Saving money isn’t enough

You have to earn more as well. For the past 5 years, my income has consistently increased by 15 to 20%, without following any of the advises I received along the way.

Let me explain a little…

Working hard... sometime it looks like this
Sometimes it looks like this… most times it doesn’t!

Saving money is great! However, since the cost of life keeps increasing, you have to earn more as well!

Obviously and yet easier said than done. I know.

But we all know that, if your income remains the same years after years, while life is getting more and more expensive, you are becoming poorer, no matter how much money you save, no matter how frugal you live.

Now, I’m not about to sell you a secret recipe on how to do this, since I haven’t found one.

In fact, for now, I’m just going to tell you about my own journey and how, while rejecting all the advises I got, I still did get pretty amazing income increases, year after years.

I do hope to come back with a follow up on this! This will happen if I manage the next step!

I’ve increase my income by 15-20% a year, for the past 5 years

Yes, even this year, with a pandemic and all, I’ll have an increased income of at least 15% compare to last year, maybe even closer to 20%, will see.

Yet, I promise I don’t have a secret recipe. It’s not sheer luck either, it is mostly hard work, with a good dash of work ethic, a good measure of reliability and a pinch of hard earned trustworthiness.

Early bird gets the worm
Yes, I often have to get up before everybody else to get work done. It does come with some perks like a full coffee pot!

Let’s back up a little… with my work history

Here is my latest work history, just the last seven years.

Seven years ago, I became independent

I had an opportunity to start on this journey, not with nothing, but with a first trusted client which project was going to last about 2 years. I also had a good safety cushion in my bank account and it felt like something I could try, without taking too many risks.

At that point, I felt that if I needed to get back to a ‘regular’ job, 2 years of being independent wouldn’t be damageable to my career, on the contrary.

The 2 first years were weird

Very very soon, I realized I loved this independent thing!

Yet, I wanted something different. I wanted to be a photographer (or so I thought!) and spent a lot of time going to London to do photography classes. I missed London too much (having lived there for sometimes) and had found the perfect excuse to go back often!

Because of this, my income plunged the second year. My savings too!

So, my first 2 years of being independent were a mix of my regular ‘corporate’ work, while I dabbled into the photography world.

My brain was often confused while my spending on travel, courses and equipment were exploding. It was taking me a lot of efforts to focus on my work. I was tired from all the travelling… I very much enjoyed that time, but it probably wasn’t the best idea to try to do it all.

I soon realized 2 things:

  • I had to find another client because the project I was working on with my first client was slightly extended but my income was fiddling.
  • Being a photographer needed to remain fun. I did not want to have clients in that field.

Finding a second client

As soon as I decided that I absolutely needed to have another client, one appeared! Well I’m not even kidding. I had been offered other positions, during my 2 first years, but nothing I could have accepted considering my risk aversion.

But then I was finally put in touch with people I could work with. It was effortless, it was obvious. I still work with them 5 years later.

This almost doubled my income the next year, but since it had reached unacceptable lows, I don’t count it as an exploit. This isn’t taken into consideration in the 15 to 20% increase either, since I only took the next 5 years for this.

The next & last 5 years

The last 5 years is where I have been blessed with a 15 to 20% yearly income increase. My first client income fizzled but they asked me to take on another role, shortly after. My second client grew their business and I helped them with such business continuously.

The last 5 years have been marked by the passing of my mom. That was 3 years ago and since then, I’ve been going to see my dad very regularly. First it was once a month, now it’s every 3 weeks. Most times staying just for extended weekends, sometimes staying for a whole week.

Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t go back to a regular job because of such personal constrains. But there are many other reasons that would prevent me from going back. The main one being that it would probably kill me!! The other is because once I had taken on another client, there was no easy going back. Lastly, considering that even when life kicks you in the gut, you have to keep going, I feel blessed to be independent, as it made things slightly easier.

How did I get a 15-20% yearly income increase?

There is no secret recipe here. My clients grew their business, and I helped them do so.

I constantly showed up – I’ve been reliable – I’ve been trustworthy.

Despite my back and forth to see my dad, I’ve been available and flexible. They never abused that. They are super nice & respectful human beings.

We share common values and are happy to have such a work relationship.

My invoices usually get paid in less than 5 days and it is not something I take for granted, but I do find it to be a confirmation of their trust.

What I didn’t do to increase my yearly income

When I started on this journey, I got plenty of recommendations on how to do this, mostly from guys. Some of them were starting on their journey too, but were confident they knew better than me, others were more experienced.

I didn’t follow any of their recommendations! I’m still independent, 7 years later while most of them aren’t.

Here are some the recommendations I didn’t follow – the things I didn’t do.

I was never agressive with my fee rate. My clients gave me an indication of what they expected my fees to be and I agreed. They knew what market rates were and didn’t offer unreasonable rates either.

I sought long term relationships rather than deals. A lot of recommendations I received were about getting paid a lot, mostly for one shot deals. But long term relationship have the potential to flourish, while a lot of one shot deals tend to be just that, one shot.

I did not market my services. I remained very quiet instead. My LinkedIn profile is there, but does not attract attention because I limited the information provided (limited so much that it doesn’t say what I do!). I did not create a website, I do not name-drop when networking… Now, this might be linked to the sort of role I have, but my clients have been very happy with my discretion.

I never tried to have a lot of clients. I know guys in my fields, who have far more clients than me and yes, they make far more money than me. I’m not a machine, I don’t want their business model, period! At one point, I considered getting a couple more. But since they would all be in the same business, I felt that such diversification wasn’t really one (more on this soon).

I give no reasons to my client to replace me! Again, I’m reliable, trustworthy and available, I deliver, while not in the highest price range. They could find a little cheaper if they wanted to, but they know they would most likely not get the same service, especially on the availability side.

I never play tricks, I do not try to benefit from bad situations (I could have with the pandemic for example).

I do not take on tasks that I can’t deliver on. You wouldn’t believe the number of times I heard ‘just do it – you’ll learn while doing it‘. That’s a big no no to me. Recently one of my client asked me to take a role that wasn’t fitting. After discussing further, we agreed it would not be the best decision. Yes, I lost easy money there, but I retained the trust of my client.

Indeed I say no a lot, contrary to the advise that I should say yes to everything and figure it out later if necessary. My clients do not pay me to learn my job. They are seeking my expert advise, not my constant agreement.

You see, I didn’t follow any of the advises I got, which are pretty common (there probably should be more on the list but these were the ones I could think off). And yet, I’m still independent and my income keeps increasing consistently with no miracle cure.

So what’s next?

The most important thing I want to achieve is to diversify my income stream and mitigate the big flaw I see in my current work. I’ve tried a couple things and I’ve considered many others, but for now I do not have a clear path.

I do want to talk about this for sure, but it will have to wait a bit.

*****

For now, I hope I showed you that you can grow your income without following any of the advises that you’ll get along the way (including mine of course). That maybe you will find encouragement in my story.

Indeed, you can do things your own way, you can respect your own values & your own needs in the process and still succeed.

Saving moeny isn't enough