I’ve been making a living from my online business and blog since 2016. One of my readers, who’s concerned about the current state of the economy, asked me the following about working from home:
“I’d like to transition into building a career online. There’s so much on my mind and things are not getting easier. Can you share your tips for starting an online business/career?”
As I’m writing this, there are thousands of people over the world who are forced into quarantine because of the novel Coronavirus. On the Spanish island Tenerife, 1000 people are not allowed to leave their rooms. That’s tough.
There are only so many movies, tv shows, and books one can consume. At some point, you want to work. It’s in our nature to make ourselves useful. And working from home is a great way to do that. Plus, it gives you a lot of freedom.
Before I get to the steps I took to build an online career, I’d like to share a few quick thoughts:
- It’s never too late. Sure, it was better if you started on Instagram in 2013. It was better if you started on Twitter in 2008. And so forth. These are all excuses and bullshit reasons to not take action. The best day to start is today!
- Get rich quick doesn’t happen often. If you look hard enough, you’ll probably find a few people who built an app in 24 hours and became rich. But I wouldn’t count on that. But you already knew that. So adjust your expectations.
- There are certainly no “schemes.” If there were secret blueprints to making millions, they would remain secret. If I had a secret way to make a lot of money, I would keep it secret. That’s the truth.
- What works for me, might not work for you. And vice versa. So don’t just listen to a single person. Instead, take in the information and think about how you can apply it to yourself.
- You only need a laptop. Maybe you’ll need a camera and microphone if you want to create videos, but that’s not even necessary. Everything I share in this article works if you want to make money from home or any other place.
- This is not a “50 freelance online jobs that will make you rich” type of article. Those articles are useless. Instead of finding jobs, build a career. I’ll talk about that in Step 1.
That’s it. You certainly can build an online career. If the thought ever came up, it means you probably have it in you. Let’s get started.
Step 1: Identify your key skills
If you keep chasing jobs and gigs, you will become a person who’s hired based on completing a task. That’s the definition of a job. Someone hires you to do something they tell you to do.
Instead, build a career. The difference is that you’re no longer compensated to complete a task (or multiple tasks), but you’re compensated based on the value you provide.
This is the #1 business lesson I’ve learned from one of the most-respect business thinkers of all time, Peter Drucker. I’ve spent 6 years getting two business degrees.
Not once during that time did I learn the following. You build a career based on your skills—things you’re good at. And before you say, I’m not good at anything: You can acquire skills.
Need some inspiration? Here are a few skills that I’m constantly working on (in alphabetical order):
- Communication: We think we’re all master communicators. But the truth is that we suck. Communication is both art and science. And our ability to work with others depends on it.
- Graphic Design: A basic knowledge of design can help you to do your own design work. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it has to be genuine.
- Negotiation: You negotiate all the time. With your spouse, kids, parents, teachers, friends, co-workers, managers, etc. Learn to get the best deal for all parties.
- Personal Effectiveness: Learn how to maximize the results you can get during the 16–18 hours you’re awake. Get more done — effectively.
- Persuasion: Learn how to get what you want in an ethical way. It’s true that you can’t make people do anything, but you can be more persuasive in your messaging.
- Writing: We communicate more in the written word. Especially if you work from home.
The key is to acquire multiple skills. Scott Adams has this theory that combining skills you’re decent at results in an exceptional career. You want to figure out your own unique skill stack.
The beauty of this career strategy is that you can do a lot of different types of work. You’re not limited to do one job, you can do multiple things to earn a living—as long as you’re providing value.
Step 2: Demonstrate your work
To build an online career, you need to find a way to provide value. That’s why you want to know what you’re good at. The better you are at something, the more value you can provide.
Until this point, I haven’t talked about specific careers. Why? The list is endless. In today’s world, we have coaches who help people to tidy up their homes. We have people who sell their art on web-shops. The opportunities to work from home are endless.
I don’t want to list 50 careers because that’s too limiting. Maybe you’re thinking about doing something new. And you shouldn’t allow another person to tell you to pick your future career from a list.
Now, let’s say you’re good at writing and persuasion. And you want to find a way to earn money with your words, you could become a copywriter.
No matter what career you pick, the next step is to demonstrate your skills and work. This is the #1 reason I couldn’t get any work in the beginning. Like almost everyone else, I only talked about my work, I didn’t show it.
Now, I’m not talking about building a resume and asking for testimonials or endorsements. I’m talking about doing your actual work for people to see.
For example, I’ve published hundreds of free articles. That’s how I demonstrate my skills and provide value. If you do client work, you want to provide value before people hire you. People think it’s the other way around.
I used to think that someone should hire you first, and then, you do the work. That’s what everyone else does. Want to stand out? Give your audience or prospective clients a free sample. There’s nothing new about this.
If you’re old enough, you remember those folks who sold vacuum cleaners door-to-door. They came by and showed you how the product worked. They didn’t ask for your money. They just tried to be helpful. Now, times have changed. But the basic idea behind earning a living is the same.
Demonstrate. Don’t tell.
Step 3: Take yourself out of the equation
At some point, you acquire skills, you get clients, sell products, services, or do something to provide value, working from home.
Now, it’s time to think about the long-term sustainability of your career. Think about it. You want to keep providing value over the long-term. The last thing you want is to burn yourself out. And trust me, there’s a big risk that will happen.
Working from home can be lonely. And without some kind of system, you can’t keep it up. You want to avoid exchanging your time for money. Look at it this way: What happens if you stop working for a week?
Do you still have income streams? Or is your income tied to your hours? You want to avoid the latter. You can do that in two ways:
- Hire someone who works remotely. If you’re generating consistent income, it’s okay to hire someone. Ideally, you want to hire someone who can take over important tasks. I’m not talking about hiring a personal assistant that schedules meetings or books plane tickets. Hire someone who can actually do some of your work. When I hired someone for my blog, I looked for someone who could fully take over customer support. That’s an essential part of my business that needs to keep going no matter what.
- Create products. This is what everyone loves to do. But most people do it for the wrong reasons. I’ve met a lot of people who tried to rush creating a product. As a result, no one bought it. I do recommend everyone to create something that’s scalable. But don’t see it as some kind of magical thing. I have a bunch of products and it still requires work. People make you believe in the “passive income lifestyle.” But that’s nonsense. Passive income streams are hardly ever passive. Most entrepreneurs create products and multiple income streams to diversify. It simply means less risk if you have multiple ways to generate value.
There are a lot of misconceptions about building a career—online or offline. The number one reason there’s so much bullshit advice on the internet is that we’re impatient.
I’m no different. I’d love to come up with an idea today, work on it tomorrow, and launch it the day after. Also, it would be great if a million people were excited about whatever I launched.
That doesn’t happen. But it’s fine. If you play it right, you can have a long career. Let’s say you’re 40 and you’re committed to working as long as you can, which is one of the best things you can do in life. You might have another 40 years of work in you! FORTY. Just do the math based on how old you are.
So take your time my friend. Over 40 years, taking 4-5 years to build a foundation of skills is nothing. Here’s one thing that’s sure: You’ll profit from those skills for the rest of your life. Because that’s the only thing people can never take away from you.