There are always ways for geniuses to make money. Go ahead and re-watch the famous Steven J Jobs’ graduation speech again and get all inspired, but let’s be honest here – blindly following your passions might create success for you if you are ultra-elite, but if you’re like 99% of the population you’ll just be a dude in a football jersey who runs a 6 second 40-yard dash. Geniuses will figure out ways to innovate new products like Apple or Facebook. Slightly less smart geniuses will be able to chase money in fields like finance and law (although those two fields are certainly no guarantee of a big pay cheque) or maybe even in medicine (after spending 73 years in school). The question then remains – if I’m not on the top line of a WHL team and I’m not Steven J-like, then what is my quickest path to financial independence?
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Pay is Based on Supply and DemandThe answer is simply to look at the supply-and-demand situation in the market, choose something that is in high demand (and likely will be for a while), acquire the skills to exploit that demand, and then build a business around that. The most obvious example of this in today’s market is finding your niche within the skilled labour world. Some skilled labour (I’m going to intentionally use this term instead of “trades” because the “T” word has all kinds of baggage and dirtiness associated with it thanks to too many well-meaning parents and guidance counsellors) positions such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters are fairly well-known. Others, such as machinists and industrial mechanics are slightly less well-known, but no less lucrative.
Where is as Important as What
Now, it should be mentioned that merely deciding you are going to be a skilled labour person is not maximizing your supply-and-demand analysis. Your economic worth (what you’ll get paid) is not only dependant on choosing an in-demand job, but also where you will ply your tra… er… skill set. Generally, in Canada, the further you go from urban centres the more money you can expect your abilities to fetch on the open market. When it comes to building wealth, the nice bonus to moving away from urban centres is that the cost of living goes down as well (unless you’re talking about an “oil town”). Location, location, location right?
Wanted – Smart Labourers
The great thing about going into skilled labour is that everyone wants to help you right now. Many companies will help you upgrade your skills or pay for you to get your “ticket” just on the hopes that you’ll stick with them for the long-term. This is a great way to up your credentials at almost no cost to you. I’ve even heard of several programs that will not only pay for you to go get training, they will even give you a decent pay cheque while you’re gettin’ your mind filled with valuable stuff. How great a deal is that? Even the public school system is waking up to new ways to encourage people to get into skilled labour. In Manitoba, students can choose to work off-campus in various skilled labour scenarios, and not only do they get high school credits for it (up to eight), but they also get paid minimum wage +10%, and they get to put those hours towards an apprenticeship credential if applicable! Students could conceivably be journeyman electricians by the time their 21 or 22 if they took full advantage of the program.
The Next Step In Wealth Building for Average Joes
So you’ve decided to spend some time researching what skilled labour positions are in high demand and where the deficit is most acute. You could stop the process here if you want and just coast to financial independence after doing a little reading on personal finance basics. If you want to supercharge your push to make some serious coin however, I recommend taking it to the next level by using your skills and knowledge to build a small business for yourself. Sure, this will mean some nights in a classroom and a few more headaches, but the payout can be enormous.
Getting Smarter vs Getting Credentials
Because you merely want information for the sake of actually doing something (running a small business proficiently) you don’t need to get all credentialed-up and spend 39 years in university to get a shiny degree. In order to run your own small business as a skilled labour person that has a few employees and minimal assets, you really just need to understand the basics of things like payroll, tax efficiency, depreciation, marketing, and a few other tidbits. Many small colleges offer decent little programs that would cover these essentials, or you could probably learn most of it on your own through online resources if you were really motivated. Remember, you don’t need to be an expert in these areas – you can outsource the marketing, bookkeeping, tax preparation, and many other things, but you do need to know the fundamentals of how it all works since you’ll be the guy directing traffic.
Work Hard and Smart
A lot of journeyman electricians or construction guys use this model. Typically an individual will gain experience and the necessary capital after 5-10 years in the field. In addition to the money and skills gained, a person can garner something even more important than money – a solid reputation amongst an influential network of contacts. Once that valuable commodity is in place, you can take on other employees and begin to make money from the labour of others – by providing opportunities they couldn’t have gotten without your businesses’ infrastructure. This sounds more complicated than it actually is. Think of how many guys/gals are willing to work extremely hard as long as they don’t have to step too far outside their comfort zone? All you need to do is find those people, oversee their end product to make sure it’s consistent with your quality standards – and you’ll on a beach somewhere by the time you hit 40. The basic idea is simply to provide a top-notch good/service to an area that badly needs it and you’ll be substantially compensated in return.
Is this a path that anyone is considering? I think there is just so much potential there right now for someone who enjoys solving problems with their brand and hands – especially if they are willing to move to take advantage of market demands.