How can you monetise your skills? >Some practical tips<

As the Novell Corona virus continues making sweeping changes in each country that it makes its new home, the state of work is being seriously flipped on its head. Proving your relevance as a professional is starting to become an absolute necessity. There are now no two-ways about it whether you run your own kiosk, or represent a multi-national as its overall Team Lead to managing a client’s account in an advertising firm to implementing a humanitarian type project for a UN related agency. The cat is out of the bag and vast budgets are being minimized for key and “important” staff as well as the ones who actually do the work for the company and when they are off, work generally becomes hard to do based on technical ability, willingness to work and general attitude in getting things done.

Over the past 60 to 90 days, there has been a surge in online meetings and workshops through Zoom calls, Google Hang Out, Microsoft Teams and a host of others. Those meetings are skewed towards frequent updates, budget adjustments and actual information sharing on various post-covid interventions in one’s geographical space of choice. For those of us (you reading as well) who were not regular attendees of such online exertions, there has been time aplenty for some curious soul-searching. Intentional deep thoughts about how the change of work models affects you and me specifically.

Dr. Xavier is a really close friend who studied and practiced Veterinary Medicine for 7 years and changed careers by learning how to code software and upped his programming skills in C, C#,  ASP.NET, Java, PhP, Javascript, CSS5, HTML5 as well as becoming adept at Linux networking with Apache and MySQL. He has always been a wide reader and is a good writer let alone a great tutor/ teacher of various subjects from STEM based ones including Physics, Mathematics and Biology to English and Literature in English as well. I know he is reading this and can comfortably say he is a cross between a techie and a lawyer wrapped up in one. Knowledgeable across board on umpteen topics and a good problem solver. A week ago, on a social media chatting platform, he intimated to me in a sort of lamentation, that he is tired.

When I probed further, he said that his good-naturedness is affecting his cashflow. He has been quite engaged during this lockdown tutoring a few colleagues’ children on science subjects and not earning decent enough payments. He said his coding skills should be being referenced enough for him to get work that should have helped roof his upcoming house, but alas.. Long and short of it is that he is tired of being taken advantage of and wants practical ways to help fully monetize his skills.

For many of us, this will (if it is not already) become the existing reality. The future of work is happening now and if we (you and me) are not careful, we may be rendered partially irrelevant for now until your own innate and learned skills can be monetized well enough for you to earn a living of sorts.

So when Dr. X asked me the question, “Edmund, how do you convert a skill into money? I’m not making money from this sh*t and I’m tired Edmund. I’m tired.”  I told him it will need a little more than a chat session in Telegram or WhatsApp. So Dr. X, as I write this, it is not only for you, it is for many of us who are also tired for having much needed earnings always being lower than what we always negotiate for.

These four questions can endeavour to offer some guidance in answering your question.

  1. Are your skills worth being paid for (monetizing)?
  2. What exactly are your skills anyway?
  3. Would you pay someone like yourself a worthy rate for their skills if you were that person?
  4. What dictates your costing methodology?

It is true that most of us have been taught to sell something else (products and services) as opposed to selling ourselves. The closest we come to this is when writing a CV for a job application. Or at best when selling something for someone, you are noticed.  Creative types always seem less interested in selling and keener to spend time on their craft as it is their chosen escape away from selling themselves. The belief that their skills should sell them is being challenged every day and is the main gist of this article.

As I delve into the tips that can help you monetize you skills, always remember that your skills are looking to help solve a problem for somebody. Whether you are solving an entrepreneur’s need for shared IP services, or tutoring a student grappling with quadratic equations, let these tips help you to monetize your skills:

ONE: Develop a product and/ or service catalogue

Do not let a client (potential or existing) misunderstand your offering. In today’s ever present technology-age, it is imperative that having e-documents showing your products is clear. This can be on a separate Facebook page, a website if you are keen, or even just having e-brochures done by you and a fancy graphics guru who can make you and your skills appear world class and thus professional. Many a time, we get a raw deal because the client (again potential or existing) cannot see us in the same light as the standard in his/ her mind. For Dr. X, he can create a one page tutoring profile with a basic flow of what it entails and how each student benefits.

E.g. Review of overall subjects strength for student| identify weak and strong points| do initial tests| focus on overall student well-being| key exam tricks used to pass in top 15%| hours expected to put in| charges per hour| no discounts offered**| face to face sessions.

What I have shared is basic, and can be improved further, but just going to show that the potential client understands the skill you are sharing and it will require monetary (money) to exchange hands for value added.

TWO: Choose who you really want to help

At BLEGSCOPE now, I use many of the same business development and communications skills that I have been exposed to throughout my life. The biggest difference now is that I am a little choosier with who I selectively help. Yes, you may say we are trying to monetize our skills, but sometimes who you help is not always about money alone. It could be a small reminder of you at a certain age and you had no such assistance at the time. >>If you pick your industry based only on how much money you think you can make, then you can expect to always be chasing the money. << Helping others while getting paid is truly a blessing and in some unusual way, the world somehow conspires to pay you positively back for that help you rendered. You should notice that when the point comes when you do not believe in the outcomes you are being asked to work on, you may never enjoy your professional life.

THREE: Build the necessary confidence to believe that you can earn great money.

I have seen how low confidence can make you make a different and often wrong decision and eventually take a disastrous decision to bring money and rewards your way. Mark you, most of us are not born with confidence. It is bold actions that lead to feelings of certainty. To build a lucrative career, we should be able to communicate in assuring ways that do not come across as arrogant or egotistic, but ways that clearly illustrate why you should be hired and your special skills utilised. If courage escapes from you, how do you stand apart from the competition and show that what you do is crucial, why should anyone pay you what you ask for?

FOUR: Create the Demand

I can in no clearer terms say that if you tell me there is no demand for what you do, then you may not be looking hard enough. At one point in time in my country, there was such high demand for ringtones of famous musicians such that when somebody called you on your mobile phone, they would hear your chosen musician’s song. Now, it still exists, but not at the crazy rate of uptake of almost a decade ago. There are always new trends coming up, but the underlying currents always stay the same. If you learn how to notice the currents and take cleverly calculated (or not) risks, you can win even bigger than you have previously been winning. So if you’re itching to create something different and you see no demand for it, think of creative ways to test it out before you give up.

Ugandan robot-aficionado Solomon King regularly writes about his work/ projects on various platforms including Medium, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. In doing so, he keeps the world up to date with many projects (monetary or otherwise) that he is doing and others he is keenly passionate about. Dr. X can choose a similar path as he is an avid reader and user of various technology platforms. Possibly writing about interesting projects being worked on and a potential client could relate and pick you up on that vibe. All in all, do not hesitate to throw away your CV focus and bring out more of who you are and what you have done and using various online platforms to enable this. I am not sure how much time recruiters spend on various online platforms like Facebook, but I know for sure they spend less than a minute on a CV.

FIVE: Learn to speak about money with clients without emotion getting in the way

Earlier on I asked a question about what dictates a costing methodology. This alone may cause you some anxiety.” Edmund, can you make it simpler?” A service is based on expertise gained through past experiences and technical knowledge accumulated over time.

How do I cost my Master’s degree I did a decade ago?

How do I cost skills I learned 2 years ago on a similar project?

I will not answer those two questions, but I will say that like sex, politics. and religion, money is a topic that we are advised to not speak about in polite company. I removed politics from that list because it is easier now to debate on many political issues now than it was a decade or two ago. But for money, you never share your salary with your colleagues; you do not brag about your net worth’ and try not to ask your friends about their rent or how much they spent on their home, even if it puts your budget in perspective. Learning about money is intimidating, and there’s no structural system in place to teach us. Further still, we look at poor money skills as something to be ashamed and embarrassed of, which can keep us from being honest about money and seeking out the right kind of help.

I have learned that writing down figures for clients and presenting them on paper is a much more subtle way to let a figure sink into their minds and evaluate how it fits into their own spending patterns. Allowing a minimum room for negotiation helps if you cost slightly higher and the client negotiates you lower to your preferred range. Either way, timidity will be recognized and you will be taken to the cleaners if your financial request is not confidently backed up by you. If you can create reasonable criteria that dictate this costing formula, let it be your chosen route when negotiating. And always choose to seek a deal where you both lose something as negotiation is never fair.

Some of us may have skills that we are finding hard to promote and monetize. This may not be bad, because you are free to have a creative hobby. But if you dream of doing what you love one day, and actually earning cash-money from it, this is a whole different story.

Maybe it is writing people’s CVs, or even painting portraits of people

WHATEVER IT MAY BE, I KNOW FOR A FACT THAT THERE ARE PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO HAVE MONETIZED YOUR SKILL ALREADY.

Anonymous

Before you start saying “they were lucky” OR “they had connections”, just consider the fact that you do not know HOW they did it OR how HARD they worked to come up with different and many times crazy ideas and connections. If you think the key to modern success is hidden in the past, think again. Nowadays tradition is being challenged and broken with new and modern ways of execution driving the world.

Every industry is changing at the speed of light to adapt to new practices, demands, and opportunities. It’s not the case that you have to adapt to the world anymore because it’s starting to adapt to us instead.

Edmund is the Principal Consultant and Co-Founder of BLEGSCOPE®, and has realised that Covid-19 is not going away for a longer time than we may acknowledge. You can follow him on twitter at @edmokmg

1 Comment

  1. Mary Najjuma

    Very insightful indeed, made re-evaluate myself!

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