3 Ways to Make More Money Using Your Existing Skills


woman taking notes during meetingOnce upon a time, I was 23 years old and miserable only 18 months into my public relations job.

The work was interesting and I liked my boss, but I was young and resentful about my $28,000 salary.

I’d tell myself that I was just starting out, that it was part of paying my dues. At least I had a job! With the economy the way it was, I should have been happy with anything I could get, right?

I wanted life’s little luxuries, like getting my hair cut without guilt and replacing my hand-me-down furniture. I also had big dreams for the upcoming years: I wanted to get married to my boyfriend, travel and buy a house.

RELATED: The LearnVest Vocab Lesson: 8 Terms to Know Before You Buy Your First Home

And I knew there wasn’t much potential for advancement where I was: One of the biggest red flags was that my boss told me that he was grooming me to be a director in the company … and then put out a job posting to hire someone above me! I knew I had to get out before I wasted more time there being overlooked for promotions.

It became very clear to me that this job wouldn’t allow me to live the life I wanted, but I didn’t have the time or money to pursue further degrees or certifications. Instead of scrapping my dreams, I leveraged my existing skills to make more money in the following three ways.

1. I Used My Skills in a New Field

What I loved most about my PR job was that I got to use my writing and research skills. I’ve always loved the challenges of research and writing, from science papers in high school to corporate white papers, and I figured that those skills could apply to hundreds of careers—not just PR.

Keeping that in mind, I researched all types of fields and career paths that had never remotely interested me. I investigated getting a Ph.D. and pursuing academia. I thought about starting a tutoring business. I sent resumes out for entry-level jobs in business consulting and market research.

RELATED: Job Hunting? Here Are 8 Ways You’re Not Using LInkedIn—but Should

After about six months of job searching, I was able to land a job in investor relations at a financial firm, instantly doubling my salary and life satisfaction. Was the job directly related to PR? No. Did it involve writing? Yes. And, if you read on, there are reasons that it worked for me—and that the firm was willing to take a chance on me.

How You Can Do It: The thing about switching jobs is that there tends to be a lot more wiggle room for salary negotiation. At your existing job, the company knows not only your current salary but the amount of every raise and bonus, while a new company will pay you based on what they think you’re worth, not what you’ve been paid in the past. And no field is out of reach: I believed at one point that a jump from PR to IR was impossible because I didn’t have the financial background—but I proved myself wrong.

I was selling my skills, not my experience. Had I tried to talk about all of my public relations successes, the hiring manager wouldn’t have been able to relate and would never have considered me. Instead, I told him how I am an organized researcher, an efficient writer and quick to pick up new ideas. I would take their scattered reporting process and make it better. Of course he hired me!

  • Roger Williams

    Thanks. Very timely article. I am an electronics technician by training. Most of the work I do is in the medical device industry, which does not lend itself well to freelancing. However, I have been slowly working my way into the mechanical design side of things, which is often outsourced. I have been ingratiating myself with a few local machine shops and independent designers and have just now been able to pick up some freelance work. Bottom line: if it is your goal to freelance, or transition to a different industry, you can do it. It just takes time. Time to talk to people to figure out what skills other industries want, and develop relationships where people trust you and feel they can work with you.

    • Leah Manderson

      Time is an important factor. I can’t sum up in a single article how much energy and time went into making the career transition, but it was a lot–months of thinkings, planning & re-tooling. It’s all worth it though!

  • Tiffany M. Hughes

    Thank you so much for this article! It’s like I was reading about myself in an alternate universe; I was an English major, hunted for jobs in publishing and ended up in marketing. I haven’t been very successful, as I just lost my job, and I’ve been thinking about other places I can leverage my skills.

  • Keri Kight

    Anyone that feels “stuck” at their current job should read this. I love how you were prepared when asking for a raise. I remember asking for a raise at my very first job, with no preparation, and basically getting laughed at. That was fun, but I definitely learned my lesson, and was able to score a raise the next time around.
    Congrats on your wedding!

  • john J

    as you rightly mentioned, skills are definitely going to be the deciding factor in the near future..Each day we are proceeding more and more into a time where each individual is more capable of harnessing existing skills to generate a reliable source of income. With the emergence of sites like elancer and earnfromskill.com , this process has been more easy than it ever was. Soon we could see people making money out of the most trivial things.

  • http://www.passivetips.com Enrique James

    we can also use our technical skills to earn cash online. we need to join freelancing sites and start taking up projects.