Three things you need to know if you want to earn a living with your skills

comments 13
Business / Money / Motivation / Productivity

Lots of us want to run a business. Lots of us dream of doing our own thing, doing what we love to do, and making money from it. Lots of us dream of being self-reliant.

Some of you may want to create something from skills you’ve honed over years and simply share it with the world. The money is not a priority for you. No problem.

But if you want to earn money from your skills over time, there are three things you need to know:

1. Provide a product or a service that people are actually willing and able to pay money for (because you are solving a real problem).

2. Do something you enjoy. Enjoying your work is crucial for staying interested and motivated over the long-run.

3. Avoid or be wary of doing something that you truly love, that you can get lost in if your main priority is to earn money.

Combining a need to earn money with something you love can be a dangerous cocktail. If you need to prioritise money-making (for survival), this can, and will, tarnish whatever it is you are truly passionate about. Creativity will be stifled because you aren’t doing it to simply create, you’re doing it to earn.

The caveat: Do something you love without the expectation or goal of making money. If money flows to you after a while of doing something you love, that’s a great thing.

If you want to do what you love, start without the expectation of making money. If you need to earn money, do something you enjoy that solves real problems.

[later addition to post]: Always move towards doing something you really love, and maintaining this. If what you do to earn a living does not develop into a love, move on to another thing. But move quickly. You simply must maintain what it is you love as a focal point.

Good luck.

What are your thoughts?

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The Author

Alex is a project starter, sometimes finisher, writer and illustrator. He started Red Lemon Club in 2009 with the aim of helping talented creative people leave their mark.

13 Comments

    • Alex Mathers says

      Yes – take money out of the equation for those real passions.

      • I’m trying, but it seems that there are a lot of customers just waiting to take advantage of this. I do help some customers for free, but I can’t do it for all of them… That’s something that really boggles me a lot. Maybe there’s something I do in order to attract such clients.

  1. I actually really disagree with #3 – If you kill your passion for something you love through earning money then you weren’t doing it properly. I’ve been doing what I love and making money from it for over 4 years now.

    It seems a really bizarre tip, because you mention to sell your skills, yet to not do something you love with them? Surely you must have some love for what you do if you’re skilled enough to sell it.

    It’s far too harsh to say ‘it can and will tarnish’ – it’s not happened to me yet, and I know a myriad of people who would also heavily disagree with you. It’s also entirely conflicting with tip #2. How can you do something you enjoy for money but not do something you love for money?

    It’s better to know your limits than to limit yourself in the first place.

    I always tell people to take something they love and if they do make money with it then go for it. We have too many unhappy people in day jobs with the attitude that they can’t do something they love for their job as it is.

    • Alex Mathers says

      Hi Morgan,

      My point is that if you require your real passion be a means to an end (the making of money), it will be cease to be as fulfilling and creative a process as you need or want it to be.

      If money is a pleasant side-effect of doing what you love, that is a good thing, and this is what many strive for.

      I’m aware that this is a bit of an unpleasant truth, but this is not to say that no one can make money doing what they love. They just need to be aware that money cannot be the priority if you want to work on passion projects, because, by default, the creativity and joy driving it will no longer be.

  2. Shqipe says

    How can I become an illustrator and get my first job? I love digital art but cant afford the programs. Right now I’ am using a tablet and sketchbook pro for most of my art these days.. I’m always researching about steps to become a illustrator, but I’m still in a rut on getting started. I don’t want to burn myself out and doubt myself out of this because I don’t have the tools the clients/customers look for…

    • Alex Mathers says

      Small steps. Realise that building a commercial illustration portfolio takes time and practice. So going full-time will take time also, doing what you can to sustain yourself until you have a product that is in demand. Good luck.

  3. Shqipe says

    How can I become an illustrator and get my first job? I love digital art but cant afford the programs. Right now I’ am using a tablet and sketchbook pro for most of my art these days.. I’m always researching about steps to become a illustrator, but I’m still in a rut on getting started. I don’t want to burn myself out and doubt myself out of this because I don’t have the tools the clients/customers look for…I do love what I do.. I have also done traditional art work for friends and co-workers. that would be as far as it goes.

    • zeen desaeta says

      I’m not a professional but I’ll provide a 3rd person view, because sometimes that is something we all need.
      It’s alright to not have the super expensive programs (I myself use sketchbook pro and think it’s amazing), just as long as you can keep a great standard with what you can create using limited tools. I think the biggest step is to actually go out into the world and show people your work, you know: get recognition, ask questions, meet the kind of people who can promote your work. There’s plenty of art sites where you can sell your art, e.g. Society6, deviant art. sometimes building a fan base can actually attract potential commissions that can land you money and further recommendations.
      Hope this helps. In general: It is a mix of your creative work and marketing.

  4. Kimberly says

    I love your posts! Finally, someone who shares my common sense, get ‘er done approach!

  5. Tifa Fon Fabre says

    This also happends when you study something you love, but your teachers are BAD teachers at it, and the school is not helping you to be better. They only do bad opinions of your works and that, can make your dream to be your nightmare. Its not only the money…people can do a nightmare of the most you love to do.

  6. I spent a lot of time doing it all wrong and just launching projects/ventures for the sole purpose of “making money online”. Over time, I’ve discovered that this is the EXACT recipe for failure. There’s nothing more fulfilling than being passionate about the thing that you’re doing as it is also at this point where the money chases you!

  7. Janet Huey says

    I have been able to carve out a small niche and support myself. I don’t earn what I would like to but the autonomy is worth so much more than money.

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