As some of you know - mainly those of you who get my exclusive weekly content on Fridays - I’ve invested a little bit of my work day into building an online gift shop.

It’s an area I’ve always been interested in. So when I was presented with the opportunity to start learning the ins and outs of e-commerce for just a few bucks, I jumped on it. I’ve been doing surprisingly well in my first month - enough to make it a full cog in my overall business portfolio.

That being said, what I’m making is peanuts compared to what many e-commerce stores are making online. A few of these successful e-commerce store owners put together a big, advanced training webinar that was presented a couple nights ago.

I knew I wanted to be on that webinar to see what tidbits I could gather to implement in my business. Learning these kinds of things can be invaluable to a growing online store.

The problem, however, was the time: it was at 6pm on a Monday evening.

Normally, I can schedule webinar attendance during my work day. This was right after my family would finish eating dinner - a time when we hang out in the living room together and do a little bonding.

Plus, based on the information I was given, this webinar was to last a few hours. So not only would I miss some family time, I also wouldn’t get to assist in putting my son to bed, nor would I get to hang out with my wife afterwards.

It was a bit of a bummer, so much so that I considered not attending the webinar live and just watching the replay some other time.

My wife, to her credit, told me to attend it live. I’d have the opportunity to ask questions, and it would give me another day or two to start implementing what I learned instead of having to wait to actually watch it.

That night, I sat through the whole webinar and participated in the Q&A. All told, the entire thing last four and a half hours. So including wrap-up, winding down time, and a late-night snack, I didn’t get to bed until after midnight (and had to be up at 5am).

Some things only sound easy

When I describe my work to someone, it comes across as really easy to do.

  • As a freelance copywriter, I’m paid thousands of dollars to produce a 25-30 page document.
  • Running an e-commerce store ultimately means listing a few products and running some Facebook ads to them.
  • Publishing a book on Amazon is just writing a long Word document and posting it on the site for purchase.

At their core, any branch of my business portfolio looks to be something anyone can do. And truthfully, I’m not a particularly talented/intelligent guy. Anyone really can do this stuff.

So why doesn’t everybody do it? My businesses let me work from home and collect a great income while working some desirable hours at times. It’s something everyone would want.

Anyone can do it, but not everyone will do it well

Even though 2015 has been one of the worst business years I’ve had in a long time, I’m still doing pretty well. And 2013/2014 were both banner years, financially.

Anyone who caught wind of the type of income I was making (not exact figures, because my wife and I try to keep a lid on that kind of stuff) often had that “it must be nice” reaction. They thought I was living large, reaping the profits from the “little work” I was actually doing.

But success depends on education and preparation.

On the education side, I have gone through countless courses on marketing, copywriting, and business-building.

On the preparation side, I built a portfolio from scratch, begging clients to hire me and give me a chance. I built a network of people in the business by providing as much value to them as I could.

Both of these can be categorized into these two things: unpaid time and work.

When business broke through in 2013, it was great. But what people fail to realize - mainly because I never talked about it much - is that 2013 was my sixth year in copywriting.

For five full years, I worked for little pay at times, and often no pay at all. I fell for the “opportunity” pitches, where business owners would take advantage of inexperienced fools and have them work for free to gain “exposure” or a “great addition to their portfolio”, then drop them.

I dealt with creditors and landlords who punished me with fees and other consequences because I had no money to pay my debts, despite working 50-60 hours a week on my business.

I basically starved, trying to do all of my shopping (including toiletries and cat food/litter) for $25 per week. I drove my car around with burned-out headlights and leaking tires because I couldn’t afford to get either fixed.

I went through all of this because I believed in what I was working toward. I knew that it would pay off eventually. I was sacrificing my short-term happiness for long-term success.

And as hard as it was, it worked.

“You don’t have to get up at 5am!”

Back in 2013, season 4 of Arrested Development premiered on Netflix.

My brothers and I have always bonded over our collective love for the show. So when they announced the release date of a new season years after its cancellation, we were so excited we couldn’t contain ourselves.

They decided that they wanted to get together every week and watch the old episodes together before the new season arrived.

Unfortunately, they were doing this on a weeknight, and wouldn’t be getting started until 9pm or so. Knowing my brothers, we probably wouldn’t get the first episode going until 9:30pm, and it was a half-hour drive from my house to theirs.

So I told them I couldn’t do it because I have to be up at 5am every morning.

They were baffled by the statement. For weeks afterwards, they gave me a hard time about not joining them.

I appreciated the offer, and I know I would’ve enjoyed it, but I told them I couldn’t do that because I would have so little sleep that I wouldn’t be functional the next day.

Every time I said this, the chorus rang out: “But you don’t have to get up at 5am! You work for yourself! You can get up later!”

What they failed to understand - despite my constant explanations - is that I had discovered a direct correlation between my getting up at 5am and the success of my business. There were a lot of factors that went into that, but getting the right start to my day depended on me getting my butt out of bed.

In my mind, I did have to get up at 5am, because I wanted my business to succeed. And it did succeed, largely because of that habit.

That was a length that I was willing to go to for the sake of success.

You don’t have to sacrifice everything

In the stories I’m telling here, you notice some important sacrifices, like time with my family, bonding with my brothers, and grocery money, among others.

Sometimes these sacrifices are worth it, but sometimes they aren’t.

When you are faced with a decision like this, you have to ask yourself: “What’s more important to me right now?”

In the case of that webinar, I was sacrificing one night of family time for the potential to earn thousands of dollars more. Knowing my desire to provide for them, that was worth it to me.

For my brothers, it was sacrificing a night of watching a TV show we’ve seen countless times together for the long-term success of my business. That was worth it to me.

Sometimes, giving up family time isn’t worth it. Sometimes, you should totally take the fun thing.

But when you prioritize your decision making, you have to understand that giving time to one area takes time away from another area. That doesn’t make it right or wrong - it just is the reality of how time management works.

Ultimately, I will sometimes choose the work over the fun stuff. I do this because of the old Dave Ramsey quote: “Sometimes you have to live like no one else so that, later, you can live like no one else.”

I fully believe that some of the sacrifices I make now will lead to greater benefits in the future. Not everybody is willing or able to make those kinds of sacrifices, but I am often in the position to do so.

If you’ve got a goal or a dream, you have to ask yourself one simple question - and ask it often: What lengths are you willing to go to achieve that dream?

Your answer will depend on a lot of factors, but it will dictate your chances for success in the short-term and in the long-term.