At the beginning of the year, as I was contemplating my monetary goals for the year, I thought back to Cal Newport’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You. Cal describes a transactional view of career management in which we build career capital and then trade that for more money, more freedom, or whatever it is we are after.
This made a lot of sense, so I made a list of my career capital assets. It looked something like this:
- Blogging experience—the Bike to Work Blog, email management, this blog
- Knowledge of effective meetings and documentation
- First-hand experience with late life self improvement
- App development experience
- Work on contact management
- Experience getting my kids to code
- Radio and sound background
- Experience with video production
- Presentation and teaching skills
- Lead generation experience
I then came up with a list of 12 business opportunities available to me and came up with the following list:
- Luxury emergency preparation service
- Meeting minutes class
- Specialized lead generation service
- Later-life improvement
- Dunbar app
- Pee-wee coach app
- Bike to Work Blog
- Coder Dad
- Freelance voiceover and video work
- Freelance content creation work
- Affiliate marketing
It’s a long and doable list that left me wondering which ones to pursue; that’s when I remembered Ramit Sethi’s “Demand Matrix.” The matrix is divided into four quadrants and you use it to determine how profitable an idea might be. High end and golden goose opportunities are the most profitable, labors of love and mass market opportunities are not going to provide a lot of profit.
Here is where I plotted each of the opportunities on the matrix:
- Luxury emergency preparation service: Quadrant 1
- Meeting minutes class: Quadrant 3
- Specialized lead generation service: Quadrant 1
- Later-life improvement: Quadrant 2
- Dunbar app: Quadrant 3/4
- Pee-wee coach app: Quadrant 2/4
- Bike to Work Blog: Quadrant 3
- Coder Dad: Quadrant 3
- Email: Quadrant 3/4
- Freelance voiceover and video work: Quadrant 1/3
- Freelance content creation work: Quadrant 1/3
- Affiliate marketing: Quadrant 4
It was a great exercise as I now knew where to focus my energies: emergency preparation, lead generation, later life improvement, and specialized freelance work. I also decided to work on the Bike to Work Blog, but did so with the understanding that I’m doing because I like it rather than because it will make money.
Here’s what I didn’t know: all of this was just a guess.
My idea of freelancing was informed largely by James Altucher’s idea of making $2000 in a weekend. Of course I didn’t expect to make $2000 in a weekend, but I have pretty good skills in the areas I was going to freelance, so I should be able to command something of a premium.
Through the month of January I spent four to six hours per week crafting individualized proposals for jobs on Upwork thinking I was working in Quadrant 1. I had lots of bites on my freelancing offers, but no work. People would say stuff like, “You’re more expensive than other candidates, but you look perfect.”
I should have figured it out, but delusions can be persistent. It wasn’t until this week, when I decided to expand from Upwork to Fiverr and found that my offer for a male voice over artist with a standard American accent and home studio equipment was competing with 385 almost identical offers.
I had unwittingly entered another commodity market; something I had said I would never do again.
Lesson of the first week of February: Freelancing through online freelancing sites is not the place for me to find the money momentum I need. For the coming week I’ll shift to Quadrant 1 ideas.