Interview: 12 Top Online Entrepreneurs Share How Hard They Work

By Daniel Scocco

I strongly believe that behind every successful person there is a huge amount of hard work, and that is why I am always interested in learning how long and how hard other entrepreneurs work (maybe to confirm that I am not the only one crazy out there….).

Thinking about this issue I decided to run a group interview, asking some of the most successful people I know how hard they work. Below you’ll find an introduction with the interviewees, and then straight to the questions.

darren rowse
Darren Rowse: The original Problogger, Darren has created a web publishing empire over the past few years, and has been included in the “Top 25 Web Celebrities” list by Forbes in 2007.


Rand Fishkin: Rand is the CEO and co-founder of SEOMoz, a leader in the field of search engine optimization. In 2009 he was named among the “30 Best Young Tech Entrepreneurs Under 30” by BusinessWeek.


Aaron Wall: One of the most respected SEOs around the world, Aaron is the founder of SEO Book, a leading SEO resource and training program.


Neil Patel: By the age of 21 Neil had already co-founded three Internet companies. He blogs at Quicksprout, where he also offers a course for aspiring web entrepreneurs, called Quicksprout PRO.


Chris Pearson: One of the most talented web designers around, Chris is the creator of the hugely popular Thesis Theme for WordPress, which is used by over 20,000 webmasters.


Shawn Collins: Shawn is an authority inside the affiliate marketing industry, and he is also co-founder of the Affiliate Summit, the most successful affiliate conference around.


Yaro Starak: Yaro is a very successful online entrepreneur from Australia. Combining all his ventures he makes a 7-figure income yearly. You’ll find his blog at Entrepreneurs-Journey.com.


Dan Schawbel: Dan is the leading expert in personal branding around the world. He founded the Personal Branding Blog, and his articles are syndicated by Reuters, Forbes and Fox Business.


Jonathan Volk: A super affiliate who generates millions in sales promoting affiliate offers every year. At JonathanVolk.com you’ll find his tips on affiliate marketing, making money online, advertising and so on.


Chris Garrett: Chris is a successful blogging and Internet marketing consultant. He blogs at Chrisg.com, and he is also the co-author of the Problogger book, an Amazon best-seller.


Collis Ta’eed: Collis is the founder of Envato, one of the largest blog networks on the Internet. Combined his blogs generate over 20 million page views per month.


Trent Hamm: Trent is the owner of The Simple Dollar. With over 80,000 RSS subscribers, the blog is a must read for anyone interested in personal finance.

1. How many days do you work per week week?

Darren Rowse: 7 – but on the weekends its for only an hour or two.

Rand Fishkin: 5 full days plus mornings and nights on the weekend.

Aaron Wall: 6.5 to 7… mostly 7.

Neil Patel: I work 7 days a week.

Chris Pearson: Some weeks every day, and other weeks only a couple of days.

Shawn Collins: 7, but lighter on the weekend.

Yaro Stark: 7 days per week.

Jonathan Volk: 6 days, plus a couple of hours on Sunday.

Dan Schawbel: 7 days per week.

Chris Garrett: 7 days per week.

Collis Ta’eed: 5, but often times I work on weekends as well.

Trent Hamm: I work at least a little every day of the week, so 7.

2. How many hours do you work, in total, every week?

Darren Rowse: From 60 to 65.

Rand Fishkin: Between 65 and 70, but some weeks as low as 55.

Aaron Wall: 90+ hours typically, and often 100.

Neil Patel: I work anywhere from 60 to 80 hours a week.

Chris Pearson: I’ve definitely pulled my share of 80+ hour weeks, but to balance things out, I’ve also pulled my share of 20 hour weeks, too. As an average, I probably work 30—50 hours per week.

Shawn Collins: Around 60 hours per week.

Yaro Stark: In terms of productive output I probably do about 10-20 hours
a week, but there’s plenty more time spent in front of the computer.

Jonathan Volk: Around 60 hours per week.

Dan Schawbel: I work approximately 110 hours per week depending if I’m traveling or not.

Chris Garrett: As many as it takes. So up to 90 hours on some weeks, and only 50 on others.

Collis Ta’eed: 40 to 60 hours usually.

Trent Hamm: 40 to 45 hours.

3. Do you have a fixed work routine? Hoes does it look like?

Darren Rowse: Most mornings I usually spend a couple of hours in a local cafe working. This is often writing time. Mid morning to lunch time usually has more of an admin/networking function. Afternoons are often more about email, commenting in forums, networking. Evenings are about finalizing posts for the next day, writing newsletters etc.

Rand Fishkin: Not at all fixed – very inconsistent based on travel, meetings, phone calls, engagements, etc.

Aaron Wall: Not really…I try to do something until I feel I am getting tired of it or losing efficiency (or am done with it), and then I will either take a break or do another task.

Neil Patel: I don’t have a fix routine. Most of my days are spent meeting with other entrepreneurs and answering emails.

Chris Pearson: Generally speaking, I like to knock out “near zero sum” tasks like email, Twitter DM responses, and accounting first thing in the morning. In theory, this leaves me with the rest of the day to focus my attention on problems that I actually care about.

Shawn Collins: I do on the weekdays – I help get my kids off to school (4 kids in 3 schools) and then get to my desk around 8:30 am. I work through 6:00 pm and then stop to hang out with the family and have dinner. After the kids go to sleep, I work another hour or so – sometimes I work more after my wife goes to sleep.

Yaro Stark: Not fixed no, but loosely made up of some work on the computer when I wake up, usually around 9-10am and I do most of my solid writing at cafes, so about 2-3 hours every second or third day during the afternoons or evenings.

Jonathan Volk: Normally I work on routine stuff in the morning such as responding to emails, updating stats, checking profits, etc. By the time I am done with this, I normally break for lunch. After lunch I begin working on developing new projects and marketing campaigns.

Dan Schawbel: I don’t have a fixed work routine at all. I make a top ten list of things I need to get done each week and then commit to it.

Chris Garrett: No, one of the reasons I went to work for myself was to have freedom. There are things that I do to be productive, and stuff I have to do every day, but I do not have a fixed routine.

Collis Ta’eed: I certainly do, every day I begin by traversing my email in an attempt to keep my inbox down to zero (something I’ve only ever achieved twice!) Then I usually update my to-do list and check my calendar. And then of course it’s “real” work time!

Trent Hamm: On weekdays, I have a fixed routine. I usually block out several
hour-long chunks throughout the day for various tasks, blocking out
all interruptions.

4. How many times per year do you take vacations, and how long are they?

Darren Rowse: We try to do a combination of different types of vacations as a family. We would typically have 3-4 weekends away (often we’d do it over 3-4 days) each year. We usually would also take a week over our summer or autumn and 10-14 days in our Spring. I also tend to travel to the US for conferences twice a year (two weeks) which isn’t a vacation but it’s a break from the normal routine.

Rand Fishkin: When I travel for work to interesting locations, I’ll often spend the weekend or an extra day there with my wife when possible, but I haven’t had a serious, true vacation since my wedding in September 2008.

Aaron Wall: Roughly 0 🙂 . Need to work on that, and we will hire some folks soon to help out on that front.

Neil Patel: I don’t take vacations.

Chris Pearson: I prefer short trips to big vacations. My favorites are 3—4 day jaunts where I can either relax in an epic setting or else conquer something physically–like snowboarding, scuba diving, hiking, or launching myself off a rope swing into a freshwater lake!

Shawn Collins: I take long weekends here and there, but always bring my computer. I think the last time I took a week-long vacation was in 2002, and I was on my computer during that week. I can’t relax if I’m not caught up.

Yaro Stark: I don’t really have vacations. If I travel, I do my writing and other work wherever I am. There really is no solid line between holidays and work time for me, it’s all the same.

Jonathan Volk: I take a few vacations per year usually. I go to help out at my church’s youth camp each year for a week. I also am trying to take 2 vacations per year with my wife.

Dan Schawbel: Everyday is vacation when you’re doing what you love 😉

Chris Garrett: We try to get away somewhere as much as possible, even if it is just a short trip to the mainland. I work hard and can not always get as much family time as I would like, so it’s important for us.

Collis Ta’eed: I like to vary it up, sometimes a few little ones and sometimes one big vacation. My favorite type of vacation is to go away for a week to somewhere very peaceful in the countryside and then write lots.

Trent Hamm: 4 or so times a year, usually for a week at a time.

5. How many hours per day do you spend on email?

Darren Rowse: 1-2 – although it’s a bit scattered through the day into 15 minute blocks.

Rand Fishkin: 3-4, sometimes more. I do lots of “work” inside email that’s not what I’d consider just classic communication (product/project reviews, scope documents, etc).

Aaron Wall: Roughly 1.5 to 2 hours. Need to work on that, and we will hire some folks soon to help out on that front.

Neil Patel: I spend at least 2 hours a day on email.

Chris Pearson: I spend about 20 minutes a day on email, and 0 minutes if I’m lucky.

Shawn Collins: No way to really calculate it – I check email every waking hour and constantly clear it out as much as I can.

Yaro Stark: I review my email and respond to really urgent things for about an hour a day, then every two weeks or so I’ll do a proper batch process and clear the inbox entirely.

Jonathan Volk: 2-3 hours per day. I spend the most amount of time on email in the morning and then leave outlook open during the entire work day. I get a lot of proposals, joint venture requests, and questions from people who have subscribed to my affiliate marketing guide and I like to try to at least reply to everyone.

Dan Schawbel: 2 hours

Chris Garrett: I am trying to kick the habit, but at worst I could be checking email all day and right into the night. Not healthy!

Collis Ta’eed: I spend the majority of my time with email open, though sometimes I’m doing the task that the email is about (like filling in this interview!) So I would say about 5 hours a day.

Trent Hamm: 1 to 2 hours per day.

6. When you are not working, what are you doing?

Darren Rowse: Sleeping, being a dad, reading novels, playing with my cameras, watching sport (either going live to the football or TV).

Rand Fishkin: I like cooking, having friends over for dinner, traveling (www.everywhereist.com) and sight-seeing and meeting other entrepreneurs and search folks around the world 🙂 .

Aaron Wall: I like hanging out with my wonderful wife and our shih tzu. And video games are fun, as is reading books.

Neil Patel: I am having fun with friends when I am not working.

Chris Pearson: Over the last few years, I’ve established a pattern of learning and exploring new things when I’m not working. These range from cycling to reading books about neuroscience and economics. That is, when I’m not playing Modern Warfare 2 or Rock Band on my XBOX 360 🙂 .

Shawn Collins: Hanging out with my family and friends, exercising, going to baseball games.

Yaro Stark: I like sport – like tennis and skating. I also socialize and eat out with friends a lot. We head to the beach sometimes, see movies, travel locally around Australia, attend events in my industry, the usual.

Jonathan Volk: I enjoying hanging out with friends, playing wii or PS3 with my wife (She is awesome at modern warfare 2 haha), going to church, drumming, and finally flying my RC airplanes and helicopters.

Dan Schawbel: Going out and enjoying the nightlife here in Boston, MA.

Chris Garrett: Like many bloggers I read a *lot*, and there are a few TV programs I really enjoy, but really when I am not working it’s all family time. We like to eat out, go shopping, take the dog on long walks, and take snaps with my camera (we live quite near Sherwood Forest of Robin Hood fame, which is one of our favorite walks).

Collis Ta’eed: It’s embarrassing to say, but I’m usually thinking about work 🙂 Although I do really love movies as well as I can switch off when I’m watching a good movie. My current favorite is the movie “Kick-Ass” which really lived up to its name!

Trent Hamm: Mostly spending time with my family – a wife, a four year old son, a two year old daughter, and a newborn son.



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98 Responses to “Interview: 12 Top Online Entrepreneurs Share How Hard They Work”

  • Jeanie

    Very inspiring post. Actually, posts likes this makes a reader never gets bored of reading from top to bottom, specially that it is based on actual interview with top 12 people who are very successful in their field. I am not surprised that these people work almost 7 days a week, only proves that hard work is really the main key to success in any field. I’ve learned that if you love your work, then, there should be no room for complaining, just do your best & work hard. it will pay off. Thank you Daniel for this great blog!

  • Daniel Wong

    This is really interesting post. I can say that I am way too far from what they are right now. But I can see one thing in what I am doing right now. I really need to work more and give all my best in what I am doing in every time. Thanks Daniel for this wonderful post. It really inspire me a lot. Target Aimed. 🙂

  • Amol Wagh

    Wow, its like their years of experience logged at one place.

    Thanks for the great efforts Daniel !

  • Atish

    its a amazing collection of interviews.. How did you do that?

  • Daniel

    Great post, Daniel.

    That’s some serious hours being logged there!

    I can kind of relate to it, as it seems that it would become Compulsive behavior which drives them

    That nagging feeling that more could be done, to improve the quality of work they are producing.

    Also, due to their level of success, their levels of responsibility would in turn be much higher, so would need constant attention.

  • Panos Christo

    Excellent interviews!
    As presumed all successful people share some basic common traits, mainly hard work and more hard work!

    However they seem to be a lot more efficient at concentrating on their business income making strategies….probably what sets them apart from the rest….

    Thanks for compiling and sharing this post.

  • Stephanie Treasure

    Awesome interviews! I am surprised to see how much I have in common with the Top Online Entrepreneurs as far as spending too much time on email. Difference is, they are actually still getting work done, lol! As far as work schedule, I see a few mentioned that they do best work in cafes. So do I. But I shy away from it because I feel guilty sitting there using up the Wi-Fi, electricity in some cases and only buying a cup of coffee or tea. I am definitely going to revisit it though.

    Thanks again for compiling and sharing such a helpful post.

  • Dieter

    Very insightful, especially question 3 about the routine. These interviews reraise the question of which work is effective work. Reducing the inbox to zero may give a good feeling, but is it really productive work? I’m spending 40 hours per week in an office as an employee, but how much of that is actually productive work, how much of that is procrastination and how much unproductive work like deleting old emails for the sake of an empty mailbox? That goes for online entrepreneurs too.

    I think I would (and will) compare to Darren. My mornings and evenings are most energetic, so I’d try to force myself into a physical and mental state where I create or accomplish some difficult learning. Routine tasks and errands would be shifted to afternoons, because offices and shops are open then and I’m slumbering anyhow.

    If you love what you do, sure every day’s a holiday, but I believe disconnecting regularly is important to charge batteries and switch off the mind. Especially forcing oneself to be offline in a major way once in a while looks like a healthy thing to do for an online entrepreneur.

  • Brandon Swenson

    These guys are my online idols! I’ve met with Rand Fishkin with SEOmoz and I’ve got to say, he is an awesome guy and has made some great success for himself and his company. These were some great interviews, and I hope the next generation comes and some of us get a shot 🙂

  • Christian Guico

    Its so much hard work to be on the top of what you’re and these guys are inspiration to everyone. I quite new some of them and I admire how they work and come up with great products. They are really the man behind the developments in the blogging world.

  • sam

    Amazing I think these guys are successful they achieve with the help of hard work.So there is no substitute of hard work.If you want to become a successful man follow all the path which goes the way of success.It was interesting that a lot of them don’t take holidays. I wonder how long they can keep that up before going crazy!.It’s no surprise to see the top bloggers work hard. thanks for sharing there views with us.

  • NICK

    Its really inspiring..
    One more question..
    How many hours you have already worked on it(approx..)??

    They seem dedicate their life to make something different and valuable. What they do, not wholly people could follow it. Meaningful post.

    Thanks for sharing…..

  • Basant | Techno-Pulse

    In contrary to the popular perception that ‘making money online is easier’ the interview here prove otherwise. They are really putting a lot of efforts to generate money. Inspiring!

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