People often want to know how they can make more money. Beyond the standard answers of sell your stuff, take a part time job, do online surveys, or other ideas, there is one way that a lot of people don’t consider: Become more versatile. While there are some professions that reward specialists with high pay (think medicine, law, and the sciences), most of us need multiple skills if we want to earn more money. We need to let go of the notion that one job or one skill will be enough to carry us.
This is particularly true for the self-employed. Self-employment income can be variable with periods of feast and famine. Wouldn’t it be nice, if during a slow period, you could pull out another skill and get more work? For example, let’s say a freelance writer makes a good income writing support manuals for computer software. She specializes in technical writing. But one day, the tech writing work is hard to come by. No one is hiring and our writer’s income is in the dumps. It
would be nice if she could also write grant proposals, magazine articles, or advertising copy. Those markets might still be hiring and she could be earning money while she waits for the tech market to pick up. Even better, what if she could not only write, but also design web sites or brochures? Her opportunities just increased some more.
This works in all fields. Some examples: I know a freelance computer network engineer who has also taken the time to learn about sophisticated phone systems, as well as electrical engineering. When it’s hard to find computer work, he can also look for work setting up these phone systems or designing electrical systems. He’s never without work. I know teachers that also tutor, and writers that teach at the community school level. I know an artist who both teaches and does commercial work when her personal artwork isn’t selling. I know a secretary in a medical practice who works nights as a medical transcriptionist. The mechanic at the local quickie lube teaches shop class at the high school and does freelance shop work.
You can become more versatile in two ways. The first is by doing the same work but in different fields. The writer profiled above is an example of this. Everything she does is writing based. Grant proposals, technical writing, articles, and advertising copy are all writing activities but the markets are different and, when the need for one is on the wane, chances are another type of writing is still hiring. The second way to become more versatile is to acquire more and different skills. You can still work within your primary subject area, but you do different things. This is the case of the artist who also teaches art classes, or the teacher who does private tutoring. They are both still working in their chosen field, but they are tapping different skills and markets. If you can combine these two approaches, for example becoming a writer who can write in many areas and also teach, you open up your opportunities even more.
Even if you aren’t self-employed, being versatile can make your employment more lucrative. The more skills you have and the more roles you can fill at your employer, the more money you can command. Being versatile will also make your job searches easier. You can look for work in more than one field or narrow job description. During times of recession, if you can tap many markets or search for more than one skill based job, you are better off than the person who can only look in one area.
Becoming versatile takes some time. You have to learn your extra skills and then build up experience in your chosen markets. You have to invest time in educating yourself and improving your skills. However, the effort will quickly pay for itself. If you have no income coming in from your primary endeavor, anything you bring in from another job will be welcome. Even if you’re making good money from your first job, additional money may allow you to reach your goals faster. Versatility is one of the best ways to boost and protect your income.