According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, only 46% of college students actually finish their degrees. Research also shows that college graduates ages 25 to 32 earn $17,500 more annually than their non-degree-holding counterparts. But, given the crushing cost of education and a slowly recovering job market, is a college degree really worth it?
Certainly, anyone with a formal education should value his or her training, but that does not diminish the wealth potential of ambitious non-degree holders. You do not need a degree or even much training to make money and pave your way to success. Instead, you can create your own opportunities or enhance the job you already have. Here are eight of the best ways I know to make money without a degree.
1. Start a service business.
A service business is usually the easiest type of business to start. There is not much overhead, and you do not need many contacts or even a website to get started. Instead, you just need a valuable skill that people will pay you for, over and over again. Content marketing, web design, and social media consulting are just a few places to start.
But you would not earn much charging by the hour, or billing for one service at a time. To earn more, bundle your packages together and focus on value. If you are running a writing business, offer a website-content rehaul that converts sales at a premium price.
2. Invest in real estate.
Anyone with enough up-front capital can jump into real estate and start a rental-property business. But do you really know how to manage a property successfully? If not, team up with an experienced developer or venture into commercial real estate through crowd-funding opportunities.
3. Offer consulting services.
Think bigger than offering to train bookkeepers by the hour, or teach a course to business managers. Position yourself as a consultant instead, and get paid to share advice on everything from lean management to accounting. Think about pain points and how you can help solve a business' biggest problems.
Consultants enjoy the ultimate flexibility as independent contractors who can work with businesses either by the day or for the long term. While consultants do not need a college degree, they do benefit from having certifications with the tools they are recommending. Consultants also need in-depth industry knowledge.
4. Create a product.
Everyone preaches selling Kindle books and ebooks to make money, but there is so much more out there. The Internet is rife with premium products on both personal blogs and corporate websites alike. Sell music, books, software, films, and more. In reality, sellers can generate profits from just about any entertaining or useful material.
But, before you start selling, think about how to branch out and create new opportunities. Film your next workshop or web redesign and talk through the process as you go. Hire a video editor to polish the final product, then upload it to sites like Gumroad for an added revenue stream.
5. Become a subject matter expert.
Subject matter experts (SMEs), or domain experts, provide knowledge and expertise in a given subject area. Your job might be to ensure that the content on a particular subject is completely accurate. Companies looking to train staff need an SME to work on everything from training videos to educational courses. SMEs typically come from academic, technical, and vocational fields, but no specific degree is required.
Network for opportunities in your industry or opportunities working as course creators and contractors for training companies. Textbook publishers are also always looking for subject matter experts, though that is a tougher sell if they need an experienced educator in an area like science.
6. Rent your stuff.
Many rental companies started with just one person renting out his or her own equipment, like pressure washers, power tools, or office furniture. To get inspired, see how some enterprising people are renting and setting up bounce houses or birthday-party-character costumes. Get creative, and consider renting out your house, your vehicle, or rare antiques you own to a set decorator working on an upcoming film.
You do not have to start a full operation to build up a rental store. Instead, start with the things that are already in your home. Renting everything has become the mainstream in a sharing economy. You can list your home, car, camera equipment, bike, and campers without much effort.
7. Get adventurous.
Skydiving was a life-changing event for me that I will never forget. Skydiving instructors do not need a formal education, though a license may be required from a parachute organization, depending on where you work. Consider guiding whitewater rafting and kayaking tours or mountain climbing groups to earn money while you enjoy an adventure.
Adventure-related jobs may not pay much if you go the traditional route by working for a company. But there are still ways to profit from your passion. Branch out and start your own business; or sell gear; or train clients to get certified to jump. Also, think about organizing weekend retreats.
8. Look at non-degree jobs.
There are plenty of careers that pay well and do not require a degree. For example, gaming managers do not need a degree and are responsible for planning and coordinating operations in a casino. Detectives, web developers, even pilots may need certifications and other training, but they do not need a college degree. So, before you head back to school, ask yourself if you really need that piece of paper, and how much it will actually advance your career.
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