The bulk of financial advice focuses on budgeting, cutting out luxuries and saving on basic necessities. That's all useful advice but some days I just want that latte and I won't let Suze Orman get between me and plunking down my $4. And I'm not alone:
"Operating income was a record $4.2 billion, a 16 percent increase over fiscal 2015"
- Starbucks 2016 Annual Letter to Shareholders
Our latest poll showed that 4 out of 5 FiClub members want insight on growing or stabilizing Income versus focusing on any of the three other pieces of personal finances (expenses, debt and savings / investments). Most of the attendees at our first FiClub Bootcamp were self-employed or owned a business. The challenge you face with unpredictable income is that it can make you feel scared or vulnerable. These feelings can get in the way of other financial decisions like how much to put away for retirement versus how much cash to keep liquid to deal with a shortfall in income or the need to re-invest in a project for the business.
For those with regular work and a steady paycheck, planning may be easier but it's also easy to get lulled into a false sense of security, since jobs aren't guaranteed for life, as we learned in the last economic downturn. Technology is also always on the move and can destroy entire industries and ways of life - the President won't be able to bring back coal jobs by making speeches before self-driving vehicles eliminate millions of good-wage blue collar jobs in transportation. The lesson is to be ready to deal with the change you see coming as well as with the unexpected ones. We want FiClub members to feel hopeful, secure and confident about their ability to overcome disruption and we want preparation rather than denial to be the foundation. On the savings front, we showed there was a real benefit to the daily habit of setting aside a small amount, even $5, but where is that $5 supposed to come from?
Our recipes on the Income side:
1. Main courses: your primary career - the core "meat and potatoes" are worth investing some time into. It's important to not let your skills, network or professional image get stale.
2. Side dishes: or gigs that take your skills and interests in a profitable direction. This includes making money from hobbies, starting a side-business or any other type of moonlighting. We'll share some favorites below.
3. Snacks: small ways to earn a few extra dollars here and there, usually with low total effort and a quick turn-around.
1. Minding your current career:
You may have already invested time into education or years of experience in your current career so polishing that diamond to its highest value can be wiser than digging in the dirt for another one. To make sure your current role isn't below your potential in your current industry, pay attention to what others are earning to see how you are doing compared to the average income. Sites like Salary.com and Glassdoor let you see what else is out there and give you an idea what you are worth. If you are earning below your expectations, it may be time to refresh your career plan.
FiClub recommends that you have a written career plan, that you network and search for opportunities and that you address any obstacles in your way, As with everything, you can't do it all at once but you can take it on as a project, breaking it into manageable tasks that you can do regularly so it becomes a habit to be in action, If you put in 30 minutes a week, it will soon give you an opportunity to do better than the job that takes 40-hours per week from you and stopped meeting your needs.
For most professionals, the go to site for networking is LinkedIn and having recent professional photos and an updated and complete profile is the first step. LinkedIn also has Groups that you can join to meet others in your industry or potential hiring managers, If you are unsure about how to network, especially if it's been some time since your last job search or if you are new to the professional world, it may be worth talking to a career coach. A great resource for advice is TheMuse.com where you can read articles for job seekers or even schedule some time speaking with a career coach.
Some additional resources for the career search:
Another quick tip we found: If your resume needs are more immediate, check out JobJenny's Weekend Resume Makeover Course, an easy-to-follow, self-paced video tutorial that walks you step-by-step through the resume development process, shares templates and samples, and answers the most frequent questions. You may grab a copy at $75 off the normal price of $229 with promo code: 75OFF. Your local public library may have free courses to help support job seekers and career changers, but you would have to check the schedule and availability.
2. Profitable side gigs:
Your main source of income hit a slump or you want to accelerate debt repayment or retirement plans? It might be good to consider earning additional income beyond the regular paycheck. Side gigs can have a number of benefits. They can break-up your routine and broaden your social circle, as in the case of folks who pick-up a couple shifts a week working at a wine bar, or they can be an outlet for your creative skills (blogging, art or photography). It’s satisfying to engage in activities that put your unique talents to work but doubly so with the proof you are good enough to charge a willing buyer.
• Take a look at what your strengths are – current employment skills – how could these translate into side businesses?
• What do you do for fun? Some people enjoy cleaning – and organizing – use what’s fun for you and make money from it
• Research – take a look at what others are charging in your area for similar gigs.
• Dabbling part-time is a low risk way to make career transition to a new profession or industry
• You don't need a full-blown business to make extra money – start small – learn and have fun!
Some popular side jobs that FiClub members and friends have mentioned are tutoring, cleaning homes, being a blog writer, a dog walker (the perks in addition to some extra cash are that it will get you outside, exercising and enjoying the company of furry pals). Another popular gig is being a mystery shopper but make sure you are dealing with a reputable company as we have also heard of scams in this area. Successful people have sometimes found their way to their career by way of a side gig. Some advice that bears repeating is to not quit your main job prematurely to transition to the new business. According to Kerry Song from the Tony Robbins organization, if you are going to be an entrepreneur, you can cut the odds of failing by a third if you keep earning your regular paycheck while building up.
3. Quick cash:
In some cases, you are looking for something even more casual than the side-business, literally just a quick way to make $5 right now because you want meet your daily savings goal and you don't have a penny in your wallet. Our absolute favorite resource in this area is Swagbucks, a website where you can get paid to do online surveys or earn rebates on shopping for things you normally buy. I've played with Swagbucks to test whether it was legitimate and committed to at least cashing out with a $25 Amazon gift certificate when they go on sale for $22 that I could use for online shopping. I stayed on for $75 and am on my way to earning the next one:
Swagbucks also gives you rewards for shopping through their partnership links to sites like Priceline, Walmart.com (right now they give you 4% cash back on purchases), Travelocity and Amazon.com. These rebates, for things you may already be buying are a good way, in addition to the paid surveys, to earn gift cards. For me, the draw wasn't about the amount of money itself but rather it was the feeling that I could earn a little bit here and there to keep honest on the bet I made with myself in terms of staying on budget. If you decide you are going to become a driver for Uber in your spare time, signing up through the Swagbucks offer qualifies you for 9000 swagbucks, or $90 as a sign-up bonus:
Why not "pyramid" your discounts and perks so that you can earn a little more quick cash? When I was active on Swagbucks back in December, I found that just earning a token amount like 20 cents is a way to get your head in the game each day and helps keep you sharp for noticing other opportunities.
Other gig sites that are popular include Fiverr, Handy, Skillshare and TaskRabbit where you can do online microtasks or run errands for people to earn extra cash. These both seem like there would be a learning curve to get set up in the system, beat out your competition for the buyer's attention and to close your first sale. If you don't know how to begin, it might make sense for you to use Fiverr to hire the designer or advertising copy writer who can set up your logo or profile in TaskRabbit or Skillshare rather than getting stuck in front of a blank page.
Fiverr also publishes a blog that gives good ideas on how to get started with their platform, either as a seller of services or as a buyer.
Some other more sporadic ways of earning cash are working as an extra for a movie shoot or participating in focus groups and market research. These tend to be harder to come by and subject to the luck of the draw but the money per hour makes it worth your while and gets you in action if you are out of work or feeling under-utilized at your current main job. With the right attitude, any of these quick cash jobs can be an opportunity to meet people and network.
Share what works for you:
We're eager to hear about your strategies for making extra money on the side, for negotiating the salary you deserve in your job, or for growing your business as an entrepreneur. We covered a lot in this article and it is meant to give you a starting point on taking some actions right now that could make your life even a little bit better if you are feeling scared and stuck. Helping you get to a place where you feel secure and in control of your earning potential and your finances is the ultimate goal. In another post, we talked about getting a handle on things when you're in a financial tailspin, this article is to give you some further ideas on building up your options.
FiClub can be another tool to keep you focused on putting these strategies to work and handling any obstacles that get in the way - work with a FiClub Coach to get support or to join our other members in challenging each other and holding each other accountable for making progress on the goals you declare to the group. When you look at the four pieces of your financial picture and you assess the Income square, are you in a good place? Is there more you can do here to enhance your overall financial fitness? If so, let's see if you can work out a plan for either enhancing your current career, adding a side gig or finding small ways to earn quick cash to round out your budget and meet your financial goals.