If you’re looking to increase your income in the new year, the first thing you must face is that it will require work. In this context work can mean starting a new side gig, learning new skills, or even making some adjustments to your current financial situation.

You will need to be honest with yourself about what you are willing to do to get the extra money you desire. Once you have accepted that fact you are one step closer to building additional sources of income.

We’re going to take a look at several actionable tips for raising your income. Each will feature some steps to make it happen, but these are practical things you can start to do right now.

1. Reduce Your Expenses

There is a good chance you tried to do this before reading however it is much too important of a step to skip mentioning. Make a complete audit of your finances including income and expenses.

Examine how much you’re spending each month and where you can afford to cut back. Perhaps you’re shopping for clothes or dining out too often. Maybe you are overpaying on a recurring bill that can be lowered or even canceled.

The trick is to make an honest judgment call regarding what you truly need and then take steps to live by your means.

Once you have gotten rid of things, you don’t need to spend money on there are plenty of ways to save on things you do.

  • Consider taking public transportation on certain days or organizing a carpool to work.
  • Save on utilities by unplugging unused electronics or lowering the temperature of your water heater.
  • If you’re spending too much on food, try to shop generic brands, cook more often, and pack your own lunches for work.
  • You can also reduce your cell phone bill by trimming any features or data you’re not using.

After some time, all of these sacrifices will add up and start to give you some extra breathing room between paychecks.

Finding ways to lower your expenses will help address any underlying problems that are causing you to be low on funds. If you can get in the habit of maintaining a budget, it will make life easier now and help you stay on track once you do start to gain more income.

2. Gain a Skill You Can Sell

If you are serious about making money, then you are going to need to leverage a skill that you can use to gain paid opportunities. Ask yourself if there is anything you are currently capable of that people would be willing to pay for. If that is not the case, then you should begin practicing a new skill that could start to pay off towards the end of the year.

Make a plan to learn the basics of graphic design, videography, YouTube marketing, web development, tutoring, or writing. It doesn’t matter what you learn how to do as long as there is a realistic market for it.

It will take a considerable amount of time to get good at these things however you can gain experience faster by offering to do work for free. It may seem counterintuitive at first but working for free will allow you to regularly develop your new skill until you’re good enough for someone to actually pay you. Another benefit to initially working for free is the network you will start to develop along the way.

Clients with whom you create a good relationship now can lead to paid opportunities in the future. When you are ready to start taking on paid gigs you should have enough experience to create a strong portfolio showcasing the best work you have done.

Choose a good skill, do free work until you’re good enough to get paid, and maintain the relationships you make. If you decide to work for free then be strategic and make it worth the effort. Gaining a new skill is a long term strategy but the future you will be glad you did it.

3. Build a Personal Brand

Establishing an online presence with content is critical for anyone trying to increase their value in the eyes of potential employers or clients. Through marketing yourself online you are gaining more control of the narrative held by people who take the time to research you or your work.

Having a visible brand is useful for developing a strong network, remaining accessible to contacts, and even building authority for salary negotiations. It is an investment in yourself.

Here is a personal branding checklist that will help you stand out in a productive way.

  • Have a professional photo of yourself
  • Design a logo for your personal brand
  • Create an online portfolio of your work
  • Purchase a domain name (YourName.com or a similar option)
  • Have a website that shares your story, work, and contact info.
  • Create a LinkedIn profile and indicate you are interested in full-time work
  • Find references and testimonials for your website
  • Clean up your social media or create business-friendly accounts.
  • Make a short video of yourself talking about you, your work, and mission.

Once you have created your digital presence it can serve as a landing pad for all of your paid opportunities. People will have more confidence in investing in your services when they encounter your professionalism online. Knock this step out early to boost your personal marketability.

4. Find a Side Gig

Looking for a quicker return or something to hold you over while you work towards other goals? You may need to dedicate time to finding side gigs.

Yard work, babysitting, house cleaning, selling used items, writing for blogs, house sitting, or even dog walking are all options with a pretty low barrier to entry. In fact, for most of these options, you won’t need much experience. Grinding out these activities is the fastest way to supplement your income.

Thanks to the internet we live in the best time ever for finding these odd jobs. There are dozens of apps you can download to find relatively instant income.

If you have a qualifying car you can become a driver for Uber or Lyft. Apps like Instacart or Grubhub allow you to make money delivering food or groceries. Property owners can rent space to travelers on Airbnb or VRBO. Aside from those platforms, there are hundreds of websites offering paid gigs for a range of tasks both simple and specialized.

Remember that taxes need to be paid on earned income over $600. Keep a record in order to organize your business and file accordingly. Odd jobs aren’t always ideal, but stacking a few of these activities can take a significant load off your shoulders.

5. Seek a Higher Paying Job

It’s easier said than done but no one promised your added income would magically appear. Unless you’re going to start a business getting a better job is likely your best bet for maximizing income.

Luckily for you, there are a number of effective strategies people often overlook in pursuit of this goal. The big picture combines a few of the tactics we mentioned earlier. Start with developing your skill set and branding yourself online. Once you’re good in those areas you can begin to implement a strategic outreach plan targeting companies who would pay you more.

Use Google and Linkedin to create a list of 100-500 companies you would like to work for. Choose options that are realistic and relevant to your skillset. Log these companies in a spreadsheet along with the contact info of the potential hiring manager.

Once you’ve found your target employer’s hiring manager and contact information, start your outreach with a phone call. Offer them your services on a free test project or as an unpaid intern in order to demonstrate the ways you could be of value to the team. There is no guarantee they will accept this offer or even hire you down the road. But there’s a chance it can create the right opportunity to prove yourself.

Once you’ve spoken with a hiring manager, add them on linkedin and follow them for updates on job status. You can track all of this in your spreadsheet. When you’re finished with your initial list, reach out to another 500 companies after that. It sounds difficult, but if you continue this process your network will triple in size. Eventually, you will land something desirable.

As challenging as it may seem, transforming your financial future is entirely possible.

You will need to cutback in certain areas and combine that with a few smart investments. Most of all, you will need to work and create opportunity in order to hit the numbers you’re aiming for.

Ultimately, working these strategies into your life will snowball into huge savings and higher income.

Mike Clum