I’ve always thought that all of the key parts of personal finance were bound up in the single phrase, “Spend less than you earn.” In those simple five words, one can find all of the key ideas of personal finance.
There’s a call to spend less money by cutting back on one’s expenses, particularly the less necessary ones. There’s a call to have a “gap,” where one has money left over at the end of each pay period, and to do something smart with that money. There’s also a call in there to earn more money.
Of course, when sharing personal finance advice, it’s quite a bit easier to talk about the first two solutions because those are ones that almost anyone can take action on today and begin to see results with tomorrow. The positive effects of spending less are practically immediate, and the positive effects of doing things like paying down debt and saving for the future start showing a positive impact extremely quickly as well.
With earning more, however… it’s not quite so cut and dried. Most of the actions that people take toward earning more money do not have the same kind of immediate results. You often have to invest a lot of time and effort into earning more money in order to see even the first small positive impact on your income levels.
Earning more can have a much bigger long-term impact on your financial state than the other options, but it requires time to implement and time to see the positive effects. You can’t just flip a switch and see results.
That’s why I encourage people to take the long approach when it comes to earning more money. Plan ahead and put yourself in a position where greater income is a likely result, even if it means investing time and effort without immediate returns.
Need a game plan? Here are nine strategies you can implement over the coming year in order to improve your income.
Strategy #1: Start a Small, Independent Side Gig
There are many, many ways for individuals to start earning a bit of additional money in their spare time. Many of those strategies earn very little at first but slowly grow into greater and greater returns over time as you build readers, viewers, listeners, or clients. While most will never replace your main job, they’ll often earn you more than enough for the time invested if you stick with it.
One great example of this is starting a YouTube channel. At first, that YouTube channel isn’t going to be very popular. It’ll only have a few videos, which means it won’t show up often in search results, and viewers of those videos won’t be able to find much else on your channel even if they want to.
But over time, as you add more and more, your videos will show up in more and more search results and you’ll have more and more content for people to see, both of which will increase your views — which directly translate into income.
It builds on itself, but it takes a lot of time. The exact same thing is true for other forms of online content, such as blogging.
Another common type of side gig is providing a service or selling a distinct product in your local area. Perhaps you can provide year-round lawn care or maybe you make wooden chairs in your wood shop. These types of businesses often grow as big as you want them to be, but again they take time to get your name and product out there in people’s hands.
These types of side gigs can be really rewarding because you can choose ones that are in line with your personal interests. When you find the work involved to be enjoyable and it remains a spare time task, it can be a really fantastic way to spend your extra time and earn some tasks.
Strategy #2: Prepare for a Better Job
For some people, it may be time to climb up to the next rung in their career path. Their skills are more than adequate to handle the responsibilities of their current job and they’re interested in the challenges and the rewards of moving on up in their career path.
There are several steps to take to achieve this kind of career improvement. The first, obviously, is to figure out what exactly the next step is. Where should you be going next with your career? Are you looking to just move up to the next level with the job you have now, moving from a “specialist II” to a “specialist III”? Would you effectively want to replace your boss, either when he or she moves on or when there’s a similar position available somewhere?
Once you’ve identified what your target is, study the requirements for that job. Which of those requirements do you already have? More importantly, which requirements do you not yet have?
Those requirements that you don’t yet fulfill should become your to-do list for the coming year. That list should tell you every single step that you need to take to be ready to take on the opportunity you’re looking for.
Once you feel you actually meet those requirements, start seeking out that promotion. Apply for it within your own business, but also don’t hesitate to seek it out elsewhere, too.
Remember, this isn’t a mystery. It’s often pretty clear what exactly you need to be doing to achieve the type of job that you want. It’s up to you to take care of those things. Usually, the only thing holding you back is you and the choices you’re making to not fulfill the requirements of the job that you want.
Strategy #3: Switch Organizations
Sometimes, you can find yourself stuck in place in your current organization. Your boss isn’t interested in giving out raises. There isn’t any path toward moving up into a beter job. Perhaps the workplace environment is a poisonous one. Maybe the pay rates there are just lower than what you can find elsewhere.
If some of those things feel right to you, then you should strongly considering applying for a similar job to what you have now in another organization. That type of job switch is likely to come with at least a small increase in pay and it may come with other benefits, too, like a more pleasant work environment.
Again, this can take time. You have to find positions available that are comparable to your current job and in an area that you’re willing to live. You have to actually apply for those positions, too, and actually win the job.
The first step, of course, is the job hunt. What jobs like yours are available outside of your organization? What do they pay? Do they have any requirements that you don’t quite fulfill? Do your homework and find the answers to those questions and you’ll be well on your way to finding a comparable job with better pay.
What if you’re worried about this conflicting with your current job? I generally find that once you’ve prepared yourself for moving on to another organization, a conversation with your current boss can make a lot of sense. In that conversation, you can make your case for why you should be paid more and perhaps even receive that raise without having to even search around for another job.
Strategy #4: Get Certified
Many jobs and career paths – including the one I had prior to my career change into writing – reward people who take the time to earn certifications in certain topics. My job dangled pay increases in front of me for earning certifications related to Oracle databases, for instance, and the possibility of greater pay for other certifications.
Does your current job offer any pay benefits for earning particular certifications in your spare time? Would a few certifications open the path to a promotion of some type? A little bit of homework and a conversation with your boss can reveal this pretty quickly.
Then, the next step is to simply start earning these certifications. Many professional certifications can be earned via online classes or evening classes in your city. Others require filling out documents of various kinds and sending them back to the certifier. Yes, some of these certifications cost money, but that money is often repaid quickly if you can secure a pay increase with these certifications.
Another bonus: Some jobs will actually pay for certifications for their employees, which means that they become a fantastic way to help you secure an increase in pay at work. Be sure to check with your human resource officer to find out if your work offers financial assistance to pay for additional certifications.
Strategy #5: Take a Part-Time Job
A part-time job is a great way to convert some of your spare time into some extra cash. I’ve taken on some part-time gigs in my own past, doing things like working as technical support for a convention and making up batches of agar for a research lab. In both cases, the jobs were relatively easy and they put money right in my pocket.
Most communities have a lot of part-time jobs available if you just hunt around a little bit, from entry-level service jobs to part-time gigs that directly utilize the skills you already have. You might wind up doing anything from making meals to providing security.
Among the options in this article, this method is perhaps the most direct route to having more cash in your pcoket. Many part-time jobs will hire you quickly so you can have more cash coming in in less than a month if you get on the ball.
However, part-time jobs often aren’t all that flexible. Sure, you can usually get hours that mesh well with your current job, but you’re still trading hours of time and energy for money, and the rate of exchange is usually lower than your main job.
Strategy #6: Take on Casual Income Earners
There are a lot of websites out there that offer opportunities to earn a dollar or two in your spare time whenever you find it convenient to log on. Usually, you take on simple tasks that you can do while watching television, like filling out a survey or determining which of two pictures contains a bird. Some of the more complicated ones might involve professional skills, like doing a simple job in Photoshop, but they tend to pay more.
For simpler tasks, the best place to start is Mechanical Turk. That site makes it easy to earn a few bucks an hour while sitting there watching television and doing simple tasks in your spare time. In my experience, an ability to write short bits of reasonably sensible material quickly enabled me to earn a healthy amount doing Mechanical Turk while sitting on the couch.
If you have some technical skills, you may find Fiverr to be more appropriate. A lot of the tasks on there tend to involve very quick programming tasks or things done in Photoshop. Again, a highly skilled person in those areas can do them in a few minutes in front of the television, so it’s a good way to earn a few bucks in your spare time.
If you are highly skilled, you may find even better opportunities looking for online freelancing tasks. For example, take a peek around Upwork, which offers small freelancing jobs of all kinds where skilled people can ply their trade in their spare time. Remember that this is an open market and you might get undercut, but it can end up being a great way to ply some of your sharpest skills to earn some extra cash on your own terms.
- Related: 10 Work-From-Home Jobs for 2016
Strategy #7: Talk to Your Boss
Often, your boss can be the best connection to an increase in pay. Your boss can authorize a raise, which would mean more income for the tasks you are already doing at work.
So why not jump on board with this? The reason is that these conversations tend to go best when you’re really prepared for them. Having a strong case that you’ve thought out in advance with some supporting evidence is going to help convince your boss much more effectively than wandering in without any preparation.
So, how can you prepare? First, sit down and review your significant achievements at work. What have you done to set yourself apart from other employees? What have you done to deserve more pay? If you can’t easily answer that question, then you need to step up your game at work. Without being able to name real reasons why you deserve a raise, your boss has no reason to give you one.
I found it was very effective to be prepared to name the five achievements I had completed and skills that I possessed that set me apart from others and to be able to reel them off without much hesitation. Without having that in mind – and without having the achievements or skills to do such a thing – it becomes much harder to make the case for a raise.
I also found it effective to run through the meeting many times in my mind, visualizing exactly how I would make my case for a raise. The more I did this, the more natural and easy it felt to actually go in there and make an effective case for myself.
Strategy #8: Go Back to School
You may find that a complete reboot of your career path might end up being the best choice for you. Maybe you’re just unhappy in your current career, not just because of the workplaces but because of the work itself. Maybe you find yourself in a situation where you really can’t advance any further without another degree.
Whatever the situation, going back to school could easily be the solution for your situation, whether you’re going back to study a completely new field or else to earn a higher degree in your current field.
Often, this isn’t a choice you can make just on the spur of the moment. Even if you’re able to find an educational path that enables you to keep working at your current job, there’s still the expense to deal with, one you’re going to incur before you can take advantage of the educational benefits. You need to be willing and able to take on that expense.
The choice to walk away from your current job for education is much harder, but it is possible, especially if you have enough savings to support yourself or a supportive life partner. It’s a process that my mother and father-in-law went through several years ago when my mother-in-law switched careers.
If you need a full career switch, start saving now so that you have a fund that will cover your living expenses through the transition. Live lean and move toward a target date for when you can reboot your career into something more lucrative.
Strategy #9: Leverage What You Have
This is something of a variation on a side gig, but it’s something that’s really flexible and can actually earn quite a bit of money. Simply leverage what you have through trading, buying, and selling.
For example, I do this with vintage board games. Whenever I’m in a secondhand store of any kind, I’ll always take a look at the game section that they have, as I know exactly what to look for. Often, I’ll find vintage board games that have quite a bit of value on the secondary market, like a still-in-cellophane copy of Advanced Civilization that I found not all that long ago in a thrift store. I’m leveraging a particular type of domain knowledge that I have and some pocket money to make quite a bit of money.
Perhaps you have a box full of yarn and a knitting skill. Just leverage those things to transform the yarn into something of value, like a scarf or a pair of gloves or a hat, which can be sold somewhere.
Maybe you have a collection of trading cards that have been in your closet for years. Invest the time to figure out exactly what you have and sell them for a reasonable price, turning that time and the stuff in your closet into money.
You have spare time. You have stuff in hand. Combine the two to produce money.
The upcoming year provides a brilliant opportunity to bump up your income, whether it’s simply starting a side gig, getting a raise at work, starting a new job, or even rebooting your career.
The question you need to ask yourself now is what are you going to do to increase your earnings in the coming year?
Are you going to spend your evenings binge-watching shows on Netflix and then wondering why you’re not getting ahead financially?
Or are you going to take action and really make a difference when it comes to your financial state?
Above, you’ll find nine routes that can definitely lead to financial success.
The choice is yours. What are you going to do today?