Nearly a decade ago I left behind my job as a marketing manager and web design manager. Initially, I became a full-time freelancer using the same skills that built my career, to become self-employed. It started out very modestly with me replacing my $35,000 a year income, to eventually my ability to earn over $400,000 a year in 2021 before taxes and business expenses. None of this was an overnight success, it was a decade of discipline. Since 2016 I’ve been a 6 figure earner, and it wasn’t a fluke or accident, there was no “getting lucky”.
If you want to have a chance of earning $100,000 a year you cannot operate the way a typical person does. Having an outlier outcome requires outlier habits and outlier skills. Acquiring unique skills and habits is not a game of chance, it’s a game of choice.
6 FACTORS IN EARNING 6 FIGURES
There are 6 specific factors or behaviors that I believe produced my ability to earn a 6 figure income. Without these specific factors, I don’t believe it would be possible for me as someone who lacked an advanced 4-year degree and the ability to work in a traditionally high earning profession:
- Separating Money from Time – Non-wage based/ Non-Hourly Income
- Prioritizing Revenue Generating Activities
- High-Income Skills where you can charge $1000 or more for producing an outcome.
- Earning Multiple Streams of Income from a Single Skill or Multiple Skills
- Setting Up Multiple Streams of Monthly Recurring Revenue/ Income
- Developing Digitally Passive/Scaled Income Models
SEPARATING MONEY FROM TIME – NO MORE WAGES
The easiest way to be unsatisfied with your income is to work for wages. This is not a criticism, but consider the fact that you don’t have control of your income capacity as a wage-based employee. As long as you are a wage-based earner, your income can never be proportional to your impact and contributions, only to the time spent.
When I became self-employed my income was no longer tied to a clock. Yes, it meant giving up stability and reliability upfront, security, but that was traded for unlimited potential. Most people are not willing to exchange a guaranteed outcome and its security, for unlimited potential. Therefore they try to increase the guarantee, but you can also be fired at any given time.
By becoming a service provider who utilized the same skills I provided an employer and their customers, I had to be responsible for taking on clients of my own. The difference is that now instead of having to service dozens of clients a week for a salary; I could service a handful of clients a month and earn the same income or greater income, with fewer hours, and less stress while having more control. But I had to take on the risks and responsibility.
PRIORITIZING REVENUE-GENERATING ACTIVITIES
While working for an employer, there is a lot of “busy work” that takes up your time and is relatively unproductive. What allowed me to start earning more when I became independent, is that I could eliminate as much non-productive work from my day as possible. I maintained my work schedule just like an employee, but now there were no unproductive meetings, no email chains to reply to, and no supervisor’s egos to appease.
This also required me to be a discipline and orderly person and resist the temptation to indulge in distractions or to allocate more time to work around the house just because I was home to do it. I had to commit to using my peak energy as productively as possible and do things that had the possibility of earning me money.
Here are some of the revenue-generating activities I prioritized every day:
- Prospecting New Clients
- Networking In Facebook Groups for Leads and Clients
- Content Marketing that Could Promote My Work
- Search Engine Optimization
- Freelance Client Work
- Portfolio Development
- Affiliate Marketing via Product Reviews and Recommendations
While making these things a priority I also set myself a daily income goal. This started out very modestly and eventually, it became $300/day.
DEVELOP HIGH-INCOME SKILLS
Earning $300 a day or $9000 only sounds unreasonable if you keep thinking like an hourly employee instead of someone who can produce high-level results for people who are playing for high stakes. You can earn this money if you are not targeting average to below-average people who earn average to below-average income.
If you’re a $15/hour employee and you work for 40 hours doing manual labor you earn $600 for a week of physically intense work. One of the best opportunities I had was as a freelance writer earning $150-$250 per article for publications. Writing from experience I could produce articles that met the requirements in 2 hours and I wrote the articles to rely on lived experience and not extensive research. These articles primarily focused on photography, video editing, or design work. This means writing 4 articles would require 8-10 hours of total work to earn the same income as someone who was putting in 4-5 times the amount of hours, but significantly more physical effort.
Generally speaking, you will always be able to earn several times more money if you leverage specialized creative and technical ability instead of non-specialized time-based labor. That is not a criticism as much as an observation.
The amount I was paid per article increased as my writing ability improved and within about a year I was able to go from making $150 an article on average to making no less than $300 per article on average, and on rare occasions, I could earn up to $500 for an article. This was between 2014-2016 when I was still a relative unknown in the online space and didn’t have a ton of notoriety to leverage, but was slowly building a reputation within the creative professionals’ niche.
With regard to my other skills, I developed packages for my clients. This took me quite a while to figure out but eventually, I focused on packages that were $1,000 to $2,500 and were based around deliverables. This would include complete brand packages with multiple files and access to source files. For video editing packages this would involve creating multiple videos per month, sometimes even on a recurring basis.
Here are some examples of High-Income Skills You Can Learn w/o a Degree:
- Video Editing
- Video Production
- Graphic Design
- Web Design and Development
- Content Strategy
- Social Media Management
EARNING MULTIPLE STREAMS OF INCOME
Developing multiple streams of income sounds exhausting for most people, but they are unfamiliar with the concept of earning multiple times from a single skill or a single outcome. One of the best examples of being able to earn multiple streams of income from a single effort is making content.
If you create a YouTube video you can earn multiple streams of income from a single video. When you produce multiple videos you can scale this even further.
For example, I didn’t initially earn much from any of my uploads to YouTube for the first 2-to 3 years of being consistent at it. Most of the money I earned from YouTube during that time was from the Amazon Affiliate Program. I was averaging about $1,200 a month from the Amazon Affiliate Marketing program at the time, mostly due to my reviews of camera gear and budget laptop list.
Eventually, I also started earning from SAAS affiliate programs like Tubebuddy and Kajabi, as well as print-on-demand merchandise products. Every single video I uploaded could earn multiple streams of income for me.
Here are some of the multiple streams of income I currently earn from:
- Workshops (Physical and Virtual)
- Public Speaking
- 1 on 1 Coaching Calls
- Selling Digital Products
- Selling Physical Products (Print on Demand)
- SAAS Affiliate Markting
- Amazon Affiliate Marketing
- Content Royalties (YouTube Adsense)
- Content Bonuses (Instagram and Facebook)
- Audience Donations (YouTube Live and Twitch)
- Membership Website (Self-Hosted)
- Brand Deals and Sponsored Content
- Advisory Board Stipend
- Independent Consulting
- Online Course (Licensed to LinkedIn Learning)
SETTING UP MULTIPLE STREAMS OF RECURRING MONTHLY REVENUE
Currently, I have 3 main systems on income that produce $100,0000 a year (each) of income or close to it, individually.
That on the surface sounds like a “get rich quick scheme” until you consider the fact this is the fruit of a decade of work to reach this outcome, producing over 1500 videos on YouTube and creating 5000+ pieces of content collectively. And with regard to the coaching and membership side, this is not from digital course sales (yet) but from providing 2 weekly training calls for members and providing 1 on 1 coaching calls on a weekly basis, for several years.
Coaching business Awesome Creator Academy
Sponsored content through brand deals
Affiliate income, through multiple affiliate partners
What these 3 systems have in common is that all of them have monthly recurring revenue associated with them.
Within Awesome Creator Academy, I have a monthly coaching program that involves group coaching. This produces a steady baseline of overall income within the business in addition to digital products and coaching calls.
When it comes to sponsored content and brand deals, many of these relationships are long-term contracts which means that I receive a direct deposit each month during a 6-12 month contract term, which may feel similar to an employee/employer relationship. The difference is that the condition here is deliverables and not hours. I have more than one of these contracts in place at a time currently and that will likely be the norm.
Finally, when it comes to affiliate income, the recurring income around this is truly passive income, since it is based on income for the lifetime of the account in most cases. Having recurring affiliate commissions that give a very strong baseline of income that is reliable since as long as the customers are happy this income doesn’t go away.
What this provides is a balance of freedom and security. By meeting very specific obligations that are not time-based I can have a more or less guaranteed income in the same way as an employee, but without the constraints.
In the case of affiliate marketing, there is no further participation required on my part to continue to earn income.
- Multiple SAAS Affiliate Programs (Recurring)
- Self-hosted Membership Program (Recurring)
- Long-term Brand Relationships (Contract)
- Licensed Content
- Content Royalties from YouTube Adsense (Recurring)
- YouTube Channel Memberships (Recurring)
DIGITAL PASSIVE INCOME AND SCALED INCOME
Most people don’t believe in the concept of “passive income” while working for an employer that earns passive income. Ironically the largest and most vocal critics of passive income as public figures, all earn passive income, typically through their content creation and personal brand.
My own experience with passive income, is tied directly to making evergreen content on the internet, and it didn’t start with YouTube, it started with blogging and the Google Adsense program, and then the Amazon Affiliate Program.
The main difference we are talking about is linear income (income tied to time and labor) and scaled income (income that has no upper limit potential dictated by time and physical activity).
To put this into an easy-to-understand scenario, if I pay someone to film or edit a video for me they can only make income in proportion to how often they can film or edit videos for me and typically will only earn from that endeavor once. Meanwhile, if I create a video and own the rights to it, I can earn ad revenue from YouTube indefinitely as long as the video gets views, even years after the fact.
Furthermore, that video if it promotes one of my own digital products, or an affiliate product or service, serves as a funnel. This can result in more recurring passive income from a SAAS product sale or a decent payout from single digital product purchase.
The fruits of my digital content and digital products can pay an indefinite number of times with no continued input required on my part. This is something that can be duplicated in niche verticals to even greater effect and doesn’t require one to be an entertainer with a massive audience.
The best example of this would be content creators within the Productivity niche.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Individually all of these have their own merits, but when combined they create the ability to create strong and reliable income systems that are diversified by their income sources.
The key to making all of this work is to focus on being in a position to create tremendous value at a competitive level. The foundation of that is acquiring rare and desirable skills.
If you combine a high-income skill that you can offer to those with disposable income you can earn $100,000 a year by offering packages of $1000, $2500, and $5000.
As far as recurring revenue, having relationships that are valued at $2500-$5000 a month in terms of recurring contracts, you only need a limited amount of relationships (tied to deliverables) you can earn $10,000 a month with 2-4 high-value relationships.
Membership websites that offer real value can earn $100,000 a year with 100-200 members, which can be achieved with an audience of 10,000 followers or email subscribers within a targeted niche.
Earning $100,000 a year as an influencer comes down to both reach and reputation. It’s possible for example in my niche to earn $100,000 purely in Adsense revenue, however that requires extraordinary reach, roughly 6M-10M views to accomplish within a year. However, with a fraction of that many views, the same income can be earned from brand deals and affiliate relationships.
The most practical way I have found to earn 6 to 7 Figures a year is to build 3 systems that produce income for you:
A Product-Based System that Does Passive Income (Digital/Affiliate/POD)
A Content-Based System that Can Be Monetized (Multiple Ways)
A Relationship-Based System (Recurring Contracts with Clients or Sponsors)
The good news is that these systems and methods can overlap and can compound over time if designed well.