Tag Archives: planning

Monetize Yourself Media – Sell Your Time and Expertise

I’ve talked a lot about the theory behind monetizing yourself: what it means, how to provide value, how to identify value you could provide, and so on.

But I haven’t discussed how to actually deliver that value. What do you do in the day-to-day to monetize yourself? How do you get started?

Steve Pavlina distinguishes between the medium with which you present your message, and the message itself. The crux of the article is that the message is the most important thing, because it’s what people care about. So if you’re new to this blog, and thinking about monetizing yourself, I strongly recommend going back and thinking about your talents and skills, what value you can provide, and what you wan to accomplish.

But if you’ve been with me for a while (thank you!) you’re thinking, “Enough with this theory already! Tell me what to do!”

Disclaimer

Part of the reason I’ve been avoiding this is because it’s such a huge project. There’s so much to talk about: not just the individual media you can use, but for each medium there’s how to use it, what to do with it, what your options are, and so on. Not to mention keeping up with changes in each area.

So this is, by necessity, a really broad, high-level picture. I’ll try to at least keep it coherent, but I certainly can’t cover everything. Help me out by leaving a comment or sending me an email, telling me what questions you still have.

Ways You Can Monetize Yourself

There are a bunch of different routes for monetizing the value you provide, at a bunch of different levels. I’ve broken it up into three broad categories, to avoid overload and really long blog posts. So today I’m going to discuss monetizing yourself and your expertise with your time.

Sell your time and expertise

Freelance

If there’s something you can do that others can’t, you can charge people to do it for them. You can do this on evenings and weekends, in your free time, to get a little extra spending money.

Start your own business

This is kind of an ambiguous term, and the line between this and freelancing is pretty blurry. Generally people call it “freelancing” if you do it in your spare time, and “running a business” if it’s your primary income source.

There’s also an important distinction between “owning a business” and “owning a job”. Details are here, but Michael Gerber defines it this way:

    Go out to the lobby and call your secretary. Tell them you’re not coming back for a year. If they panic, you own a job. If they’re cool with it, you own a business.

(If they celebrate, you need to rethink how you treat your staff.)
Owning a business is more fun and more lucrative (I think). But owning a job is faster to set up and easier to get started on, so if you’re new to the monetizing yourself thing, I recommend starting there.

There’s also a terminology ambiguity about what’s involved in “starting a business”. Usually this term means that you’re starting what’s called a “small business”, which is actually owning your own job. But as I said in Annual Planning, I recommend you treat it as a business regardless of your monetization selection. Freelancing? I recommend you set up a business and handle the money separately. Selling a book? I recommend you think of it as a business with one product. You don’t necessarily have to legally set it up as a business, but the attitudes of a business person (What’s my ROI? Who’s the target market? How is my product perceived?) will help you monetize yourself more effectively.

On Monday I’ll discuss monetizing yourself by selling your expertise, writing a book or selling information products.

How to Invest

In a forum I hang out in, I recently received a private message from another user, asking about investing. He had $100/month to spare, and wanted to make good use of it. My advice to him follows:

Hey, John:

Sorry about the delay; I haven’t logged into the forums much this week. I’m not a certified financial advisor and I don’t know the details of your situation, so just be aware that what follows is generic rather than specific advice, and you should ignore anything that doesn’t sound like it applies to you.

Stock Market

How best to invest depends a lot on what your goals are for yourself and for your money. When most people think of investing, they think of the stock market. There are 2 smart ways (and a whole bunch of stupid ways) to invest there:

1) You don’t want to have to mess with it. If you invest $100/month at (an average of)10% interest for 30 years, you’ll have invested $36,000 but you’ll have an account worth $226,000. If you’re just looking for something to keep you off the street in your old age, this is a good method. You set up an account to automatically withdraw $100 from your checking account and invest it some index fund — it really doesn’t matter which — and forget about it.

2)You think business and finance is awesome, you love analyzing financial statements, and you have several hours per week to spend on analysis. In that case, you may enjoy investing in individual stocks. The stock market is full of stupid and emotional people, and there are plenty of stocks out there that are massively over- or under-priced. But you have to be willing to read — really read — a document 1/4″ thick, look at all the numbers, compare them to the numbers from last year, figure out how the company’s doing, keep up on news and trends that might affect this company, etc…. for every company you want to invest in. It can be cool, but it can also be a full-time job that takes training. If it interests you, I’d recommend investing the first several months’ worth of money in books on accounting and business and stock-market terminology. You can call any company and get their prospectus — that’s the 1/4″ document with lots of small print — for free, so look it over and practice your business analysis.

Anything between these two extremes, I’m going to say is stupid. I’m willing to entertain suggestions on what someone thinks isn’t stupid, but unless and until I see it, I feel pretty comfortable calling them all stupid. If you aren’t willing to put in your hours of analysis, it’s dangerous and risky to buy stocks & bonds; you’re putting your money into something with no safeguards, with no idea what’s actually going on. If you’re going to go in mutual funds anyway, then any time spent analysing is a waste: mutual funds all go up and down together, in sync with the market, and professionally-managed mutual funds often under-perform monkey-with-a-dartboard-manged mutual funds. Pick one with low fees and forget about it.

Real Estate Investing

Another place people often think of is real estate. Real estate investing can also be very cool, and your analysis doesn’t necessarily have to involve long columns of tiny numbers. There are lots of ways to make money in real estate: buy-rent-hold, fix-and-flip, short sales, lease-option, etc. Short sales and lease option are making good money in this market; if you have the credit to afford a property right now, you can get good deals for buy-rent-hold. Again, if this interests you, I would invest the first several months’ worth of money in education, and I would see if I could find a current real estate investor to help me out.

Invest In Yourself

Next possibility: invest in your own brand. The internet has made it totally possible for people to make a living doing things they (at least kinda) enjoy. You might want to start your own business, or make crafts and sell them online, or run a website on a topic that interests you, or write a blog, or make videos, or whatever. If you have something that you’ve been thinking of doing, use your money to buy business cards or a domain name or materials for your business. (If I had $100/month to invest, I would use it to try assorted advertising campaigns for my partner’s business, to figure out which are the most effective.)

If you don’t have an idea of what you’d like to do, but the build-my-monetization-potential sounds good, then I’d put the money into something low-risk/low-yield, like a short-term CD, a government I-bond, or just an interest-bearing Paypal account. My extra monthly money goes into my Paypal account, and I just save it up for use when I want to develop a new income stream; that’s what made it possible for me to start up my website when Steve Pavlina pointed out SBI as a good method. So save it up while you study possible monetization plans and make decisions about what you want to do.

Another possibility in the investing-in-yourself line is to look at what you want to do. Would you like to get into management in your company, but don’t have the necessary degrees? Go back to school. Would you like another career entirely, but don’t have the necessary skills? Look into workshops or training-style classes you can take. Do you have a hobby that you think you could make a business? Read some books on starting a small business.

Investing Summary

So, I realize that it’s probably not the “Go here, do this” answer you were looking for, but the long and the short of it is that step 1 has to be deciding what you want. I would put the money in a savings account until you know what your goal is, and then you’ll have it ready and waiting for you.

The Danger of Multi-tasking

When Multi-tasking goes awry

    The Old Sailor

    There was once an old sailor my grandfather knew
    Who had so many things which he wanted to do
    That, whenever he thought it was time to begin,
    He couldn’t because of the state he was in.

    He was shipwrecked, and lived on an island for weeks,
    And he wanted a hat, and he wanted some breeks;
    And he wanted some nets, or a line and some hooks
    For the turtles and things which you read of in books.

    And, thinking of this, he remembered a thing
    Which he wanted (for water) and that was a spring;
    And he thought that to talk to he’d look for and, keep
    (If he found it) a goat, or some chickens and sheep.

    He began on a needle, but he thought as he worked,
    That, if this was an island where savages lurked,
    Sitting safe in his hut he’d have nothing to fear,
    Whereas now they might suddenly breathe in his ear!

    So he thought of his hut… and he thought of his boat,
    And his hat and his breeks, and his chickens and goat,
    And his hooks (for his food), and the spring (for his thirst)…
    But he never could think which he ought to do first.

    And so in the end he did nothing at at all,
    But basked on the shingle wrapped up in a shawl.
    And I think it was dreadful the way he behaved —
    He did nothing but basking until he was saved!

        — A. A. Milne
        Now We Are Six

I’m not a focus-nazi who insists that you can never have more than one project going at a time. But multi-tasking can go too far.

Simple is Good

Robert Fulghum has a story about a church board meeting where they needed to figure out how to

    a) Fill in the potholes on the entrance side of the church driveway
    b) Slow down drivers on the exit side of the driveway to keep the children safe
    c) Do all that without too much expense.

The best proposal? Leave the potholes on the entrance side. Dig new potholes on the exit side. Seal them all up to prevent further deterioration. One of the church members volunteered to do it for free.

But that was too simple. Instead the board debated for hours and hours about paving and building speed bumps and posting signs and how to fund it and when to do it and who to hire… and it never did get done.

I’m not quite sure where it comes from, this urge to “complify” things. Maybe Hollywood, with its intricate strategies and dramatic unveilings. Maybe too many big corporations, with their 5-year plans and elegantly-worded mission statements. Maybe it’s still a remnant of aristocratic traditions from royal courts, sneaking its way in after more than two centuries of anti-nobility attitudes.

But but I think most often we reject solutions that are simple, elegant, and effective, in favor of “solutions” that are complex, difficult, and risky…..so that we can justify saying “I can’t do it, it’s too risky.” It’s a sneaky way of avoiding what you fear without ever having to say “I quit” out loud.

Simple solutions are often very effective. You should give them a try sometime.

Many thanks to DM at Heart To Heart for posting this story.

The Wasted Week

“Organizing is what you do before you do something so that when you do it, it’s not all mixed up.” — A.A. Milne

So those of you who are regular subscribers may have noticed a significant shortage of posts on this blog last week. Like, there was only one post. Or 80% less than I should have done.

Here’s what happened: I didn’t do my weekly planning. Normally I sit down at the beginning of the week and look over my monthly goals, and figure out what I need to do for the week. Last week I didn’t do that.

That lack had several results:
1) I felt way stressed out. I knew there was stuff I needed to be doing, but I didn’t have it centralized into one location. I couldn’t tell whether I was keeping ahead of my tasks or not, because I didn’t have anything to compare to my accomplishments. So even when I did get something done, I didn’t know if that put me ahead or just less far behind.

2) I didn’t get much done Every time I sat down to do some work, I didn’t know what to do. Usually I have a piece of paper with everything I want to do for the week; when I start to work, I look down the list and pick something on it. By the end of the week, most everything’s crossed off. But since I didn’t have that list, I spent most of the week trying to figure out what I should do, instead of doing it. And my failure to get stuff done contributed significantly to the stress problem.

Lessons:

1) Planning really does help
I’ve been planning my months and weeks since August of last year, and a week with that level of productivity has become the new norm. But despite the fact that I don’t notice increased productivity anymore, it is still there. Productivity was significantly lower in the week I didn’t plan.

2) Get back up and try again
Although I missed out on most of a week, I have a new week starting today. And because I built leeway into my month’s plan, I won’t end up too far behind by the time we get to June.

Just like dieting, you’ll screw up sometimes. That doesn’t mean you should throw your diet out entirely; it means you should make sure you eat healthy the next day. Likewise, you won’t be productive every day or every week. Just make sure you get back into the groove the week after.