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One hundred thousand dollars.
It kind of has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Making $100k has a sort of mythical quality to it. It feels like once you break that six figure threshold, you’ve made it. It’s the kind of success that’s not just subjective, it’s objective. No one would dare call you a slacker if you’re raking in that kind of dough.
But how do you actually get to $100k? I mean, that’s a lot of money. Especially if you’re currently making half that (or less). People do it all the time, but it doesn’t seem like anyone ever tells you HOW.
Here’s some great news: in the tech world, $100k is a pretty “normal” salary for a lot of specific careers. Developers, analysts, designers, and even marketers often break that six figure mark without spending twenty years on the job. And as a freelancer or startup founder especially, you can get there quicker than you might think.
Here are sixteen secrets to earning $100k that you can start acting on NOW.
(And if you are ready to earn the big bucks but not sure you’ve got the skills? Sign up for our free email course, the 10-Day Tech Term Bootcamp. You’ll get the chance to dip your toes into the world of tech and try your hand at the skills that can seriously increase your earning power. Careful, it might be easier than you think!)
1. You Have to Have In-demand Skills
Is this one a given? Let’s face it—it’s great to want to make $100,000 doing what you love. But that doesn’t make it realistic. Unless you’re going to crush it as a freelancer this year, you have to have skills that are in-demand enough to warrant earning that kind of money at work.
The most in-demand tech skills change over time, but right now they include:
- Ruby and Ruby on Rails
- Mobile design and development
- Data management, especially with huge data sets
Learning any of those skills will make you much more valuable and worth paying $100k.
2. You Have to be Worth $100k
If you’re not providing more than $100,000 worth of value to your employer, then why would they pay you that much? The key to earning more yourself is to earn more for those who are paying you.
Look at the value you currently provide to your employer. (If you’re not sure how to determine your worth at work, FastCompany has a great article on the subject.) If it doesn’t greatly exceed $100,000, then your chances of getting a raise to that point are slim to none. Figure out what you can do to increase that value so that it’s way more than $100k and then you’ll have leverage for getting the raise you deserve.
3. Diversify Your Earnings
Say you have a day job you love, but you’re making $75,000. And you know there’s no hope of getting a raise any time soon (especially a $25,000 one). You might think your only option is to switch jobs if you want to cross that six figure mark.
But instead, look at diversifying your earnings. There are a ton of ways to do that. Freelancing is the most common. If you can find a freelancing gig making a little over $2k a month, then your overall earnings for the year will cross $100k.
You could also create a product (or an info product like an ebook or class) or take a part time job.
Making an extra $2k/month might seem like a ton. But in tech, that could mean:
- Writing two blog posts per week for top web design and development blogs or managing a corporate blog.
- Managing a company’s social media presence.
- Taking on one or two freelance web design or dev projects.
- Providing maintenance contracts for a couple of websites.
Those are all side hustles that can fit around a full time job.
4. Work Your Tail Off
This one isn’t the most popular on the list, but if you’re not working at least 40 hours a week, you’re probably not going to make six figures. Sure, there are people out there who work less than 40 hours a week and make more, but most of them at least started out working way more hours.
This can’t always be a long-term strategy. Working 80 hours a week for more than a few months (or even weeks) can very quickly lead to burnout, even if you love your job and are making huge amounts of money. But you may need to resign yourself to working 40–50 hour weeks on a regular basis until you get your earnings up and establish yourself.
5. Do Something You LOVE
This ties right into the last one. If you really LOVE what you’re doing, then putting in longer hours isn’t such a big deal. You also put more passion into your work, so you do a better job. When you love your work, it shows in the end product.
If you’re not sure about how to find a career that you’ll love, check out The Ultimate Guide to Turning Your Passion to Profit to get a complete roadmap for finding work you’re excited to do every day.
6. Become an Expert
It’s a simple fact: experts get paid more. When you’ve established yourself as an expert in your field, people are willing to pay you more to do what you do.
The great thing about being an expert is that it’s not that hard to establish yourself as one.
- Be great at what you do (whether that’s coding, marketing, design, or anything else). This one is key. It doesn’t mean you have to be The Best, but you do need to be good.
- Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and showcases your expertise.
- Get your name out there associated with that thing. You can do that with blog posts, social media, ebooks, videos, or anything else you want to produce.
- Do some informational interviews with established blogs and websites that showcase what you know and have to offer.
- Showcase everywhere you’ve been featured and everywhere you’ve got content associated with your expertise on your website or portfolio.
Sure, it’s not something you can do overnight. But in a few months, you can become an expert in your field and start reaping the income rewards from that.
7. Specialize in Something Specific
The more specific your specialty, the more valuable you can become to your company or clients. Being amazing at one thing in tech can be worth way more than being okay at a bunch of different things.
You can also look at it as knowing one industry really, really well. Let’s say you’re hunting for a better-paying job, either in the corporate world or as a freelancer. Instead of casting a super wide net, try specializing in one industry.
For example, when I was hunting for a steadier job last year (from a freelancing background), I knew that tech companies were going to be a better fit since that’s what I’ve specialized in for years, even though content marketing can be done in almost any industry.
8. Create Passive Income
If you love your day job or your current freelancing projects, the idea of adding more or changing careers just to make more money doesn’t sound very appealing. But at the same time, if you’re already working as many hours as you’re comfortable with in a week, you can feel like you’re stuck and will never make more money.
Luckily, there are things out there that can create more passive income, that generate revenue for you on a long-term basis with minimal regular input. If you’re a web designer, for example, you could create a series of premium themes to sell. Those themes only need occasional maintenance and updating as content management systems change, but can create revenue for you on a daily basis.
Think about add-ons and premium products you can create once and only have to put a little bit of maintenance and updating effort into occasionally. Adding passive income to your regular income can quickly add up to a six figure income.
9. Automate Everything
Okay, maybe not everything, but anything that you can manage to automate, you should seriously consider automating. And especially things you can’t bill for (like administrative tasks).
If you automate work that isn’t directly earning you (or your company) money, then you can spend the time you gain on more rewarding and profitable work. Some simple tasks to automate include:
- Billing and invoicing (particularly sending out reminders)
- Email and social media marketing efforts (there are all sorts of apps that can automate these tasks for you, or at least the execution of these tasks)
- Testing your designs or code
Closely related to this is outsourcing tasks that can’t easily be automated but don’t directly earn you money. Things like checking and responding to emails can easily be handled by a virtual assistant.
10. Set a Goal!
Setting goals can help you focus on what’s important to you. Making the idea of earning $100k into a concrete goal can help you remember that’s what you’re working toward. It helps to crystallize in your mind what you want and why you want it.
11. Create an Action Plan to Reach Your Goal
Goals are great, but you have to take it a step further and actually figure out how to reach that goal. The goal here is to earn $100,000 per year. To do that you might:
- Figure out five premium themes you can design for passive income (check out Paul Jarvis’s WordPress themes as an example)
- Pick a side hustle you’d love to take on outside of your day job
- Decide on three areas you can automate to free up more billable hours
- Or start pitching guest posts on blogs so you can establish yourself as an expert (these may not pay at first, until you have a body of published work to show)
It doesn’t matter which path you decide to take to get to your goal, only that you spend some time planning how you’ll get there.
The usual wisdom surrounding visualization and positive thinking is that you should picture yourself achieving your goal as a way to motivate yourself and make it happen.
But recent studies have shown that picturing yourself taking steps toward your goal works better than just picturing the end result.
So instead of picturing yourself with that $8,334 (give or take a dollar) monthly paycheck, picture yourself creating a premium theme, taking on a new client, or creating videos to establish your expertise.
13. Hone Your People Skills
If you really want to earn more, you need to have good people skills. And then you actually have to use those skills.
Let’s say you’ve decided you want to find a higher paying job rather than try to get raises at your current one. While sending out resumes might eventually result in a better job, getting out and talking to people in the industry can work faster and better. Getting a personal referral for a job can move your resume to the top of the pile, and give you more clout in negotiating a better salary.
Networking doesn’t have to be hard or scary! Get all the info you need in our Ultimate Guide to Non-Sleazy Networking, a 40-page ebook that covers everything from getting over networking jitters and brushing elbows at events, to arranging in-person meetings and building relationships based on sharing rather than cashing in on connections.
14. Manage Your Time
Unless you’ve somehow managed to get your hands on Hermione’s Time Turner (how cool would that be?!?), we all have the same number of hours in the day. The only difference comes in how we manage them.
Making the most of the hours you do have can mean the difference between keeping your mid-five-figure salary and making the jump to six.
Your day job takes up 8 hours. You sleep for 8 hours. You want to spend at least a couple hours with your family. And let’s figure basic hygiene, eating, etc. is going to take another couple hours a day. That leaves you with 4 hours. Do you want to spend those 4 hours on a Netflix binge? Okay, maybe once in awhile, but not every night!
Wouldn’t you rather spend at least some of those 4 hours doing something that will earn your more money or make you more productive? Would trading 2 hours a night to double your salary in the next year be worth it? I sure think so!
15. Keep Learning!
The more you know, the more value you can bring to any situation. Constantly improving your skills and learning things related to your work (even abstractly) makes you more likely to continue to advance in your career. And advancement = more money!
If you’re new to tech, Skillcrush’s free 10-day Tech Term Bootcamp is a great place to start learning. And when you’re ready to advance your skills, our Career Blueprints will get you on the road to a six-figure career in just three months!
16. Be Nice. But Be Assertive.
No one wants to work with someone who’s awful to be around. But at the same time, there is such a thing as being too nice. You have to draw the line at being so nice you’re being taken advantage of.
Don’t be afraid to assert yourself when it comes to your ideas and opinions, especially on projects that will make your company money. Being polite and listening to the ideas of others is important, but so is expressing your own take on the work you’re doing. Don’t be afraid to speak up in a meeting if you have an idea for making things better.
If you’re too intimidated to speak up in a meeting, try emailing the stakeholders from that meeting afterward. As your ideas start to gain traction, you’ll probably grow more comfortable with speaking up in the moment!
Tech is one of the best industries for earning six figures! If you’re still not sure if it’s the right path for you, check out our free 10-day Tech Terms Bootcamp to get a fun taste of what a career in tech could mean for you!
Cameron is a staff writer here at Skillcrush, and spends most of her time writing and editing blog posts and Ultimate Guides. She's been a freelance writer, editor, and author for going on a decade, writing for some of the world's leading web design and tech blogs. When she's not writing about design, she spends her time writing screenplays and making films (and music videos for rock and metal bands!) in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.