Make more money: How to supercharge your income
Nearly every morning, I get up early to go exercise at the local Crossfit gym. While I wait for it to open at 6:30, I do laps around the cold, dark parking garage with my friend Dan. Sometimes we talk about money and how to make money.
This morning, for example, Dan asked, “Do you ever feel like you're not going to make it financially?”
“I used to,” I said, “I worried about it all the time, but not anymore. I have things under control now. A lot of that is because I learned how to make more money.”
“I wish I could say that,” he said. “I just feel like I'm never going to make enough money.” Dan is a self-employed web designer in Portland, and like many entrepreneurs, his income fluctuates. Plus, he's young, so his business hasn't grown to its full potential.
“You know what,” I said. “I've had a lot of people ask about how to make more money lately. I think it's time to write an article that rounds up everything I've ever written on the subject.”
So, here you go. This post is a collection of the best tips from Get Rich Slowly (and other personal-finance blogs) about boosting your income. Almost anyone should be able to find some ideas here to make more money.
Why bother making more money?Frugality is an important part of personal finance. By managing your expectations and living with your means, you're more likely to be wealthier and happier. But cutting costs isn't the only way to boost your cash flow. If your goal is to build wealth, you'll get the best results by looking beyond frugality to increase your income.
Related >> The Power of Positive Cash Flow
Why? Well, for one thing, you can only cut your costs so far. After you've cut to the bone, there's nothing left to trim. On the other hand, your income potential is unlimited — at least in theory. Unfortunately, it can be tough to generalize about ways to make more money.
For most folks, earning more means managing a career effectively: finding the right job, learning how to ask for a raise, and so on. Others can up their incomes by selling stuff they already own, pursuing money-making hobbies, or starting their own businesses. In this article, I've tried to cover all the bases.
Maximize Your Salary
When you think of making more money, you probably think about doing something — anything! — other than your day job. But for most folks, the day job is actually the best place to explore increased earning opportunities.
For one thing, changes you make to your salary today have residual benefits. You're not just making more money now — you're making more money for years to come. That's why it's so important to get paid your worth from the start. Giving up $5,000 a year now is actually giving up $5,000 a year for the rest of your life!
Here are some articles that can help you make more money at your current job:
- How to negotiate your salary
- Reader story: How I gave myself a raise
- Five steps to six figures in seven years
For more info, check out these articles on other sites:
- Ask Metafilter: What's the difference between someone who makes $100,000 and someone who makes $30,000?
- Paul's Tips: How to get a job paying more than $100,000 a year
- Wise Bread: Earn more money by demanding it (targeted at women)
Take a Second Job
When I've needed to make more money in the past, the first thing I've done is try to find a second job. It's the first thing I'd do today if I needed to make more money. Yes, I know the economy is still shaky, but this strategy is still one of the best ways to get cash coming in on a continuous basis.
Apparently, however, I take the whole second job thing as a matter of course. I've done it all my life, so I assume others do it too. Because of this, I've only written about finding a second job once in the nearly five years of Get Rich Slowly's existence, and that was in answer to a reader question: Is it unethical to work a second job?
I've published plenty of articles about looking for work, including:
While I obviously need to write something about this subject in the future, some of my colleagues have tackled it already with articles like these:
- Bible Money Matters: Is it time to get a second job?
- Fiscal Fizzle: Get a second job and quit whining about debt
- Forbes (which is not a blog, obviously): Taking on a second job
- I Will Teach You to Be Rich: How to turn your skills into services that people will pay for
- Money Crashers: How to find and manage a second job
Working two jobs can be tough. But you know what? It's also one of the quickest ways to meet your financial goals. There's a reason all of the personal-finance experts encourage folks to do this, if possible. It works. A decade ago, I was working three jobs — and my income reflected that! (Unfortunately, so did my spending.)
Become Better Educated
Some people complain that taking extra classes isn't worth it. And that a college degree itself is worthless. This is bunk. Yes, it may be true that a some folks find it tough to put their education to use, but the stats tell the real story. In general, the better your education, the better your income.
Related >> Want to Make More Money? Go Back to School
Related >> The Value of a College Education
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, for example, workers without a high-school diploma earned on average about $21,000 in 2006. Those with a diploma earn an average of $31,000. College graduates earned an average of $57,000 in 2006, and those with an advanced degree earn over $82,000 per year. The evidence seems pretty overwhelming: If you want to make more money, seek relevant education.
For more recent info, check out last week's Planet Money podcast at NPR: If you graduated from high school but didn't go to college, you're twice as likely to be unemployed than a college grad. If you didn't finish high school, you're three times as likely to be unemployed than a college grad. Don't be a fool — stay in school!
Make Money from Your Hobbies
Long-time readers know how much I love stories about people who make money from their hobbies. Since starting this blog in 2006, I've written many times about how to use your hobbies to bring you wealth. One of the best reasons to make money from a hobby is that you already know you love to do it. If you can figure out how to get paid, that's just icing on the cake. (Be aware, though, that sometimes doing a hobby for money turns it into a chore.)
Related >> How to use Your Hobbies to Bring You Wealth
Over the past five years, I've shared stories about how I've made money from my own hobbies, and about how my friends make money from theirs. My friend Jolie makes money from her art. Jessie started a confectionery business, which includes a cupcake-of-the-month club that Kris and I have indulged in. (In fact, Jessie's hobby is now her business!)
Here are some examples of how your fellow GRS readers have boosted their income with hobbies:
- Money-making hobbies: Mystery shopping and belly dancing
- Money-making hobbies: Binding books and printing buttons
- Money-making hobbies: Selling digital photos
If you'd like more ideas on how to make money from your hobbies, take a look at these two articles from the archives: Six tips for money-making hobbies and The value of productive hobbies. You might be interested in this story at Free Money Finance: How I turned a hobby into an income.
Related >> Six Tips for Money-Making Hobbies
Finally, Philip Brewer at Wise Bread once urged readers to make your hobby pay its way. I like this take on making money from hobbies because it emphasizes non-obvious ways to do so: teaching your hobby, for example, or writing articles or books.
Start a Side Business
Sometimes, money-making hobbies actually grow into side businesses. I went from tinkering with computers, for example, to running a small computer-consulting company. My friend Rich loved wine and cheese; now he runs a cheese shop in Dallas.
Side businesses can take as much or as little of your time as you'd like. For a couple of years, I worked at my computer consulting business gig a few hours a month. It earned me enough to stay in the latest computer gear, but I never wanted to grow it. But when I realized that Get Rich Slowly could be my full-time job, I went for it. I love writing, and I wanted to turn this blog from a side business into my only business.
Past GRS articles about this topic include:
One final note: Not everyone has the disposition to own her own business. My wife, for example, loves her job and has no desire to be an entrepreneur. Before you start a side business, be sure you understand the pros and cons of self-employment.
Start a Website (or a Blog)
Properly speaking, this should be in the “start a side business” or “make money from your hobbies” category. Yes, starting a website can make you money. But as any blogger will tell you, this is real work. (It took me eight hours to write this article, for example.) Still, if you have the talent and work ethic — and if you get a little lucky — you can, indeed, make money online.
A couple of years ago, I shared my secrets to a successful blog. More recently, long-time reader Mike Piper explained how to earn extra income with a (small) blog. And if all goes well, we'll be discussing this path to making money during all of 2011. (I hope to revive my “blogging as a business” project in January for a monthly series.)
Related >> Earning Extra Income with a Small Blog
One final word of caution: Although I'm fortunate enough to earn my living through this blog, it's taken a lot of hard work and not an insignificant amount of luck. Blogging is not a path to quick riches. It's taken five years for GRS to reach where it is today — five years of near-daily updates about personal finance. Before you turn to blogging as the answer to all of your financial woes, understand that it's work, just like everything else on this list.
Become a Landlord
I'll admit that this is a money-making idea I've been too afraid to pursue. I've toyed with the idea, but my wife hates it. And I don't know enough to dive in without botching things up. Reading The Skinny on Real-Estate Investing recently gave me some idea of what's involved, but I'm not anywhere near ready to become a landlord.
Still, there are plenty of other folks who have rented homes or rooms to earn extra cash. They often share their stories around here. Here are a few:
- Reader story: I paid for graduate school by renting out rooms
- Reader story: How we became reluctant landlords
- How I generate extra income by letting strangers pay my rent
- Reader story: Rental properties for the average joe
- Ask the readers: How to rent out your spare room?
If you don't want to own property, you may still be able to make money from housing. (Or, barring that, you can at least live rent-free!) My friend Sparky, for example, once spent a year managing an apartment building. He got a studio apartment for nothing, and a little bit of income on the side.
Sell Your Stuff
Most folks have homes filled with Stuff. In fact, Americans have so much Stuff that we've created one sure-fire recession-proof industry: self-storage units.
But you know what? That Stuff isn't garbage — it's money waiting to be made. No, you're not going to get what you paid for most of your Stuff, but with a little time and effort, you can earn enough to make a dent in your debt or to save for next summer's trip to England.
I've published a lot of articles at GRS about how to turn your clutter into cash, such as:
- Turning garage-sale junk into eBay gold
- A yard-sale checklist: Ten tips for garage-sale prep
- How to list an eBay auction for maximum profit (and the older 13 steps to more profitable eBay auctions
Getting rid of unused junk has two great benefits: It frees space in your home, and it puts some money in your pocket. In my mind, it's a no-lose proposition.
Sell Your CrapDon't forget that former GRS staff writer Adam Baker put together an entire e-book about turning clutter into cash. Sell Your Crap is full of tips and converting for turning your Stuff into cold, hard cash.
This is just the handful of ideas that came to me during a quick brainstorming session. There are lots of other ways to make more money — you're really only limited by your imagination and ambition. What do I mean? Digging through the GRS archives (and e-mailing other PF bloggers) produced the following suggestions:
- Get Rich Slowly: How to make money fast
- Get Rich Slowly: Earn quick cash by participating in medical research and marketing studies
- Get Rich Slowly: Find unclaimed money and property online (I love the comments from folks who have actually done this successfully!)
- Get Rich Slowly: Get the guts to relocate to a cheaper city (make more through geographic arbitrage!)
- Enemy of Debt: Please stop saying, “I don't make enough money to do that.”
- Erica.biz: 20 scam-free ways to make money online fast
- Free Money Finance: How to make money with credit cards
- Free Money Finance: Make money by buying money — Like Chris Guillebeau, FMF uses a rewards card to buy coins from the U.S. mint, which essentially produces free money.
- Savings Lifestyle: Use online surveys to earn cash
- Wise Bread: Can I really make money taking surveys?
- Wise Bread: Getting by without a job: How to boost your income
- Wise Bread: 8 truths about mystery shopping
Lastly, if you can track one down, pick up a copy of The Incredible Secret Money Machine. Though the title sounds scammy, this 30-year-old book is a treasure trove of ideas for making more money. (The ideas tend to be small-business related, but many of them are applicable to other sorts of money-making ventures.)
Earn $1kSeveral GRS readers — including staff writer April Dykman — have told me about Ramit Sethi's earn $1k project. I haven't seen the content myself, so can't vouch for it, but April loves it. I e-mailed her to see if it's worthwhile. Her response? “It's the reason I was able to quit my day job, so yes, I'm a big fan.”
She elaborated: “I've bought a lot of books on freelancing, quitting the day job, finding your passion, etc., but none of them were as tactical and step-by-step as Earn 1k. It literally changed my whole attitude about business and sales. I think it was the smartest thing I've ever spent money on — I'm now self-employed and making more than twice what I was making at the day job.”
The basic Earn 1k material is free. If you like what you see, you can pay to take the advanced course like April did.
Don't Make Excuses
Whenever I write about making more money, I get comments from folks complaining that my advice won't work for them. They have a litany of excuses that they can't possibly boost their income:
- Their commute is too long.
- Their kids take up too much time.
- Extra income takes too much effort.
- They have some sort of physical limitation.
- And so on.
Fine. I understand that not every suggestion is applicable to every reader. And I know that not everyone needs to or wants to boost their income. But here's the thing. If you need more money, and if you have an excuse for every idea on this list, the problem may not be with the tips — it may be with you.
Cutting costs is easier than making more money. Anyone can cut costs because doing so generally requires reduced effort in the long run. But boosting income? I don't know any way to do that without working — and usually that means working hard. There are no magic bullets! It takes time and effort. If you're unwilling to put in that time and effort, you'll stay where you are.
One of the fundamental tenets of the Get Rich Slowly philosophy is that nobody cares more about your money than you do. This is especially true with your income. If you don't take responsibility for earning more money, nobody's going to do it for you.
But if you are willing to make some sacrifices, you can make more money than you do now. I've done it. Many of my friends have done it. And lots of GRS readers have done it too. If you have found a way to make more money, please share your story in the comments below.