How to Build an Incredibly Lazy (and Successful) Business

Progress is made by lazy men looking for easier ways to do things.
—Robert Heinlein

I’ll be the first one to admit it: I don’t like working hard.

I go out of my way to be as lazy as possible. I have a hard time doing stuff that I don’t want to do. And even the things that I really don’t mind doing, I’m just not driven enough to pursue them full force. Other people might want to do 50 state book tours and create content five days a week. Not me.

And yet, I’ve still managed to build a pretty successful business, deliberately going out of my way to not put in too much effort.

Sometimes I feel inspired to do a lot of connecting, writing or work on a big product launch. But most of the time I work 4 or 5 hour days. I spend the rest of my time hiking, practicing martial arts, reading and spending time with my wife.

It’s one thing to be able to do something; it’s another to know how you do it. For the past few days I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how I do this, so I could help other people do the same thing.

So, here’s how to build an incredibly lazy (and successful) business:

1. Get over the urge to work for work’s sake.

This is probably the biggest hurdle that you’ll struggle with, and it’s something I have trouble with as well. It’s easy to work because you think it’s a “good idea” or because you think you should, and not because it’s necessary or beneficial. At all costs, the urge to work just because it seems smart must be avoided. Working more than average doesn’t guarantee better results. Working hard + working smart = stellar success, of course, but we want to take that even a step further. We want to ask “How can we work smart without much effort and still see stellar results?” It is absolutely possible, but you have to stop filling up your time with work.

Once you stop working just because it’s a good idea, you’ll be able to develop a filter for the type of work that is essential, highest leverage and produces the best results.

2. Be original.

The more original and remarkable your ideas, the more leverage they have. The more what you do stands out, the less work is in your hands. You want to create remarkable ideas that spread themselves, not mediocre ideas that require a lot of poster blanketing to make it successful. The best marketing doesn’t require any money to be spent on PR or advertising. The best marketing puts the work of spreading the word into the hands of the audience.

3. Leverage, baby.

What are the key activities that make you the most money? There are probably two or three, MAX.

One deliciously high leverage activity I realized in my business is doing webinars. This past month I realized that I could do a webinar (about an hour) for a strategic partner’s launch and make about $3-4,000. Including the two emails I write to my list, that’s about 1.5 hours time total. That’s pretty damn good leverage.

So, forget tweaking with your theme, finding the perfect wordpress plugins and organizing your files… what are the highest leverage activities for your business?

4. Systems give you power.

If being lazy is about using more leverage and doing less, the support and scaffolding necessary to do that is created with systems. When you leverage systems in your business, you free up time for the things that you’re best at that will create the greatest impact.

There are tons of things you can create systems for as soon as you start paying attention. Customer service, schedule management and autoresponders are just a few possibilities. The more you can automate and outsource things, the more time you have to do what really matters to you.

As my friend Charlie likes to say, systems give you power.

5. Do what you want.

Know that your business is a product of your own design. You can have as little or as much involvement as you want, but you have to decide that.

So in order to create the business you really want, you have to be deliberate about it. If you only want to work four hours a day, then be ruthless about it. If you only want to work with certain types of clients, only accept those. If you want to make a certain amount of money, make a plan and execute it.

Just remember that doing what you want will probably involve a lot of…

Perhaps the most important aspect of building an incredibly lazy and successful business is consciously deciding what you will say No to. What will you stop doing? What will you give up to have what you want?

Remember, things can be exactly the way you want them to be, but you have to decide that. Test your assumptions. Live ruthlessly.

PS: We’re holding a no-cost event soon on creating a kick ass business and working on your own terms. You can join us here to reserve your seat.

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Comment & Add Your Voice

Mike Roberts October 6, 2010 at 4:25 pm

This line describes exactly what I’m trying to do with Big Goal Hunting “The best marketing puts the work of spreading the word into the hands of the audience.”

I’ve worked so hard to market myself and biz and I really hated all of it. Now, I just focus on creating a life changing service, articulating what exactly that service is (and who can benefit), and ignoring everything else.

In this way, I am also running a lazy business. It’s nice :)

I have put the fate of my biz completely on others spreading the word. The catch is, that nobody is going to share anything unless they are genuinely moved by it… This is 100% my responsibility to create.

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Setema Gali October 6, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Thank you for the post. This is right on the money. I believe in searching for more effective ways to be productive and successful. Rock on brother.

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Jared October 6, 2010 at 7:23 pm

I LOVE how you’re always stepping things up! I couldn’t agree with you more.

I was walking down the street the other day and thinking… I’m not going to work Friday’s anymore. I don’t want to.

So I’m not.

Burnout does a disservice to your clients… your customers… and YOU!

Keep rockin brother!
*Jared

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Dorota October 6, 2010 at 7:43 pm

You make it all seem so easy :)
I’ll come hang out on the call!

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Evan October 6, 2010 at 10:58 pm

thanks, I think this is a great post.

A couple of comments. The originality has to be understood and valued. For it to be valued it can’t be too far out there or people don’t know what to make of it.

On systems. Simple systems save time and effort. A system, or supervising it can become an awful time sink.

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Farouk October 7, 2010 at 12:46 am

that would certainly be amazing if the business became truly passive and didn’t need follow ups

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Chris October 7, 2010 at 2:04 am

Number 3 Leverage, Baby.

Webinars are awesome. They’re profitable and provide an awesome opportunity to share value and help people

Everyone’s propably heard of Kajabi. But that’s one heck of a system to create more free time.

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ChristiaanH - Mind the Beginner October 7, 2010 at 4:16 am

A brilliant little blogpost here Jonathan.

I too must confess that I’d rather work smart than hard, the biggest drawback is that I don’t have some sort of system in place and the biggest problem with developing one is the originality of the idea. There is so much uninspired crap out there and being created that it’s getting harder to rise above it all. Every second another mound of muck is added….

Given the current state of things (the www seems to be swamped) how would you go about setting up a system? Originality seems to be almost impossible…

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Stella Stopfer October 7, 2010 at 5:19 am

Getting over working just to work is a big one. Once you stop doing that, everything changes for you, everything goes to the way you had it in mind once you were starting your business. And it helps you do the things you need to do.

No one needs to work all the time. Either you know what you need to do to move your business forward or create something, either you don’t. Some projects may be more consuming, but it’s never all day, every day.

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Keena October 7, 2010 at 7:50 am

Isn’t this really the essence of why most of us go into business in the first place?!? Autonomy, prosperity and freedom – not to work harder or more than the day jobs we left!

Thank you so much for your post!

Namaste,
Keena

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Christopher Foster October 7, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Enjoyed this post immensely Jonathan. I’m happy to feel a closer connection with you each time I stop by your site.

I don’t think it’s going to work for me to do this upcoming webinar. But I want you to know I deeply appreciate all you say here, the pointers and help it has given me — and also your exuberant, untamed and GENEROUS hearted spirit. Incidentally my ebook is finished and I hope to have it offered on my site in a week or two. I’ll email it to you if I may soonish becoz you have played an important part in the birthing process…

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Ching October 9, 2010 at 12:09 am

This resonated with my thoughts on being most productive with minimal time. Times are changing and the old way of doing things are not as effective anymore. Good post, Jonathan!

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Steven October 9, 2010 at 10:22 am

“Working in your pajamas”

This is exactly how I roll. I like to do 4/5ths of my work before I step into the shower (usually around 4PM-5PM). Than I eat dinner, work a little more, and usually go out to have some fun.

I am SO glad to hear that I am not the only lazy person who aspires to be an entrepreneur. I like to take short breaks frequently, chunk up my work into manageable bits, and only focus on the things that multiply my output.

Lazy entrepreneurs unite!

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Jenny October 9, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Great article. I like my work and my business, but at the same time I prefer my passions more (like travel, skateboarding, friends, ect.). Saying no and only accepting clients I want to work for is one of the keys to my success. It gives me time to do the things I want to do and work on projects I feel good about.

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Michael Simpson October 9, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Pretty good article, but what is the deal with the tiny font size? I had to get a magnifying glass to read it. Why are you punishing your readers? That is unilluminated and incredibly mean.

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Ryan O'Loughlin October 11, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Hey Jonathan. Great post. I think it’s great how you can be open about how lazy you are…although I think an argument could be made that you are SELECTIVE, not necessarily lazy…

Thanks for adding value!

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Michelle Reyes-Nguyen October 12, 2010 at 11:08 am

Thank you. As a soon-to-be-first-time-mom in a couple of months, I have been looking into finally starting my own business that will allow me to have the personal and professional balance I’ve been wanting for so long. This helps immensely. It’s so refreshing to hear that it can be done and be done successfully without sacrificing one or the other. Here’s to more of us living ruthlessly!

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Roland October 14, 2010 at 8:26 am

Great post! Originality, leverage and systems are cornerstones of any successful business.

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steve October 27, 2010 at 7:10 am

Johnathan, I don’t know if you’re still reading comments on this post, but I have to say that the Laura Roeder webinar didn’t really help me. I was bored and a little frustrated by how much it was about “Is fame necessary? Is it all you need?” rather than offering concrete tips on how to generate it. I’m accustomed to higher quality free content on your blog, and it felt like this webinar was holding back and just trying to lure me into wanting to pay (or, anyway, go somewhere else) for the info I want.

(Admission: I skipped over some parts of the webinar recording after I started getting bored/frustrated by it. I’ll admit it’s possible I missed some “diamonds in the rough.”)

Steve

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GaryGiddyJacelon December 8, 2011 at 5:27 am

this is like basically how my old boss ran his businesses. only working 4-5 hrs a day …like a boss!

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Jon_Mills December 23, 2011 at 5:55 am

excellent post jonathan. You hit it on the nail. Learning to say NO to things makes rooms for the things you want to do instead of what you feel you need to do.

This also means NOT waiting until you are successful in one area that you want to be doing before you start doing it. ( Author, Writer, Speaker, Consultant, etc etc )

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MidlifePassion December 26, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Getting over the urge to work for work’s sake is huge. I think for so many of us cubicle dwellers that’s how we’ve spent so much of our time and it takes a really conscious effort to be more selective as we develop our own businesses. Great article, Jonathan!

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DesignbyDustin December 30, 2011 at 2:52 pm

“You want to create remarkable ideas that spread themselves,”

Such a good point. Invest your time in remarkable ideas instead of meaningless busy work. I’m just beginning to see the power of this. Great reminder!

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AverageJoeMoney February 8, 2012 at 8:02 am

I find that if I try to be original it comes off as forced. It’s when I let my own voice speak up that the originality flows.

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rainbowamelia March 23, 2012 at 5:30 am

I would love to know more about how to generate leverage to get to earn in the hundreds to thousands per hour range. I am writing a blog to generate leverage so that I can earn no less than $50/hr in my chosen field (tutoring, and I’ll be putting up my price soon), but I want to figure out what other high leverage activities I can do to bring in more than smaller biccies and not live week-to-week financially. A guide on how to figure out what these activities are for my area of specialty (science education) would be invaluable. Food for thought anyway :D cheers brother!

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