Disclaimer: The statements made in this post are the opinion of the author. They should not be viewed as financial advice. Please consult with a financial specialist before making any financial decisions.
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Let’s be honest, is there anyone that hasn’t asked this question before? If you Google this question you get literally Billions of results. But are all of them helpful? Most of them are lists of random odd jobs you can do from driving for Uber to doing surveys online to renting out pretty much anything you own. These are referred to as side hustles. The better question, however, is “What is the smartest way to make more money?” To understand this question we need to break down three ways to make more money.
Three Ways to Make More Money
1 Get another job doing a simple task. This way to make more money is the fastest. It requires little to no training and anyone can do it. It can be anything from working at McDonald’s (I really don’t recommend that) to driving for Uber to moonlighting as a waitress, the list goes on. These are the jobs most people think of when they think of making more money because it is easy. The biggest draw back to this, however, is that it is easy. Since it is so easy anyone can do it so you are paid little and are so easily replaced that you have no bargaining power on the price you can demand.
A real life example from my life is as a teacher I needed a summer job. I got one working at a local ice plant. Now don’t get me wrong, my boss was great and it was a good experience (shout out to my boss Bob for being a great guy), but there is only so much income you can make working from 3AM to 2PM delivering ice. I appreciated the income, but I thought to myself, there must be another way.
2 Get more education. Then I figured it out. What I needed to do was to get more education so I could be paid better. This is easy in teaching since getting a Master’s degree literally means more money in your pocket every month–no questions asked. But you could also go back to school to get a degree (whether for the first time or for a different degree). This is great because you can front load your learning to give you the confidence you need to be successful in a new career. If you do it right then you can end up with a much higher paying job than you had before which will set you up for future success.
There are, of course, some draw backs to this. First of all, it is expensive! I have two recommendations if you think going back to school is right for you. One, consider community college if you need to get some general study out of the way. It is cheaper and the difference in experience is minimal. Two, consider online college as a way to decrease costs. Since completely online schools don’t have to maintain campuses they have much lower overhead and can pass those savings on to you. The other drawback is you have to actually get a high paying degree or you have just wasted your time and money. If you are going to take this route, only do so if you can easily pay back the cost of borrowing money with your new job or you can pay for the schooling outright as you go along.
As I stated above, my real life example of this is just going back to school to get a Master’s Degree. I searched for cheap online school options and found Western Governor’s University. The reason I chose their program is because they allow you to shove as much (or as little) school work into a sixth month period of paid tuition. Since I am incredibly driven to get stuff done (it is a bit of a personality flaw sometimes) I was able to meet all of the requirements for my Master’s in just five months. I then used the money I made at the ice plant to pay for my school expenses so I finished with no debt. That path isn’t for everyone, but it is an example of the possibilities with higher education.
3 Create a high paying job as an entrepreneur. I know the word entrepreneur is scary for some people. Growing up I never thought I would consider myself an entrepreneur, but that is the only option for increasing your income that has (basically) unlimited income potential. There are many opportunities out there for high paying self-employment that require some or no training which costs a fraction of going back to college. Some examples of this are becoming a Real Estate Agent, creating a trade job like a plumber or electrician, or being a freelancer for writing or design, etc. All of these jobs you can do whenever is convenient for you and they pay very well. Especially with commission based jobs like a real estate agent, which means the more you put in the more you will get out.
The down side here is it takes a lot of effort upfront with little reward initially. You need to learn how to run a business, market yourself, create a system to operate that business, and put yourself out there for long hours and often at odd times to start getting traction. That can be a frustrating experience and it takes perseverance, but if you work hard enough it pays off.
For me, upon completing my degree I realized that the pay increase I got really wasn’t as helpful as I thought it would be. I missed the deadline for submitting credits towards advancement by just a few days so I only got a partial increase and the amount I got each month was a little disappointing. Then I learned about Loan Signing. This is one of those little jobs that nobody thinks about. Basically, I bring home loan documents to people’s houses and walk them through each page, and tell them where to sign. For all of this, I average about 100 dollars per assignment, and because I live in a rural area and have to drive longer distances I average about $30 an hour. The income potential is huge there, especially if I lived in a bigger city.
So how did I get this job? It must have taken years to perfect the training, right? Actually I applied to become a notary with the state of Colorado and was certified the same day. Then I took a course (which is not mandatory in most states by the way) from the Loan Signing System (If you are interested check out this affiliate link) which cost a total of $300–that is about how much one credit at college costs. I had to buy some supplies, but all in I had spent maybe $2,000 (on a no interest for one year credit card) to set up a business. I made no money the first month, I made $1,000 the second month, I had paid off my start up costs by the third month, and now I regularly make an extra $1,000 a month working VERY part-time. The point is, I would recommend finding something where you can be your own boss (no one can force me take an assignment) and you get high income at the same time.
Which Path to Better Income is Right for Me?
I can’t tell you which of these three paths to take, but I can give you some pointers on how to make the choice using my own experience. First, I would avoid getting another job doing a simple task unless you need the money immediately. As far as the three methods go, this is the only option that puts money in your pocket almost immediately. So if you need to cover an expense right now, or you need to put food on the table right now, then this is the right choice for you. I went to work at the ice plant because I needed to pay off some credit card debt that had accidentally accrued ASAP. I then used the rest of the money to pay for my college outright. That is a good use of this strategy.
Second, going back to school can have some great advantages, but there is the huge disadvantage of investing a lot of money upfront. There are two situations that I would recommend this approach. One, you can get paid more for accomplishing essentially the same task at work because you have a higher degree, or two, you can substantially increase your income by obtaining a new skill. But meeting those criteria don’t mean you should go back to school. The expense is the other thing to consider. I was able to pay for my schooling outright and I received an immediate increased salary for performing essentially the same task. If you cannot pay off any student loans in the next two-ish years, I would avoid school since it will be more of a drag on your financial future than a help.
Third, creating a high paying entrepreneur job has the most potential upside, but it is not for everyone. Many entrepreneurship jobs require a substantial investment upfront which can be fatal if you don’t make it work. I would recommend starting down the road of entrepreneurship with a lower cost investment if you can. In comparison, student loans are expected and you can reasonably assume what your return on investment will be and how quickly you’ll be able to pay it back. With entrepreneurship there is not guarantee that the investment will bring a return on investment. If your business goes belly up then you are left holding the bag. I say all of this not to scare you, but to urge extra caution. Another thing to consider is that it takes time. According to this article, most small business loans are paid back in 1 to 5 years and some are even up to 25 years! So just be careful how much money you put into it upfront.
I was able to get into a very low barrier to entry business and have been able to pay off my initial expenses and have always operated at a profit since then. Not every business owner is so lucky. My last caution for you is that to follow this path you must become a business owner. That doesn’t just mean you own a business but you actually know how to own a business. Take the time to get the education you need (usually in the form of books you can find at your library) on how to run a business. You’ll thank me later if you do.
If you are a low income earner there is no way around it, to move towards a better financial life you have to make more money. The other option is the drastically cut expenses, and if you are like me, with a small family, cutting expenses is more difficult than increasing income. Whatever way you choose to increase your income, just remember that investing your additional income will bring you closer to financial freedom while spending it on a fancy vacation will be fun for a day, but you’ll always have to go back to work to replenish your depleted savings.
How have you increased your income? Is there a category I missed? Tell me about it in the comments below.
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Side Hustle: An additional job that you do in addition to your full-time employment. Examples include moonlighting as a waitress, driving for a ride sharing app, or starting a side business.
Return on Investment: How much money you get back, usually measured yearly, on the money you invest in something. For example, if you invest $1,000 and receive $100 back from that in the course of a year then you’ve had a 10% return on investment.
Financial Freedom: Being able to cover all of your expenses each month without having to work. This doesn’t mean you don’t work, and it comes in a variety of ways from investing in stocks to real estate to businesses, etc. Your path to financial freedom is your own.