The term “financial independence” means different things for different people. For me, it’s the American dream. It’s the hope that one day I can retire and do the things I’m passionate about. While I may never stop working, I would love the freedom to pick and choose the projects I take on.
The journey towards financial independence involves some pretty basic, universal pieces to the equation of life. Income, expenses, debt and savings all play a role in how we feel about our financial picture. We live lives full of impulse-buys, but those of us reaching for independence know the power of cold-hard cash.
Cash gives individuals the power to make the transformation from employee to entrepreneur. Capital changes the game. Those who spend every last penny of their pay-check end up working for those that pay themselves first.
As a millennial, I grew up around technology. I’ve never lived in a paper and pencil world. Therefore, I embrace the digital life. The time-saving power of smartphones that pack a heavier punch than the spacecraft used to perform the first moon landings empower me to communicate and operate at an ever-increasing speed. And they’re a heck of a lot of fun.
When I’m not playing games, or catching up with friends around the world on Skype and social media, I’m focusing my tech powers towards generating income. The internet is full of opportunities for motivated people with a laptop and an internet connection to turn their time into money. You just need to know where to look.
The Gig Economy: A Laptop and an Internet Connection
Ready to turn your free time into paid time? As of 2016, 44% of US adults have already participated in the Gig Economy. Being a tech-savvy millennial, I liked the sound of turning my computer into a money-printing machine. So, I did just that.
I started reading blogs that explained how other people went from zero to hero. Sites like SmallBizTrends.com littered my browser history. I knew that if I could learn from someone else’s mistakes, I would have a better shot at avoiding unnecessary bumps in the road.
I saved an emergency fund, and quickly replenished it after the storms cleared. I set clear, defined goals for myself. From 1pm to 9pm I was working; no TV, no music, no Facebook. Focused, productive time was key to me breaking the employee lifecycle.
3 Simple Steps
I created my own home-based business following these three simple steps.
#1. Follow the Money
It’s easy to buy into the hype on TV, or in paid / promoted blog posts. Success doesn’t have a favourite watch brand, or type of car. For me, success is doing the right thing, and having a bank account with an increasing number of zeroes. Don’t get caught up in trying to do the things that make you appear successful; focus on turning your time into money.
Then, you’ll eventually learn how to turn even your sleeping time into money, by helping others make a living taking care of your clients. If I had chased every image-building, shiny object in my path, I’d be broke, in debt and hustling to make payments on things I didn’t need, to impress people I didn’t need to impress.
As Dave Ramsey is fond of saying: “Debt gives you the ability to look like you’re winning when you’re not.” Focus first on building a strong foundation built on wealth-building principles. You’ll avoid making poor decisions based off stress created by poor money-managing habits.
#2. Create an Online Reputation
Use websites like UpWork and Fiverr to create a verifiable track-record of success. When pitching new clients, the biggest thing that helped me come out on top was the fact that I could point to a third-party site that endorsed my awesomeness.
It’s also a great idea to start blogging about your experiences. Share what you do with the world. Give people a behind the scenes look at how you operate. If your customers feel like they can see the real “person” behind the brand or online personality, you’ll have an instant sense of connection with them.
A personal connection gives you the chance to prove your reliability, which gives you the opportunity to earn their loyalty. The process of building a business is built on relationships.
#3. LOVE your Clients
This, by far, is the most important one. It costs between 4 and 10 times more to acquire a new client, compared to keeping an existing client happy. Remember, costs are more than money. Costs could be time spent pitching new clients, as well as the opportunity loss of future orders from a lost client.
I wake up every morning and the first thing I check is Skype and my inbox. If my clients have a question or need something from me, I’m on top of it. Before I shower, I clean up any messes and address any concern my clients have. I am their go-to professional because I respond quickly and take action to solve their problems.
I am successful because I’m able to send my clients an invoice at the end of the week that represents pure problem solving on their behalf. It’s money well spent, and they realize it.
No matter what skill you have (writing, video production, narration, etc.) to offer, there’s likely a market for it online. Build relationships, take care of customers and always give one hundred percent. There will be tough, lean months (especially starting out). Having a solid emergency fund will allow you to focus on new customers, instead of where your next meal is coming from.
And never listen to the voices of negativity around you. Everywhere we turn in life there will be things trying to drag you backwards; someone driving a nicer car, a family member that feels they know of a better path for you to follow, and even friends that want to go on trips and distract you from the work at hand. If I can do it, you can do it. It just takes time, focus and perseverance. Good luck!
Image: Author’s Own