Back in the day before the Internet fully took root, bootstrappers used the term sweat equity to describe the way that they created value. However, this term has fallen out of vogue for everyone except people who are engaged in flipping houses.

The hard truth is that online services are a lot more like fixer-uppers than they are like museum showpieces. Nobody will care about your new online service until it can deliver a minimum amount of value. That’s not a bad thing if you are truly trying to build something original.

It takes time to find your true fans. It takes time for Google to deliver enough web traffic to validate your content strategy. Also, you can’t afford to wait. You have got to continue to work, continue to deliver new benefits.

In sports, the term sweat equity is applied to the work that you do in the gym during the offseason. It’s the practice you put in day in and day out. It’s thankless. No one is ever going to care unless your willing to do it longer and harder than anyone else. All anyone is ever going to say is that you make it look effortless because that what sweat equity does.

Online services are like sports. You’ve got to develop muscle memory. You’ve got to practice for success. What happens when you get your first one-hundred fans, and that grows to one-thousand and further to ten-thousand. How does that affect your online service? Have you placed breakpoints in strategic locations in anticipation of future growth?

For our discussion, breakpoints are artifacts that are placed in designs to support multiprocessing. New makers have to plan for breakpoints. However, as you practice building new value into your service creating breakpoints in anticipation of growth will become just like muscle memory.

Applying sweat equity to online services means being willing to make cold calls to thought leaders and influencers. It means not reacting when people laugh at the idea that you’ve spent the last six months pouring your heart into. If you apply enough sweat equity, someday those thought leaders will be calling you. 

Sweat Equity for online services means doing competitor research. It means finding keywords that you can dominate rather than basing each new blog post on your current stream of conscious. It means writing to help someone else, your true fans, an emerging fan base. Not simply writing to express yourself.

It’s hard to write a thousand words on a topic you’ve just found doing keyword research. It’s harder still when you acknowledge that it make take months for Google to recognize the value of your work. However, you do it because that’s what makers do.

The good news is that sweat equity eventually pays off. You start to rank for keywords and the trickle of visitors turns into a steady stream. This steady stream may not be enough to meet your monetizations goals. However, will be enough to help you prioritize what you want to do next.

Sweat Equity is what makes you a maker. It’s what separates you from freelancers and the passive income crowd. Sweat Equity is about betting on yourself and celebrating the small triumphs. Sweat Equity is not about ego. You’ve got to be straight with yourself and acknowledge the hard truths.

Zachary Alexander