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It’s a Trap! A Surprising Path to Stop Trading Time for Money

Do you want to stop trading time for money?

Yep—you, and everybody else.

Thanks to the Tim Ferrisses of the world, “not trading time for money” has become the rallying cry of people who are stuck in a job that they don’t like and want to create the freedom to quit and do something different.

They say it with pride, confident that they are making the smart, strategic choice that their corporate colleagues don’t have the guts or foresight to make.

But they go about it all wrong. Most of them never see a dime, and years after they’ve started their quest for freedom, they’re still trapped in their corporate cage.

Here’s what they’re doing wrong, and what you can do differently.

What Does It Mean to “Stop Trading Time For Money”?

trading time for money trap

Let’s start by getting on the same page about what we’re really talking about.

I mean, “stop trading time for money” is an inspiring goal, but it’s kind of like “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” in that it isn’t actually possible (try to visualize the bootstrap thing and you’ll see what I mean).

Everybody trades time for money.

Even the guys who gross over $30,000/month from information product sales, affiliate commissions, and iPhone apps.

They spent time building their sites, promoting the affiliate products, and creating the apps. The difference is that those guys make a lot more money!

Each hour of work they do ends up translating to a big amount of money which means that they can afford to work on projects that are more lucrative in the longer term, hire the resources they need to make it a success, and have enough free time left over to live it up with their friends and family (which is really the point of it all).

So when people talk about not getting stuck in the trading-time-for-money trap, what they really want is to adjust the relationship between time and money: how much time for how much money.

How to Make More Money in Less Time

Let’s face it, the hourly rate of most corporate employees is pretty low. The easy trick for calculating your hourly rate, by the way, is to take your annual salary, divide it in half, and take off three zeros (this assumes a 40-hour work week).

For example:

  • $30K/year = $15/hour
  • $50K/year = $25/hour
  • $80K/year = $40/hour
  • $120K/year = $60/hour

Compare that with the effective hourly rate of the entrepreneurial projects that people aspire to when they think of not trading time for money:

  • An affiliate niche site that you spend 10 hours researching, 30 hours setting up and another 30 hours promoting (link-building, etc.), which then earns you $300/month for 2 years. Effective hourly rate is $102.86/hour.
  • An information product that you spend 800 hours building (the content, the technology infrastructure, etc.—and don’t kid yourself, that’s not a lowball estimate; the Firepole Marketing training program took us over 2,500 hours to create!), and then launch 4 times over 2 years, making $7,000, $20,000, $40,000 and $80,000 (you make more with each launch as your list and audience grow, and factor out your costs). Effective hourly rate is $183.75/hour.
  • Found a startup that you put $150,000 of your own money into, work on full time (60 hours/week, 6 days/week, with no vacations) for 3 years, and then sell your stake in for $11,000,000. Effective hourly rate is $1,159.19/hour.
  • Deliver a keynote presentation at a major conference, billing $20,000 for a 90-minute talk (less travel costs and speaker bureau fees). Effective hourly rate is $8,665.62/hour.

My point here is not to say that the numbers I’ve listed as the effective hourly rates above are always right (they will change depending on the assumptions like how much you charge, how long it takes to set things up, etc.), but rather to show that they’re all significantly higher than even a six-figure corporate salary. Which is why they’re all so attractive.

So… why isn’t everybody doing those things? Why does anybody work a corporate job when they could be making many times that as a consultant, affiliate marketer, internet entrepreneur, or keynote speaker?

The Interval Trade-Off: Work Now for Money Later

The reason why most people are working corporate jobs rather than doing any of these super-lucrative activities is that they have bills to pay today, and a job is the only thing that will make them money today:

  • The affiliate site won’t make you a dime until it has been researched, setup, built, and promoted. Time to start seeing the money is 80 hours, and time to see all the money is two years later.
  • The information product won’t make you any money until you build it and sell it. Time to start seeing the money is 800 hours, and time to see all the money is two years later.
  • The start-up will make you rich when (and if) somebody buys it, but in the meantime you’ll be living on peanut butter and jam. Time to start seeing the money is 9,360 hours and three years.
  • The keynote presentation may seem like fast and easy money, but before you will be invited to deliver that sort of presentation, you’ll have to spend a decade working hard to become the next Tony Robbins or Jim Collins. Time to start seeing the money is more hours than I can count, and at least ten years.

So what can we do? Are we just trapped in a cycle of the rich getting richer and the rest of us staying stuck where we are?

I don’t think so, but the answer isn’t to try to stop trading time for money—instead, I think people should try to start trading time for more money!

Start by Trading Time for MORE Money

In other words, instead of going after a route that takes hundreds of hours before you see any meaningful results, try a path that—while it definitely involves trading time for money—allows you to make money a lot sooner. For example:

  • Consulting work, in which you bill $150/hour, but need to spend at least one hour generating business for every hour that you bill. Effective hourly rate is $100/hour.
  • Group coaching services; each group has five members that pay you $400/month in exchange for four hour-long phone calls/month, plus an hour/month each of email support. Effective hourly rate is $222.22/hour.

The beauty of these options is that the effective hourly rates are a lot higher than a corporate job, but you can still be up and running pretty quickly.

If you spend a couple of hours of focused work per day (networking and infrastructure building), for example, you could have consulting clients lined up within a month. Not a lot, but then, it doesn’t have to be a lot; at $100/hour, if you line up just 5 hours/week of consulting work, that can replace half of a $50K/year salary.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Transitioning From a Corporate Job to Higher Income Activities

It takes time to build up to the higher income activities, and unless you’ve got a giant nest egg set aside, you can’t just quit your job, which means you don’t have all that much time. That’s why the key to transitioning from a corporate job to higher income activities is that it has to be done gradually.

Here’s what a timeline might look like for a guy who is making $50K/year, and wants to transition out of his corporate job to a more “not trading time for money” lifestyle:

  1. Day job working 40 hours/week, making $50K/year (which equates to $25/hour).
  2. Start a consulting practice and grow it to the point of having 5 hours of work/week, billing at $100/hour.
  3. Reduce your day job to part-time (the 5 hours/week of consulting replace the rest of the salary), and invest more time in building the consulting practice.
  4. Grow a consulting practice to the point of having 10 hours of work/week and billing $100/hour (this fully replaces your day job income).
  5. Quit your day job. Now you have the same income as before, but you’re working a lot less.
  6. Use the time that you’ve freed up to set up a group coaching practice, so you can invest even less time and  still make the same amount of money.
  7. Using all of the time that you’ve freed up, you can build a real business selling information products or services. You could even do that startup or lay the groundwork for the keynote speaking career.

Most people try to jump straight from step 1 to step 7, but that’s very hard because step 7 takes a lot of work. And if you’re still stuck in step 1, you don’t have time to do it all.

Over to you – do you aspire to stop trading time for money? What avenues have you tried in order to achieve that goal?

About Danny Iny

Danny Iny (@DannyIny) is the CEO and founder of Mirasee, host of the Business Reimagined podcast, and best-selling author of multiple books including Engagement from Scratch!, The Audience Revolution, and Teach and Grow Rich.


  1. Leanne Regalla ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This is pretty close to the model I followed. It makes a lot of sense and is totally doable – if you choose a niche where coaching and consulting work. Some niches are better than others for that.

  2. Such a great piece of advice, and I wish that I’d had this article with me around two years ago when I first started dreaming of transitioning into the freedom of life that freelancing and consulting allows!

    I really like your effective hourly rate application, that’s a great way to look at things. Thanks heaps, Danny!

  3. Terence says:

    There is so much clarity about the time – money trap in this article. Wish it had been written 3 years earlier, when I was minus a 9 to 5 and needing to create an income stream. I’m still without income from trying to be a freelancer, and essentially remain in student mode. I had no clue about the application of the hourly rate logic. So, yes, with what I now understand, I need to get back to a salaried job and spend time working along to replace that income.

    Thanks Danny, you’re the best Mate!

  4. Debby says:

    This is a thoughtful article and I enjoyed the depth at which the subject was written. Making the transition can be hard because we generally don’t have a complete plan and that leaves us feeling vulnerable.

  5. Philip says:

    This is a very resourceful and thorough piece. It will help many people. I can relate to the impatience that makes one want to jump from holding a job to building a business.

    I love the way you pack so much value into a single post. You can write a whole book and out of this, create a program or even build an “empire” helping people to transit from point 1 to point 7. I’m not going to read this just once, I’m making it reference material. Thank you very much.

    PS: Like Nikki and Pat have pointed out, the book is not downloading. Trust you’ll look into it.

  6. Jennifer Wenzel says:

    The timeline for the guy who is making $50K/year and wants to transition out of his corporate job to a more “not trading time for money” lifestyle is precisely my situation right now! I’m enrolled in the Audience Business Masterclass right now. Are there any plans to create a Mirasee program that more directly or quickly addresses steps 1 through 7 than the ABM program (which I love, by the way, but is a longer-term way to build an audience)? Thanks! 🙂

  7. Tim says:

    You’re spot on about jumping from step 1 to step 7.

    I’ve definitely tried doing that before by jumping straight into freelancing…then I realized I had a lot more to learn.

    Corporate workers looking to break out have this mentality of getting out as quickly as possible and consequently skipping everything in between.

    For me, it boils down to…1) sticking to one system (beware shiny new object syndrome…) 2) investing in your own education 3) getting out of student mode and taking action.

  8. Daryl says:

    I love it Danny! There’s no such things as true “passive income” – the question is simply WHEN you put in the effort to make the income – work now and see the money later. The most important part of income is how much time you’re spending and how much income you’re making. for the time spent.

    At the present moment I’m a freelance writer who’s working on launching his own freelance writing business. I’ve written for lots of great publications online (Make a Living Writing, Be a Freelance Blogger, Writers in Charge) and I’m hoping to be featured on Mirasee soon!

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