Making the decision to make more money to improve my financial situation was very easy. Implementing it? Not so much. After spending too much time in my initial procrastination phase, I faced an even bigger mountain to climb when I reached the implementation phase. How do you take your skills and turn them into something profitable? I have a job for which I am highly trained; I can’t take another job of the same kind. Am I even good for anything else? Who will pay me? And why?
It was overwhelming, I almost gave up. After tossing so many ideas around, I decided to just start the one idea I liked the most. In the last 3 years of doing this, one idea became 4 and I have had my fair share of successes and failures. Now, I am at a point where if I have to start all over again I know what I would do, what paths I will follow to become successful as soon as possible.
How do you take your skills and turn them into something that makes you more money?
I have listed them in sequential steps for the ease of following along, but in my experience, some steps have to be iterated multiple times to hit the sweet spot. Today, if I want to make more money, I would start with –
- Stop reading 100 ways to make more money: No, I am not insulting a resource put together to help other people, but in my experience reading posts like this serves only one purpose – a delusion of doing something. There were so many days where I searched Google for hours on end and read every single post that threw ideas at me for making more money. What did I gain? A feeling of productiveness; even though at the end of the day I was no closer to actually earning more money. I already knew I could earn money babysitting, I knew I could earn money by selling my skills. But how? Is it right for me?
Why do I want to make more money? Do I have a specific goal for the money? What am I good at? Why do I even need goals?
- Figure out your goals: I find figuring out the “why” is a great starting point. Because any venture, even if it has the potential to bring serious cash needs motivation and commitment. Figuring out the goals will give you that strength. Goals are important for other reasons as well – figuring out “what” you want to do and “how” you are going to approach the project.
- Short term vs. long term: The longer the goal’s timeframe is, the longer I have to keep up my motivation and commitment. For example, when I wanted to make some quick cash for our Hawaii trip, I did a lot of stuff like – churning credit cards to get both of us free tickets, sold a few things and filled out surveys whenever I got a minute for a few cents each to accumulate Amazon gift cards. They got me what I wanted – a better trip than what I could have with the money I had. I didn’t need an elaborate strategy to make money, but could I have done it month after month? Filling out the surveys was mind numbingly boring. If I didn’t have the Hawaii carrot dangling in front of me, I would have given up after 2 surveys. I could keep up only because I know it was for a month and nothing more. On the other hand, if I wanted to eventually turn this into a career; that would have been impossible. For the long term, I needed a plan. I needed to think about scalability and sustainability.
- Passion vs. practicality: This goes hand in hand with the short term versus long term goal. For the long term, I need to really like the work. For the short term, anything practical will work.
- Fear of commitment: There is a reason I started with filling out surveys for making money – I didn’t have to answer to anyone if I stopped the next day. I was scared that I would fail at anything that required more commitment. It was easy for me to pick something that required absolutely zero accountability. Only when I started thinking about my long term goals, I was willing to consider any idea that I had to commit to.
- Identify your skills: When I initially started to think about making more money, I was stuck at this stage for quite a while. I identified myself based on my career. I am good at pharmaceutical data analysis for drug discovery. Unfortunately, I couldn’t have taken another similar job because of the agreement I had with my company. I couldn’t think of what else I was good at. Then my husband made me list everything I was good at and have a passion for. When I mean everything I mean even soft skills, including the skills that you normally wouldn’t put in a resume – finding good deals, knowledge mining, not accepting anything without questioning, painting, java programming, planning, etc. When I stared at it long enough, I could combine a few of those and start compiling ideas; programming & creativity from painting – web design and infographics; knowledge mining and passion for finance – this blog.
- Sell solutions, not skills: I learned this from Ramit Sethi’s Earn1k program. There are two things that really made an impact on how I view a business idea. The first one is – no one cares about what you know. They are not paying for your skills. They are paying you to solve their problem. After you have figured out what your skills are, translate them into solutions which people can use to solve their problems.
Analyze the market
You might have already stumbled upon your target market when you translated your skills into solutions – who has the problem you are trying to solve? Now it is time to fine tune.
- Identify your market, niche it down: It makes it much easier to market your business if you know who the right audience is. When I started out I had 4 business ideas, for three of them I knew exactly who my target audience were, for the last one, I didn’t. That single idea has taken most of my time in the last three years and is the least profitable. For the other three, it was easy for me to see a path, the next steps and where I eventually wanted to take the idea.
- Finding your first client: The first client is always the most difficult. It took me 7 months to see my first business income check. I didn’t spending the entire time looking for a client, but the iterating first 5 steps plus this one, took that long. After that you can use references to add more credibility or you can get clients via word of mouth or just repeat the success formula that found you your first client. Identifying your target market should help tremendously here, because you can advertise where your target audiences are; making it much easier for them to know you exist. [skill: good with children, solution: you can … market: parents of course, niche it down: due to your cultural background, you want to babysit Asian kids, advertise in : Asian grocery store bulletin board or Asian city specific forums]
- Get inside your client’s head: This is the second gold nugget I learned from Earn1k – know your client really well – their hopes, their fears, their bottlenecks and their problems. This serves two purposes, first, you can do an awesome job if you know exactly what your client’s problem and expectation is. Second, you have the advantage of getting the job if you address their problems and fears even before they bring it up and offer solutions catered to solving those problems. That will definitely impress anyone.
Build a scalable framework
- Do an excellent job: Needs no explanation. If your only goal is to make money, you won’t be able to sustain yourself for long.
- Test, fail quickly & cheaply: If you have done all the above steps well, you will now have a clear way of testing your idea quickly. It is very important to fail quickly and cheaply. As I mentioned earlier I had 4 business ideas. The first one, as I had my target market ready, I advertised at the right places and got a few clients very quickly. I also figured out I didn’t like to do that full time. If I want to earn money quickly in 6 months, I can repeat this, but for now I have dropped this idea. The next two ideas were also well defined and well-studied. I tested them, figured out what worked and what didn’t, quickly. One of those ideas is my main money maker now. The other one is not making money yet, but I know it will. The last one is my favorite, it’s the idea I started with, but it also turned out to be a ball and chain. I am still not sure of my target audience, which means I don’t have a good way to test my hypotheses. And it shows. I might have to finally let my emotional bonding to this idea go, ignore the sunk cost, keep studying while I concentrate on my other ideas and come back to it full force once I have my market information.
- Develop a framework: This is very important for sustainability and for being successful repeatedly. Do a systematic analysis of your business and know where the weak links are, where the time sinks are, keep working on it until you have a solid framework that will go smoothly from getting a project to depositing the check. Automate what doesn’t need your attention, outsource stuff that are trivial, time consuming and don’t need much skill and emphasize on tasks that give you the most enjoyment and money. [Frame work diagram]
- Learn. Ceaselessly. Improve your skills: If your skills stagnate, so will your business. I am not sure who said this, but it perfectly captures my sentiment on learning – the day we stop learning is the day we stop living.