Interview: 12 Top Online Entrepreneurs Share How Hard They Work
I strongly believe that behind every successful person there is a huge amount of hard work, and that is why I am always interested in learning how long and how hard other entrepreneurs work (maybe to confirm that I am not the only one crazy out there….).
Thinking about this issue I decided to run a group interview, asking some of the most successful people I know how hard they work. Below you’ll find an introduction with the interviewees, and then straight to the questions.
Darren Rowse: The original Problogger, Darren has created a web publishing empire over the past few years, and has been included in the “Top 25 Web Celebrities” list by Forbes in 2007.
Rand Fishkin: Rand is the CEO and co-founder of SEOMoz, a leader in the field of search engine optimization. In 2009 he was named among the “30 Best Young Tech Entrepreneurs Under 30” by BusinessWeek.
Aaron Wall: One of the most respected SEOs around the world, Aaron is the founder of SEO Book, a leading SEO resource and training program.
Neil Patel: By the age of 21 Neil had already co-founded three Internet companies. He blogs at Quicksprout, where he also offers a course for aspiring web entrepreneurs, called Quicksprout PRO.
Chris Pearson: One of the most talented web designers around, Chris is the creator of the hugely popular Thesis Theme for WordPress, which is used by over 20,000 webmasters.
Shawn Collins: Shawn is an authority inside the affiliate marketing industry, and he is also co-founder of the Affiliate Summit, the most successful affiliate conference around.
Yaro Starak: Yaro is a very successful online entrepreneur from Australia. Combining all his ventures he makes a 7-figure income yearly. You’ll find his blog at Entrepreneurs-Journey.com.
Dan Schawbel: Dan is the leading expert in personal branding around the world. He founded the Personal Branding Blog, and his articles are syndicated by Reuters, Forbes and Fox Business.
Jonathan Volk: A super affiliate who generates millions in sales promoting affiliate offers every year. At JonathanVolk.com you’ll find his tips on affiliate marketing, making money online, advertising and so on.
Chris Garrett: Chris is a successful blogging and Internet marketing consultant. He blogs at Chrisg.com, and he is also the co-author of the Problogger book, an Amazon best-seller.
Collis Ta’eed: Collis is the founder of Envato, one of the largest blog networks on the Internet. Combined his blogs generate over 20 million page views per month.
Trent Hamm: Trent is the owner of The Simple Dollar. With over 80,000 RSS subscribers, the blog is a must read for anyone interested in personal finance.
1. How many days do you work per week week?
Darren Rowse: 7 – but on the weekends its for only an hour or two.
Rand Fishkin: 5 full days plus mornings and nights on the weekend.
Aaron Wall: 6.5 to 7… mostly 7.
Neil Patel: I work 7 days a week.
Chris Pearson: Some weeks every day, and other weeks only a couple of days.
Shawn Collins: 7, but lighter on the weekend.
Yaro Stark: 7 days per week.
Jonathan Volk: 6 days, plus a couple of hours on Sunday.
Dan Schawbel: 7 days per week.
Chris Garrett: 7 days per week.
Collis Ta’eed: 5, but often times I work on weekends as well.
Trent Hamm: I work at least a little every day of the week, so 7.
2. How many hours do you work, in total, every week?
Darren Rowse: From 60 to 65.
Rand Fishkin: Between 65 and 70, but some weeks as low as 55.
Aaron Wall: 90+ hours typically, and often 100.
Neil Patel: I work anywhere from 60 to 80 hours a week.
Chris Pearson: I’ve definitely pulled my share of 80+ hour weeks, but to balance things out, I’ve also pulled my share of 20 hour weeks, too. As an average, I probably work 30—50 hours per week.
Shawn Collins: Around 60 hours per week.
Yaro Stark: In terms of productive output I probably do about 10-20 hours
a week, but there’s plenty more time spent in front of the computer.
Jonathan Volk: Around 60 hours per week.
Dan Schawbel: I work approximately 110 hours per week depending if I’m traveling or not.
Chris Garrett: As many as it takes. So up to 90 hours on some weeks, and only 50 on others.
Collis Ta’eed: 40 to 60 hours usually.
Trent Hamm: 40 to 45 hours.
3. Do you have a fixed work routine? Hoes does it look like?
Darren Rowse: Most mornings I usually spend a couple of hours in a local cafe working. This is often writing time. Mid morning to lunch time usually has more of an admin/networking function. Afternoons are often more about email, commenting in forums, networking. Evenings are about finalizing posts for the next day, writing newsletters etc.
Rand Fishkin: Not at all fixed – very inconsistent based on travel, meetings, phone calls, engagements, etc.
Aaron Wall: Not really…I try to do something until I feel I am getting tired of it or losing efficiency (or am done with it), and then I will either take a break or do another task.
Neil Patel: I don’t have a fix routine. Most of my days are spent meeting with other entrepreneurs and answering emails.
Chris Pearson: Generally speaking, I like to knock out “near zero sum” tasks like email, Twitter DM responses, and accounting first thing in the morning. In theory, this leaves me with the rest of the day to focus my attention on problems that I actually care about.
Shawn Collins: I do on the weekdays – I help get my kids off to school (4 kids in 3 schools) and then get to my desk around 8:30 am. I work through 6:00 pm and then stop to hang out with the family and have dinner. After the kids go to sleep, I work another hour or so – sometimes I work more after my wife goes to sleep.
Yaro Stark: Not fixed no, but loosely made up of some work on the computer when I wake up, usually around 9-10am and I do most of my solid writing at cafes, so about 2-3 hours every second or third day during the afternoons or evenings.
Jonathan Volk: Normally I work on routine stuff in the morning such as responding to emails, updating stats, checking profits, etc. By the time I am done with this, I normally break for lunch. After lunch I begin working on developing new projects and marketing campaigns.
Dan Schawbel: I don’t have a fixed work routine at all. I make a top ten list of things I need to get done each week and then commit to it.
Chris Garrett: No, one of the reasons I went to work for myself was to have freedom. There are things that I do to be productive, and stuff I have to do every day, but I do not have a fixed routine.
Collis Ta’eed: I certainly do, every day I begin by traversing my email in an attempt to keep my inbox down to zero (something I’ve only ever achieved twice!) Then I usually update my to-do list and check my calendar. And then of course it’s “real” work time!
Trent Hamm: On weekdays, I have a fixed routine. I usually block out several
hour-long chunks throughout the day for various tasks, blocking out
4. How many times per year do you take vacations, and how long are they?
Darren Rowse: We try to do a combination of different types of vacations as a family. We would typically have 3-4 weekends away (often we’d do it over 3-4 days) each year. We usually would also take a week over our summer or autumn and 10-14 days in our Spring. I also tend to travel to the US for conferences twice a year (two weeks) which isn’t a vacation but it’s a break from the normal routine.
Rand Fishkin: When I travel for work to interesting locations, I’ll often spend the weekend or an extra day there with my wife when possible, but I haven’t had a serious, true vacation since my wedding in September 2008.
Aaron Wall: Roughly 0 🙂 . Need to work on that, and we will hire some folks soon to help out on that front.
Neil Patel: I don’t take vacations.
Chris Pearson: I prefer short trips to big vacations. My favorites are 3—4 day jaunts where I can either relax in an epic setting or else conquer something physically–like snowboarding, scuba diving, hiking, or launching myself off a rope swing into a freshwater lake!
Shawn Collins: I take long weekends here and there, but always bring my computer. I think the last time I took a week-long vacation was in 2002, and I was on my computer during that week. I can’t relax if I’m not caught up.
Yaro Stark: I don’t really have vacations. If I travel, I do my writing and other work wherever I am. There really is no solid line between holidays and work time for me, it’s all the same.
Jonathan Volk: I take a few vacations per year usually. I go to help out at my church’s youth camp each year for a week. I also am trying to take 2 vacations per year with my wife.
Dan Schawbel: Everyday is vacation when you’re doing what you love 😉
Chris Garrett: We try to get away somewhere as much as possible, even if it is just a short trip to the mainland. I work hard and can not always get as much family time as I would like, so it’s important for us.
Collis Ta’eed: I like to vary it up, sometimes a few little ones and sometimes one big vacation. My favorite type of vacation is to go away for a week to somewhere very peaceful in the countryside and then write lots.
Trent Hamm: 4 or so times a year, usually for a week at a time.
5. How many hours per day do you spend on email?
Darren Rowse: 1-2 – although it’s a bit scattered through the day into 15 minute blocks.
Rand Fishkin: 3-4, sometimes more. I do lots of “work” inside email that’s not what I’d consider just classic communication (product/project reviews, scope documents, etc).
Aaron Wall: Roughly 1.5 to 2 hours. Need to work on that, and we will hire some folks soon to help out on that front.
Neil Patel: I spend at least 2 hours a day on email.
Chris Pearson: I spend about 20 minutes a day on email, and 0 minutes if I’m lucky.
Shawn Collins: No way to really calculate it – I check email every waking hour and constantly clear it out as much as I can.
Yaro Stark: I review my email and respond to really urgent things for about an hour a day, then every two weeks or so I’ll do a proper batch process and clear the inbox entirely.
Jonathan Volk: 2-3 hours per day. I spend the most amount of time on email in the morning and then leave outlook open during the entire work day. I get a lot of proposals, joint venture requests, and questions from people who have subscribed to my affiliate marketing guide and I like to try to at least reply to everyone.
Dan Schawbel: 2 hours
Chris Garrett: I am trying to kick the habit, but at worst I could be checking email all day and right into the night. Not healthy!
Collis Ta’eed: I spend the majority of my time with email open, though sometimes I’m doing the task that the email is about (like filling in this interview!) So I would say about 5 hours a day.
Trent Hamm: 1 to 2 hours per day.
6. When you are not working, what are you doing?
Darren Rowse: Sleeping, being a dad, reading novels, playing with my cameras, watching sport (either going live to the football or TV).
Rand Fishkin: I like cooking, having friends over for dinner, traveling (www.everywhereist.com) and sight-seeing and meeting other entrepreneurs and search folks around the world 🙂 .
Aaron Wall: I like hanging out with my wonderful wife and our shih tzu. And video games are fun, as is reading books.
Neil Patel: I am having fun with friends when I am not working.
Chris Pearson: Over the last few years, I’ve established a pattern of learning and exploring new things when I’m not working. These range from cycling to reading books about neuroscience and economics. That is, when I’m not playing Modern Warfare 2 or Rock Band on my XBOX 360 🙂 .
Shawn Collins: Hanging out with my family and friends, exercising, going to baseball games.
Yaro Stark: I like sport – like tennis and skating. I also socialize and eat out with friends a lot. We head to the beach sometimes, see movies, travel locally around Australia, attend events in my industry, the usual.
Jonathan Volk: I enjoying hanging out with friends, playing wii or PS3 with my wife (She is awesome at modern warfare 2 haha), going to church, drumming, and finally flying my RC airplanes and helicopters.
Dan Schawbel: Going out and enjoying the nightlife here in Boston, MA.
Chris Garrett: Like many bloggers I read a *lot*, and there are a few TV programs I really enjoy, but really when I am not working it’s all family time. We like to eat out, go shopping, take the dog on long walks, and take snaps with my camera (we live quite near Sherwood Forest of Robin Hood fame, which is one of our favorite walks).
Collis Ta’eed: It’s embarrassing to say, but I’m usually thinking about work 🙂 Although I do really love movies as well as I can switch off when I’m watching a good movie. My current favorite is the movie “Kick-Ass” which really lived up to its name!
Trent Hamm: Mostly spending time with my family – a wife, a four year old son, a two year old daughter, and a newborn son.
Browse all articles on the Strategy category
98 Responses to “Interview: 12 Top Online Entrepreneurs Share How Hard They Work”
Interesting interviews Daniel. I was thinking that after a few years of doing this for a living the long hours would die down for me and my wife, but it seems like I might be mistaken.
Just to spread some hope to your readers I do have a friend who makes over 50,000/month online and he’s working less than 40/hrs a week (usually between 20-30) and he takes long vacations in the summer.
Are these guys burning the midnight candle or what…..lord almighty.
But hey, no pain, no gain.
Wow, talk about working for yourself but in the end, business is about handling it. You have to put in the hours eventually. This guys are truly inspirational. Great list.
thanks so much!
Fantastic post – It’s great to see the variation in approach each person takes.
Looking forward to the “12 Top Online Female Entrepreneurs” interview.
Working on it 🙂 .
- Daniel Scocco
I really enjoyed this post. I’ll take even less notice of the “get rich quick” merchants as a result. I ran a successful offline business for 30 years before moving it online last year.
Your informative post is most reassuring.
This really gives me a concrete idea of how hard work pays off big time. It’s good because from this information, we can create our own pattern and form our own blueprint for success.
so it’s not different from any other work!
and income in this case is a function of time spent on blogging…
*good luck for these wonderful guys
It is a lot different in my opinion. These guys own their websites/companies/projects, so putting all those hours in doesn’t feel like a burden. At least that is how I see it.
- Daniel Scocco
I’d question what most of these guys consider “work.”
110 hours per week? Please. That’s what you get for asking a guy who’s all about “branding.” What a load.
This is awesome! Thanks for sharing it with us.
It’s amazing that they put in 6-7 days a week. I know most internet marketers don’t put that much. It goes to show you that either we need to step up our game or for some of you already stepped up your game.
Chat with you later…
All of these guys not only show that it take hard work…they show that it takes honesty and doing what works.
Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire
Well it’s nice to see that the guys that made have really earned it. When the fake gurus of the internet are selling their books where you can make money blogging by only working 5 minutes a week, they will really need to read this post.
If these guys are working 7 days a week, then the rest of us need to step it up as well. I know that I work at least 5, but now I plan on using my weekends a little more productively as well.
The Underdog Millionaire
I agree – a great post, but not particularly diverse. Here are some more great female entrepreneurs to add to your list:
I am not sure how many of them would answer to my email, but I’ll try.
I was thinking similarly. This blog post, while totally awesome, was also a big-ol’ sausage-fest. (Horrible joke, I know.)
- Daniel Scocco
This is a very inspirational and useful post, not only for bloggers but for anyone willing to make a living on Internet. New bloggers, often think that success in online business comes over night and they do not make effort to improve their work and create a systemic work schedule.
This post is great source of inspiration to bloggers and internet professionals already working hard to make a quality business.
Dev | Technshare
Awesome Post man. You have done great job.
These all are great bloggers.
Really blogging takes so much hard work and patience….!!
“Everyday is vacation when youâ€™re doing what you loveâ€ Grreat. 😉
Really enjoyed that post. I’m at about 20 hours per week right now. Looks like I have to find a way to step it up, which means working a little on weekends, if I want to hit my goals.
A really nice post to think about your own time management.
And as an IT-consultant myself I also agree with Yaro’s working hours statement.
This is a really fabulous post, but I’m a little miffed that there aren’t any women on this list! Are the top 12 online entrepreneurs really only men? I find that a little hard to believe…
wow marian, great minds think alike, i just posted the same comment at 11:27am. It is waiting moderation atm. Cheers 🙂
I am sure there are some successful woman out there, but none of them came to my head when writing this post. Feel free to suggest some.
Wow. Okay: Naomi Dunford, Marie Forleo, Laura Roeder, Penelope Trunk…
Daniel, I’m on your radar–you already have my guest post ready to submit here on Daily Blog Tips.
Yeah you could have been included. It didn’t come to my mind when I was sending out the questions though. Sorry about that.
- Marian Schembari
Ditto to Marian and Lisa. Great post – enjoyed seeing a bit behind the scenes. But really? Are women online entrepreneurs that invisible? …Danielle Laporte, Kendall Summerhawk, Suzanne Falter-Barnes….
I love this article. Totally make me feel like I am not completely insane! Interesting that there are no females in the mix 😉
I love this post Daniel! It’s inspiring to read just how much hard work all of these bloggers put in. I am curious though, why didn’t you answer these same questions Daniel? You are also successful and I think many of us are curious to see how you would answer these same questions. Please fill us in.
Great idea for this post…it can teach a lot of us, that aren’t putting in nearly as much time, what we could be doing better. 🙂
I felt like I would be a mismatch with this heavy weights 🙂 .
But next week I’ll answer these same questions personally.
Good to hear. Look forward to reading it!
- David Walker
- Daniel Scocco
Oh, Daniel I’ve missed your interview. You should have to show a comparison of your with them. BTW it’s not a problem, I will interview you. 🙂
My Opinion is to get your success we need work hard to get the success especially for beginner like me. I need work harder then all of them.
Btw, what is your answer is I ask you the same question? I really want to know and may be your other readers too.
Thanks Daniel to create this article.
Currently I am working around 60 hours per week, but I am trying to push that to 70-80.
- Daniel Scocco
I appreciated Yaro’s honest response about how many hours he *really* works in a week. If you’re consistently spending 110 hours a week “working”, I think it’s time to read a quality time management book.
That said, there’s no substitute for hard work.
Great interview with an impressive cast. Probably not hard to explain why they’re successful. Hard work isn’t a guarantee of success, but you can safely say that without the effort, you won’t get much traction.
It is quite interesting how almost everyone works 7 days a week and pretty much similar hours. They have a lot in common. Even the hours they spend checking mail is similar except for a few. They all work 7 days a week, 60-80 hours a week and spend around 2 hours checking mail.
And one of the best responses in this interview is Dan Schawbel’s:
“Everyday is vacation when youâ€™re doing what you love”
It is so true.
Great work Daniel, in putting together all the information.
Great post! It’s so refreshing to see people who will admit how hard they work. I am so OVER all these internet marketers who make it sound like you just have to push a button and you’ll be an overnight internet millionaire. I spend half my time with new clients lowering their expectations. Wait til they find out there’s no Santa Claus.
Yasagun K. Michi
They seem dedicate their life to make something different and valuable. What they do, not wholly people could follow it. Meaningful post. Thanks for sharing Daniel… 🙂
This is interesting to say the least. I wonder if any of these people consider that chance plays a part, albeit small, and they are fortunate to have “the right stuff” to be successful?
Andrew Carnegie once said (paraphrasing) Some men work and work and can’t make a dime while others have a knack for making money.
Chance always play a role. But that is something you can’t control. That is why successful people work hard, cause that is something they do can control.
- Daniel Scocco
Allen – Personal Brander
Hello Daniel, you made a wonderful post with all these great online personalities! Its inspiring! Every question has its own significance and best related to their work life! This is specially useful to those who might feel that they are alone on this world who are hard working 😉 And of course it also works as an alarm to every online competitor as the established are doing out of the expectations!
Its really inspiring..
One more question..
How many hours you have already worked on it(approx..)??
Worked on this interview? I would guess 2 hours combining everything (emailing, getting answers, formatting the post, etc).
Pankaj – BloggersDesire
Wow this is what we say Killer Post and why you are also successful as others. You should have shared your thought also here for these questions.
Nate @ Practical Manliness
I agree with Pankaj; I would like to get your answers to these questions!
I’ll say that 2 hours produced a great information which is, for me, worth than a week on my blog. I love this one! Interviews are really a great attraction and when it comes to 12 professional at one spot!
you have misinterpreted my question. It was “How many hours these blogger put in blogging till now since starting?” So we can know how long they worked to achieve such a great position in blogging.
I am waiting for an answer.
- Pankaj – BloggersDesire
- Daniel Scocco
John Paul Aguiar
This is awesome man.. good to see why these people are all successful.
Maybe now newbie bloggers will realize blogging takes hard work and on some cases hard work every day.
Comments are closed.