Editor’s note: I published a version of this article first on JeanChatzky.com several months back. Today I’m giving you, my reader, the updated version of the article.
How did you do it?
This is what people ask me when hear that we paid off £100,000 (and the interest) consumer debt in three years.
First I tell them that we had a simple strategy.
‘Be more specific’ – people say.
Then I tell them that frugality is not the answer.
‘What is the answer, then?’ – they say.
So here is my answer:
To be financially healthy and build sustainable wealth increase your income.
The specific ways to increase your income are many but in the end these boil down to three general strategies:
- You can take on more work (working hard);
- You can increase the level of pay you command (working smart); and
- You can try a combination of the two whereby you increase the level of pay you command and the amount of work you do (accelerated strategy).
‘Working harder’ you can make more money; unfortunately there are limitation in that your time is limited, it is exhausting and is impossible to sustain long term.
‘Working smarter’ or making more money by increasing the level of pay you can command, is a winner on two counts:
- It gets you to your financial goals much faster. Remember the shameful amount of debt we paid off in three years I was telling you about? Well, this was done by using the intensive strategy to increase our combined income by about 30%. Yes, we worked hard but we worked even smarter.
- It doesn’t get you ill from exhaustion. Not a joke. Working over certain number of hours per week and not getting enough rest has many negative consequences for our health, including high blood pressure, constant fatigue, clouded judgement and getting fat.
Moving from ‘working harder’ to ‘working smarter’ is the key for anyone who wants to make sustainably more money.
To achieve this shift, you have to realise that ‘working harder’ is about selling your time; ‘working smarter’ is about selling your reputation.
How much you’ll be able to charge for your services (and goods) depends on the ‘reputational capital’ we have amassed.
Here are the main differences between ‘selling time’ and ‘selling reputation’.
|Selling time||Selling reputation|
|Being technically good(A good seamstress can make you a black cocktail dress.)||Being an artist(Coco Chanel created THE little black dress.)|
|You are in the realm of the replaceable(Your competencies and skill are easy to replicate and there are many who can take you place/job. Copy writers, for instance, even good ones are easy to replace.)||You are in the realm of the unique(You have gone beyond the reproducible and hence your competencies are unique; there is no replacement. No one can replace Kurt Vonnegut.)
|Replication(You are very likely to replicate things and your ‘products’ are for the mass market.)||Creation(You create something new and unique; you are not part of a trend, you are creating trends.)|
|Being found(It is likely that people find you when searching for the product or service you offer; in other words, you rely on ‘passing trade’.)||Being sought(People look for what you offer.)|
One can switch from ‘selling time’ to ‘selling reputation’ in any occupation.
Muhammad Ali said that if he wasn’t the best boxer in the world, he would be the best rubbish collector in the world.
How to get there?
Try this six ingredients for switching from ‘selling time’ to ‘selling reputation’:
- Choose your areas wisely. This is about choosing the area/field in which you can make the switch from selling time to selling reputation with care. Worn out as the ‘find your passion’ mantra is, there is some sense in it. But I don’t believe in finding passion, I believe in creating passion. So choose wisely but remember that the area where you could sell reputation will be the cross over between talent, interest (yours and others), inspiration and loads of hard work. It pays off, I promise.
- Education. Words are important and you should note that I used ‘education’ not ‘a degree’. What will get you to the peak of your reputation is education, the systematic gathering of varied knowledge; some of it appearing completely useless at the time.
- Continuous learning. Education is the knowledge you have acquired, learning is the process through which you acquire it. To be able to sell reputation you have to keep on top of your game; this means that learning ought to be your constant companion.
- Patience. Switching from ‘selling time’ to ‘selling reputation’ can happen overnight and usually there are many nights involved. Be patient and keep yourself occupied by appreciating the wonderful steps that are taking you there.
- Focus. Longer term endeavours often fail; more often than not they fail because somewhere along the way people lose sight of what they were looking to achieve. A technique to keep your focus that works for me is to ‘plan backwards’: I’d start with an image of where I want to be, work out the conditions to get there and then prepare these with the dedication of a cult follower.
- Self-promotion. You could create unique artefacts but you are not an artist, and would never be sought, if people don’t know about it. Which brings me to the key point here: don’t tell people who and what you are; show them. This is the difference between telling people that you are ‘passionate about X’ and showing them your passion through your creations. It is the difference between saying ‘I am a great writer’ and stating ‘I wrote X and Y’. Self-promotion can be a great tool for reputation building when done with finesse and evidence.
Creating wealth is not only about making more money; it is also about creating immense value in exchange for which you get paid.
You can choose to continue selling time and working hard but I’ve made my choice: I am working towards selling reputation and working smart.