Selling Your Skills: What You Need to Get Started

by Thursday Bram · 8 comments

Depending on which personal finance gurus you follow particularly closely, you may have seen advice that you should sell some of your skills on the side to bring in more income. This can be good advice whether you’re trying to put more into savings each month or you’re trying to reduce debt, but just telling you that you should turn your skills into a side business probably isn’t going to help you accomplish the actual deed.

Especially if you’ve never started any sort of side business before, you’re going to want to read up on the mechanics of the process a little bit. Here’s what you need to get started.

Start With One Particular Service

The first step you need to take is to decide exactly which skills you want to make money from. There’s a lot to consider here: you don’t want to offer every service under the sun, even though it seems like you might be able to earn more money by doing more things. Instead, you want to narrow down your options.

While you might have a vast skill set that could be valuable in many different areas, think in terms of what you’re best at, as well as what you enjoy doing. You don’t want to spend a lot of your time every week doing something you absolutely hate or something that you find painful to work on, after all. Choosing something that you’re good at also means that you may not be starting out at the absolute lowest rate anyone will pay. You also need to make sure that your service is something people will pay for. If there is absolutely no one out there selling a skill for you to compete with, there may be absolutely no one out there buying either. Doing a bit of research will pay off here, so take time to see if there is healthy competition.

It’s worth offering just one of your skills up for sale. That way, you can promote just one thing and look for just one kind of project. At the beginning of your journey to make more money, this can dramatically simplify the task of finding work.

Set a Rate and Look at the Competition

You have to put a dollar amount on your skills, preferably before anyone else can do it for you. We each have a point at which it actually becomes worthwhile to work. Your rate has to be above that point so that you don’t wind up feeling bad about the time that you’re giving up in order to run this side business.

It’s okay to look at what your competition is charging, provided that you don’t try to undercut their prices. It’s rare that being the lowest price will actually get you all the business out there — and you will have a harder time charging more in the future.

You also want to take a look at what the competition is offering for that rate. If, for instance, your skill is babysitting, your competition may include something like making dinner for their charges. It’s up to you whether you want to add in additional service like that, but your price should reflect that consideration.

Actually Find the Work You Want to Do

It’s no good to offer a service and not actually land any work. You have to go looking for work. You have to tell all your neighbors, friends, family, and other connections that you’re available to help them out — how else will they know? It’s also important to think about how else you can reach out to other people who might be interested in paying for your skills.

A good option may be exploring some of the websites that make it easy for potential buyers to ask for service providers or for you to post about your services for them to find. Craigslist, for instance, can be a good starting point. Many business owners are reluctant to sell through Craigslist because rates can be relatively low, at least in comparison to what you can make if you can sink a good amount of time into marketing. But if you’re just looking for side gigs, the extra time needed to promote yourself to the point you’d get those higher prices may just not be worth the effort.

What you decide to do is ultimately up to you, but if you consistently put yourself out there to try different things, you will find something that works for you.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Obi_Sade says:

    Using your skills for profit is a common trend now a days. If you’re an expert at something, there’s likely an audience of people online who would be willing to pay to become an expert in your field just like you.

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  • JP A says:

    There’s something contradictory in the statement “Start With One Particular Service”. You are just beginning the process of selling your services and you’re placing yourself in a crowded market. Your skills and experience will be less impressive than the people competing against you and you will likely loose job opportunities.

    Instead I would suggest that finding a large and growing market and then focusing on a very specific niche of that market. Focus on providing marketing services to non for profits serving women’s issues in the Asian community in NY or provide financial counseling to men with assets over $150k who have gone through a divorce.

    Its hard to focus on a niche. Often you feel like you are closing doors. It will tighten your offering to potential clients, begin to develop a brand and enable you to become “the best in the world” at something.

  • Emily says:

    “Actually find the work you want to do”

    Marketing is what kills most people. They hate “selling”, so they don’t even want to hand out business cards and ask for references.

    If you’re serious about making extra income, or turning a passion into a new career, you have to get rid of that fear.

  • Jenna says:

    Research is key. Know the pros and cons of your business as well as the pros and cons of your competitors. This will help when you are trying to secure a sale.

  • Rob G says:

    << Don't sell out, do the work you enjoy!

  • Marbella says:

    Richard Branson and Dexter Yager are two great innovators who only see possibilities in everything; they see nothing as failure – only non victory. You can do anything and everything only if you want to do it and believe in yourself.

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