You need something valuable to sell – be it your ability to make jewelry, your skill with words, your skill with a needle, your ability to make herbal remedies… That’s the first step. Thing is, friend, it’s just a first step. That skill is a tool just as much as a hammer or a ladle. It means nothing unless backed up by knowledge and the will to use it. Notice that I said knowledge and will. Being self-employed is as much of a skill set as knowing how to be a chef. You’ll need to work on that part or you’ll be screwed.
Remember when I said in the last post that you’d need to figure out 20 things you were good at? Okay, you did it, right? You didn’t because you know what you want to do, anyway?
<sighs> I’ll wait. You’ll need to do this even if you think you know how you want to make your living from home. ‘Cause, friends, you do not want to get stuck on one idea. That’s how most people fail.
Here’s my own list:
- Being funny
- Jollying people along
- Figuring out technical material
- Building systems
- Being snarky
- Learning new material
- Languages (Human or computer)
- Making complex information understandable
- Thinking outside of the box
- Getting people excited about their own goals
- Anthropomancy (see item #11)
- Finding Useful Information
Of course, I’m good at more than twenty things and so are you. That was what came off the top of my head. If you have to think really hard about this, you’re taking it too seriously or being too modest. For the record, please don’t map “good” to “world class”. If you’re world-class at something, great. I’m not world-class at anything, and I don’t sweat it. I’m not an Olympic athlete or a major world figure, so I don’t have to be, either.
The reason this is so important is because if your goal is to make a living without having a Real Job, you’re going to need to be flexible, and you’re going to need to know your own skills. When I started out, I figured I’d do a lot of Virtual Assistant work, with some writing thrown in if I were Really Lucky. I’ve had one VA client and earn over 50% of my living writing. When I was tossed a chance to teach classes in computer applications, I gave it a try, even though I’d crashed and burned at my last try, was terrified of letting this person down and had the worst case of stage fright before that class that I’ve had before or since. But I’ve gone on to be a popular teacher of computer applications. Those things I’m good at (snarkiness, explaining technical material simply, being funny, inspiring people) are all things I apply to teaching.
I was not wedded to any one way of making money, nor was I insistent that I had to do it in a certain way. I was flexible and open to whatever came along. And let me tell you, serendipity has already led me some places I hadn’t expected to go!
How do you do this? You need to ask yourself The Question.
The Question is:
What goods, services or talents can I trade for money?
Look back at that list of things you do well. How can they apply? Let’s say you’re really organized and understand the efficient use of space. Maybe applying those skills to people who need help organizing their lives would be a good thing. But even if you chose “professional organizer”, there’s dozens of ways to go about it. You could offer a personal service where you come into their homes and get your hands dirty in the closets with them. You could offer an online service where they take pictures and you make recommendations, laying out the necessary steps. You could give seminars on the principles of organization. Notice how many different ways there are to approach that single thing.
That’s the way you need to be able to think to make your living without a job. What might someone pay me to do or make? What am I good at that could be valuable to someone, especially on a short-term basis?
Barbara Winters, author of Joyfully Jobless, recommends that you create three or four income streams – jobs/services/whatever that will each bring in about a week’s worth of income a month. I do something similar, simply because I’m not comfortable with all my income coming from one place. You don’t have to, nor should you be, wedded to making your living in any one specific way. Certainly I’d never set out to become a computer instructor. It’s merely serendipity that I found out I love doing it! I’d keep up with it even if I were making a decent living off of royalties from a best-selling novel with a big movie deal.
I can’t answer The Question for you. In fact, while I can throw out ideas, the ones you generate for yourself are the ones that will be infinitely better than anything I can give you. You know yourself, your talents and your life situation better than I do. If dogs frighten you, a suggestion to take in dog-boarding clients is not going to be the best way to go.
Speaking of dogs…
I highly encourage you to hunt up Robert A. Heinlein’s “-We Also Walk Dogs”. The service mindset of the corporation described in the classic science fiction short story is exactly the mindset you need to figure out ways to generate income for yourself.
But there are skills that are universally necessary to anyone who is self employed! Next week, we’ll talk about some that are both universal to the self-employed and either learnable or things you can outsource.
As an exercise this week, I’d like you to brainstorm ways that your talents could be turned into goods or services. Don’t be “realistic” here. Brainstorming isn’t useful if the editor is turned on. Try for at least 30 ideas, no matter how goofy.