Are You Guilty of Fake Work?

Approximately 2.4 seconds. That’s how long it took me to realize I’d made this mistake. And I was still paying for it three hours later…

To understand this story, you need to know I spent the majority of my undergraduate years attending Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

The drive from my home in New York to my apartment at school was 480 miles on the dot. A straight shot through New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio on the 80 West.

One foggy night when heading back to school – I pulled over after 180 miles to grab a bite to eat at a truck stop. The food was so good, cheap and quick that I was soon back on the Interstate.

Are You Guilty90 minutes later I realized I’d made a mistake. It was so foggy that I didn’t notice I got on the 80 East after leaving the truck stop and went a 100 miles in the wrong direction.

So, I did what anyone would do. I turned around and circled back. And three hours after leaving the truck stop I was right back where I started. Making all the driving I had just done a waste of time and gas money.

And that, my friend, is a great way to introduce you to the concept of fake work…

The Business Equivalent of Going 200 Miles Out of Your Way

Fake work requires real effort and real resources, just like real work does. But what’s “fake” about it is any progress you believe you’re making.

It’s the kind of work you think will move your business forward and will give you all the money and freedom you desire. But in fact, any effort you spend on this work just takes you further away from the outcome you want.

Now I’m not sure whether this will be news to you – but based on my observations the majority of Internet marketers and online entrepreneurs spend significantly more time on fake work than profitable work. (Or work that actually adds to your bottom line.)

This is the polar opposite of being strategic. Because when you’re strategic you get your business outcomes with the least amount of effort and the smallest use of resources possible.

But strategy is all about getting your outcome in the environment you are operating in. So even if you’re following the ideal strategy today, it’s no guarantee that you always will. Sometime in the future, conditions will change and what was once profitable work could become fake work.

And that’s where your perseverance, commitment and hyper-focus can quickly go from being your best business assets to your biggest obstacles.

What I mean is, if you’re reading this, you’re likely the kind of person who perseveres to get the business knowledge you need.

And if you’re like most entrepreneurs I’ve met, you also have a commendable self-starter personality that keeps you digging for answers to ensure you know all the latest tactics and techniques online.

But I’m telling you right now: That admirable perseverance could be distracting you from what matters most – making money. And it will keep you doing fake work that will never yield the kind of results you want.

Four Tell-Tale Signs You’re Doing Fake Work

Does this apply to where you are right now in business? Only you can answer that. But here are some symptoms to help you self-diagnose.

1: Learning and Not Earning:

Most obviously, learning and studying doesn’t count as real money-generating activities. Yes, it’s important to know your industry, so research is necessary. But if you spend all your time learning, and no time doing, then your entire business is based on fake work that will never pay you any real income.

2 Six Months and No Results on One Specific Outcome:

An easy way to tell if you’re doing fake work is how long you’ve spent on one outcome or goal, without seeing the results you want. That one specific outcome could be a product, launch, book, or any other project. Spending longer than six months on any one of these specific outcomes could be seen as a warning sign that you’re focusing on fake work that won’t give you results.

3: Your To-Do List Is Full of Non-Money Projects:

When you’re working on your own business, your specific task-list has to be full of money-generating actions. You should be able to see how each task on your list will lead to earning income and eventually profits for business. Also, it’s important to know how many steps stand between you and the kind of money you want. So for example, when building your list it’s always better to plan out your business so you make money on step 4 or 5… instead of step 87.

4: Doing the Same Things Wrong Again:

Few business ideas survive their first contact with customers. So if you have been disappointed by your results in the past, have you changed your approach and moved forward with your business? Or have you continually tried to make your first Plan A work? If you have insisted on continually trying your first disappointing approach, then I would classify that as fake work. Instead, it’s better to iterate your way to a better approach in your business.

So I ask again, are you guilty of fake work? And if so, what are you going to do about it to change before the new business year starts in 2013?

A Quick Exercise to Help in Your Thinking…

Here’s how I would get started: Get out a sheet of paper and jot down everything you’re currently doing for your business. Mark each task as either “fake work “or “real work.”

Then go back over your list once again. Look at just the “real work” items. Ask yourself:

How many steps stand between those “real work” items and actually getting the results you want? Is there any way to cut down that number of steps that stand between you and money?

I’ll get into more ways to help you cut down that number of steps in an upcoming post. For now, this exercise can help you move your business forward… simply by cutting out the fake work and focusing the on the real money-generating priorities.

A few questions before I go…

  1. Q: In my experience, the vast majority of entrepreneurs do fake work at one time or another. Why do you think that is?
  2. Q: What questions can I answer in upcoming posts that would help you focus on the right profitable tasks in your own business?

I’d appreciate it if you could answer in the comments. That will help me make my next post even more useful for you.

Then go do this exercise and make this week as profitable as possible.

What’s “Fake Work”
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  • Rich Schefren

    I agree that fear is a big stumbling block. I actually wrote another post about that a while back. You can check it out below when you have time.

    Thanks for the questions. Yes, I’ll be covering those in upcoming blog posts. Stay tuned.

  • Rich Schefren

    Nice insight. Thanks for the comment. :) 

  • Rich Schefren

    Glad to hear you’re back on track. Wishing you the best in 2013 and beyond. :)

  • Rich Schefren

    Sounds like you’re on the right track. I’ll have more thoughts on how to stay focused in upcoming posts. Stay tuned.

  • Rich Schefren

    Thanks for the comment. What you’re describing is what the vast majority of new online entrepreneurs go through. 

    I’ll have more on what to focus on in upcoming posts. But for now, you might listen to podcast I dropped in below. It’s all about embracing the path of uncertainty that comes with being an entrepreneur.  Hope it’s helpful.

  • Rich Schefren

    My pleasure. Thanks for the comment. :)

  • Rich Schefren

    Great insights here. Thanks for the comment. :)

    Also, I like your ratio question. If you don’t mind, I’ll address it in an upcoming post. But for now, if you have more questions about traffic, I would direct you to my traffic and lead gen specialist, Justin Brooke. You can checkout all the cool freebies on his site below.

  • Rich Schefren

    Like the James Bond reference. Thanks for the comments. :)
    Good question. I would agree with you – I consider prospect analysis profitable time well spent. (Your “gut answer” was good too.) :)

    But to clarify another point: I’m not saying “never spend time on learning again.” On the contrary, research and analysis is necessary. 

    What I’m saying is it’s important to classify the work you’re doing so you understand the highest and best uses of your time. This way, you can spend enough time on money-generating tasks and still have time leftover for research and learning. Hope that helps.

  • Orenldavis

    1)  An effort to make it perfect…

  • carlos

    we are blind sometimes

  • Giselleroeder

    I would not call it “Fake Work” but “Detour” or something like that. Fake is more like inviting punishment by Law…

  • Merrill Wetherell

    Yes we are guilty of doing non-productive work, but as commented by Hanie earlier, a lot of this comes from being a newby and falling over ourselves in trying to learn the product, learn the system, trying to develop leads, trying delivery methods and trying to understand whether the knock backs are because we didn’t know the product, didn’t know the system, or our presetntation  wasn’t up to scratch.
    We find your information and blog beneficial and most instructive, and really just need the basic framework to make sure we get the right balance between learning/doing.

  • Merrill Wetherell

     We feel that you are reading our mail!! You have nailed exactly what we think, and have you noticed, that a lot of fthe successful people confirm their successes at conferences and presentations, but give no insight as to how they got there?

  • Katherine Grace Bond

     Thanks for your response! This is very helpful. I know it should be self-evident, but sometimes I need the input of someone outside the situation to be able to see it more clearly.

  • Katherine Grace Bond

     I like this idea of the “bare minimum,” as I often work tasks to death. I’ll look forward to your upcoming thoughts on this. (I also reread my emails after I send them. Embarrassing, but true.)

  • Katherine Grace Bond

     Oh, yes! Rich, I wonder if there is a specific amount of time, or percentage of our time, that should be devoted to learning about how to improve our businesses. Is there a ratio of learning time to earning time that you would recommend as a rule of thumb? Or an amount of time per week for learning–after which we should STOP and APPLY what we’ve learned?

  • Guru

    Dear Rich

    Thanks for a great article. The real trouble, as you pointed out, starts when the fake work is not recognized for what it is and becomes a substitute for profitable work. However, if you begin the fake work with a definite goal, e.g doing your due diligence before entering a field, it then acts as a force multiplier by broadening your knowledge base and enabling you to look at things from a different perspective.

  • Will lane

    I think we all like to think we are making progress because we are busy even if it is not doing what we really need to do. Kind of like self sabotage without really knowing you are doing it.

  • Switchtoecig

     Thank you very much, Rich. For the time being I am with SEO (and not doing bad, considering that I’ve just started). My niche is a bit controversial (not per se but the powers that be made it such to protect their interests), so there are places that are useless for me (google adwords and some article submission sites), except as an inspiration for a part of my conent in which I criticise their attitude. Which will change anyway, because the future is on my side.

  • Doc

    The 4 links are not working.

  • Phil Day

    Q1 They common thought you can never know too much, this is something that at times may lead to more work as some subects in business can be quite vast. Also when getting advice at times you can find your getting lots of advice but not always from people who have done or doing what your trying to do and this can take more time as not all of th advice/information is relevant.
    Q2 Are there any really good sources of information on PR with it use in bussiness terms?

  • EcoSavvyMama

    1) I think it could be a few reasons: avoiding harder work or uncomfortable situations, taught to do the wrong things or don’t know its not helping.

    2) I think helping me sort out my strengths and weaknesses would really help me focus on the right tasks and then help me figure out what to do with anything else that needs to get done.

  • Adrienne

    This was so insightful, making the list was a real eye opener!!

  • Adrienne

    I think the main reason people/entrepreneurs are doing fake work, is because they don’t know which road to take, are avoiding tasks they don’t feel comfortable with, or have not acquired the correct skills.  I know I should call/contact people or do more to get leads, but feel less confident in talking or engaging casually about my business.  I suppose that practice is the only real way, but is there a right way to practice?

  • Rich Schefren
  • Anonymous

    Though I’ve gotten much better about keeping myself from being consumed by “fake work”, I admit that it was a challenge for me in the past. Rich, you write so well and on topics that actually matter – you know how to add value to your readers’ lives… this article is yet another example of this. 

    Creating a business ownership mentality is critical to success – and this article’s topic reigns supreme because without revenue, there really is no business. And if we’re focused on non-money-generating tasks, then revenue will not exist – and neither will the business. Cheers!

  • The Non-diet Weight Loss Maven

     Most ‘fake work’ is seen by them as  working on long-term objectives. After several  years of this, something in me said “‘Enough! I want money NOW.”  I’m now working on getting 5 new clients by end of December–leads, putting out offers on the Internet, connecting w/people who control large centers of my target population.  Thanks, Rich, for reminding me to keep reminding myself every day what’s important that day–numbers of clients added, numbers of dollars added, etc.

  • Kenneth Vogt

    People do fake work because it is either familiar or easy. New things are scary and hard things are, well, hard. We know we will feel guilty if we don’t at least do something, so back to the familiar and easy it is.

  • Rich Schefren

    Glad to hear it. Best of luck in 2013.

  • Budagala Ashok

    its true yar

  • JiF Brodeur

    Hi Rich, it is so easy to get busy, I find that doing my morning ritual help me in keeping focus and thinking about deliverables that move me forward is key in keeping me from doing fake work, but there is so much distractions, e-mail, web, phone, people how can I stay focus even more? What would be your one recommandation for keeping me from wandering?