It’s time to figure out what skill you’re going to build so you can make money freelancing online.
To do this, we’re going to use a system described in the book Good To Great by Jim Collins.
Collins and his research team spent significant time identifying the common factors that distinguish good companies from great companies.
One of these factors is what came to be called the Hedgehog Concept, defined as…
A deep understanding of three intersecting circles translated into a simple, crystalline concept.
It’s called the Hedgehog Concept because of an analogy: some people are foxes, others are hedgehogs.
Foxes pursue many ends at the same time and see the world in all its complexity… never integrating their thinking into one overall concept or unifying vision.
Hedgehogs, on the other hand, simplify a complex world into a single organizing idea, a basic principle or concept that unifies and guides everything.
Great companies, Collins tells us, always have a Hedgehog Concept. And they come up with that simple, crystalline concept by understanding three key dimensions.
Those dimensions can be visualized as intersecting circles:
To help grasp the three circles, a personal analogy is given in the book:
Suppose you were able to construct a work life that meets the following three tests:
First, you are doing work for which you have a genetic or God-given talent, and perhaps you could become one of the best in the world at applying that talent. (“I feel that I was just born to be doing this.”)
Second, you are well paid for what you do. (“I get paid to do this? Am I dreaming?”)
Third, you are doing work you are passionate about and absolutely love to do, enjoying the actual process for its own sake. (“I look forward to getting up and throwing myself into my daily work, and I really believe in what I’m doing.”)
If you could drive toward the intersection of those three circles and translate that intersection into a simple, crystalline concept that guided your life choices, you’d have a Hedgehog Concept for yourself.
That all sounds fantastic and everything, but it’s a tad too lofty for our purposes.
We’re looking to start making money online here, not determine our life purpose or change the world.
With that in mind, we’re going to modify the Hedgehog Concept a little, like so:
What are you deeply passionate about?
Something you enjoy doing (or at least don't hate)
What can you be the best in the world at?
Something you can do (or learn to do) better than most people
What drives your economic engine?
Something there's an established online market for
Here’s what our revamped venn diagram looks like:
Our mission now is to find you a skill that lies in the intersection of those three circles.
Let’s get to it.
1. Something There’s An Established Online Market For
We’re going to start with this one because it’ll weed out a lot of impractical skills right off the bat.
We want to figure out where the money is online.
What skills are already in high demand, or are on the up-and-up?
We can answer that question by going to Upwork, the biggest freelance marketplace on the internet.
Now Upwork is by no means the only place to find work online 1 but because it’s so big we can poke around and get a solid overview of the digital workspace.
In particular, below are two things I recommend you check out on Upwork.
You’ll find links to reports about online work trends on this page at Upwork. It’s worth having a quick look through those to see which skills are becoming increasingly in demand.
For example, here are the top 20 fastest-growing skills in the last quarter of 2016, as per Upwork:
From that list you can clearly what there’s an increasing demand for.
Do any of those jobs sound interesting to you?
This is a list of all the top job categories on Upwork.
Take some time to browse the list and click through to view the latest job postings for the categories you like the sound of. This will give you a feel for the exact kind of work on offer and how much money you could earn doing it.
As you’re looking at the job listings, take note of:
- How many jobs are posted in each category? Sort by “newest” and then check how many were posted in the past 24 hours. More postings –> big market –> big opportunity
- How many of the listed jobs are accepting “entry level” freelancers (as opposed to “intermediate” and “expert”). Assuming you don’t have any experience right now, those jobs will be your bread and butter starting out, so the more the better.
2. Something You Enjoy Doing (Or At Least Don’t Hate)
Based on your research in the previous step, you now want to come up with a list of 5-10 jobs you think you would enjoy.
Again, it’s important to actually dig in and look at the jobs posted in each category to get a feel for the type of work you’d be doing. Don’t write off any category too easily.
3. Something You Can Do (Or Learn To Do) Better Than Most People
Some things to keep in mind here…
A) Time Constraints
I tend to believe you can learn pretty much any skill to a professional level given enough time and practice, but our aim is to get you earning as quickly as possible.
(Of course, if you’re in no major hurry and have more than three months to devote to skill-building, you can set your sights on higher-level skills.)
So we want to select a skill you can learn well enough in three months that clients will be happy to pay you at least $10/hour consistently.
B) Your Strengths And Weaknesses
Your strengths and weaknesses go a long way to determining how quickly you can become proficient at a particular skill.
For example, some people can pick up programming concepts rather quickly and be writing and debugging their own functions in a matter of days, while others will find that kind of work frustrating and unintuitive.
Questions to help figure out your strengths and weaknesses:
- What kind of work have I been praised for in the past?
- What kind of work have I been most proud of in the past?
- What kind of work have I found frustrating in the past?
- What kind of work have I found easy in the past?
Lastly, you should take into consideration how much help there is available for learning certain skills.
For example, there are tons of resources online — many of them free — for learning skills like web development, programming, and social media marketing.
Not so much for skills like interior design and paralegal services.
For each skill you’re interested in, do a quick google search to see what resources are available. 2
- Are there online courses?
- Free tutorials?
- Interviews with successful online freelancers you could contact for advice?
Our mission in this lesson was to figure out a solid skill that you can use to freelance online.
As per the Hedgehog Concept, we’ve been looking for a skill that lies at the intersection of these three circles…
To find that skill, you should have run through the 3-step process laid out above.
After that, it’s time to start narrowing down your options and making a firm choice as to which skill you’re going to focus on.
If you’re really hesitant to commit to anything right now, that’s okay, but it’s good to at least choose something (anything!) to start experimenting with. You can always come back and try something different later. Doing nothing now isn’t going to help you figure it out.
So, with that in mind:
- Which skill are you going to focus on?
Let me know in the comments below.
Lastly, this article is part of my Start Earning Online series. If you want more articles like this, showing you step-by-step, exactly what it takes to build an online business, sign up below.