I think I raised a few eyebrows on Tuesday when I said I hope to create a $200,000 per year income within the next three years or so.
I even got this comment on the post:
“Hi Mark, my husband and I love your blogs and your transparency. Being in Christian paid ministry however seems like a challenge to grow our income muscle. For example, we would never dream of asking a church to pay us 200K! Does this mean our retirement funds are doomed? Perhaps we need to be nicer to the kids? I would love to hear any thoughts from people who might work in non-profit organizations and how they look at their financial goals.”
Here’s the thing – I’m not talking about getting to $200k per year overnight. I may never get there. But income is my biggest budget category, so I’m giving it the focus it deserves. I’ll grow it incrementally. Here’s a quick story to illustrate:
About two weeks ago I walked into my wife’s CrossFit gym and approached the owner.
“Hi, Ben, I’m Mark Butler. I’m a copywriter. I actually work for Jesse Mecham.” (Jesse, his wife, and a few other friends go to the same gym.)
“So, do you run a monthly newsletter for your members?”
“Do you want to?”
“Actually, I get a few newsletters from other CrossFit gyms, and it’s something I’ve wanted to do. But I don’t write.”
“Yeah, that’s typical of most business owners. What would you think of letting me and Kate work out here in exchange for me producing a monthly newsletter to send to your members. I think it would help the community vibe and probably improve your retention.”
“Hm. I’m also going to re-do my website soon. Could you help me with the copy?”
“Okay, so you and Kate each get a membership, and I get a monthly newsletter and you’ll help out with the copy for my new website.”
“Sounds great to me.”
We shook hands, and that was it. The entire exchange took about four minutes.
Now I get $190 per month worth of value in exchange for 2-4 hours of monthly work.
(And, as Jesse pointed out, I’d have to earn more than $190 per month to pay for the memberships, so I’m really coming out ahead. But my new love of bartering is a discussion for another day.)
The benefit of the four minute conversation goes way beyond the $190 gym membership. I’ll be more fit; I’ll make new friends (and maybe even some business contacts), and I’ve opened the door to writing for a few more of the 4,000 (or so) CrossFit affiliate gyms out there. Maybe I’ll parlay this one conversation into a healthy freelance income.
So here’s a formula for steadily increasing your earning power:
1. Decide to make more income. I don’t mean to sound trite – deciding to create more income creates the focus you’ll need to come up with ideas and recognize opportunities.
2. Develop a freelance-able skill like writing, graphic design, or web development (programming).
3. Start asking people if you can do services for them. Just. Start. Asking. If they say no – who cares? Ask someone else. The people who say no will give you the feedback you need to tweak your offer so the next person says “Absolutely.”
Learning graphic design or computer programming takes time. You already read and write english (probably), so why not just steal my idea and run with it?
Use my newsletter pitch with ten small business owners. If they don’t go for your $250 bid, see what they’ll pay. Even at $100 per month you’re still making $20 to $30 per hour, which is a great start.
(By the way, the reason the newsletter pitch is likely to pan out for you is that most small business owners know they should be sending a newsletter to their customers, but they want no part of it because, like Ben the CrossFit guy, they “don’t write.”)
Listen, the combined GDP of the USA, the EU, and Australia exceeds $30 trillion per year. I don’t think we’re taking a big mental leap by hoping to carve out a few hundred bucks extra per month for ourselves. Are we?
For those who have any interest in this “produce newsletters for extra income” idea, I’m happy to share my ideas on how to make it work. If you’re interested, just leave a comment and we can hash it out right here in the comments on this post.