When deciding on what to do to generate income, I’ll offer the following suggestions:
- Services tend to have a better hourly rate than goods.
A lot of people get hung up on an hourly rate. Beyond making sure you can support yourself working a reasonable number of hours (no more than 50), I don’t get tied up in a knot about it. However, if it’s important to you, it’s important to keep in mind. I do earn considerably more per paid hour on direct client work than I ever did in any other job. But I almost never have a full work week of directly paying work. Few people who are self-employed do, unless they’ve become employers themselves. I can’t teach you much about that, as I’m moving Heaven and Earth to stay a one-man shop. But later chapters are going to deal with the ratio of paying work v. non-paying work.
- If you can sell something more than once, do it.
Classic example would be a magazine article. You sell first serial rights to the piece, then it’s yours to flog around in other place. Short story anthologies where the story originally appeared in a magazine are another good example.
If you develop a course, certainly try to teach it more than once!
- The less you can invest in materials, the better.
Keep your overhead down. There are things you will want to spend plenty of money on, sure. You want your tools to be as good as you need them to be. But don’t be too seduced by the shiny. No one gadget is going to be the Perfect Tool to Make You Rich. You were born with that one. It’s between your ears.
There’s a difference between the shiny nifty gadget and the useful tool to do the job. Learn that. I could theoretically do my job on a dial-up Internet connection, but it would be like trying to cut wood with a blunt saw. The high-speed Internet connection isn’t a nifty gadget, but a genuine tool. A netbook, as cool as it would be to have a computer I could tuck into my purse, is just a shiny gadget since I’d have to have a more powerful computer for some of my work, anyway.
- If you know something useful and can be engaging, teaching classes are a great way to generate some income.
People like to learn whether or not they’re autodidacts. Whether it’s how to sew, how to do something specific on a computer or how to assemble food as art, there are probably people who want to learn how to do it. If you create a once-a-week course in something, your local community center might be willing to offer it. While not necessarily an enormous money-maker, it’s cheap advertising. It gets your name and business out there, and associated in people’s minds with fun, usefulness or both. It also combats the natural isolation of being self-employed without an office to go to. Never underestimate that!
- Put your life experiences to good use.
Everyone has life experience. Yes, even you! You may think you’ve lived a completely ordinary, pedestrian life. I’ll let you in on a little secret: Most lives feel that way when you’re taking it a day at a time. Rock stars spend more time waiting on tour buses, or practicing music than they do performing, you know. You and your life is a unique perspective and you’ve got genuine value to offer, so start looking for it!
Exercise: I Done Did This!
Okay, time for another exercise!
I’d like you to spend some time thinking about everything you’ve done in your life. Screw the Seriously Impressive stuff. What have you done that’s normal and pedestrian as well as what’s impressive? We so often undercut the value of the stuff we see as normal and pedestrian, when it turns out people are willing to pay you for it! For me, a good example would be writing a blog. My God, talk about dailyness at its peak! Yet, I really do make a fair portion of my income writing blog entries on the most amazing range of subjects.
So, sit down and make a list of at least fifty things you’ve done — earned a Girl Scout badge, written to your Congressman, made a meal for twenty people, volunteered at your church (list what you did), made a martini… It doesn’t matter as long as you hit fifty items.
We’ll be building on this later on. But the principle and the though pattern that I really want you to grok, and I mean drink it down into your soul, is that you’ve done useful things that people need and really will pay you to do!
And be prepared next week for a very long series on self-management. It’s the second most important lesson you’ll learn. (The first is to be willing to ask people to pay you to do stuff!)
 Though if everyone reading this wants to club together and buy me a netbook, I wouldn’t say no to it…