I remember chatting about after school career prospects with a friend at USC my senior year.
As a French major business minor, I didn’t feel confident about my career prospects.
I remember this friend asking me, “Well, what are your skills?”
“Skills?” I thought.
This was the first time I really considered what skills I had that a company could monetize.
At the time, my conclusion was that I didn’t have any monetizable skills.
I know now this conclusion was wrong.
But I’m afraid many people underestimate their skills or have skills they don’t realize are skills.
Step 1: Create a list of any and all skills you have (don’t filter in this part of the process)
This step is harder than it seems.
Like I said above, after 4 years at a top-25 American university, I seriously thought I didn’t have any monetizable skills.
Even with my “impractical” degree, this was and is false.
But we are often most blind to our own skills and strengths (and weaknesses).
Before diving in, I encourage you to think about skills as something that you’re moderately good at.
Many people think that you have to be in the top 10%, 1%, or .01% to consider something a skill.
You only need to be in the top 50% (continue reading to find out why).
In other words, if you choose 100 random people and compare your skill level to theirs, are you better than half of them?
If so, it’s a skill you definitely want to list in this brainstorming process.
Using Myself as an Example
Here’s how I think about my skills after college.
Hopefully my skill break-down sheds light on your own situation.
One of my more obvious skills is that I am a native English speaker.
English is the language of business, the language of the world.
The web is primarily in English.
And many foreigners would love to have native speaker fluency of English.[When many people want what you have, that indicates economic opportunity].
Next, not only am I a native speaker, I also know grammar, spelling, and writing well enough to write better than most fluent English speakers.
I’m handy with computers – I built my first PC when is was in middle-school.
Ever since then I’ve been messing with photoshop and playing around on the web.
In high school I started recording music in my bedroom and getting familiar with more advanced audio recording software.
I also made some movies with friends using stop-motion and more.
I played violin in elementary school.
Although I didn’t stick with it, violin led me to the guitar which led me to other stringed instruments like the mandolin, banjo, ukulele, etc.
My college internships involved simple investment analysis with Excel.
And thanks to my degree, I’m conversational in French.
These are just a handful of the skills I had coming out of university as a self-proclaimed skillless person.
If you’re having a lot of trouble with the brainstorming process, you might consider Noah Kagan’s tactic:
Ask friends and family what they think your skills are or what they imagine you doing professionally.
Noah says that what’s difficult for you to determine is often painfully obvious to those who know you best.
Noah was employee #30 at Facebook and #4 at the personal finance web app, Mint.
He’s also had incredible success building his own company, Sumo.
His advice is worth considering.
Step 2: Think about Monetization by Grouping Similar Skills
Hopefully now you have a handful of your skills in list form ready for classifying.
Why classify or group your skills?
This can give you a better sense of what direction you should take to monetize them.
Start by grouping obvious pairs or closely related skills.
For instance, photography and videography are a natural pair.
Becoming a wedding photographer/videographer is the application that immediately comes to mind.
But there are countless commercial paths you could follow with these skills.
In my case, my native speaker fluency in English and my conversational capacity in French are a natural pair.
With this duo, I could probably become a French teacher to native English-speaking students.
Or I could become an English teacher to native French speaking students.
My skill with stringed instruments could lead me to be a music teacher of some sort.
And my interest in photoshop and film-making could lead me down the path of photographer or videographer.
Few of these skills are ready for monetization immediately.
I might need to take some web courses, get certifications, build a portfolio of work, and otherwise brush up on them.
And that’s probably true for you as well.
As you think more about skills to monetize, you’ll probably need to do some work on them before you can use them to generate income.
And that’s OK.
Now that you’ve gotten the hang of this step, let’s move on to my favorite exercise in Step 3.
Step 3: Consider How to Monetize Unlikely Skill Combinations
Scott Adams, the creator of the hit comic, Dilbert, recommends considering the intersection of two or three of your skills.
Adams says that you are often in the top 1% of that intersection or skill combination.
For instance, Scott considered himself moderately funny and a decent comic artist.
Combining comedy with his artistic skills to create Dilbert launched his financial success.
Notice that Scott wasn’t in the top 1% of either skill-set, but when combined he had great success.
He says this practice is particularly powerful when you can combine a skill with effective communication.
There are countless examples of public speakers who get paid to talk about their skill-set even when they may not be the best in their field.
The same goes for writers and authors.
Based on net-worth, Bill Gates is a more “successful” entrepreneur than Neil Patel.
Yet Neil’s blog ranks as the ~8,000 most visited site in the world whereas Gate’s ranks at ~42,000.
Neil has combined his skills in entrepreneurship with his skill of writing to create a spectacularly successful blog.
His blog is even more successful than the greatest (or at least richest) self-made entrepreneur’s.
And this is why it’s so important that you don’t limit your skills when brainstorming.
You never know what combination of moderate skills could result in a terrific opportunity for monetization.
Step 4: Determine Your Focus
Now is the time to pare down your skill list to those that you want to pursue.
Because you have limited time and you can only pursue one or two monetization projects at most.
This step was (and is) hard for me.
I’ve always wanted to feel free to pursue whatever I want, whenever I want.
But the reality is that, if you don’t focus, you won’t get results.
How do I know?
Because I’ve tried to build many companies at once and have failed miserably.When you try to do too many things at once, you move a centimeter in 100 directions instead of moving a meter in the right direction.Click To Tweet
So take John Lee Dumas’ advice and use his acronym F.O.C.U.S to Focus on One Course Until Successful.
John followed his own advice and recorded a podcast for his (now) hit show, Entrepreneurs On Fire, every single day for 9 months without making a penny.
Now he regularly nets six figures in profit per month!
Or as Neil Patel says, “Unless you’re Elon Musk, don’t try to build two companies at once.”
Step 5: Stay Consistent
Once you’ve decided which skill(s) you want to monetize, you need to stay focused on monetization for a long time.
How long till you see results (cash) from your efforts?
As usual – it depends.
But you can find success stories of people who have monetized the skill set you’d like to monetize to get a ballpark estimate for how long it will take.
For instance, many novice coders using the coding website, freecodecamp.org, have gotten job offers in under a year.
More specifically, one of the founder’s suggests 2 hours of coding for 9 months.
Whatever skill you want to monetize, know that consistency is the most important step for success.
If you have laser-focus but only for a week, it’s unlikely you will see any progress.
But if you focus on monetizing your skills day-in and day-out for years, you will more than likely see the fruit of your efforts.
Like anything in life, results take time.
In fact, consistency over time is “the secret.”
But don’t take it from me, take it from Jeff Seid, the youngest IFBB bodybuilding pro in history.
When bodybuilding.com asked Jeff what his secret was, he said it was that he hadn’t missed a workout in a decade.
How do you recommend monetizing skills?
I’d love to hear about it in the comments.