Question from : W Hollenbaugh, United States.
In todays current financial status of the lower and middle class, is it possible for a person of my stature who is over their head in bills and general cost of living while all the while facing the rise of the cost of living to get ahead and provide a comfortable life for himself and his family when he does not have the financial means of his own to invest on the things available to get ahead and make a suitable life for his family? All questions, thoughts and direction of advise is greatly appreciated and needed.
Nik Zafri's response :
Thank you for your query Mr. Hollenbaugh. As a matter of fact, what you have highlighted is a universal problem (even to me as well). I can only quote you the examples from the Malaysian environment that is currently recovering from the fall in the late 90s. I've been queried many times by mostly small businessmen and freelance consultants of how they can sustain throughout this difficult period. What I've told them may not be the same with what you are encountering as the situation in the United States possibly a little bit different than what we have in South East Asia especially Malaysia.
In our quest towards recovery and ultimately a financial freedom, we have to go back to the 'basics'. Ask yourself what you are really good at? I call this 'your personal branding'. Then, you list down your other skills (Your Personal JD) but make sure they are according to your degree of ability (benchmarking) Then, you have to do some sort of a process flow chart of how you plan start this Main Competency/Other Skills of yours and where it ends.
Then you will have to measure them by putting some time frame i.e. how long can you usually finish this personal branding/other skills of yours - depending on the job you're doing, it may be a short or a long term project. (you need to classify what kind of job you're doing, short or long term)
Having done this, you need to have your own Personal Mission Statement (ambition/aspiration towards the future). In your objectives/goals/key result areas, you need to specifiy of 'when you're going to achieve these', 'do you need more exposure like training (Expected Ability minus Current Ability = Needs of Training - you can do this by taking your personal JD as a basis) ' or 'advertising (flyers as a start)' of your main skill/branding & other skills. There are quite a number of free seminars, go to these places and make friends with the more experienced people esp. the experts/speakers etc. (networking), always get in touch with them. If you have more money, you can always take up business classes to any extent that you wish - so long as this academic + skills classes are very related to what you are good at.
Another good thing you can do is to forecast your Profit & Loss. Do some personal survey through networking - through your friends or competitors..of course you don't need to travel one place to another to get this. Even by networking, you can get interesting information as well.
If you are good in quantitative techniques, QCC and operational research, you can always use these things to further analyse your achievement, data gained from survey and projects that you're doing such as complaints, comments etc. etc. This is especially good for when making final and 'almost' accurate decision making (after all nothing's perfect)- what you're going to do next or what are your future plans.
The Internet has a lot of resources on what you are doing. Find and read them. Always update yourself with the latest issues.
Of course; along the journey; you will find that sometimes your personal branding might have competitors. Don't worry about it, the market segment maybe quite big and there are many slices of cakes enough for everyone - if you're really up to it or strong enough.
If you find that your other skills are 'making more money' to you, don't be too distracted and leaving your Main Competency/Personal Branding. Many have failed by taking this dangerous path and pitfall as their profit generators. What should be done is to stick firmly to your Main Competency/Personal Branding - your identity - what you are good at and channel all the profits/money from your other skills to realize your aspiration - to be the best in what you do best (your Main Competency/Personal Branding)
Of course, what I'm saying here is very related only to those who wishes to open-up/establish their own business or freelancing. Being employed is still a good thing if you are only having 1-2 years experience. The best employment experience that I've ever seen (that works) is about 5-10 years minimum before considering to venture oneself into what I've mentioned above. Another thing need to be emphasized here is that, these employment experience; if possible; must come from multi-disciplines or multi-industrial ranging from different types/variations of products or different types of services. Yes, many also have said to me that "Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss" but there are also some pros besides contras - multi-industrial knowledge is a lot better then only to narrow yourself to one particular industry only...
Please note : I do not encourage employed people to do what I've said above as a 'part-time job' as based on my experience, no one can really focus being employed and doing something else to gain more money at the same time...It won't work...there will be time that you have to make a very critical choice of either to choose your job or your own business.