ll start getting paid based on the tangible value you provide. Eventually, this position of power can be leveraged to start a company of your own.
Photo by: Antonio Martinez