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How To Do What You Love And Get Paid – $1,000 or More a Month

This article was written by in Career and Work. 9 comments.


This is a guest article by Ramit Sethi, author of the best-selling personal finance book, I Will Teach You to Be Rich. He recently launched a new program, Earn1k, to help people earn more money on the side. To get a free mini-course on earning more, sign up here. Ramit will also be our guest on the Consumerism Commentary Podcast this coming Sunday.

Last year, when I went on book tour for my book, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, I asked my readers to share the number one thing they wanted me to write more about.

I was surprised. The number one reason people wanted to earn more money wasn’t paying off debt, or investing, or money and relationships. Almost universally, people wanted to know how to earn more money.

I initially believed people wanted to earn more so they could buy a $2,000 handbag or fly to Vegas for the weekend. Again, I was way off.

Most people are simply unsatisfied with the limits of their 9-to-5 job and want the option of eventually quitting and working for themselves. In fact, some of them don’t even want to work themselves…they just want the option of doing SOMETHING else.

Have you ever met people who are a few years out of college and feel like, “Huh…is this it?” We all have dreams of living a certain lifestyle, and it can be disheartening when we realize we’re going to have to save, scrimp, and pinch for 40 years. For many of us, $1,000 to $2,000 a month would make a huge difference in our lives.

We want to earn more now more than ever, and it’s not just about the money itself. We want to be independent from our corporate jobs (even if we end up staying at them, we want the option of doing something else). We want to work from home or from the beach. Here’s a picture of my brother’s office in Mexico:

Money isn’t the end goal. But we want it to help us achieve our real goals to live a rich life. And you can’t out-frugal your way to rich.

Earning money isn’t easy

But it’s not easy. People immediately see how challenging it can be to consistently earn more money and end up fantasizing about their independent lifestyle dream without taking action — forever. They come up with delusional ideas like “passive income” or create psychological barriers like “I could never earn money… I don’t have an idea.” After all, if you’re a regular person (i.e. someone who has a busy job, and still wants to have a life), your available money-making options start looking really limited. These options usually either:

  • take a lot of time and money to start (Brick and mortar businesses),
  • are spammy and dumb (“The latest secret money-generating trick!”), or
  • have zero growth potential (Donating plasma, taking paid surveys, etc.).

There’s a better solution. It’s not sexy, but it will help you lead a rich life: Turning your skills into income using freelancing.

Freelancing, as opposed to productization, is the easiest way to earn more money. It costs virtually nothing to get started, you can start earning money right away, and you can rapidly test and refine what you offer to earn even more.

Compare this to building products, which excites people due to the kooky idea of passive income… but requires multiple skill sets that few people have.

With freelancing, you can get started immediately and be earning money within one week. Freelancing also gives you practice running your business, without all the risk typically associated with entrepreneurship. It dispels the most common myths and excuses people make about why they could never work for themselves.

Common excuses about earning more money

We hear these all the time:

“I don’t have an idea.” The mistake is believing that you need one magical idea that will rain down from the sky and give you a profitable business. Not true! Instead, the critical part is building a system to rapidly test ideas to find a profitable one. Here are some ideas that my students have turned into profitable income: Personal organizer, music instructor, tutor, freelance writer, personal chef.

“I’d rather make passive income.” For delusional people dreaming of thousands of dollars in passive income being deposited into their PayPal account all while they sip coconut juice on the beach is just that — a dream that keeps them far away from the reality of earning more. The people who are serious about earning money realize that, to earn money passively, you have to start out actively doing work actively.

“Are you crazy? I don’t want to work an extra 60 hours every week.” Nobody wants to take on a second full-time job. You can actually freelance as many or as few hours as you want — even as little as five hours per week. If the client work piles on and you start getting too busy, you can increase your rates to bring the hours back down. (I did this, raising my rates over 1,000% in a few years.) There are dozens of other strategies like this that professional freelancers use to balance a high client load, or to balance freelancing with a full-time job. My friend Ben is a senior product manager at a very well-known web company, and still manages to freelance on the side — not because he needs the money, not because he hates his day job (he actually loves it) but simply because he wants to. How does HE manage the workload? We interviewed him to get the inside scoop here.

“Wait, first I have to set up my company Facebook and Twitter accounts!” PLEASE READ THIS CAREFULLY. If your goal is to earn money, social media is a waste of time for the vast majority of people. Social media can be fun and useful, but its greatest utility comes when you’re already well-established. For those starting out, it’s a distraction and a risky pitfall. You don’t need an audience; you need customers. If you’re spending time optimizing 20 social media profiles or doing other feel-good things before you’ve gotten your first client, just kick yourself in the face. Then start talking to some prospects.

“I’m just not a big enough risk taker to just quit my job like that.” Most people aren’t, and you don’t need to be either! I want to expand on this last point, because it’s common for people to get tripped up about having a job. Actually, if you want to work for yourself one day, you should use your job to your advantage. Here’s how:

  • Develop your skill set. Learning new skills for free is great, but getting paid to do it is awesome. Make sure your job has you doing high-value work that you can potentially use elsewhere. If not, you may want to think about finding another job first.
  • Build your network. People love to hire and recommend people they know. Get to know the influential people in your industry so that when you quit (on good terms, of course), you can reach out to them for help.
  • Finance yourself. Treat your employer like your own venture capitalist — let them put food on your table while you experiment with business ideas. Be sure to build up a comfortable cash fund (at least six months worth of living expenses) before quitting.

Earning more is as much about changing our mindset as about the actual tactics of getting clients and refining a business offering. The best approach to earning more builds you a track record a client base long before you even quit your job (or make whatever next transition). When — and if — you’re ready, you can hit the ground running because you’ll already have built the foundation for the lifestyle you truly want.

Updated May 5, 2014 and originally published July 28, 2010. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Ramit Sethi is the author of the best-selling personal finance book, I Will Teach You To Be Rich. He recently launched a new program, Earn1k, to help people earn more money on the side. To get a free mini-course on earning more, sign up here. View all articles by .

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Evan

I freaking love Ramit’s stuff. Sometimes he breaks it down a little simply though. I was chatting with him (well I was tweeting and he tweeted back once) about starting a separate website that was way above my head in terms of programming. His response was simply to learn that new CMS…just not that simple.

I suspected though if we talked more he would have said move on to something that I can do!

Great Guest Post

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avatar Jenna

Seems like you just have to chase your passion. Love baking? Start selling enough cookies to make an extra $1000/month. Love building websites? Build out a freelance business for free nights and weekend.

Find your passion, it makes you happy, you’re willing to work harder and longer to be successful.

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avatar NJ

Yes, please all of you would be web designers keep on pumping out your amateur websites for below minimum wage. And all of you very dissatisfied web clients who paid for those dysfunctional web sites keep bringing your sites to complete, re-design and up-date for you.

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avatar Jenna

It was just a suggest a random suggestion. Please don’t take it personally. You could create board games, art, grow pants, build tables whatever. Just as long as you find a passion work hard to be successful, that is key.

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avatar Andy

Great post and something I could really relate to. Item 1 – working for myself, is the reason I want to earn more money so that I can have an office like Ramit’s brother. Australia is my preferred location!

Fortunately I was able to take action and grew my personal finance blog to the point is making me about 3K a month on average. A nice chunk of change. It has allowed me to take more holidays, feel less controlled by the gyrations at work and more importantly will fund my MBA.

It is possible and inaction is your only enemy.

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avatar Financial Samurai

Excellent GP indeed. Is $1,000 the hurdle per month? If so, I think that is very achievable by practically anybody who wants it!

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avatar Joselyn

I’m sure you could earn $1000 a month baking cookies, but it would take you enough time to do it that it would be below minimum wage.

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avatar Gil

Every good business has to start somewhere. Very few just materialize overnight. Yes it might start off as a moderate product or service for less than minimum wage, but if that was a reason not to do it… then it wasn’t your passion to begin with. Not to mention we wouldn’t have a lot of the big name companies we have now. Just don’t think that working for yourself is all beaches and 20 hour work week. Most business owners do 60+ hours, part of the game when you’re owner, worker, management, marketer, etc all in one.

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avatar Ceecee ♦53 (Newbie)

It is sometimes harder than it sounds, but thank you for the good information.

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