The Many Ways to Earn Income Besides Jobs

By Mike Johnson

Many people consider quitting jobs to follow their writing dreams. I quit a high-paying corporate job cold turkey in 1991 to become a new writer-without-clients myself. It was a very bumpy and traumatic and difficult and exhilarating adventure. I definitely should've prepared much better before making the leap. Throwing yourself upon your wits and dreams is not for the faint hearted. But it was worth it ten times over.

I think most people here are chasing the freedom to live their lives the way they imagine while striving to earn enough money to fund their dreams. At age 57, after 5 years of "retirement," and 46 years of earning income in many different ways, including a dozen years as a freelance writer, I am seeing the topic of income generation with better clarity. There are many ways to earn money besides a job. If you realize that you have a menu of income choices to choose from early, you can shave decades off the achievement of your dreams.

Let me skip to the pay-off. Time is far more valuable than money. But you have to solve the money issue to get more time. So let me share the typical linear progression of income generation that occurs over four decades. My hope is that by studying this list, you can skip a few steps and arrive at your dreams decades earlier than I did.

Jobs. These are a mixed bag. Most people are trained that jobs are the only way to earn money. Untrue. Jobs are golden handcuffs, and sometimes, just handcuffs. You want the money but must trade a large percentage of your time to get it. Sometimes you love the work, sometimes you don't. Jobs look "secure," yet one crazy boss can fire or lay you off at will, taking away all your income. Jobs are taxed at rates far higher than other forms of income and provide the fewest deductions. You must wear a costume, work a schedule, beg for time off, and do what others tell you no matter how stupid the request. You can't sell your job to someone else, so a job is not an asset you can cash in when you decide to quit. The most enlightened people get a job to LEARN, rather than earn. They pick a job in an industry that most lights them up. They consider the job "paid training" that they can apply to their next income generator - working for themselves.

Self-employment. Freelance writing falls into this category. It's a step up from a job because you call the shots. You say who, you say when, you say how much. If you get a bad client, you fire them and move on. You pick your own costume and pick your own work hours. You determine the limits of your income. Taxes are lower if you learn the legal deductions and take them. Your operation may eventually have value to someone else willing to buy it if you build a big list of satisfied customers. Other forms of self-employment include consulting, speaking and personal/professional services like accountant, lawn care, painter, handyman, dentist, plumber, lawyer and doctor. The weakness of this form of income generation is that you still must work a schedule. If you don't work, you don't eat. The most enlightened people use their self-employment experiences to learn how to create businesses with systems that can be delegated and operated by others.

Businesses. The best businesses generate enough income to pay others to do the tasks and follow the systems that you established. This gives you income without being tied to a schedule. You're in control. You have more time. You pay less taxes due to more legal deductions. You now have an asset you can sell for a multiple of annual net operating income when you're ready to retire or do something else. Because others do the daily tasks, and there are systems to follow, more people are willing to buy this business. They're buying an income stream, not buying a job. If the business has great systems and great income you can hire a manager to run it and then just manage your manager. Businesses like this can provide great income and lots of time to spend as you like. On the flip side, thousands of businesses like this are for sale right now. With self-education, you could just buy one of these types of businesses and "retire" with mostly passive income within months rather than decades.

Passive paper investments. This type of income promises earnings and/or dividends that allow you to live without working at all. Most people's retirement accounts are invested in paper assets, yet they know very little about these investments. Stocks and bonds fall in this category. Due to my 10,000+ hours of researching the current financial system, I don't trust stocks and bonds. You are trading real money today, for pieces of paper that promise to pay you in the future. Right now the financial system is an unsustainable, corrupt mess that cannot be fixed without a massive reset. Stocks are massively over-priced, selling for insane multiples of annual earnings due to trillions of dollars being created out of thin air by the Federal Reserve. Suffice it to say that a massive downward "adjustment" is inevitable. When that happens, most stock and bond investments will be decimated (this includes your retirement accounts!). If you can't touch it, you don't own it. Until you cash out, paper investments are merely a promise to pay, not the payment itself.

Passive income-generating real estate. This could be residential or commercial real estate. Residential is safer because people will do everything they can to keep a roof over their heads. A business that rents a strip center space will bail out as soon as they see the business is doomed. America has 7 times more retail space per person than the next closest country. This is way overbuilt. The economy is in the crapper and the middle class is being decimated by nearly 10% inflation and 23% real unemployment ( America could lose half its retail outlets in the next five years. So I recommend buying multi-unit residential properties over 30 units in size. Rentals are booming because only 20% of Americans now qualify for buying their own home. 52% of all Americans now have sub-prime credit scores. With self-education, you can teach yourself how to purchase and operate these properties. If your apartment complex or mobile home park is over 30 units, you can earn enough to pay all property bills, a large mortgage, a manager to run it and all your personal bills too. This allows you to "retire" as soon as you stabilize your systems. There are thousands of these properties for sale right now, so you could just buy an income stream (even with little money down) and put your money woes behind you. Because the properties are mostly passive, they sell for 10 times net operating income. That means that for every dollar you improve profits, the property is worth 10 dollars more. And passive income properties usually pay no taxes due to legal depreciation deductions.

Motivated people can use this list of income sources to shave decades off their linear income progression. Nothing says you have to follow the herd. 95% of the herd will never get financially free and most will never achieve their biggest dreams. To get a different result, listen to those of us who are already financially free. Nothing is more important than your own self-education. Everything you need to learn is in a book, online or in the mind of someone who has already done what you dream. Read! Ask! Take action!

Life is a process. Becoming financially free is merely a consequence of becoming the person who has learned enough to do so. This requires a financial self-education beyond what you learn in school and from friends and relatives. Becoming financially secure is an amazing feeling. The money is nice, the time is fantastic, but the knowledge and confidence and appreciation and sense of achievement is really what makes for a fulfilling life. Once your monthly passive income exceeds your monthly bills, you no longer have to work a schedule. With motivation and self-education, this can happen decades sooner than age 65.

Your writing journey can take you where you want to go. Your writing skills are a critical component of shaving decades off your income progression. Researching how to gain various types of income and learning how to sell your ideas to others in writing are two giant skills you need so you can stop trading time for money and start fully living the life you imagine.

So my best advice is to keep growing. If your job is stale, get rid of it and move onto something else that lights you up. Chase your dreams. But do it smart by self-educating yourself on the many ways to earn income before you become so heavily invested in one skill or income type. You only have so much time. It turns out that the conventional wisdom of working decades and saving enough to retire is the worst way to earn income and reach retirement (takes the most time and effort with the least payoff). Whatever you select, your journey itself, starts generating the knowledge and skills that turn you into the person ever-more worthy to attain your dreams.

Good luck!

Mike Johnson is a writer and entrepreneur who leveraged his writing skills to retire early. To learn more, visit Mike's website at