Get Ahead By Working For Yourself One Hour Each Day

For most people, their career is their most valuable financial asset. But for those willing to make the effort, even a small one, there might be something even more valuable—a side business that could potentially turn into a very large source of income.

My Money Blog raises this issue when he highlights quotes from the latest Warren Buffett book. Specifically, he notes how Charlie Munger, Buffett’s right-hand-man, took an hour each day and worked on side projects. Eventually this time and effort built up until Munger had developed a very profitable business and found himself a rich man. Here’s a quote that summarizes his rationale for taking time for himself:

Charlie, as a very young lawyer, was probably getting $20 an hour. He thought to himself, ‘Who’s my most valuable client?’ And he decided it was himself. So he decided to sell himself an hour each day. He did it early in the morning, working on these construction projects and real estate deals. Everybody should do this, be the client, and then work for other people, too, and sell yourself an hour a day.

Just think what we could all do if we took some time each day and set it aside to write that book, develop our hobby into something profitable, or work on that one idea we’ve had for the past five years. Over a long period of time, the impact to our personal finances could be quite dramatic.

It’s an issue worth considering. What would you do if you took an hour (or maybe even less, as long as it was consistent) and worked on improving your finances? What would the results be five, ten, and twenty years from now?

Buffett on Charlie Munger: Work For Yourself An Hour Each Day [My Money Blog]

(Photo: risastla)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Papercutninja says:

    I’m wondering how my side-project of commenting on Consumerist will pay off.

  2. Unsolicited Advice says:

    This sort of “snowball” approach has its merits. But like many incrementalist strategies, they tend to fall victim to behavioral weaknesses in the way our brains reward us for pleasure and sloth.

  3. Saboth says:

    I’d love to do this, but the key is finding something worth your time that is profitable. My ex gf used to sell things in an antique store that she had fixed up. I think I figured up the hours she put into it, then the profit, and she was making like $5-$6 an hour. Just not worth it.

    • Triterion says:

      @Saboth: Unless she really enjoyed it!

    • nakedscience says:

      @Saboth: $5-$6/hr is not bad if you enjoy it and you have the time…

    • Anonymous says:


      which is why you don’t do jobs that don’t offer some level of automation. you may work the antique game for awhile, but now that you’ve done it for a bit – put out a DVD on how you made X amount of dollars in X amount of time as an antique enthusiast.

      sell the dvd’s for $20 the same place you sell your antiques – once it becomes more popular, sell them online w/ testimonials from existing customers and your past experience in the biz as a credential.

      get a fulfillment company to take over once you scale up, then you’re doing 0 work and making money.

      the problem with most side businesses is that they don’t work for you, you work for them – and they simply don’t scale. make it scalable and make it automatable.

  4. OmniZero says:

    If I spent an hour a day working for myself, I don’t think it’d come to much. Being a master at Bubble Bobble wouldn’t yield too much income :-(

  5. JohnDeere says:

    ive been pondering a ponzi scheme for a while.

  6. Amy Alkon000 says:

    Crime novelist Elmore Leonard (author of Get Shorty and 40-some other books, including the hilarious new one, Road Dogs) used to be in advertising. He made the transition by waking up every day at 5 a.m., writing a page before he put on the coffee, then writing until 8 until he had to leave for his copywriting job at a Detroit ad agency.

    In “The War of Art,” Stephen Pressfield advises people aspiring to do something be an amateur who works like a professional — meaning do the job like you’re getting paid for it. He said it more eloquently, but sorry, I’m in a hurry.

    • edwardso says:

      @Amy Alkon: There’s my problem, I can’t do anything before I put on the coffee

      • HawkWolf says:


        Get a coffee machine that makes coffee on a timer and set it up when you’re doing the dishes after dinner.

        • m4ximusprim3 says:

          @HawkWolf: Or you could spend your hour doing dishes! Think about how good you would be at dishwashing after an hour a day for YEARS!

    • clickertrainer says:

      @Amy Alkon: Dare I ask, when did he shower? And I guess it goes without saying that his wife did the housework. Bummer about Prop 8, now I can’t get a wife.

    • The_Truth says:

      @Amy Alkon: This was exactly what I started almost a year ago. I take an hour out of my day and write a short zombie story (Why zombies? why not!).

      Ive been publishing them to a blog ( with the eventual aim of packaging them up into a book. Whether it makes any money is kind of by and by as im enjoying myself each day I do this.

    • HogwartsAlum says:

      @Amy Alkon:

      Yes, exactly. That’s what writers who still have to work do. That’s what you do every freaking night and on your lunch hour and most of the weekend and when things slow down at work and you have no life! Aaaaa!

      But someday…I will be getting paid for it. I WILL.

  7. Mary Marsala with Fries says:

    Ever since I started getting worried about losing my job (and seeing everyone around me spend months and months job-hunting like hell and getting nowhere), I’ve been putting in at least three hours a day “for myself”. My goal is to get enough extra income coming in to subsidize my unemployment, if I land on it (and if not, well, I’ll have extra money, extra security and be on my way to my dream career as a Professional Eccentric!).

    If there’s anything this economy has taught me, it’s that you *can’t* count on big corporations to “take care of you”, now or ever. Everyone needs to take care of themselves, even if they’re employed at the moment.

    • edwardso says:

      @Mary Marsala with Fries: I need to follow in your path. I have tons of craft supplies that are dying to be made into extra income. I recently made 35 paper flowers for an auction at work and discovered they can be sold for $3 on etsy

  8. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    There are many variables in whether working for yourself is doable. First, does your company allow it? If you’re in a field in which your name is out there and would be associated with things you do, your company may not be so keen on allowing you to get freelance work on the side, since your name will be associated with something they may not like.

    Also, if you take an hour out of your day to do something for yourself, how does that affect the time you could be spending on other things…for instance, if you have kids, taking an hour out of the day gets increasingly difficult since you already share time with kids, who have a very different view of what mom and dad should be doing.

    • theformatter says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: Always with the negative waves….

      If you keep looking for reasons not to do it, you’ll never discover the ways to make it happen!


      • nakedscience says:

        @theformatter: Er, she’s looking at things realistically, which you have to do if you have any desire to succeed in anything–including your personal life.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        @theformatter: If you get laid off due to activities you undertake in your personal time that are in conflict with your company, you’ll have plenty of time to work for yourself! There are now 8 more additional hours for you to spend working for yourself!

        My point is not to discourage anyone from doing what they would like, but to encourage people to not jump on the bandwagon until they are sure that there is no conflict. For instance, if I want to spend my free time volunteering with an animal rights group, that may conflict with my working for a research laboratory, even if I’m not a scientist and they’re not doing any harmful animal research (in their opinion). In the eyes of the company, I am potentially taking a public stance on something and would be representing the company by having my name or face associated with the animal rights group.

        It’s important for anyone to understand the realistic implications of certain things. We’re not talking about setting up an Etsy shop, we’re talking about more complicated things such as volunteering for certain organizations and participating in certain clubs (the NRA for example).

      • mzs says:

        @theformatter: Not negative at all, I in particular simply cannot make a cent on the side related to what I do here at work. It is a requirement of the contract I signed and sign-off on every year. It is part of a preventing bribes and graft sort of thing. Also union employees often have requirements like that.

        Personally I do some OSS stuff on the side gratis at all times just because I like to. As a side benefit it keeps me from becoming a fossil. But I am not allowed to use work resources for that in particular.

    • anonairman says:

      @pecan 3.14159265:
      You know… that makes me want to fulfill my dream of being a recognized star of the adult films industry… I’m not so sure the Air Force will be too happy with that idea though.

      Guess I’ll have to ask the “Chain.”

    • Megalomania says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: I do web development work (and code monkeying in general) and it would be reason enough for my company to fire me if I was making money doing the same sort of things they pay me for.

    • timetochange says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: OK, maybe this won’t work for you. But please don’t put negative comments out there that will discourage others from trying. Will one hour a day REALLY damage your children so much, especially if you do the work or research when they are asleep? And wouldn’t it be better for the children to see a parent trying to better him/herself? Because living your life ENTIRELY for your children is what got us this entitlement-minded society where kids can’t think or act for themselves because they think everything should be handed to them (“because that’s what mom & dad do!!”)

    • timetochange says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: And as for your employer — who says you have to do anything related to your day job? It’s much more fulfilling to take on something that’s totally different and let’s you express a side of yourself that you can’t express in your day job (creativity, design skills, human relations skills, etc.).

      • dragonfire81 says:

        @timetochange: Bingo. If you do web developing for a day job, you could certainly do something completely different, like painting, as a side endeavor.

  9. DrGirlfriend says:

    I have had this on my mind for a while for myself, because I have neglected my writing, but it just occured to me that this would be great for my husband as well. He has had a business idea for a while now, and giving himself an hour a day to research what it will take to get it up and running is a good start to eventually making it happen.

  10. Margaret Powell says:

    This is actually a really good tip. I have an etsy shop, and put a few hours into it during the workweek, and maybe 8 hours into it over the weekend— and if you are enjoying it, it doesn’t really feel like work.

    • edwardso says:

      @Margaret Powell: what’s your shop? You may have found some new customers…

    • kateblack says:

      @Margaret Powell: Do you make more than you spend on it?

      I’ve been on Etsy from its beginning (and co-edited an unofficial news site), and most sellers are losing money on it. It takes a lot of creativity, hard work and skill to do anything more than break even.

      • Margaret Powell says:

        @kateblack: Hey, Kate! I’m pearlbythesea over at Etsy, so I think our paths have crossed on the forum. I sell on etsy, and hyenacart and in a couple of brick and mortar gift shop kind of places, and I do make more than I spend. It definitely does take lots of work, but its a side thing for me, and I’m happy to pay a few bills with my earnings in a month and have a bit of spending money.

        I have seen some sort of delusional people over there who have had 10 sales and want to quit their job and “try etsy full time” and nope, that’s never a goal for me.

        • kateblack says:

          @Margaret Powell: Yep, I know you! Hi.

          I make more than I spend on Etsy too, but I also understand that we’re in the minority. I don’t know ANY successful seller who invests as little as an hour a day. Etsy’s been pretty disingenuous about their “Quit Your Day Job” series, and bragging over certain sellers’ income levels — publicizing certain sellers’ gross, not net, earnings. (And without those sellers’ permission, at that!)

          Everyone I know who makes a living as a creative puts in better than full-time hours.

          • JulesNoctambule says:

            @kateblack: I think ‘disingenuous’ is being generous about that ridiculous ‘Quit Your Day Job’ crap. Etsy is very particular about the type of person they will assist in succeeding, and the way they persist in pretending otherwise is a laugh.

            I am a full-time artist already; I tried listing my work on Etsy but local sales keep me plenty busy as it is. Spending the extra time aiming for the perfect Etsy-style photo and creating the listing just wasn’t worth it, plus I had to make more time to create extra pieces in addition to the ones supplied to the places I sell locally. Listing my vintage patterns on Etsy, on the other hand, has been well worth the time and effort, plus now I have more room for new supplies!

          • Rectilinear Propagation says:

            @kateblack: When you say ‘spend on Etsy’ do you mean just the cost of having an Etsy store or all the costs associated with selling?

  11. nakedscience says:

    I volunteer for a local non-profit organization. I’m not necessarily working for myself, but I am meeting important contacts (I’d like to work in non-profit for real, and preferably in the same area), and building my resume (I’m doing something completely different (yet somewhat related) from my real job; it can only help me in the future).

    Volunteering is great because you do good for others, AND yourself.

    • barb95 says:

      @nakedscience: I have been thinking about this for a while. The summer seems like a perfect time to do so.

    • Julia789 says:

      @nakedscience: Volunteering “pays for itself” dozens of times over. I never knew that when I started, I just wanted to help dogs. I have volunteered at the local animal shelter for several years now. It has nothing to do with my job but amazingly it’s helped me in my career connections.

      I have made the most amazing friends at the animal shelter, who have in turn helped me in all areas of life. The karma is awesome. Three of the ladies volunteering at the animal shelter have lost their jobs recently due to the economy. All the other volunteers banded together and networked and got them interviews at companies where they worked. Two out of three have a job now. All the volunteers look out for each other and help each other.

      Volunteering also gives you great references and looks great on a resume. For those right out of college who have no experience, volunteering is a great way to gain experience when no one will give you a chance. For example, someone who went to school for IT might volunteer to help a non-profit with their computers or networks. They will be thrilled and give wonderful references.

  12. nakedscience says:

    Also, volunteering works for those of us who aren’t creative and suck at selling.

  13. MaytagRepairman says:

    This is a tough one to see how it would apply to my life. I work as a software developer in test. About the only thing I could do an hour a day is to study some hot topic that will allow me to get a job making more money. This is feasible but I’m still working a corporation job.

    I think I would have to study something outside of my career that I would enjoy more or simply work on my personal life to make money by spending less money.

  14. Onion_Volcano says:

    you could sell photos of you doing a gangster lean in a snuggie.

  15. kateblack says:

    Not to be a party pooper, but most of the authors I know make less than minimum wage for their writing/royalties when it breaks down.

    It’s a rare and fortunate author who gets the popularity, longevity, good promotion and honest publisher that it takes to achieve financial stability through book royalties.

    • snowburnt says:

      @kateblack: that’s why you do it in your spare time. It might eventually pay off, but if not you’ve lost nothing, you feel better about your self and you have a release

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @kateblack: There’s an article today in The Express (D.C. paper) with Chuck Palahniuk, who wrote (among other things) Fight Club. He was asked whether he ever gets tired of people only rexognizing him for writing Fight Club, and he said that before Fight Club, he was working for a truck manufacturing plant, and then he was writing manuals, and Fight Club allowed him to leave that job. He says he’ll always be grateful for his big break.

      You never know when it might come.

      • kateblack says:

        @pecan 3.14159265: That’s the same logic that inspires compulsive gambling. With about the same success rate!

        I mean, just $1 a game. You never know when you might strike it rich.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          @kateblack: It’s not the same. $1 for the lottery or for slots costs you. Writing as a hobby and pursuing it on the side as a passion with the hope of getting published is not a hobby, it’s a realistic goal with personal gratification.

          • kateblack says:

            @pecan 3.14159265: Not necessarily.

            On my 18th birthday, someone gave me a lotto ticket. I won a couple of bucks. I pocketed half, spent the other half on more lotto tickets. Made some small wins, won free tickets which garnered other wins, etc. Then quit.

            I’m not trying to discourage others from writing. On the contrary — many of my friends are wonderful writers, whose work I love to read. But I think it’s silly to mislead people that there’s big money in writing. Most writers will never get as far ahead as the latest flock on the best seller list. SOMEONE will. Just like SOMEONE hit a trifecta almost once a week when I worked at a horse track. And everyone looks to that someone and thinks, “I can do that!”

            (p.s. Getting published is easy! Getting paid for it, less so.)

        • nakedscience says:

          @kateblack: Writing in your spare time is NOT the same as gambling. Why do people always compare unrelated things? Gambling means actually spending money to MAYBE win something. Writing in your personal time is something most writers enjoy, anyway, and could be fruitful in the future. Not the same thing.

    • Papercutninja says:

      @kateblack: My friend’s mom writes romance novels. As far as i can tell, she does it as a hobby.

      • kateblack says:

        @Papercutninja: I wish that I had the stomach for that. If I could get a schlocky ren-faire hussy themed wordcount the same as my internet posting wordcount, I could probably pay off my bills & buy a house.

    • picardia says:

      @kateblack: Glad I didn’t listen to you a few years ago; I wouldn’t have sold eight novels by now, and I wouldn’t be outearning my day job in my spare time. (Though I think next year it is becoming my day job, at least for a few years.)

      If you enjoy something, and you’re good at it, and you think you might be able to make money for it, you owe it to yourself to try. Even if you fail, you’ll never ask yourself what-if. And you might not fail.

    • HogwartsAlum says:


      I don’t care. I have to try.

      That’s awesome. And true. If I don’t try, I’ll hate myself for never doing so. My life is already half-over; I don’t have time for talking myself out of it, or for people who might try to talk me out of it.

  16. RStui says:

    I already do this!! Except I usually end up on Facebook talking to my mom…

    But that’s rewarding in itself, so I’m good with that.

  17. richcreamerybutter says:

    I actually have a pretty valuable (though labor intensive) skill that I perform from time to time (get your brain out of the gutter!). Unfortunately, certain laws make it impossible to do legally unless you obtain numerous permits and “appropriate” spaces. It’s a nice side business if you can skirt the rules.

  18. kevjohn says:

    An hour?? Maybe that’s what my problem has been. I’ve been putting 4-7 hours a day into my photography, with only moderate results. I’ve been working too hard!!

    • nakedscience says:

      @kevjohn: Maybe photography isn’t for you?

      • Skeetz says:

        @nakedscience: That’s harsh. I would sooner guess that since everyone is a photographer these days it’s becoming a harder field to enter. Maybe the answer lies in the subject. Find something that no one else is taking pictures of… like the emptiness of wallets during this recession. Yeah! Call it and just have random peoples wallets contents in the pic.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          @Skeetz: I don’t think it’s overly harsh. It really depends on what kevjohn is doing with his/her photography skills. If someone is spending 4-7 hours taking photos, only to find minimal to mediocre results, either the problem is in the method or the marketing. Maybe kevjohn just needs an audience, and maybe there isn’t much of one, hence the moderate results. Perhaps kevjohn really knows his skills, and knows how to get a good shot, but just isn’t finding people to look at them.

          Or maybe it’s really not meant to be. I enjoy painting, but I know I’m no Renoir and I can’t bear to paint a few stripes on a canvas and call it modern art, even if it did sell. The reason why I’ve never tried to sell my work is simply because I know my own limitations, and I know that I’m no real painter.

  19. wheresmymind says:

    I brew beer/make wine as a hobby. With a little effort I might be able to turn that into a business… or at least become a raging alcoholic…

    • nakedscience says:

      @wheresmymind: I’m fairly certain it is illegal in the US to sell homemade booze.

    • Skeetz says:

      @wheresmymind: If you feel like your wine/beer is awesome sauce and your friends/familly agree there are probably home brew comps you could enter and maybe have your stuff sponsored by a company or something.. or you could take the plunge and start a microbrewery.

      • wheresmymind says:

        @Skeetz: Yeah, my buddies and I have been looking for some competitions to enter, it’s a great way to get some serious constructive criticism too, regardless of how serious you are about it. As for now I think we’re happy keeping our friends/relatives supplied.

  20. HIV 2 Elway says:

    I made a few hundred bucks a few months ago rehabing and reselling pianos, had a blast doing it. Downside is there are only so many beat up Rhodes in my city to buy and fix up.

  21. Skeetz says:

    Often times I spend an hour a day doing photoshop for myself and for friends.. I guess I should start charging.. but damn I had this plan when i was trying to learn the guitar years ago.. half hour a day i’d tell myself.. here i am not a rock star and all i can play are power chords of old Green Day songs.. Maybe they were right when they recommended ritalin.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @Skeetz: Anyone with decent photoshop or indesign skills could always try to build a side business designing things for other people.

      I’m about to do this myself, as soon as I get a computer that will handle the software.

      • Skeetz says:

        @pecan 3.14159265: I don’t know what your skill level in pshop is so don’t take this as an insult, but there’s a great webseries you should watch if you haven’t. It’s called “you suck at photoshop”. Google it and enjoy! It actually helped me with some of the tougher stuff.. well those vids and []

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          @Skeetz: My photoshop skills are so so…in my previous line of work I used indesign every day for the entire day, so that’s my area of expertise. Mr. Pi is a photoshop whiz though. As soon as we get that new iMac….whoo boy, we’ll spend hours sitting in front of the computer designing things together.

          And they say true love can’t come from a computer. :-P

  22. misslisa says:

    Another way to gain extra time to work for yourself is to use your vacation/personal days from your real job to work on side projects. I do this at least a few days per year. I’m not much of a traveler, so why not use the time to make money?

  23. RandomHookup says:

    I feel much better about my small-time bootlegging operation. It’s really just building up skills for my next career. And the still is a tax write-off!

  24. intellivised says:

    I’m counting my band as this. We’re running in the black (for right now) and branching into bigger venues. I spend about 2 hours a day on i, I think – between practices, self practice, MySpace, flier design… The time adds up. I’m very DIY so I’ve learned a lot and my guitar skills are getting sharp. My friends original band went out of fashion, but they turned around and started a nostalgia band (all 80’s songs with a girl and guy singer so they can do everything) and can clear $2000 a weekend/evening for a corporate or big bar gig. I think once my band eventually breaks up, I think I might go this route.

    • HogwartsAlum says:


      A coworker does this too. He just released his CD and I bought a copy. It’s actually pretty good and I feel virtuous that I’m supporting another struggling artist!

  25. nacoran says:

    Ironically, I cut and paste my best ideas with the idea of writing an essay based on them. I’m not sure if it’s going to be a best seller or it will get me locked in the looneybin, but it’s a hobby!

  26. Jesse in Japan says:

    I make a couple hundred dollars a month doing translating, freelance on the internet. Actually, I do that while I’m at my normal job (I know, I know) so maybe that doesn’t count.

  27. geoffhazel says:

    I tried this. I had been renovating houses on the weekends and it took 3 months to 6 months to do each one. When I sold them, I found that the real estate agent was making more money than I did. so I thought I be a part time real estate agent. Just one sale a year would be better than working all those weekend on houses! And in fact I did have some success, listing and buying houses for friends. Then those leads dried up and I had nothing. Now the hard part: getting new clients. And I found I was up against very tough competition: those full time agents had all the background to get leads and deals. I spent a lot of time trying to get leads and clients and finally washed out. It was almost a good idea, but some things really need to be done full time to be successful.

  28. RedwoodFlyer says:

    Hey! I have the perfect way for people to do this…just a little bit of your time is required, and you can make thousands in residual income by working from home. If you want more details, shoot me a message at