Sure, courses and self-upgrading can help you earn more income. But it depends on the course you take. A course in, say, advanced pencil sharpening probably won’t earn you as much as Autocad certification. The question is, which skills can actually be monetized? In this article, we look at what to spend your hard-earned time and money to develop. So that you can, eh, hard-earn more time and money:
The Long Term vs. Short Term Argument
It’s the biggest dilemma in self-upgrading: The long-term vs. short term conflict. To give you a basic example, let’s use English courses.
For short-term gain, Business English (workplace literacy) is one of the best courses you can take. Two months in, and your e-mails will have your boss crying at their poetic composition, begging you to let him frame them for his future grandchildren to admire.
On the other hand, doing a course in “pure” English (whether it’s vocabulary, literary appreciation, etc.) has the immediate payoff of a better-looking resume. When applying to be a fry cook at McDonald’s (No offense to anyone in that line).
How do you pick between the two?
It depends on your financial situation. The long-term courses can establish whole new career paths, but may take years to pay off. The short-term courses are great for side-businesses or immediate income.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll stick to short-term courses (great for side-income). For others, follow us on Facebook. Remember: Growing readership stops me from being fired.
1. Language Courses
Language is one of the most easily monetized skills. The following are a list of benefits, that comes from speaking any one language well. Not even being Shakespeare, but just speaking a language well:
- You are able to convince people, because your statements make sense.
- You can at least appear professional, in almost any job
- You can read better, and you won’t be confused by complex e-mails, manuals, etc.
- There is an almost universal need for content (technical manuals, websites, scripts, etc.)
- There is a strong market for translation (especially Mandarin to English, or vice versa)
Language also has the side-benefit of improving career options. It makes a better salesman, a potential copywriter, and a
fantastic liar future Public Relations expert.
The best part is, many companies are able to subsidise workplace literacy programs. You may end up paying the princely sum of $30 (after most subsidies) for the upgrade of a lifetime. Pick business English.
If your company doesn’t provide this course, enroll yourself.
2. Accounting Basics
Accounting is one of the most thrilling activities known to man. Just like Golf, cricket, and watching your toenails grow.
Accounting is also one of the basic needs of any business. SMEs (Small to Medium Enterprises) typically have need of accountancy services, but cannot afford to contract big firms. As such, an independent, accredited accountant can make a tidy sum.
According to Alton Soon, who has been a CPA for five years:
“Most SME clients are not particularly time consuming. Even on an individual basis, I think it is possible to service a number of SMEs without any drop in service quality. While I would never claim that this will make you a millionaire, I do make a respectable amount by providing basic accountancy services to them.”
Alton also mentions that, in his opinion, accounting is more relevant to small business than actual business courses:
“I think marketing and business administration are great in a corporate environment. But for running your own business, I think accounting has more practical value.”
3. Presentation Skills
For children, this is called speech & drama. If you’re a grown man and work for Apple, it’s called “being Steve Jobs”.
Presentation skills are about grooming, eloquence, and charisma. The most basic example of this is public speaking, which you can learn from Toastmasters. Presentation skills are also integral to side-jobs like emceeing, which we’ve discussed in a previous article.
I’m going to let you in on an open secret, in case you’ve missed it: What you say is just as important as how you say it. CEO’s, businessmen, and the guy who got promoted over you last month all prove it: The world belongs to the smoothest talkers.
Hey, I’m not defending it; I’m just pointing out the basic realities of business. If you can’t hold an audience, or sell your ideas, you’re forced to hire someone who can. Most successful start-ups and SMEs are run by salesmen – entrepreneurs, who possess more than technical skills.
4. App Development
Know how to make an iPhone / Android app? You just found some side income. You don’t even have to be particularly good at it; a lot of bosses will never use the apps they hire someone to make.
Apps are like the new version of business cards, or the legal department in your company: No one actually wants them, but everyone agrees they make you more respectable.
So if you have even the most basic idea of how to make an app, even if it’s just animating a stick-man with a mispelled logo, I bet someone will pay you to do it.
Please don’t misunderstand: I’m not suggesting that every app developer is a lazy rip-off with rudimentary programming skills. Many are artisans, who care deeply about their work, and put hours into the small detail. But it’s also true that most hirers have pretty low standards, and will pay you the same however the app turns out.
Either way, it’s an easily monetized skill. If you already have basic IT skills, may as well take a course. Otherwise, try one of the others on this list; it’ll be faster to learn.
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