The desire to work less is not a vice, but a fundamental aspect of emotional intelligence. When combined with commitment, persistence, and common sense, it creates economic efficiency, an essential component of building great wealth.

– From Principles of Wealth, by Mark Ford

The unpaid bills are stacked next to the unwashed dishes. You’ve been short about $1,200 per month since the divorce.

You need something to fill that income gap – some sort of money-making scheme that’s feasible, flexible, and profitable. It can’t be a financial investment because you’ve got no savings. What’s there to do?

Before going to sleep, you check your email. You see an advertisement, but before you delete it, you notice something about extra income. “What the hell?” you ask. You decide to give it a try.

So you join something called the “Extra Income Project.” The author of one of the reports – a braggart, rich entrepreneur named Mark Ford – makes the case that someone like you could start a part-time “service business.”

“Compared to other side businesses, a service business has the lowest barrier of entry,” he writes. “It can be grown with minimal marketing and the simple application of quality work.”

You go into the garage. You already have a good lawn mower and shears, and you like planting flowers and trimming bushes. So you choose to give a landscaping business a try.

Following the report, you spend $23 to print 500 colorful flyers advertising your new business. You alter one of the suggested pitches:

“Landscaping With Love”

“I’ll Make Your Lawn the Best”

“In Your Neighborhood, Guaranteed”

“First Service Only $10!”

The $10 offer is an advertising trick – a “loss leader” to prove what you can do.

It works. You get six responses in the first week and land two gigs. By week four, you have $380 worth of weekly contracts. Because you’re good, you get your work done in seven hours. Your Saturday is now a workday, but you’re making an extra $1,520 per month.

You start getting referrals. If you want, you can make another $1,500 or so working Sundays. That’s money you could use to lease a new car and maybe buy some new clothes. You’d even have some left over for saving.

But do you want to work seven days per week? Hell no. You’re 52, not 22. You want the money, but not the work. So you hatch a plan…

You’re making an extra $1,520 per month running your own part-time landscaping business on Saturdays. You’re tempted to expand it, but you aren’t willing to work seven days a week.

There is one obvious solution to your problem: Hire help.

But is it worth the cost and hassle?

You sit down and make two lists – one marked “plus,” and one marked “minus.”

On the “minus” side, you add things like “the trouble of finding someone,” “managing people,” and “figuring out the right compensation.”

The more you think about it, the longer the “minus” list grows. You can’t think of anything to add to the “plus” list, aside from “do less work” and “maybe make more money.”

You think, “This is exactly why I never wanted to have my own business. It’s just one long list of worries and concerns. Why is that Mark Ford idiot so hot on side businesses?”

For now, you decide against hiring someone else. Instead, you accept a few more jobs to do on Sunday mornings. You’ll make another couple hundred per week and still have Sunday afternoons to rest.

A month later, you realize you didn’t take into account rainy days and the occasional “Can you come back tomorrow?” requests. You’re making more money, but you’re working every sunlit hour of every weekend. It’s wearing you down quickly and affecting your weekday work performance.

You think about the math. Doing everything yourself, you’re making about $50 per hour. You can hire someone to do the grunt work and pay him/her maybe $15 per hour. That difference, $35, would be your company’s gross profit.

There would be some additional costs, you know, like accounting. But on an hourly basis, that couldn’t be more than, say, $5. That leaves you with a gross profit of $30 for each hour’s work.

It’s $20 less than what you’re making now. But overall, you’d be making about $1,800 per month instead of $1,500 – while working the same number of hours. “This doesn’t feel like laziness,” you think. “This feels like common sense. Maybe that Mark Ford guy is right.”

But how do you make this work? And where can you find a good worker?

To be continued tomorrow…


Mark Ford
Co-Founder, Palm Beach Research Group