There’s a huge problem with traditional advice about how to earn more money.
Conventional wisdom wants you to sell yourself short. Most advice says you should trade your limited time and energy for a few cents.
Here’s what a quick search for “earn more money” found:
- Mow lawns or rake leaves
- Clean homes
- Host a car wash
- Host a yard sale
- Fill out online surveys
- Sell your sperm (huh?)
- Have a surrogate baby (seriously?!)
What’s the common thread here? With the exception of selling your sperm or giving birth for money (what?!), these jobs could be done by a middle school student.
In other words, these jobs don’t respect your time.
This menial work is fine if you’re desperate for some quick cash between now and next Tuesday. (You should build a bigger savings cushion, but that’s a different story.)
But man, oh man, don’t believe the writers who tell you this is the only way to earn more. You’ve got to start believing that you’re smarter than a 5th grader. You’ve got to start thinking big.
You have talents – c’mon, I know you do. You have special skills that can’t be replicated. You can do something that no one else can do.
You can create something special. Find a niche and conquer it. Don’t just earn a quick buck – create something amazing.
A Serial / Cereal Entrepreneur
David Roth loves hanging out in his pajamas eating cereal and watching cartoons. So he decided to monetize it.
He could have earned pennies filling out surveys about his favorite cartoons or mystery shopping in the cereal aisle. But that would have wasted his time.
Instead, David Roth hustled. He talked to banks and investors, scrounged some funding together, and opened a little eatery where he serves people cereal topped with candy.
Seriously, that’s it. He pours some Golden Grahams and Coco Puffs into a cereal bowl, mixes it with mini-marshmallows and chocolate chips, and calls it the new breakfast S’mores.
(Actually, he doesn’t use cereal bowls. He serves breakfast in a Chinese take-out box.)
Instead of becoming a server, he hires servers – who wear pajama uniforms, of course. And yes, he plays cartoons in the background.
Need Cash, Will Drink Wine
Natalie MacLean had a fairly average life in Canada, with a business degree and a tech-sector job. But after she had a baby boy, she needed a change of pace.
“… in a haze of postpartum sleep deprivation, I wondered around Loblaw’s grocery store and picked up the now-defunct President’s Choice magazine,” she told The Oran, a Nova Scotia newspaper. “They had beautiful food photography, but I wondered why there was no wine column.”
“I called the editor and asked if she’d be interested in an article and she said yes … (She) asked had I published elsewhere, so I said yes — thinking of my high school newspaper — and we went from there.”
She decided not to return to her tech job after her maternity leave ended. Instead she became a full-time wine writer.
“Eventually I’ll be donating my liver to science,” she jokes.
Build The Biz You Want to Be
Lee Silber and his brothers pooled their cash together to buy a struggling little surf shack in San Diego.
The tiny retail outlet wasn’t earning much, so the brothers came up with a simple strategy: morph it into the type of place they’d like to hang out.
They played surfing movies, hosted skateboarding demonstrations, and challenged kids to compete in surf contests.
Their marketing was cheap and effective. Within months, locals were flocking to their surfing shop to watch movies and hang out – and the locals spend a few dollars while they’re there.
Moral of the Story?
What’s the common thread to all three stories?
#1: Be Unconventional
None of these people wanted to follow a conventional path. They didn’t send out resumes to 20 employers, hoping someone would hand them a job.
#2: Think Big
None of these people were wealthy, but they weren’t mowing lawns for money. They were thinking big and creating scaleable models.
#3: Take Risks
None of them had any assurances that their gamble would work out. Most entrepreneurs, adventurers and risk-takers fall flat on their face at least once, twice, three times. Then they get up and try again.
#4: Combine Niches
David didn’t invent cereal. He’s not a top chef. But he combined his interests to create something clever.
Natalie isn’t a master sommelier, and she isn’t a Pulitzer-winning literary writer – but she combined two niches to emerge as the best wine writer.
Lee isn’t the best surfer in the world – but he’s a darn good surf shop owner.
The Bottom Line
Don’t waste your time competing with middle-schoolers for extra money. Find your talent – wine, surfing or even cereal – and spin it in a create way.
The world doesn’t reward mystery shoppers. Fortune favors the bold.