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Maybe you’re like me. You read all these amazing posts about how the solution to your problem is simple. Make more money. And then you think: “Yeah, wouldn’t that be great?!” The posts say: “Don’t worry. It’s easy. Start a blog. Make an extra $90,000/year” Or “just start an e-commerce business and watch the sales replace your day job income in no time!” Now, as a consistent blogger of nearly 2 years that has made a grand total of less than $400 on this blog (want to increase that? Sign up for Personal Capital with my affiliate link. The service is free. And awesome. I promise), and as someone that runs an Etsy shop with 2 total sales (I won’t pitch that to you as well. You’re welcome), let me tell you that I finally figured it out!
There are levels to the game Make More Money
The quest to make more money is exactly like a video game (think NES Mario, because that’s my jam), but once you reach the final level, all you can think to say to other people is: “just rescue the princess from the castle!” That’s great advice because that’s the goal, but it’s not particularly helpful advice for those of us still pounding bricks in level one.
Just like in a video game, you start at the beginning and you work your way up the levels. The levels get harder as you advance. They take the skills you acquired in lower levels and advance them. Yes, there are stories of people that have found shortcuts and skipped a level (or many levels), but most of us will spend some amount of time in each level. Note that the levels are not defined by the amount of time worked, but by the monetary value of the time worked. This is important.
Level 1 – Minimum wage (or less)
In the game of Make More Money, you have to start with making any money at all. For most of us, this started with babysitting or flipping burgers at the local burger shack. (For the record, I was babysitting.) Now, I dare you to walk into your local burger shack, sit down with the minimum wage employees and say: “Your lives would be so much better if you just made more money.” It won’t work. (Remember when McDonald’s tried to show employees how to budget, but really ended up proving it’s nearly impossible to live on a minimum wage salary? Good times.)
Level 2 – Minimum wage plus some
Level 2 in Make More Money is the level where you realize you can build on your minimum wage earnings. You can work hard and earn raises. Then, you can work the same amount of hours and actually make more money than you were before! By the time I graduated from Grad school, I was making $12/hour (2008) teaching classes and grading papers. Look how far up the ladder I climbed! If you’re still in your burger joint, maybe you’re an assistant manager now. Congrats!
Level 3 – Salaried position = Double minimum wage or more!
Many, many people will be stuck in level 1 or 2 for their entire lives. Why? Because in order to “level up” to level 3 you need to collect enough resources to advance. There are challenges within the levels as well. You break bricks, you collect coins, stars, mushrooms, and you keep getting killed by that stupid turtle that comes out of nowhere. Then you have to start all over. In real life, the resources you’re collecting are coins, skills, and time. You gather coins by working minimum wage jobs, but gathering education and time is much, much harder. In order to advance beyond level 2, you need to attain more skills. This would involve time outside of work learning new things. If you can’t afford the typical route of college, adding new skills to your resume still costs money in most cases and in all cases it requires time. Since it’s actually more expensive to be poor, it’s really hard to live on a minimum wage. So, when you get home from work, you probably have to go to another minimum wage job. That adds more coins, but takes away time. We won’t even bring up family and health constraints. Let’s just say if you make it to level 3, you probably got a 1UP in level 2. Remember that.
So you made it to level 3! Woo hoo! That means you may not even know what you make hourly because you were handed a big fat number that will be paid incrementally over the course of a year. Median earnings in the U.S. equal about $21.23/hour so you’re now making around double minimum wage (obviously varies by state). Once you make it here, you start to see the possibilities of future levels and your chance of moving up levels improves significantly. In level 3, you get to earn skills WHILE collecting coins. In most level 3 jobs, you get to learn new things on the job that could help you level up in the future.
Level 4 – The Doubled Salary
In the game of Make More Money, level 4 is when you realize you can literally double your earnings again (like you did between levels 2 and 3), but this time it might not take more formal education or even off-the-clock skills learning! Just by getting your head in the game at work and learning your work culture, you can soar!
Level 5 – The Unlimited Income Mindset
All Make More Money stories are written by people that have passed through level 5. In order to advance in Make More Money, you have to reach the point where you realize you really have an unlimited income potential. In levels 1-4, your thinking is limited to your current level of time, skills, and coins. You realize there is upward mobility, but you see a very firm limit to it (“I’ll never be able to make more than my boss” or “People in my profession are making about the same as me. The market has dictated my income”). This is not always in your control (remember if you got a 1UP or more in earlier levels), but the most important element of winning the Make More Money game is realizing you can earn bonkers amounts of coins in the same amount of time you currently work. This step is not actually earning that money, but realizing the possibility of doing so.
Once you realize your unlimited income potential, you realize you have a high monetary value on your time. Also, with all of the skills you’ve attained in your job, you start seeing the possibility of earning the same amount of money (or more!) outside of your job. This is the level where you test out contracting work or side hustles. You probably have a lot of failures, but because you’re earning so much in one (probably still your day job) and you’ve collected so many coins and skills at this point, they don’t even seem like a part of your journey. The goal of this level is to find a different kind of coin. You’re still raking in coins at a large rate in this level, but you’re on the hunt for coins from a different source. When you’re in this level, you focus your talk on where your coins are coming from rather than all the routes that have failed on the search for new coins. Instead of telling your friends and family about your Etsy shop with 2 sales, you focus on telling people about your day job because that part is already successful (for the record, this is us. We’ve only recently made it to level 5 and are trying our best to beat it!).
Level 6 – Make More Money! (AKA: You’ve Rescued the Princess!)
You beat level 5 by successfully raking in coins from a new source. Level 6 is where the unlimited income mindset becomes a reality. “Look! I make thousands a month on my blog and you can too!” or “I just decided to throw my stuff online and sales started booming.” We don’t hear about all the products that failed, all the blogs that died, or even the months/years it took to build up to this level of money on those successes. At this point, the advice is always: “Just get out there and try something.” Again, fabulous advice, but it requires coins, skills, and time. In reality, you’re saying: “Get to Level 5 as quickly as possible. Then, hopefully, you’ll be one of the successful ones like me that actually made it to Level 6!”
The tricky thing about level 5 is that you can’t follow the same route to level 6 as someone else. You can take a similar path, but you can’t take theirs. So, there’s no right or defined way to beat the level. You have to figure out if YOU can find a way to level 6 and no one can tell you how to do that. Maybe it’s sticking with your day job. Maybe you are happy enough and successful enough at work to Make More Money. Maybe you join the gig economy. Maybe you start freelancing. Maybe you start a blog. Maybe you start selling things.
You won’t know if you can make it to Level 6 unless you try. And trying requires 3 things: time, skills, and coins. So until you have a little excess of at least 2 of those things, you will keep reading Make More Money stories and think: “Yeah, wouldn’t that be great?!”