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How to turn your hobbies into services that make you money

Ramit walks you through a system for identifying hobbies that make money, how to turn them into a business, and package your hobby for an audience.

Ramit Sethi

Do you know what’s the most common reason people don’t start their own business?

No, it’s not because they don’t have the time.

And it’s not because they don’t have the money.

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A while back, I surveyed over 1,000 people, and discovered that the #1 reason people don’t start making money on the side is this: They don’t know what to do.

Look, I get it. At first, the idea of coming up with an entire business idea may seem incredibly daunting — but it becomes much easier when you start to look at your hobbies; hobbies that can make money.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at these 3 amazingly weird (yet successful) businesses founded from people’s hobbies.

  • Toilet Trained Cat: Train cats to use the toilet. Revenue through books and online courses.
  • Female Musician Academy: Learn how to market yourself as a female indie musician. Revenue through online courses.
  • Design/Build/Downsize: A workshop tailored for tiny home enthusiasts and beginners. Revenue through online courses.

Each of these ventures started out as a hobby — whether it was training cats or playing music — and grew into a solid business that now generates tons of revenue.

The process can be simplified even more if you utilize SYSTEMS. And below is the start of the system we used to find six-figure businesses for thousands of students.

Before we jump into that though, there’s one thing I want to make clear:

Freelancing is one of the easiest ways to make money.

With freelancing, you can start earning money immediately by rapidly testing your offerings and cutting through unnecessary work of productizing and increasing your salary. As such, we’re going to focus on how you can turn your hobbies into freelancing work for the rest of the article.

The best part is 95% of jobs and 35% of hobbies translate into freelance work. For example:

  • Graphic designing
  • Copywriting, blogging, and editing
  • Web developing and programming
  • Crafting
  • Whatever!!

The best part is freelance businesses are easily scalable, so you can make a lot of money if you’re willing to devote just a little bit of time to it. Or if you get busy in other areas of your life, you can scale back.

But how? How do you distill your passions and hobbies into marketable skills? To do that, you need to ask yourself three simple questions.

Question #1: What skills do you have?

Now, what do you know — and know well? These are the skills you have that you’re great at — and people want to pay you to teach them, including things you consider hobbies.

Some examples include:

  • Fluency in a foreign language
  • Knowledge of a computer program like Excel or Photoshop
  • Cooking ability

Write down a list of 10 of these skills. I don’t want you to hold back. Write down ANYTHING that comes to your mind and you’ll start seeing what people might want to pay you for.

For some people, this might actually be hard to do — and that’s okay. Just try and get 10 skills down.

Case study: How I used my social media skills to consult for venture capital firms.

Like many of us, I know how to use YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. So during college, I was able to turn those social media skills into consulting gigs with multiple venture capital firms who wanted to learn how young people were using consumer services on the web.

This consisted of me giving them a course each week on a different topic such as online music, videos, and social networks.

Would you have ever thought you could turn your basic everyday skills — like social media — into a consulting gig? I wouldn’t have before I landed those gigs, but people were willing to pay for it because they had concrete needs. They wanted to understand how young people were using technologies so they could remain sharp investors.

Money wasn’t an issue, but time was: They’d rather hire someone who lived it than try to learn themselves. Once I’d established that I was skilled at these services — and also create an effective structure for teaching the VCs — they hired me.

Lesson learned:

Practically any skill can be turned into a marketable product — but it’s not enough to be simply good at something. Whether it’s freelance writing, dog walking, or graphic design, you need to be able to personalize your service to a specific target market.  

After all, millions of other young people knew how to use YouTube/Facebook/Flickr far better than I did. You have to be able to PACKAGE your knowledge into something your clients can recognize as valuable. That involves helping them make money, save money, or save time.

Question #2: What do your friends say you’re great at?

I love this question.

Not only can it be a nice little ego boost — but it can also be incredibly revealing.

Some examples include:

  • Your friends always telling you that you cook the best meals.
  • People asking you more for fitness advice and gym routines.
  • Your friends constantly complimenting you on how great your apartment looks.
  • Everyone always commenting on how well you dress.

All of those things can be turned into successful businesses.

Go ask your friends today what they think you’re great at. I assure you that they’ll give you a big list of things right away.

Add these things to your big list. Aim for around 3 – 5 new items.

Case study: How my friends’ personal finance failures inspired me to launch this blog.

I originally started IWT as a one-hour free course that I taught at Stanford. It was never designed to make money, it was just something I was good at and wanted to do.

My friends used to complain all the time about money in the dining hall. So one day I said, “Hey, you should come attend this class I put together. It’s free and takes an hour, and I’ll show you all the basics of money — banking, budgeting, saving, and investing.”

The response was VERY positive. People knew I was good with money and wanted to learn from me…

…or so I thought — because none of them EVER showed up to the class!

Over the next year-and-a-half, I struggled to have anyone show up. I’d wonder to myself, “Why am I trying so hard to give people GOOD, FREE information about stuff they want to know?” I felt like a career counselor, one of the most under-appreciated jobs in the world.

After trying all kinds of strategies to get people to attend, including emailing them to coordinate times, I switched approaches. Instead of in-person events, I launched the website you see now. That way, people could read it out of the comfort of their own dorm rooms.

Eventually, I realized that I could offer courses of my lessons and philosophies on personal finance and reach even MORE people. Not only that, but people would be willing to PAY me to teach them.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Later, I learned why this was so successful: People don’t like attending events about money because:

  1. It makes them feel bad about themselves.
  2. The events are usually BORING and/or scammy.
  3. People have to publicly admit they don’t know anything about money.

It was a classic mistake of not meeting my users/clients where they were.

Lesson learned:

If people see that you’re good at something, they’re going to be willing to listen and pay you to learn more from it.

Of course, that’s not enough. You MUST get into your clients’ heads. What are their fears? Hopes? What do they care about the most? (Hint: It’s almost never how much the cost is.)

Similarly, once you get in their heads, you learn which medium will best serve your client, whether it’s an in-person event, a blog, or a course. Whatever. The way you approach your client and the way in which you sell your product matters.

Question #3: What do you do on a Saturday morning?

This question actually comes courtesy of my friend Ben Casnocha.

He says, “When you’re trying to find a business idea, think about what you do on a Saturday morning before everyone else is awake.”

So how do you spend that morning. A few pastimes to consider:

  • Are you browsing fashion websites or fitness subreddits?
  • Which YouTube channels are you binge watching?
  • Maybe there’s a project you’re devoting yourself to all day.

Alternatively, ask yourself: If you were stuck in a room with a person for 3 hours, what could you talk about with them the entire time?

This is a powerful method of discerning your passion if you’re unsure — things you’ll love to share with the world.

When you’re finished writing your 15-20 ideas down, you’re well on your way to finding a successful business idea. They don’t all have to be good — but try and get them all down so you have a good place to start.

Bonus: To find out more on finding the perfect online business idea, check out my Ultimate Guide to Starting an Online Business.

Case study: How Brian turned his video hobby into a business — and doubled his rates

One of my former students, Brian, LOVED filmmaking — but halfway through film school, he realized that he had no idea how he could turn his hobby into a business. He knew a lot about the technical and artistic aspects of making movies, but not much about how to market those skills.

So he decided to invest in himself by joining Earn1K, my course on freelancing and earning money on the side.

By the third week of Earn1K, Brian had distilled his hobby down to a marketable product: high-end wedding videos. He also set two goals:

  1. Book three weddings and have one of them be from a couple he didn’t know.
  2. Earn enough to pay for a new camera (about $1,200).

“At the beginning, I was pretty much giving the videos away,” he recalls. “One was free. A couple were $450. By the end of the first season, clients were paying $1,000 for each video. I saw that I was giving people valuable material. They weren’t paying just to help me out. That meant a lot. They really wanted what I was offering.”

Brian minimized his risk by proving the validity of his idea before investing a lot of money into it. He shot his first three weddings with rented or borrowed cameras and he didn’t even put up a website.

By the end of that first summer, he booked six clients — and THREE of them were people he didn’t know before. He eventually bought his camera and started planning for next years’ wedding season.

Now with over two seasons under his belt, Brian has a better sense of how many weddings he’ll need to book each year to make his business sustainable. He also knows how to turn his hobby into a skill he can market.

“Nobody else is a full-time wedding videographer in my area,” he says. “There’s some people doing commercial and real estate video. But for now I’m sticking with weddings and doing it better than anyone else. My clients appreciate that, and it makes it simpler for me.”

Lesson learned:

Brian was able to take his passion — filmmaking — and niche it down into a specific marketable skill (ie high-end wedding videos).

Ultimately, he transformed it into a successful side hustle that’s now earning him thousands of dollars in just a few hours.

See more about how to charge what you’re worth in this talk I gave at a conference a few years back:

The golden rule of freelancing

At this point, some of you already jumped 50 questions ahead:

  • “But what if I’m not sure what I’m good at?”
  • “An online course? But I don’t have a website/traffic.”
  • “What kind of software should I use for…”

SLOW DOWN.

Part of trusting the system is focusing on ONE step at a time, not jumping ahead.

For now, I want you to know that YES — you have passions and experiences in you that people will pay for. Even if you’re not yet the world’s expert on them!

But I don’t want you to start jumping into tactics without understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing. To be honest, I did that with IWT at first, so I know.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s better to do something WRONG than to do nothing at all. But if you can spend a little time planning — and still continue executing — you can save hundreds of hours of missteps.

With that, I want you to keep this simple rule about freelancing in mind:

If you want to start freelancing because you want to earn extra money, identify a profitable market first then adapt your services to it.

However, if you want to freelance because you want to take your passions and turn them into a side income, first create your services that are based on your passions, then identify a profitable market.

Do you see a difference?

Example: Jack wants to earn money

Let’s say Jack wants to earn an extra $1,000/month because he wants to pay down credit-card debt and propose to his girlfriend after he’s debt-free. Great! His first goal, then, is to generate income.

As a simple rule of thumb, he should figure out the most profitable market that matches with his skills and pursue it relentlessly.

Jack is a customer-support rep for his fulltime job, so he looks outside to the market to see where he can generate income with his skills. He reads lots of mid-size bloggers, and he realizes they might need help editing their email newsletters (such as IWT). He gets in touch about a paid freelance job. Success!

Two clients in a month start generating an extra $500 each month. Since Jack cares about generating income first, and his passions second, he simply found an easy market that would help him earn more immediately.

Example: Mary is passionate about jewelry

By contrast, Mary is passionate about jewelry. She feels like she has a lot to teach other women about accessorizing the right way. Jewelry is her passion, so she wouldn’t want to, say, start a freelance business helping CRM companies optimize their sales funnels.

Since she already knows she wants to earn income in the jewelry field, she spends her time researching different services she can offer and create that people will pay for. Will she help jewelry makers appear at trunk shows? Will she be the trusted jewelry specialist who delivers to high-end clients? Or can she be a jewelry specialist who handles return or customer-service calls?

We don’t know what will be profitable yet — but Mary will find out via rapid experimentation.

Remember: Whenever possible, start with your goals, then let the tactics (How should I reach customers? How much should I charge? What software should I use?) follow.

Niche down your list

So now you have your list of hobbies and skills. Congrats! You’re already doing more to earn a Rich Life than 99.9999% out there!

Once you’re done patting yourself on the back, I want you to go through each item in the list and niche it down. In fact, with each of the items on your list, think about how you can answer the question, “How can I solve people’s problems with this skill or hobby?” 

Maybe you have “I’m a good communicator” on the list. Great! Unfortunately though, no one is hiring for “good communicators.” They’re hiring people to solve their problems. What does a good communicator mean to you, anyway?

Maybe that means you’re great at writing press releases (I’d pay for that).

Maybe you’re an awesome public speaker and can train others to do the same.

Maybe you can speak Chinese — and tutor Chinese kids since their parents will love/trust someone who speaks Chinese even when tutoring their kids for any subject.

Remember Brian the filmmaker? He was able to take his broad passion of filmmaking and niche it down to producing high-end wedding videos.

Or even me! I took my skills in personal finance and niched it down to provide personal finance advice and courses through IWT.

Do that with each of the items on your list. Once you’re done, you’ll have a list of marketable services you can now turn into successful freelance businesses that’ll earn you money.

Now there’s something else I want you to do.

You see, I want to make it easy for you to learn how to turn your hobbies into successful businesses. That’s why I’m revealing some real numbers and results from my business — along with case studies and other premium material — to my behind-the-scenes priority list for Zero to Launch.

Get ready to learn the exact beginning-to-end system I use to run a successful online business and make money online.

ramit 12minutevideo
My 10-minute video on how I went from a $4.95 e-book to a $12,000 course.

What you’ll learn from this “Behind The Scenes” video guide:

  • The 4 crucial turning points that skyrocketed my online business success
  • How pricing and positioning can be the ONLY difference between a colossal flop and a runaway success
  • Mistakes that cost me millions of dollars — and how you can avoid them
  • The exact steps that took me from a $4.95 e-book to a $12,000 course

Are you ready to go from no idea to a recurring revenue stream? Do you want to build an online business that PAYS YOU to live the life you’ve always wanted?

Enter your email below and I’ll send you this exclusive video.

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90 Comments

 
  1. Maria Brilaki

    Hello Ramit,

    Thanks a lot for the last post. It was quite thorough and provides examples that are simple to follow because they are specific and detailed.

    Hope I will shoot you a success e-mail in the next year!

    Maria

    P.S. Found a tiny error: On the table with “Skills that are existing, tangible things that you’re good at”, in number 2 the brackets are not complete.

  2. Aitor Calero García

    Wow “They wanted to understand how young people were using new technologies so they could remain sharp investors” that is something I would never have figured out!
    That has lead me to think more deeply about other unknown skills everyone have, eg, setting up electronical devices, or how to find things on the internet. The type of things I do daily and surpringsingly to me many others don`t even know.

  3. Ashwin / Thoughts Unlimited

    Very nice and valid points. One technique I use – after identifying the money making skills is to run a blog and talk about it. In fact, most of my top clients are gained through my blog.

  4. Lance

    Ramit,
    Very nicely written, and some great thoughts on really taking this to the next level! What I thought was especially great is real examples of how putting freelancing to work can be be don.

  5. Abdullah

    Ramit,
    I have been following your blog for few weeks now. i have been implementing the automation a few month back even before i know your existence. But on earning more money, I still have nor clue neither the will or courage to take the first step despite I have been reading books and websites on personal financial for few years.
    Hopefully I’ll take the first step soon. Thank you for your great work here.

  6. Markus

    Great post!

    But just curious: “He reads lots of mid-size bloggers via his RSS reader, and he realizes they might need help editing their email newsletters (such as iwillteachyoutoberich. He gets in touch about a paid freelance job. Success! 2 clients in a month start generating an extra $500 each month. ”

    ‘mid-size bloggers’ would 250 dollars per month for editing an e-mail newsletter? is that really a realistic example?

    thanks.

  7. Megan

    Great post, Ramit! — I have learned this process the HARD way over 20 years — and yet I learned several strategically important things from this post that will directly increase my profit from my next venture (launch date: March 21, 2010)

    Thank you for your excellent content!!!

    I signed up at Earn1K — How do I sign up for your other entrepreneurial or Earn More Money virtual communities?

  8. TheDebtHawk.com

    Ramit,

    You said, “People pay for solutions, not your skills.” People really need to think about that. Freelancers need to provide valuable results.

    If your customers are buying your services to make more money, you need a product that will help them to make more money.

    If you are a freelance writer, you need to think about how much extra money you are helping that site owner make. If he make great money from his site, chances are your articles will make him more money than a site owner who is not making much. Therefore, the successful site owner will pay you more money.

    You need to understand your customer’s business. Your business needs to be the right fit for him. Your services need to provide results, not just work.

  9. Tyler WebCPA

    Ramit,
    It is amazing how many people will shell out tens of thousands of dollars and years of their lives for higher education so that they can earn more money down the road someday but won’t do a little hustling and preparation own their own to develop skills and contacts that can have a big payoff in the future. If the road is not well-traveled, many people a afraid to take it. Thanks for helping show people that there are other options out there.

  10. John

    Wonderful post Ramit. The step-by-step thought process of how to break down skills that the process engineer already has was particularly helpful. Thanks for your constant honesty … looking forward to future posts in the series.

  11. Noah Clark

    Ramit,

    Do you want my first born daughter now or later?

    Take a look below and see if I am thinking right on this:

    I can organize, design, and help you implement systems that work with how you live your life. I find or design the right tools that don’t interrupt your work flow. These can be business systems, financial, or communications (e-mail).

    On this one, I think I need to be more specific or nichey.

    I can fix small business computer problems, website, or blog problems.

    I can synthisis a topic into a simple to read format that you can read and then make a more informed and better business decision. This could be drupal vs wordpress. One wordpress plugin vs another. It could be finding the right host for your needs. Things of this nature. What is the right camera for you to do video blogging with. I think I would also add in support as a value added service. You’re not alone once you’ve made your decision based on my information I’ve provided to you. I think this includes the specificity that the first one lacks.

    Am I heading in the right direction with these?

    • Denise

      I would be really interested in speaking with you about the services you offer.

  12. 4hr

    This is a really interesting post – I’m wondering if such a strategy might also be fruitfully integrated with selling information based products – i.e. putting your marketable skills into ebook or other form and selling that as a ‘lead in’ to freelancing work.

  13. Tim

    Ramit,
    I’ve been following your blog for a while now and this is my favorite article to date. I’m in similar situation as your examples above… a 40 hour cubicle jockey seeking a side income to cover my mortgage, but having trouble identifying money making areas. I will certainly use these tactics to break down my skills and identify market needs.
    Thanks!

  14. mary

    Hello,

    Some comments:

    One:
    You give most of your attention to the kinds of things that can be done at the end of a wire and give short shrift to things that require a person’s physical presence. (You did mention walking dogs and hammering nails into walls.) Jobs done at the end of a wire can be done anywhere in the world. People in other countries may charge a lot less for a job, too.

    Two:
    You’re kind of hazy about how many hours it might take you to earn the thousand bucks.

    Three:
    When you discuss money you ignore taxes and other realities.
    One of your recent posts suggested that if you put your monthly thousand bucks into something that gives you an annual return of 8% you’ll end up with millions of dollars. Where can you get such a return today? I and every other one of your readers would like to now.
    There are also taxes to pay on the 8% you earn on your (eventual) millions.

    If you earn an extra $1000 a month you won’t get to keep all of it.
    First there is FICA. You may have to pay both parts of this which would take 13 or 14%. Even if you pay only half this is still about 7% Next you have federal income tax. Then there are state and local income taxes. You may also have expenses associated with ythe production of your new income. You could easily end up with five or six hundred dollars instead of a thousand.

    You may also have expenses associated with this new income.

    • askbob

      Where do I start?

      First of all what taxes are you talking about?

      Second, cite the statute and implementing Federal regulation verifying your claims regarding Federal taxation, absent both you are just parroting nonsense and following the herd and not the actual law.

  15. Trendy Indy

    “Guess what? You get passionate when you start winning”

    Ramit,

    This is the most thoughtful and helpful post I have ever read. Thanks for giving me a direction.

  16. Kevin M

    Nice outline of how to go from a worker mindset to taking ownership of your skills.

    I think part of the problem is people are so buried in their job, they can’t see the trees in the forest (their skills being the trees). They think they have to sell people the forest, but the trees are more valuable and adaptable.

    I have a couple business ideas just from reading this post and thinking very briefly about my skills, can’t wait to see what’s next.

  17. Suzyn

    I think your comment about people sucking at recognizing their own skills (I’m paraphrasing here) is dead on. One reason: once you’ve mastered a skill, you tend to think it’s easy and obvious for everyone. “Of course I can [surf Facebook] [finish a sweater] [build a line/bar chart in Excel] [construct a sentence], can’t everyone!?” The answer is, no. It’s like when someone says “Oh, I love your dress” and you say “What, this old thing!?” (You say that all the time, don’t you, Ramit?) If someone has ever said “Wow, you can do such-and-such?” don’t just shrug and say “Yeah. Duh.” You’ve just identified a marketable skill.

  18. otc

    I like the social media bit–reminds me of the job I got during school (I suppose you could call it freelancing with school as my full time job…I just called it under the table income from a part time job). I was brought in to do a lot of administrative assistant/tech support work for a guy but his main reason for wanting me (over someone who could easily work more hours and be paid less) was for my insight into social media (he was in advertising). It worked out pretty well…even got paid to spend some time “playing” second life in order to tell him how stupid it was for companies to be dumping ad dollars into it (and look where they are now).

    I have a nagging fear of the section where you talk about finance people. Most employers in that arena seem to have a contract clause relating to outside business ventures (or at least those that are in exactly the same line of work…so valuing companies is out for ibankers and helping with business plans is out for consultants). Most of these companies could care less if you spend some of your free time selling jewelry or running a company that designs murder mystery themed corporate events but I would be careful about unintended consequences in your real job.

  19. Diasdiem

    My mom fell into freelancing almost by accident. When my dad was diagnosed with early-onset alzheimer’s, he had to quit his masonry business. To slow the drain on their savings, Mom took a job at a local tourist shop. After about 2 years Dad got to the point where he couldn’t be left alone so she had to quit, but by that time something had happened.

    Mom’s always been great at baking. Especially cookies, and decorating them. Every now and then she’d bring in cookies or cinnamon rolls or something she’d made and share it with her coworkers. One day one of the store’s suppliers was there and saw some of her cookies, and Mom ended up periodically making cookies for her, which she resold to other people. Eventually Mom started taking custom cookie orders from coworkers and people she knew. I designed a business card for her and she started distributing them with the orders. She’d do an order for cookies or a birthday cake for some party, and someone at the party would see them and she’d get another customer. It’s all word-of-mouth because she can’t really advertise, as she doesn’t have a commercial kitchen and it’s not really legal. But she has customers who are like 7 or 8 degrees of separation now from her original customers.

    In a good month (especially around the holidays) she brings in 5 or 6 hundred dollars from this, especially since we’ve convinced her to raise her prices (at least for new customers). It’s not enough to cover their expenses, but it does slow the drain on their savings.

  20. Vin

    Whoa!

    You really spent some time on this one, eh?

    Admittedly, I’m going to need to re-read this a handful of times before I truly internalize the information completely. I can already tell that breaking down my talents and comparing them to my goals is going to really help me zone in on my potential money making opportunities. I have a feeling this post is going to become a go-to guide for me.

    Thanks for taking the time to not only provide us with information, but for helping us really understand it in way that’s useful to everyone.

    P.S. I rearranged my schedule and can make the web cast. See you tonight.

  21. Jarred

    Lots of good info. Do you need someone to freelance for you by making your looooooong blog posts into shorter ones?

    Seriously, I love your stuff Ramit but this is a lot to take in at once and as you say, “knowing your customers is key” so please think about a different structure to this. Perhaps you will go into more depth on each section in future posts but I think it’s pertinent for everyone to stop reading after the section on “Start with your goals” before trying to digest more…at least that’s what I will be doing.

    Thanks for the great info though, Jarred.

  22. CK

    Amazing post–am bookmarking it, and I never use bookmarks.

  23. Kurt

    @mary: Alas, if you earn a thousand, the big bad socialist government might take 40% of it. Oh well. You’re right: we might as well not even bother. After all, it IS better for my balance sheet to have 100% of $0 extra than to have 60% of an extra $1000 each month

    Ramit,

    Thank you. Insightful, direct, and no-nonsense as always. One of my goals for this year is to start a side business and to get $500 in extra income from it four consecutive weeks. I’d designated January as brainstorming month, and you’ve really given me some more helpful tools.

    And here’s an insight into barriers that I’ve had since biting the bullet and tackling this goal one step at a time: Eliminating barriers is kind of scary, because I’m left with no excuses. Excuses are comforting, accountability is intimidating.
    I always said “I have no technical degree and no special job. What can I do? [pause for 30 seconds while I try to ‘brainstorm’] Oh well. I can’t think of anything. If only…”
    But, forcing myself to do it (dedicating only a couple hours of concentrated thought so far), I’ve already come up with 7 concrete ideas that I can do and that could pay. And that’s before I read this post! Let’s see if we can’t double that in the next week.
    Next barrier: choosing.

    PS – It might be a cool idea, with this great iwillteachyoutoberich community that we have, to gather a repository of business ideas that people have/will come up with. That’ll be yet another illustration of how this isn’t just an all-read-no-action crowd and how this blog produces results!

  24. Mark

    Thanks for this great post. Very thorough step by step approach. There is a lot of takeaways here and I’m looking forward for your office hours live webcast and the Earn 1K program, of course!

    One question I hope you can help address is that some of us are working for large companies that signed non-compete clauses in our employment agreement.

    Are we legally allowed to use our skill sets to solve our client’s problem that might be a competitor?

    If we have patents (pending) with the company, can we use the patented knowledge to solve different problems in similar areas?

    Thanks,
    Mark

  25. Mike Stankavich

    Ramit, your point that there is no easy, customized recipe is so true. I was just thinking about that this morning from the context of coaching. Even if your coach was foolish enough to attempt to prescribe a course ofaction for you, it wouldn’t be a course of action that you emotionally own.So even though its often difficult, challenging, and confusing to figure it out for yourself, that’s the only way that will work. It’s definitely a catch-22 – your coach can’t tell you what to do because it won’t work if he does.

    As for business cards and website, I’ve had my side software development business for over 10 years. I didn’t have a website for the first 6 years, and I didn’t have business cards until last November, over 10 years after I started the business.

    You definitely make a good point about the portfolio too. For example, I could easily take on your sysadmin role. But I don’t have a portfolio up right now. I plan to do that after finishing a medium size PHP/MySQL project that will be the core of my portfolio, of course with a glowing testimonial 🙂

    Now that you mention it, there’s another blogger that I do sysadmin for that I could add to my portfolio… Hmm, maybe I should take a break from development and get that out there!

  26. Daniel

    Ramit,

    My last comment made in your blog was a rant’ on Erica’s post (Oct 27th) that made no sense at all when others start reading it.

    However, since then I took on a job in Nov to pay off some bills, only to quit in Dec to be re-hired by the same company as a freelancer (I’m finding this post timely with one of your advice was on freelancing as a new income); by Jan I became very frugal (only spend that which I truly enjoy — like lan game meetups and a dinner with friends), and started 2 businesses with my best buddy. I’m now working on a third to expand my parent’s business, while waiting payment for my freelancing.

    I’m excited now, and sharing this out as one of the 2 business actually became profitable today—that’s less than 3 days since doing a soft launch!

    If I could add a 2cents worth to this thread, I’d say that:

    1. Get the essentials up, and launch.

    Tweaking and refining can be done over time. Launch and listen to what the customers (audience) gotta say, then make the updates to the product / service.

    2. Goals first.

    There are really easy markets to tweak our skills in and provide a solution. I’m passionate in writing my 2nd book and building an audience, but I know that it’ll take anywhere between 1 to 2 months to get that done—with no assurance of results either. While it took less than a week to get a business and it’s system up and running. I went for this first; and really thankful for positive results today.

    It is totally possible turning skills into services that people will pay for.

    Definitely ain’t easy—the advice in this post gotta be tailored to your situation.

    Thanks 🙂

  27. DeAnna Lynn

    Hi! Ramit!

    Thanks for these insights! Because they’re SO great – I have included them in my weekly “Wednesday Wisdoms” post – the latest and greatest in blogs, articles and good old fashioned paperbacks!

    Check it out: http://createyourgreatlife.wordpress.com/

    Your friend,
    DeAnna
    @DeeLynn

  28. Nathan Schmitt

    Ramit–great post. I’m a college student and just started doing some social media consulting for a huge NPO. It’s great experience, I love doing it, I get paid, and even got a free flip cam that i’m going to use to add a video section to my blog. This article is great, and I’ve bookmarked this to use after my surgery recovery to figure out what further services I can offer the NPO I’m working with. Thanks again!

  29. Eugene Kuhns

    This is a great post. In addition to an individual using these techniques to earn more on the side, companies can look into their employees hobbies and other skills to find additional revenue streams. This is why Google encourages their employees to spend time on personal projects.

  30. Tomas Stonkus

    Hey Ramit!

    Great post, but man! It’s complicated. There is a lot going on here. One thing that could help is transforming this into a flow chart.

    I am a visual learner myself and I understand that you material is very good and valuable, but comprehending it to the fullest is a different story.

    I used graphs and charts to lay out complex concepts when studying for my CPA exam. Matter of fact, if it is something you would be interested, I’d love to give a shot and if you find useful, then you could post it somewhere as a JPG attachment.

    Best,
    Tomas

    • Ramit Sethi

      For flowcharts, sign up at Earn1k.com 🙂

  31. Josh O'Byrne

    Thanks so much for this Ramit, it’s really been that great push for me to get something together. I finish university in the summer and I hope to set something up on graduation while travelling.

    Look forward to reading more of your posts.

    Josh

  32. Noah Clark

    I’ve created a Ramit 1k Cohort project in Basecamp. If anyone is interested hit me up at noah@noahc.net. I’m looking for about 6 more people. Anything more than that and I think we might loose our focus. If you’re serious about this, but want feedback along the way on what you could do better hit me up and we’ll make this happen!

  33. David

    Hi Ramit,
    I loved your book and am just getting into the blog. This post was great- I am right in the middle of establishing my freelance business- private bartending and a blog on bartending that I will monetize in the future. This post gave me lots of new ideas.
    Check out my blog, I’d love to hear what you think!
    www.DavidtheBartender.blogspot.com
    -David

  34. lxmorj

    Ramit, I’ve refreshed earn1k about 30 times over the course of three days. If this is some sort of market research where there isn’t actually a signup page: uncool.

  35. Noah Clark

    Lxmorj,

    There is something there. Turn off your Ad Blocker and I bet it works. Failing that clear your cache and/or try a different browser.

  36. Elle

    Thanks Ramit for the tip. I just picked up a project matching a solution for a friend and my skills.

    He runs a website design company for small business in a very niche market. He offers a turn key solution, but he noticed that many of his clients don’t even have decent marketing content. A wonderfully designed website won’t be as effective and kind of hurts him. Writing content for those clients to build interest is not his skill or passion, but it’s a skill set that I have.

    It’s some extra income and I’m developing a better portfolio for hopefully higher paying gigs.

  37. Jim Munro

    Great post. Very useful as well as motivating.

    It makes it easier when 90% of the people will bail on this plan at step #1. They will be content with their current job situation, I know from experience.

    But so much the better, makes it that much easier to get started for the rest.

    “People pay for solutions, not your skills.” – Well said.

    Kudos for giving an example (sys process engineer) that doesn’t take the easy way out as far as creating a new creative path. Many similar articles use easy examples and not ones that are different from the main skill/job.

  38. David K

    Hi Ramit,

    This is one of your best posts that I’ve read. I’ve had most of the basics down for a while now, but I’ve been looking for a way to break through and start doing more than just manage my money well. This seems like a great start.

    I can’t wait to see what you have in store for http://www.earn1k.com/. Ping me if you’re looking for early adopters/beta testers/feedback on your new project.

  39. David K

    @Noah Clark

    Thanks for the update – I didn’t realize that there was anything there.

  40. Migdalia

    Hi Ramit,

    I just want to thank you fot this amazing information, it really inspire me!

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  42. Blue

    Hi, Ramit. I’ll be on the office hours vidcast tonight.

    The question I want to figure out is:

    Okay, I’ve got a service people might pay for, a target audience, and a researched plan to reach them.

    The plan to begin emitting signal to target audience is in process.

    What are the best strategies to lift my signal out of the noise?

    Research, yes; finding out what people want, yes; using networks, yes; trial and error, yes.

    And then… bite your nails, and wait, and keep trying?

  43. SocalB

    I think that there are some additional benefits to having another income stream. When you increase your income each month, you also will become more focused on the things that matter naturally. Your time is more valuable because your leisure time is cut. So if you start another project and didn’t have a streamlined life, you will quickly find yourself making your life more and more efficient. But don’t let the fact that you haven’t set up automatic bill pay/saving transfers be a barrier! And when you do earn more money, you can include this when you apply for a promotion. I have one friend that used the income from both of her jobs to justify a higher rate when she went accepted a promotion at another company.

    I also wanted to mention that while I completely appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit that this blog takes, if you are in the category of people who want to earn more for the sake of more money, you can also go for highly-paid part-time work. This would also be a suitable option for those who don’t want to figure out self-employment withholding, etc. I’m not a self-employed business owner, yet I’ve managed to earn $650-900/month take home working 7 hours a week.

    My final point is I truly believe that the difference between people who let their mental barriers get in the way and those that get past them can be summed up with one question – “[Fill in the blank here] is a problem/the reason why I’m not earning more/etc, what am *I* going to do about it?” Either you’re fix it/adapt or ignore it and continue to let it be the reason why you aren’t getting it done.

    Just some thoughts,
    B

  44. 4hr

    While it’s not really viable in the office hours podcast, it would be great to get a real nuts & bolts example of a service story or product story (e.g. ebook or just regular product) – how did they come up with the idea, how do you get it made (or by whom), how do you get packaging done, how do you handle distribution, etc. etc. (or analogous service related questions). This would look a lot like the story Tim Ferriss told in 4HWW w/ his product Brain Quicken, but with much more detail. On this point, no post would be too long 🙂

  45. Susan Fahnestock

    Nice Post Ramit! I just found this from Tim Ferris’s twitter. You are providing some very valuable content for your readers.

    I graduated from college and started my first business at 22. That was almost 20 years ago. Finding ways of making money has always been easy for me. Ideas are never the issue. Time and execution are. I now have a successful and established company that I am focused on, but I definitely started at the bottom.

    Here are some of the crazy things I have done to earn money that anyone can do:
    -I went to garage sales at the end of the sale and negotiated to take away the rest of the stuff for free or very cheap. I had my own garage sale the next weekend and earned a few hundred dollars a week doing this. Total time: 5-10 hours on weekends.

    -I bought and sold refrigerators!

    -I bought and sold furniture!

    -I bought and sold fruit!

    The above three were done before the advent of the internet and craigslist! Now it would be totally easy.

    -I started a maid service and hired other people to do the cleaning. I did the marketing.

    -I wrote complicated sales letters for companies to generate business.

    None of the above business/activities are even closely related to what I am doing now.

    The key is to be flexible, creative, and to just try things. It is much more valuable to have “money confidence” – the belief that you have skills to make money wherever and whenever you need, than it is to have a specific set of skills. Besides, “skills” can be learned rather quickly with all of the tools available online and in libraries.

    In my mind, the #1 reason people don’t take the time to do the basics to earn extra money is fear. Fear of failure or maybe even fear of success…..

    I wish everyone the best of luck!

  46. Vishal Sagar

    Hi Ramit,

    I have been following your blog for the past year and half. Although I live in India and some of your ideas may not be applicable here, I still like your work. Thanks for posting out such an awesome post.
    I will apply your concepts in the Indian context and will post my results in the coming weeks.

    Wishing you the very best in life!

  47. Blue

    Yo–just got back from the Office Hours vidchat.

    Testimonializing: yes, it was awesome.

    Specifically, b/c Ramit likes specifics: it was a fast-paced, high-energy group all focused on a single goal: problem-solving barriers to earning more money.

    A few lucky people got solutions and everyone else got inspiration/ideas/next steps.

    Also Ramit is a hoot. Not to sound like my grandma or anything.

  48. RedMaven

    First off…I would like to say, that this is one of the best post I have read in years that actually brings a process to turing your skill sets into income. I can tell that you have been through the process yourself through your writing. You bring science to the art of trying to figure out what you are good at and how it can be used to generate income.

    Excellent, I look forward to your extended post.

  49. Nathan Schmitt

    Is the office hour video up on ustream? I wasn’t able to attend due to a dinner appointment…

  50. Jennifer Rockford

    Really helpful post and Office Hours chat, Ramit! Thanks to you I am making progress getting my freelancing idea from the mushy nonspecifc stage to a level where I can make some money from it.

  51. Norman Dacanay

    Hi Ramit,

    It’s my first time reading this post and your blog, and I have to admit that I am very much impressed…I read a guest post of yours on Tim Ferriss’ site and thought that was very interesting as well.

    I am currently trying to get out of my regular 9-5 jail, and the tips, structure set-up and advice you have given are totally priceless.

  52. grumpy

    @Kurt: That was a bit harsh. Failing to budget for your tax liabilities is an easy way to turn extra income into a problem rather than a benefit. It makes sense to use Ramit’s automation ideas to put aside an appropriate percentage.

  53. Liset

    Hi Ramit,

    I want to print some of your articles, but there is no printer-friendly version available (?)

  54. Deitch

    I am an occasional reader of your blog Ramit. I did exactly what you recommended… a few days ago.

    I edit ESL student papers for extra income. In university, I was always great at writing and editing essays. Two days ago I made $160 in a few hours doing something that I do for friends all the time. I also tutor students in a wide array of subjects and hold English conversation sessions.

    None of my friends who are equally qualified (if not more qualified) have even considered trying any of these!

  55. Aitor Calero García

    @Liset You can use Readability (http://lab.arc90.com/experiments/readability/) or Printliminator (http://css-tricks.com/examples/ThePrintliminator/) to make it printer-friendly.

  56. Connecticut Energy News Board

    Ramit,

    A truly wonderful read!

    Cheers!

    – CT ENB

  57. Barbara Saunders

    This habit of thinking in terms of “my skills” comes from indoctrination in the lower rungs of the employment world. (By lower rungs, I mean right on up to middle management.)

    People of my generation were taught to present ourselves as obedient souls with skills that could be put to use by someone else without our asking too many questions.

  58. Susie Bright

    May I return to one of your comments…”You have to package your knowledge into something that clients can recognize as valuable.Usually this involves them making more money, saving money, or saving time.”

    I would say many services or products I’ve sold don’t touch other people’s financial lives, but rather their emotional lives– their bonhomie, thrill, beauty, comfort, humor, escape, relief, sense of being “understood,” or cared for.

    And of course I pay for these things as well. Wonder if you have any comment about that.

    I also would like to hear your thoughts on “personal appearance,” since that looms so large in many people’s work lives, and there’s such a big gap in gender and age considerations about it as well.

  59. Paul

    Love your article! Keep’em comin’ !

  60. Magda

    Thanks for a great post, Ramit!

    I kind of hope that by writing this comment I am committing myself to something I wanted to do for at least a year now, but never got round to doing it. My problem is definitely psychological, I am not confident enough and I am afraid that someone will judge me/think that I am going to fail. But as of yesterday, I started taking action, not on the business idea, but started with your 30 day challenge, and called my bank and insurance company. I failed, but I am happy I tried, I had nothing to loose and at least I know when I can call them again to negotiate 🙂 So I consider it to be a success!

    Anyway, I will keep you updated on my business idea, I know I can do this!

    Thanks again

  61. Lilach Bullock

    Fascinating overview and well thought out.

  62. How To Make More Money by Freelancing (Anyone can do it) | Escaping the 9 to 5

    […] excerpt is from an amazing blogpost Ramit Sethi did on freelancing. And it rings very true, take it to heart before we move […]

  63. Randolph

    To quote Mary If you earn an extra $1000 a month you won’t get to keep all of it.
    First there is FICA. You may have to pay both parts of this which would take 13 or 14%. Even if you pay only half this is still about 7% Next you have federal income tax. Then there are state and local income taxes. You may also have expenses associated with ythe production of your new income. You could easily end up with five or six hundred dollars instead of a thousand.

    You may also have expenses associated with this new income.

    Yes Mary you are quite right about all the things you have mentioned. I understand your problem and I have a little business solution for you that is tax free and will make you an excellent income.How does 18 year contracts grab you Mary and some instances 22 years . Also a plus is that you won’t increase your taxes and actually decrease them. Bonus ! Bonus ! The government will actually become a personal collector for you and your new found income will not be income that has to be spent from your clients but will automatically be deducted from their paycheck for a total 18 year contract. Downside is that it will take 9 months to initiate the first of potential income plus this opportunity will require good health and good looks plus a touch of seduction. Are you sure your up for this? Find a rich Bastard let him make you pregnant. Carry the pregnancy to term, Have nothing to do with the guy and than get the Government to work for you collecting the owed to you child support. Another alternative is to perhaps start yourself a business on the side doing part time work but instead of letting the government take all your money away in taxes and self employment taxes expand your business by investing that money into your business and deducting those expenses to become even bigger. Now you can become full time self employed and perhaps buy or lease a car for the business if needed and deduct that. Plus you can deduct expenses of part of your house if used for your business. So what I’m trying to say is if our ultra liberal government is stealing to much money from your $ 1000 dollars a month than that means you need to make $ 2000 per month or balance out actual usage of the business and with deductions. Example If you drive a junker car and for the business you find that you are doing more driving than perhaps you can get a nicer car and deduct it for your business expenses and pay for your personal usage and guess what your new side business is helping you move up in life by having the nicer car. Just an exaggerated example. Your point though about taxes is correct and keep that in mind when voting. Look at the individual that your voting for not just the party line because there are big spenders in all the political party’s.

  64. Daily Links: Extreme Editing Edition- Financial Eyes & Ears

    […] here, especially considering how important it is. One of Ramit’s recent posts describes how to turn your skills into services people will pay for. Great […]

  65. Rob

    Excellent post. I think I will reread this from time to time.

  66. Daily Links: Extreme Editing Edition

    […] here, especially considering how important it is. One of Ramit’s recent posts describes how to turn your skills into services people will pay for. Great […]

  67. How to Discover What You’re Good At

    […] How to Turn Your Skills Into Services That People Will Pay For – Ramit Sethi breaks down how to figure out what you’re good at and then turn those skills into an income. […]

  68. phillipmarlow

    Another badass post. I know several people with transferrable skills who just have no idea how to market them as freelancers/consultants. Nicely done, Ramit : )

  69. Recap of the 3-week course on earning money « Adsense work

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  71. Max

    I am a long-time reader, first-time poster. I’m interested in earning income on the side. I am newly married and looking forward to buyer our first house (and taking advantage of the tax credit). I essentially live in excel for my job building models and doing analysis. You mentioned that there are people like you that HATE excel and would pay for the skill. Are you, or anyone you know, looking for someone to help with Excel models and analysis?

    Thanks for your great blog!

  72. The Importance of Being Grateful

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  73. Quest

    Once again very easy to understand and implement. Many gurus give us theory but here you are once again with actual steps we can implement.

    @Barbara Saunders – so true!

    @Noah – sent you an email.

  74. Sunday Site Update: Life Maximization Consulting Service Updated

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  75. “But I don’t want to take a SECOND full-time job to earn money on the side” | I Will Teach You To Be Rich

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  76. At Your Service: Starting a Service-Oriented Business | Pro Sulum, LLC

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  77. joshua fisher

    What about a combat veteran what kind if side jobs are out there for us expert marksman explosive expert route clearance machine gunner

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  79. GZphotography

    Wow! very enlightened. Kudos Ramit.

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  83. Nerdy007

    This is a video that I’d like to share, it’s about making money with your music primarily, but I think you can use it for other things as well. It’s about something called CPA and it’s pretty mind-changing. Check it out, it’s a 10 min video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0jvIvkBE4Y

  84. Hanna

    Thank you for your posts and for all the free advice you offer! I found it extremely helpful and ecouraging! 🙂

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  86. Camille

    These are some very useful tips. I like the way you describe the most common mistakes people make when trying to earn some money on the side. It all sounds pretty easy when you read something like this, but it’s definitely not so easy when you are trying to start something by yourself without anyone tipping you off. I’ve started my freelance career a little over two years ago and I learned all these things gradually, by myself (and actually, I’ve learned some here too). I’ve got a question not so much related to the subject. What kind of payment services do you use for accepting payments for your work? I’ve been recommended to use this one: https://worldcore.eu/, but I’m not sure how convenient and reliable it is. Does anyone know if this works well?

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