Making money from home sounds like a dream come true, but in the real world the money often comes in more like a drip feed than a gold rush. That is why you need to stack your opportunities to avoid feast and famine cycles and make sure you never depend on just one income stream.
Unless you already have experience in the area you choose it will take time to build up your skills and your client base. Whether you set up an online store or do freelance gigs, there is a delay between setting up your account and seeing the money roll in.
It’s exciting when you start searching and you see all the possibilities available. You get the impression that all you have to do is sign up, add some information and you’re all set. The world will find you and your future is off to a flying start. Except that we underestimate how long things take.
Let’s look at a few scenarios where you don’t want to work for anyone full time because you would rather freelance and have more control over your schedule. You might sign up to the freelance websites like Upwork and start bidding on jobs, expecting to get work quite quickly. Only to find you put in a bid for several jobs with no success. No-one invites you to any jobs and you still have no income.
Why? Because if you want to leave the world of regular work behind you no longer have a targeted role where someone else takes care of marketing and sales. You are the one who has to make sure your profile is visible to the search engines and get testimonials as social proof so potential clients trust you and want to hire you.
You are the only one responsible for copywriting, sales, marketing, accounting and administration in your one-person business unless you can afford to outsource.
Or let’s say you want to work on one of the crowd working sites, writing articles, transcribing or website testing. Just because you sign up to these websites doesn’t mean you will get work immediately and even if you do, you might only have access to the low paid offers.
Even if you start a project with greater income potential like an e-commerce store or blogging, there is a breaking-in period. During this time you are setting things up and trying to get noticed - it might feel like you are invisible and again, have no income coming in.
So what’s the solution? Give up before you even start? Of course not! This is where stacking your opportunities comes in.
For absolute beginners it could look something like this:
You sign up to all the websites that take people with no experience and you get a slow drip of chances to make money, or lots of low-paid opportunities. But that’s ok. You are getting used to working online, getting extra cash at the same time and learning what you do and don’t like.
During the learning or transition phase you could still work at your regular job as your main income stream, or work on your dream project at the same time. This project is what you really want to work on but you know it will take time to build up and you can’t rely on that for income in the short-term.
Some examples of things you could stack include surveys, transcription, writing articles and website testing. New entrepreneurs could buy and sell second-hand goods, rent out a spare room on Airbnb, or start a drop shipping business to sell products without having to buy inventory.
The idea is that during the process of trying out different opportunities you get rid of the ones you don´t like doing that don´t give you a good return for your investment of time.
Right now, there are productivity gurus screaming "noooooooooooooooooooooo” Focus on one thing. Do one thing at a time.
I get it. In an ideal world you would do that. But we are talking about reality here. Freelancing does not guarantee work and entrepreneurship is not guaranteed income. So in the beginning you need to put your feelers out. Get an idea of what is available and whether you want to do this in the long term. In the short term you are just looking for experience and some extra cash for your bills or to invest in tools and outsourcing.
Even people running multi-million dollars business stack opportunities, they just call it diversifying. The difference? You might do tasks in very different areas, whereas they have one market they love or found to be very profitable. They add income streams related to their one thing.
Let’s say there is a blogger in a niche they love and they blog away to their hearts content. There income doesn’t magically come from people reading their writing. They make very from their blog in different ways. They might have affiliate ads on their website, they can get paid for sponsored posts, create their own books, podcast or training course. It’s all related to their main theme, but they are still stacking opportunities.
Why is this important? Because you have to deal with unknown variables which will affect your income. A company could shut down and your work dries up. Google changing its algorithm could mean visitors to your online store drop dramatically and sales dry up. A long-term freelance client might hire a full-time staff member instead of relying on you.
That’s where the idea of the feast and famine cycle comes in. When you have lots of gigs and regular clients, the money is coming in and you have your feast. However, if the gigs dry up or the sales fall, you could face a period of famine with little to no income coming in.
A lot of people give up when they try something and it doesn’t work. Keep trying until you find the right balance for you and get regular customers or clients.
Remember that a lot of the successful people out there came from a corporate or higher education background, had experience in sales, or people supporting them. Those things give you a head start when you are branching out on your own. You just have to factor in a steeper learning curve and a longer time-scale if you don´t have those.
I have tried more things than I can remember on my journey trying to make money from home and almost cried at how little I was getting paid for some of them. It is so hard to do something you don´t like and then on top of that not get compensated for it.
However, of all the things I tried I know that if I had been consistent I could definitely have made enough money to live. Not to have luxuries, but definitely to live on. Unfortunately, I am allergic to doing things I am not interested in, even to make money! So I struggled for much longer than I needed to, but I kept looking.
You will notice I say this a lot. Keep looking. All the time. I was so convinced there had to be a better way I kept looking. For years. At thousands of job listings and income opportunities. Yes thousands. I refused to ´make do´ and compromise with a regular job.
This stubbornness saved me and compensated for my inability to be consistent in almost anything unless I was really interested in it.
If you are lucky enough to be certain what you want to focus on, do it. Just remember to diversify so within your chosen field you are not relying on one stream of income. If you are still lost in the ´what the hell do I do´ stage, keep trying.