I’ve helped thousands of students earn $1,000, $2,000, even $5,000 and more on the side, every month, while still keeping their day jobs. And I’m going to share some of my best systems with you.
But first, imagine how it’d feel if you made an extra $1,000/month.
Would you feel excited? More confident in yourself? More secure about your day job because you have a safety net and can ramp up your side income if you need to?
What would you do with your money? Would you build up enough savings so that you could quit your job? Travel for a month? Pay off your mortgage? Buy a round of drinks for friends? Spend money on things you love, guilt-free?
Whatever we’d do with our extra money, we all have the same question:
How do you get started?
We’ve all read blog posts proclaiming that we need to get on TikTok and Facebook, buy better business cards, or build a website… and then, magically, money will fall down from the sky. And we’ve heard scammy con artists with private jets promise we’re just one more overpriced eBook away from earning 6 figures with just a few hours a week.
There’s some terrible advice out there, and you deserve better.
That’s why my team and I spent over five years and $500,000 building and optimizing a system that actually works.
Because I give away 98% of my material for free, I’m going to share some of my system with you today — including an easy way to find your first profitable idea, 2 problems that eat up people’s profits, and my Briefcase Technique that makes it almost impossible for people to turn you down.
What you really need to know about making money on the side
Making more on the side lets you work on interesting projects and raise your rates or hours when you want to. It’s one of the keys to never worrying about finances again.
Some of us struggle for years — spending countless hours on ideas people won’t pay for, not knowing how to get paying clients, and wasting time on social media before we’ve cashed a single check.
In contrast, successful people know exactly what to do at each step — and which activities are a waste of time. They know how to lock in the benefits and avoid any potential downsides when it comes to earning more.
Pros and cons of making money on the side
What’s great about making money on the side?
- It’s easy to get started — and you don’t have to be the world’s best, just better than most people.
- Standard rates for most jobs make it easy to price your work.
- Work –> income is very clear and easy to follow.
- You choose when you want to work, and who you want to work with.
- You can eventually go full-time and • leave your 9-to-5 if you want to • because you’re in control.
What are the potential downsides?
- It takes testing (and time) to find out which of your skills people will pay you for.
- Raising hourly rates can be difficult if you don’t know how to approach the conversation.
- Earning money on the side is easier than many people think, but you still have to invest your time.
- You have to find out how to get consistent clients and steady income.
I’ve helped thousands of students make money on the side using skills they already have. One of the most common problems they face is figuring out what profitable skills they have.
What service could you offer?
Most of us are experts in at least one area, or we’re at least better than most other people. Think about the last time you’ve helped your parents with a computer problem. You may think you’re just so-so at computers, but to them, you’re a magician. And weeks later, they’re still telling their friends that you’re a “computer whiz.”
Ask yourself these questions:
What skills do you already have? What do your friends call you for advice on? What kind of sites do you read?
(ex: computers, fashion, sports, business)
Many people give up on their dream of making money on the side because they’re held back by invisible scripts like:
“I’m not an expert at personal finance, finding a dream job, or [fill in the blank].”
“I don’t know anything people would pay for!”
How are you sure? Unless you’ve actually tested your idea, you aren’t.
“Ramit, I don’t think anyone would ever pay me. My idea’s too weird/niche!”
I used to think that, too. Then I found out that people are making 5 and 6 figures by:
- Drawing caricatures
- Helping people pick out clothes
- Walking dogs
- Delivering home-cooked meals to busy and lazy people
Do these ideas seem normal? No. But they work because they solve somebody’s problem.
How do you turn your skills into something people will pay for?
All of us have a skill that’ll help other people. So how do we get people to pay for them?
Just remember the #1 marketing rule: Nobody gives a damn about you, it’s always about them.
A skill is something you’re good at — say, organizing offices, handling dogs, or getting amazing deals on airfare for vacations. But nobody cares about your skill because they’re too busy to spend the time thinking about how it’ll help them.
That’s where you come in. You offer a service… you solve a customer’s problem or deliver a benefit, like: “I can help you organize your office so you’ll feel more relaxed, get more work done, and increase your profits.”
That’s why you’ll be so far ahead when you start thinking about business ideas in terms of services and ways you can help your clients.
Try this simple test to find out whether your skill is viable
To check if you’re actually offering a valuable service, you should be able to explain it by saying:
“I can help you (some service) so that you can (some benefit).”
Here are a few examples of how your skills can become services:
Let’s say you’re great with Photoshop and HTML (skill) so you decide to do web design (service). But your clients don’t care about web design – they just want a good-looking website that attracts customers (benefit). And ultimately, what they really care about is the increased sales as a result of that credibility (benefit).
This seems simple, but clients often don’t make the connection between service and benefit on their own.
Most wantrepreneurs say, “Here’s what I’m good at, do you have any work for me?” No wonder they get ignored; they haven’t explained what problem they’re actually solving! Their loss is your gain because you already know that people only care about what you can do for them.
Did your idea pass the “I can help you” test? Great! Now, you’ll discover how to start earning money fast by focusing on the right activities, instead of trying everything and “seeing what sticks.”
Why some people never make money on the side
Lots of would-be entrepreneurs spin their wheels for months or years. They try dozens of random tactics — Twitter, handing out business cards, posting in forums, blogging. And when these don’t work, they give up and blame themselves.
The real problem here is the bloggers who don’t have much business experience, but dish out awful advice, such as:
“Just start blogging! Create great content and someone’s bound to pay you someday!”
“Make a website and do some SEO on it so you always get free traffic!”
“Do something unique and eye-catching, like creating a viral video to get lots of viewers!”
“Go on some forums, and you know, be helpful… answer questions… establish your presence and see what happens!”
Wow, it’s so easy! Once you do those things, people will sell themselves on what you can do for them… then beat a path to your door and shower you with money.
Successful people have a different approach. Instead of trying everything and “seeing what works,” they have a system — a step-by-step plan that guides them from finding their first profitable idea to figuring out which people need their services and getting paying clients. Everything else, from blogging to getting better business cards, is a timewaster they eliminate.
When you’re just starting, complex marketing strategies are often an excuse to avoid finding people who will pay you. SEO, blogging, and viral marketing can take a long time to work… and each of these projects is actually dozens of subtasks that are nearly impossible to finish.
Luckily, you don’t need complex marketing to start earning serious money on the side. There’s a better way, one that eliminates unnecessary steps so you can start making money faster. It’s easier than you think:
Just go directly to your customers.
All you need is 3 paying clients
Why 3 clients? The first client could be your grandma, the second could be a fluke, but once you have 3 clients, you’ve proven that people are willing to pay for your services. You can test different prices and options with them, and then you can try more complex marketing.
Remember: Get 3 people to pay you before you do anything else.
You’ve already learned how to figure out what service people want. Now, you just have to find out where the right people are and talk to them. Here’s how it works:
Find the people you can help
Most people who want to make money on the side pick generic services that have lots of competition — general writing, fitness training, and computer repair, for instance — then wonder why nobody notices them or buys from them. Meanwhile, other businesses are super-specific and deeply understand their clients and their problems. And they never have to worry about competition or lowering their prices.
Let me give you an example of how this works: Pretend you’re a 30-year-old information technology (IT) employee who’s stressed and has trouble finding the time to tackle big projects.
Which of these people would you choose to help you become more productive?
A productivity consultant who helps people of all ages and careers, from college students to dentists to teachers to retirees, get more things done — and charges $20 an hour.
A productivity consultant who worked in IT for 10 years and can share the exact systems, tricks, and strategies you need to regain control at work, finish large projects, and optimize productivity. He only works with IT people because that’s his specialty — and he charges $40 an hour.
Paying consultant #2 twice as much seems like a bargain because he solves your exact problem.
I’m going to show you the framework for picking a particular group of people so you’ll seem like the only choice for them.
Here’s how you find them
First, niche down your market. Do not try to find every person who uses a computer between the ages of 18-34, lives in the USA, and likes wasting time on YouTube and Facebook. NICHE IT DOWN. By age, location, interest, income level, and so many more options.
Then, find out where they go when they have problems:
Want to pitch to moms that blog about children? Go to The Mom Blogs and start with the “Popular Blogs” section.
If you want to groom pets or do dog sitting, there’s probably a local pet store or dog park near you where owners are just waiting for you to take care of their pets for them.
Looking for physical or massage therapists within 50 miles of your house? Yelp should get you started easily.
If you know a lot about nutrition, you might find that active people who are too busy to plan meals go to a local yoga studio or Whole Foods.
I’ll explain more of how to uncover exactly what people want and how to niche down so you’ll only spend your time on the people who are most interested in paying for your help.
Reach out to people who want your service
Once you find out what kind of people need your help, you’ll need to reach out to them. And it’s pretty easy.
Back in the day, this meant cold calling anybody who might be interested — a time-consuming, anxiety-inducing way to get rejected.
Luckily, you’ll only have to write a few emails, then use my Briefcase Technique to get your first clients.
Secrets of getting people to read your email and want to work with you
Imagine being swamped with over a thousand emails. You come across a rambling email from someone who talks about themselves, isn’t sure how to help you, and doesn’t tell you what you should do next. Do you delete it — or respond?
Here’s a quick strategy to make your emails grab their attention and force them to respond:
- Compliment the other person
- Show them you know their problems
- Get to the point quickly
- Establish your credibility
- Suggest how you can help specifically
- Create a call to action — that is, ask them to email you or call you if they’re interested
- Always ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?” One of my students used this strategy, along with my word-for-word email scripts, to raise her rates more than 30x.
How Julia went from $8 to $250 per hour with emails
Julia K. is a 24-year-old accounting student from California. When she started my Earn1K course, she had an $8 an hour summer job drawing caricatures at a theme park. She enjoyed her work, but she wanted to earn more. “I wanted a buffer,” Julia explains. “A little security. My pinnacle of success… was actually just to make $1000 per month with a side gig.”
I taught Julia how to reposition her skill to attract high-end clients
She repositioned herself as an entertainer at trade shows, then used one of my tested scripts to start reaching out. “Four emails later I got my first response: ‘Oh, fantastic. You can come to our next event.’”
Julia made $200 for her first 2-hour gig. Since then she has raised her hourly rates to as high as $250/hour. “I made $4,000 in June, and I know I can do even better. Plus, I’ve got my buffer now… I could survive off my emergency fund for 9 months.”
How to use the Briefcase Technique to make clients beg to work with you
The Briefcase Technique is an advanced negotiation strategy my students have used to earn thousands of dollars in just one meeting. It looks obvious, but it’s almost unbeatable. That’s because its magic comes from doing your homework before you ever set foot in a room with a prospect.
Here’s how this powerful tool works:
As the business owner, when I’m considering hiring someone for a job, I’ll talk to them about the business, hear their thoughts, and generally get a feel for their skills and their personality. If I think there’s a possible fit, I’ll ask them about pricing.
Now, if the person I’m talking to is using the Briefcase Technique, that’s the exact moment when they pull out a proposal document with things they’ve found in my business that they can improve and exactly how to do it.
As the business owner or hiring manager, it’s the most compelling document I’ve ever received. It’s a list of problems I already know about, and they’ve identified them from the outside. Then, they list potential solutions.
Do this and you’ve suddenly separated yourself from 99% of other applicants…
…and you can charge multiple times what other people do because almost nobody does this.
How Mike earned an extra $6,065 in 8 weeks
Mike is a 20-something web designer who was struggling to turn his freelancing into something substantial. He knew his web design skills were in demand, but because he didn’t know how to sell his services, he kept wasting hours on deals that he’d never get paid for.
When Mike and his fiancée moved to Vancouver, Canada, he got a full time job as a web designer. He didn’t enjoy most of his work. And with a wedding and plans to have kids and travel back home to the UK more often, his $31,000 a year salary wasn’t nearly enough.
“It would be nice to have lots and lots of money,” said Mike, “but the main goal is to have the freedom to travel, raise the kids, enjoy life, and enjoy my hobbies.”
What changed for Mike?
Before he used my free material and then joined my course, Mike tried to sell people on how great their new websites would look.
“It was the Briefcase Technique that made the difference for me. I learned to be incredibly prepared for the meeting and focus on the details.”
Right after learning more about the Briefcase Technique, Mike created a detailed proposal that “literally sold him straight away.”
Before, Mike was earning around $2,000 per year with his freelance work. Now he’s brought in over $6,065 in just eight weeks — and he’s on track to say goodbye to his day job and work wherever and whenever he wants.