7 Ways to Increase Your Income (Ranked!)
You never have enough money. That’s the default belief. Nobody even questions this belief because, duh. Who takes the time to really consider the definition of “enough.” The only way to know the answer is by first getting in touch with actual needs and wants. From there, you build a meaningful spending plan. Knowing the answer to “how much is enough?” helps calm anxiety, making way for clearer thinking and decision making.
Now that you know that number you can figure out how much more you actually need (if anything) to make. Do you need to make an extra $500/month to cover expenses? Do you need to save $100k in the next ten years? Start by cutting out any unnecessary expenses. This gives you a head-start on your way to streamlining your spending plan. When you have a shortfall you have several ways to make that extra money to keep you on track every month.
Take deep breath before contemplating your options. Keep a positive mindset led by these four key principles.
1. Cut the fluff first
Cutting the fluff is an act of leadership. You’re deciding to devote resources to what matters to you. Once you realize how much stuff you really DON’T need, what you DO need becomes more apparent AND more affordable! Focus your spending on needs rather than wants.
2. You don't need to be a millionaire to be happy
New clients always tell me their top goal is to make more money. Lots more. As they get more real with themselves, they discover that the pounding desire to make more money actually comes from an inauthentic place.
One of the most common thought patterns I see is something I know from personal experience. I’m talking about the arbitrary annual salary you equate with success. That figure used to be just hitting “six figures.” A hundred grand used to get you into the cool kids’ club. After the dot.com boom, the coolest cool kids needed to make 7 figures. Now some of the ultra-cool model themselves on Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg, shooting for the prized 3 commas.
Even at the lower ranges, these figures are meaningless when they’re not seen in the context of your actual needs. I help my clients get more connected to their true wants and needs so they can better align their spending to their values. I speak from personal experience. I was caught up in this vicious cycle of corporate greed for years. When I reached my breaking point, I quit my job and began working with Morgan. She helped me see my relationship with money in a much more holistic way.
3. Humble beginnings lead to quicker returns
Now that you know how much you're short you can get started right away filling that gap. Instead of feeling helpless, you can take full charge. This is a simple exercise in problem-solving, no need for egos or shame. Humble choices like driving for Lyft or delivering for Instacart earns you good, honest money. You’re a badass boss of your own money. You’re doing what it takes, whether you rake leaves, sell cosmetics at Macy’s or make smoothies.
4. Self-employment isn’t for the faint of heart
Finally, just because you hate your job doesn’t mean you should become an entrepreneur. Business owners and solopreneurs all have their war stories. None of them would tell you to jump right in to the solo pool. It's much smarter to dip your toe into the water and test your ideas little by little. Think of your existing job as a lifejacket.
7 Ways to Increase Income
Let’s look at the 7 ways you can increase your income. For each option, consider start-up/training costs, opportunity cost, amount of potential gain and how long it’ll take to turn a profit. Are you still willing to do all of the hard work? We’ll look at these options in order of easiest to hardest. Naturally, the easier ones cost less and yield lower returns and vice-versa. Some lend themselves more to an entrepreneurial spirit and some fit better in corporate life. It’s a huge smorgasbord so let’s dig in!
#1 Start a Side Hustle
Side hustles usually involve some kind of selling. You could sell products through big platforms like Ebay or Etsy. You could also choose to sell directly through companies like Avon or doTerra. You can start building your sales through social media, marketplaces or personal/professional networks.
Hypothetical Net Potential Earnings: $2,400 to $4,800/year.
Time investment: 10 to 30 hours/week.
Financial Investment $50 to $1,000.
#2 Pick Up Gigs
Gig work is a great way to bring cash in the door. You can choose from lots of different apps, including Lyft, GrubHub, InstaCart or TaskRabbit. If you want to start with something small and flexible this is a great choice. All you need to do is sign up with the app and you decide when you want to work and when you don't!
Hypothetical earnings: $9,600/year.
Time investment: 5-20 hours/week.
Financial Investment: little to none.
#3 Freelance Your Professional Skills
Freelancing your professional skills is another popular choice with even higher earning potential. You can bid for jobs through platforms like Fiverr and UpWork and through professional/personal networking. Many people start with platforms to gain experience and then move on to solo work so they can keep more of what they earn. Accounting, marketing, graphic design, video production and social media management are just a few areas ripe for freelancing. Even if you don't have these skills, you can acquire them online, sometimes for free.
Freelancing can easily bring in up to a grand a month. I’ve had great success hiring extra help through freelancing platforms. I think of it as “premium gig work.”
You may be undervaluing your skills, not believing you can do anything someone else would pay you for. You’d be surprised at how many businesses have a crying need for project-based or administrative work. Ask yourself what you can do to help people. You could even consider transforming a hobby into freelancing work.
Hypothetical Earnings: $12k/year
Time Investment: 5-15 hours/week
Financial Investment: minimal if you already have a marketable skill. You can find additional training for free or at a reasonable cost through online resources.
#4 Negotiate a Raise
If you have a job you don’t hate, consider negotiating for a raise. This may or may not be coupled with a promotion based on your circumstances.
Unfortunately, most companies give very little (if anything) for annual increases. You’re lucky if you get 3 percent. Even top performers or in highly skilled or scarce professionals still tend to get only get a 4.5-5 percent raise.
This option provides a perfect example of opportunity cost. You’d be leaning in to your current job in hopes of getting a raise instead of siphoning off time and energy for a side gig.
Even if you’re not getting a promotion, you can still negotiate for a salary increase, especially if your salary is under the market rate for your job. Research current market rates for comparable jobs and be prepared to show how your work has saved or made the company money. This brings me to #5. Sometimes negotiating for a raise isn’t worth the effort and you’d be better off getting a new job.
Hypothetical Earnings: $3-$10k/year based on a 3 to 5 percent raise for an average salary.
Time Investment: 3-6 months.
Financial Investment: zero.
#5 Get a New Job
The days of “company men/women” are long gone. The pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. These days, staying in a job longer than two years can result in 50 percent less in career earnings than peers who switch companies more often. Today’s smart employees always keep their options open. Likewise, smart employers realize they have to pay well to attract and retain good employees.
People who do really well in this kind of environment are good change agents who can help companies get their new system up and running and move on to the next company. Each successive job adds to their skills and industry credibility. Lateral moves like these make sense as long as you’re getting paid market-rate for your work. They don’t require retraining or changing careers.
Finally, getting a new job typically garners you a much bigger increase than you’d get by negotiating a raise. We’re talking a 10 to 20 percent increase as opposed to one of only 3 to 5 percent. Although this option requires more work than asking for a raise, it can lead to much higher returns.
Hypothetical Earnings: $13k to $35k/year.
Financial Investment: Minimal. For example, you might spend a little on job boards or resume writing services.
Time Investment: usually at least 6-12 months.
#6 Change Careers
Maybe you just need to start fresh in a new career. At this point you’ll need to redefine what you bring to an organization and where you want to invest your time and energy.
There’s no limit to the ways you can reinvent yourself. You can go into sales, marketing, dentistry, veterinary, data and tech, health care or software development. You just need to get trained on in-demand skills so you can start something new.
Hypothetical Earnings: $60k/year.
Time Investment: 6 months to 3 years.
Financial Investment: $40K + (avg. cost of getting a professionally licensed skill like nursing) depending on whether you’ll need a degree or certification or you can learn on the job.
Some certifications such as project management or software development don’t take as long to train for. Take your time deciding on this because it takes a lot of time, energy and money. Compare those costs to what you’ll be earning in ten years.
#7 Start a New Business
Finally, if you’re ready to take a major plunge, you can start a small business or go solo. Small businesses such as restaurants or marketing agencies require paying employees and high overhead expenses. If you’re self-employed your overhead is low and you wear all hats from pitching to invoicing. This is a good option for personal trainers, life coaches, accountants and attorneys.
The cost of starting your own business is higher but so is the earning potential. Even if you’re getting sales in the first couple of years, it usually takes longer for you to earn enough to give yourself a consistent paycheck. Start-up costs can be small if you're self-employed or could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars if you have to open a store or build inventory.
Starting a business involves a lot of moving pieces. It can be very rewarding, especially for people who transition out of corporate life. But keep in mind that leaving corporate life also means saying goodbye to some perks you’ve taken for granted. For example, when Morgan left Merrill Lynch, she sorely missed all of their support services such as the help-line and IT support. It usually takes at least three years to build a consistent business. Sadly, this is usually the time that many businesses give up.
Owning your own business is definitely not for the faint of heart! Examine your motivations. A lot of women choose this route because they want to check the box of making more money. So let it really sink in that you’re likely going to be making LESS money, at least in the beginning.
If you’re driven by a passion, starting your own business can be very fulfilling. If you feel like you can’t NOT do it, trust that feeling. Keep in mind that the first few years will be challenging. It took Morgan a while to adjust to the idea of making much less money for several years. What made all the difference was knowing that she was doing what she loved and that she had several years in front of her doing this work. Even so, she still had those moments of thinking “OMG, if I had stayed in my job, I’d be making more money by now!”
On average an entrepreneur will have three to five failed efforts before they become successful.
I’m not giving this last option a red light. It’s more of a yellow: proceed with caution. Choosing this route can make more money over the long-term. It's a viable option but it also carries the most risk and has the most variables that are out of your control.
Hypothetical Earnings: $50k to $200k/year.
Time Investment: 1-3 years.
Financial Investment: varies.
Focus on increasing your income after you've cut the fluff. Shrink that monthly nut so you can hit your earnings goals more easily. Don’t make your life harder thinking you need to make more money just to buy stuff you don’t want or need. When you focus only on what’s meaningful to you, any increase in earnings will be that much more rewarding. Starting from a fluff-free ledger is the healthiest way to lay the foundation for your higher-income life.
Carefully consider the time, energy and money required by each option. Not everyone needs to become an entrepreneur. If you’d be satisfied making a decent salary at a good job, go with that! If you want to become an entrepreneur, I fully support you. Just make sure to look before you leap.
We’re living in an entrepreneurial culture which is great but laptop lifestyle can be overly-hyped. You can't just flip a switch and have that life. It’s a very powerful option but it's not for everyone. Use this article like a map. You might discover you only need a quick hopscotch to make the extra money you need. Maybe you’ll daisy-chain some of these options together. No matter how you decide to increase your income, enjoy your journey. Good luck!
Did you like this article? Get the latest personal finance articles from Vibrant Money by subscribing to our weekly newsletter!
Enter your email address below to sign-up.
We will never sell your information, for any reason.