You've been struggling for weeks, or even months to get a job. It's hard and frustrating -- those who have jobs are more likely to be considered for jobs. If you don't have a job, doesn't that make you infinitely more available? Flexible? Ready to serve? Regardless of why you're unemployed, employers prefer the image of stability when selecting candidates. As difficult as this can be for you the job seeker, the good news is that "finding a job" isn't the only way to make a living, and today it's easier than ever to start an income via nonstandard means.
First, however, know that no matter what method you choose, it will require lots of learning, trial and error, and, most of all, lots of hard work. However, I'm going to assume you bear some vestige of our traditional Puritan work ethic from our founding settlers and that hard work is no problem for you.
Second, it's important you unplug your brain from the the binary option of "get a job and work for Company A" or "take out a loan and start Company B." Truth is, there are countless ways to make a living putting your skills to work for you. You might start a company, sure, but $30 at the local county courthouse is all it takes for you to get started in that dream job as a contractor, consultant or freelancer. You might start a business with just a few hundred with a good website and hustling at business networking events. Perhaps you will get hired from a company but work remotely via your computer? Maybe you get a certification instead of another degree and job into a hands-on trade? There are too many ways out there to earn a living, and it's time all those options are placed on the table as importantly as "getting a job."
You Have Great Value
Your value is not determined by how well paid you were before leaving your previous job. Your value is determined by the SCARCITY of your skills. If I'm the only person in the world who can perform complex logarithmic calculations in my head while drawing them out visually on a chalkboard, white board or even PowerPoint, I am worth a lot of money. Just because it might be as easy for me to write novels as for some people to serve me food at my table doesn't mean our skills are worth the same income. There are MANY servers, but there are few novelists who can truly spin a yarn.
If you're a super detail-oriented personal assistant, I can assure you that I could never do what you do for a living and would be willing to pay you well to take care of personal details in my life so I can spend my time doing what I would rather do -- write novels, perform data analytics, voice a script into a microphone, etc. If you can't find a company to do that detail-oriented work for, you could look online for "virtual assistant" companies, where you work from home doing for CEOs and small businesses what they would rather not do for themselves.
Perhaps you're a teacher who has learned a love for teaching other teachers more than the students? You could start a career mentoring public school teachers, presenting panels at teaching conferences, writing course material to help teachers better manage their classrooms and sell it online. There are fewer teacher-teachers than teachers of young students.
Your value is based on how rare your skills are.
But Christian! My skills aren't rare! I build websites in a market full of other website builders! I barely make any money for lots of time invested!
This is where finding a niche will change your impact.
Find or Build a Niche
Whether looking for a job, building a small business, working as a consultant or freelancer, you will find the most success in a niche. What is a niche?
Niche: n. a specialized segment of the market for a particular kind of product or service.
"he believes he has found a niche in the market"
A niche is a microcosm that, like any community, has need of the range of business services -- marketing to finance to personnel, etc. Niches often prefer services from specialists who understand their particular needs. If I'm an auto parts manufacturer, I'm more likely to select contractors who understand the auto parts manufacturing business. That way when I request marketing on my behalf, I'm not getting business cards, logos and advertising more suited for childhood toys.
Sure, you might only have general accounting skills, but what if you applied those skills to an industry you loved in a way others couldn't? What if you loved racing and offered to do the accounting for local body and tuner shops? You can speak their language in and out of the shop and can make a name taking care of your auto-based clients. When another auto body shop enters the market and starts looking for the best accounting service, your name is more likely to come to the top than someone offering "general accounting" services.
Not only does specializing allow you to become the go-to expert in a particular niche, but it often provides a higher level of security due to the rarity of your car passion in an industry often filled with the booksmart types. Car shop owners are more likely to trust someone who understands them and their industry more than those who only understand the generic service they're trying to provide.
Operate as the Expert
Good news, you're an expert!
"Me?" you say. "I'm no expert! I'm just an office worker."
Of course you! I am not a math wiz. I dislike math, generally, unless I'm counting how many Krispy Kreme donuts I get. You are an expert to SOMEONE. Even if others in your industry are better than you (NEWS FLASH: There's always someone better, and that's okay.), you are still smarter than someone at your particular skillset. Don't leverage the fact that you have "a commonly found set of skills," but that you are an expert available to employ what you do easily (i.e. math, accounting, cooking, writing, organizing, teaching) for others who do not so easily do that same skill for themselves.
I spend lots of money eating out, not only because I live on the road, but mostly because I really don't like cooking. I'm willing to spend that money because the peace of mind I get NOT HAVING TO COOK far outweighs the value of the money in my pocket.
Welcome to the most basic principle of economics -- value is subjective. Your ability to cook easily for me is more important than the money in my pocket, and the money in my pocket is more important to you than the time it takes you to gather and prepare food for me. Every single transaction in a free market operates on these principles, and that system has made the U.S. the most prosperous nation in world history with the highest quality of living for the lowest of our residents.
What matters is you first determining what you do well (WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS, MAN!??), then find who needs what you do and is willing to pay you to do it for them. Essentially, find someone who needs you!
This is the hardest part -- finding and convincing others to trade their money for your skills. Believe it or not, this is what getting a job is -- you trade your skills for a particular amount of the company's capital. Whether you do that in a permanent arrangement (i.e. employment), via contract (i.e. contractor, consultant or freelancing) or ad-hoc transactions by selling your services in-person or online, that is how it all works. You're trading value for value, and there is no limit to how you go about doing that!
The biggest challenge is how much you're willing to believe in yourself. No market is fully saturated. Opportunity is out there if you're willing to believe it is and drive your behavior to find and serve it.
Changing How You Think
I struggle with believing in myself. I'd wager many of you reading this article do, too. We wonder if we can do "that thing" we always wanted to do. We wonder if we're good enough in life. We fear failure and how it might affect us in the long-run. We battle with insecurities and uncertainties and, like most people, we prefer to just keep along as we have. If it was good enough for us yesterday, certainly it will be fine for us tomorrow, right?
If you read past the first paragraph, then it's obviously not good enough anymore. You want something more -- you may not need or seek after riches, but you're tired of scraping by. You want your effort to mean something. You want to create real value and impact in your wallet, your family and maybe even your community.
You no longer have to wait to start "one day." You can start it today merely by beginning the research and self development necessary to change your life's direction. That change doesn't come all at once in one huge shift, but hundreds of tiny corrections made every day ever closer to your goal. What comprises those tiny corrections? Watching that 5-minute video about how to wake up differently. Reading that 3-minute article on how to perform that one side skill you have in a more efficient fashion. Picking up that recommended book about how to think differently about finding clients and serving them better. Embracing that advice your friend gave about charging rates that match the value of your skills, not the magnitude of your insecurities.
Speaking of book recommendations, here are two I recommend to start changing how you think about making an income, inside or out of your current employment. The first is a world-famous book by Ed Schwartz called "The Magic of Thinking Big." In it, Schwartz discusses his extensive experience helping people change challenges into opportunities by reframing how they approach them. With six million copies sold worldwide over several decades makes this a must-read for everyone.
The second book I’ll recommend is also all about changing how you think. While author, Tim Ferriss, extensively discusses how he broke away from the 9-to-5 to make an amazing income working only four hours a week by automating and scaling online product sales, the real value for the average reader is about changing how they think about solving problems, automating your life and increasing income without increasing your time investment. You can get The 4-Hour Workweek in print, ebook or audiobook (I just finished reading this for the third time) and you can read his blog loaded with a great deal more content than his book at tim.blog. The amount of free resources on the blog, alone, is staggering and just waiting for you to pick up and change your life.
Directions You Can Go
I would be remiss not to at least brainstorm a few things you could do, if only to help your own creativity get fired up about potential income directions you could go. It’s worthy of noting that the two books I recommended above are GREAT for this, too.
- Accounting services for the auto tuning industry in the Southeast
- Baking for Vegan Training Courseware Online
- Data Analytics for Catholic ministries to better understand congregations in urban areas
- Certified tradesman (i.e. underwater welding) for the oil pipeline industry
- Teaching consultant specializing in helping improve social studies scores in middle schoolers
- Build websites for executives looking to do more consulting/public speaking
- Public speaking/presentations coach for industrial manufacturing corporations looking to improve polish of managers and outreach capability
None of these examples require doctorates, masters or, in most cases, any form of higher education degree to accomplish. Most require skill and the self awareness of a specialist to know they serve best in a particular capacity and sell themselves as the expert in that exact capacity to those who need it.
The resources at your disposal to begin this new direction in your life are innumerable. Most people don’t even know the vast online toolsets out there looking to help you get that new life started, most of which are free.
Traditional employment is, well, traditional. If that’s where you find the most job satisfaction, let no one tell you that you’re wrong. However, don’t merely stop where you are thinking “having a job” is good enough. Challenge yourself to find employment that best fits your skills, personality and passion. Work hard to get into work that brings you the most satisfaction, so you go home as happy as you were at work. Your family will thank you, and so will your health!
- BusinessInsider.com – Current trends in cover letters, resumes and job-hiring tactics you should know
- 10 Resume Resources That'll Make it (Almost) Impossible for a Hiring Manager to Pass
- ZipRecruiter blog Resume Resource Articles
- Resume and CV Resources and Tools for Job-Seekers
Did you know that working remotely (i.e. from home) is bigger than ever? No longer limited to sketchy ads on Craigslist, major companies are looking for workers who are happy to work via their computer in their pajamas. It’s not too good to be true, and is soon likely to become an industry standard for company employees who don’t need to be hands-on with the particular products. Remote employment allows moms and dads to work from home, or work from around the world as Digital Nomads. If you’re willing to do away with the traditional working concept in your head, you can still “get a job” with a great deal more flexibility for your lifestyle!
- 6 Steps: How to Get a Remote Job This Weekend (Ultimate Guide)
- Top 7 Remote Job Board Websites in 2018
- The 20 Best Remote Job Sites To Find Your Dream Remote Job
- Top 25 Companies Hiring for Work-from-Anywhere Remote Jobs
Expanding Skills Without College
These sites will help you get new skills for relatively little amounts of money. While most don’t provide official certifications to put on your resume, what matters is that you feel comfortable enough with a new skill that you can start looking for ways to implement in current or future work that can help increase your income and your job satisfaction. Toss the idea that the only education worth having comes with a piece of paper at the end of it, save only when that piece of paper has Benjamin Franklin on it.
- StackSocial.com – HUGELY discounted training programs
- StackSkills.com – Targeted training programs
- Udemy.com – Learn new skills
- Lynda.com / LinkedIn Learning (same service) ~$30/mo (Completed courseware will show up on your profile)
- The 22 Best Websites for Learning New Skills
- 10 most lucrative skills you can learn online.
The main idea behind this section is that traditional education is all well and good, but outside of the traditional employment environment, most people don’t care if you have a degree in something – they just want to know if you can do what they need for a good price! That’s it!
Getting Gigs / Solopreneur
Welcome to the gig economy where you don’t have to “get a job” to get paying work. While countless others are out there with the same skills as you, the difference is how you execute your niche. Don’t start with the “I’ll be general, at first.” Everyone starts there. Know what? Nearly everyone fails there, too. Stop pussyfooting and dive in with a real niche concept. While you might change the plan as you learn more about yourself and your intended industry, it will still serve better to start heading in the right direction than floundering without one at all. This tiny (and I mean tiny) list is just a minimal glance at the countless gig sites out there.
- Upwork.com – Gig site
- Thumbtack.com – Sell / buy professional services
- Fiverr – Sell/buy first-time services for $5 and then upgrade offerings in intervals to better meet client needs
- Rover.com – Pet sitting / dog walking arranged online
- Efynch - Home Improvement and Handyman communications for every homeowner. Find, Bid, Evaluate, Recommend, & Pay-Like a Professional Property Manager
- 13 Gig Economy Job Sites
A Simple Warning on the Solopreneur Life
Contrary to popular belief, “starting your own business” is often little more than “owning your job.” When you own a job, it owns you. It’s hard to take off for vacation without taking a hit in income and the trustworthiness your clients have in your ability to be available for their potential problems. We’re a 24/7 world and your services are often expected to be available round-the-clock. If you start freelancing or working as a solopreneur by consulting, etc., explore how you can duplicate the value of your skills by offering your own brand of training products, dropshipping others’ products or white-labelling your own brand. You cannot duplicate yourself or your time, nor can you properly scale past a certain point without literally working to death. Explore how to duplicate the value of your service by selling digital or physical products online, which you can scale and sell round the clock – when you’re working, eating or even sleeping.
Starting a company is the dream of countless Americans. While you may start that journey as a solopreneur, becoming an entrepreneur is shifting from “owning your job” to running a business. The difference? Owning your job is exactly as it sounds. A business, however, is a SYSTEM of activities and relationships which deliver a service to a client who values the product more than their money at the agreed price point. Here are a few resources to get started learning about how to start a real business.
Before I show a few examples, the first thing you should know about starting a business is that it is INSANELY easy to start a business. What’s hard is running it and finding clients. Don’t let the fear of STARTING a business keep you from even trying. Too many think the entry requirements are the hard part and then don’t put forth the effort necessary to get going. Start TODAY – Google “start a business in __YOUR CITY NAME___. It’s cheaper and easier than you think. Here are a few resources every small business should be aware of:
- US Small Business Admin – Top Tools & Resources for Small Business Owners
- The 7 Best Small Business Resources Ever
- 12 Free Online Small Business Resources You Shouldn’t Ignore
- 45 Business Resources Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know About
- The Five Best Small-Business Resources You're Not Using
Exceeding the entrepreneur stage is about expanding and growing a business with an expanding base of employees. This is where the scope of my article ends, but by this point, you will already have found your footing in the ability to research your way forward, which leads us to our final topic.
The Ability to Search
The last thing we’ll discuss is the most important skill you can have in starting this new life – the ability to search out the opportunities and resources you need to keep growing and finding your own best way to generate income. Too many people search for jobs, not opportunities. While a job might be an opportunity, is it only one potential expression of your skills and one tiny way of making a liveable income with your abilities.
Nearly all of the resources listed in this article came from a cursory online search using keywords that outlined my need. What will empower you more than reading anything else in this entire article is learning how to search out the resources you need to expand your options.
When you Google, you can openly as it questions such as: “How can I make my accounting skills make more money?” Asking that question produced these results:
- How to Make More Money in Accounting – An outline on basically expanding your skills
- 5 skills to get you from bookkeeping to accounting or auditing – A specific address of what skills you get from these jobs that you can expand upon
- How can I use my accounting skills to earn a living aside my normal job? – A forum query where others weigh in with generally educated opinions and input on the question at hand
- 40 TOP PAYING ACCOUNTING JOBS – A detailed list of 40 accounting jobs and college programs they want to sell you on. Don’t feel you need to get a degree to get something valuable from this article.
The idea is not that every search suddenly gives you the single glowing answer you need in order to change your life, but that you expand your understanding so much so that you begin identifying elements of what others have done differently and learn how to apply it to expand options in your own life. Perhaps you didn’t know how many jobs existed in your career field? Maybe you didn’t know that you could start a particular job without a degree? Maybe you’ll learn from some expert in a forum about how to start that niche you always loved but never imagined working in?
Learning to search is about re-educating yourself, getting away from the “need a teacher” to “tell me how to think.” Mindset. Become your own teacher by listening to them all, testing their inputs and finding out what truly works best for YOU. This, above all other skills, can propel you further than anything else.
Learning how to use search terms effectively can drive your search. The better your search language, the more effective your search. Wanting to know what kind of niche might exist in your industry might look like: "nontraditional consulting in the airline industry," "great jobs for people with math skills," "how to sell products without buying them first," "newest (or best) virtual assistant companies 2019" (or whatever year you're searching in).
Ask the questions that mean something to you that can drive your knowledge. Don't know what kinds of jobs exist in your industry? "Nontraditional jobs (oil industry)". You'd be amazed how many writers have addressed topics you never knew existed. "How to do ____ remotely." What job do you do? Advertising? Accounting? Personnel? Want to do it from home?
Learn to search and you hold the keys to your future kingdom in your hand!
I don't advocate you take control of your life. That's a big promise you'll never achieve -- too much in your life will never be up to you. Instead, take steps to make yourself smarter, more capable of adapting as situations change, improve your ability to make money doing what you love, and more. Whether through traditional or nontraditional employment, self employment or microbusiness automation, you can generate income in ways that feed you on the inside and the outside. Don't stop with only looking for a job, even if that is what makes you happiness. Explore! Learn about what's out there and determine which method might truly be best for you. Whatever you do, keep living, and Journey Well!