Getting Ahead Money

First I want to start off with an apology.

When the Foolish Adventure Show first started a listener asked how to make $500 a month. That’s all she needed. In my arrogance, I told her that she shouldn’t think so small. The effort needed to build a $500 a month online income was essentially the same as making a $1000 to $5000 a month.

I was new to this whole “guru” thing. I’m used to giving advice to businesses that want tens of thousands of dollars increase from their marketing efforts within a matter of weeks. What I’ve realized since then is that kind of advice is daunting to someone just getting started.

Sometimes what we need is a quick win.

Sometimes what we need is some “getin’ ahead money.”

What would $100 per month extra do for you? I know for some people they wouldn’t bother building anything for $100, but for many others an extra $100 a month could mean not having to choose between gas money or groceries.

See, it’s been a long time since I HAD to make the choice between putting gas in the car or buying groceries that I forgot what it feels like. And that was causing me to neglect people who really need to make a big change in their life.

For that I’m sorry.

Let’s talk about making some getting ahead money.

Most of us (the 99%) have bills and probably a lot of bills. Some of these bills are mistakes we made, but have to keep paying like buying a vacation with a credit card. Sure feels great going on that vacation, but it sucks when five years later we’re still trying to pay it off.

But other bills we have, like our car payments, mortgage or rent and utilities, have to be paid. We need the car to get to and from a job so we can keep paying all those bills.

What would happen if you made another $350 a month? Would that cover your car payment? Could you make double payments and pay off your car?

Catching Your Breath

What kind of breathing room would that make in your life?

Do you have maxed out credit cards? If you’ve got $10,000 in credit card debt (all too common) and you want to pay off that debt in two years you’re going to need to pay around $500 per month depending on your interest rate. In the last few years, credit card companies jacked their interest rates up so you may need $600 a month to pay it off in 24 months unless you negotiate a lower interest rate, which you need to do.

You might be thinking, “Tim, I already know what bills I’ve got! What I want you to tell me is how to pay them off.”

I’ve seen a lot of forum posts lately on different sites that I visit that ask, “If you had to start over, what would you do?”

Starting From Scratch

Here’s what I would do:

1. Get the right mindset.
When you’re getting kicked around by life, you can start feeling and thinking like you’re a victim. But..

You have to take control of your life. Take control of your finances.

Part of the right mindset is to stop looking for “push-button systems to wealth.” Don’t look for passive income promises. Drop the lottery mentality.

All the people who make a lot of money do the tough stuff that others won’t do. If you want to make a lot of money fast, then you must learn to solve tough problems for others.

2. Find a tough problem to solve.
If you have a hobby, passion, expertise in a subject, you may already know what the tough problems are in that subject. You’ve heard others ask how to solve them. You’ve asked how to solve them. Maybe you figured it out or maybe you still need to research how to solve it. Either way, you’re at the beginnings of a business.

3. Learn, Practice, Learn, Practice
Study everything you can about the problem and the people who have the problem. You need to learn and then you need to do. You can’t play basketball by reading about it or just by watching it. You can learn the rules and concepts, but until you try to dribble a ball, shoot and pass, you don’t really know how to play.

This is the same with anything. You must put your learning into practice. When I first got started in consulting, I was learning about sales and direct response marketing. I then practiced writing fake sales letters and ads. Then I found a client who let me practice on a real ad.

Soon after I was getting my first paying customers because I could show real-world results.

4. Hustle
You need to find paying customers. Blogging for six months isn’t building a business. Finding and solving problems for people is the start of a business, but you don’t turn pro until someone hands you cash.

The bigger and harder the problem you are solving, the more money you can make. You may start off with a relatively small problem for a customer since you don’t yet have a lot of credibility, but with each success you can take on harder and bigger problems and your income will rise.

This Is Real-World & Not Theory

Here are two real-world examples — a consulting tale and an info-product tale.

Two Foolish University members have spent the last year learning how to build an online info-product business. One hasn’t launched his own info-products yet, the other has, but what they both did was take the knowledge that they learned from the U and skills they’ve gotten from practicing with their own online businesses and found people who want to pay them for those skills.

They both learned how to get a website to rank in the search engines, which is a skill a lot of other businesses are willing to pay a lot for.

So, I’ll tell you what I told them. Go out and find 5 to 10 businesses who will pay you $500 to $1000 per month to get their sites to rank on the first page of Google.

You may start with your own practice site (the info-product business you’ll eventually make a living from) and use those results to convince a business owner to let you do it for her. You may first start with just $300 a month on that first client, but your next one should be $500 a month if you were successful with the first customer. And keep increasing your rates as you get better.

Now, you’re paying off your car or credit card. One or two more and you’ll be able to pay off your mortgage really fast or save up for a downpayment on a house. A couple more customers and you’re earning a full-time income working part-time.

These two University members have been able to add income quickly. Having success builds confidence and with more confidence comes more success.

For the second real-world example, a corporate nine-to-fiver turned fitness trainer wanted control of his life. He wanted to quit his day job. He was working a lot (full-time in his job and with fitness clients) and his clients were getting results, but he wasn’t — financially. The problem…

He was paid by the hour from his fitness clients and he would only be able to make as much as he could work. He decided to make an ebook on a problem he was frequently asked to solve — how to get a flat belly and six-pack abs.

In his first couple of years he was making about $50,000 a year while still working his full-time job and with his fitness training clients. Then he quit and dedicated himself to continually improving his business on how to get a flat stomach or six-pack abs. Over the course of the next year, his revenue went up ten times. Now his info-product business is generating about $1,000,000 per month.

The problem he set out to solve was a really big one and millions of people every year wish to solve it.

Zig Ziglar said, “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

This is an easy formula for success. Find a lot of people with a big problem or huge desire and sell them a solution.

Making Getting Ahead Money

If you want to make some Gettin’ Ahead Money, I would first suggest finding a client and solving his problem. Maybe as you’re browsing websites in your niche, hobby or expertise and you see sites that aren’t building an email list. Contact them and offer to build it for them including a short email autoresponder series.

After you do a couple of them, you could get dozens, if not hundreds, of customers that need the same thing.

Or do Search Engine Optimization or any of the hundreds of tasks an online business needs done.

To make $500 a month, you could do this with one to five customers. Out of the millions of websites online, can you find one to five?

Then work on a membership/continuity/subscription product for YOUR online business. Instead of just making an ebook, find a way to upsell customers to your membership site. With an ebook, you have to make sales every month to keep making money. If your ebook is $25, you have to sell twenty ebooks every month — that’s 240 customers per year (not a lot, but more than you would need to make the same money with a membership site.).

To make $500 a month with a membership site let’s play with some numbers:

With a $50 per month subscription you need ten members. Just ten and you’re bringing $500 each month.

At $25 per month you need twenty members.

You may have been concerned that no one would pay you $50 per month (though it isn’t as difficult as you’re thinking) so I cut the price in half. $25 a month should be doable for most industries. The value proposition would be different for each industry. For the scrapbooking industry, this may be on the high end, but for a financial newsletter this would be scrapping the bottom of the barrel.

At $10 per month you need to find 50 members. Not 50 per month, but 50 total members.

Now you have a fairly stable monthly income that can help you get ahead of your bills. Once you’re ahead of your bills, you can start building the life you’ve always wanted for yourself.

Now go out there and get yourself some getting ahead money.

Join the Conversation


  1. I completely agree that “sometimes what we need is a quick win.” 
    Psychologically, making just a little bit of money initially motivates you to try and make more. Even if this means making $100 in a month, the simple question becomes… what did I do to successfully make that $100 and how can I scale that? When I first started my business in college, making just $500 in a month was a challenge. But once a little revenue started coming through, I would start thinking… How I could double up my efforts? How can I help more people?
    Thanks for pointing out this idea of getting a “quick win”. It’s something that every entrepreneur needs before they can create something big.

    1. Thanks, Paul.

      I bet after you figured out how to make $500 a month it felt easier to make more than that. But until we KNOW we can make $100 or $500 we may not believe we can really make $1000 or $5000.

  2. Very inspiring. While I need at some point to replace incomes for 3 people ( 15k month ) I truly will be ECSTATIC  when I see the first 10.00 come in from out internet effort. It’ll make the dream  so much more real.  Looking forward to month #2 at Foolish U.

  3. Tim… a very timely article that really hit home with me, just as your previous podcast on “Action Takers” did.

    So much, so, that I want to add my long -winded comment…Although I’ve been “studying” all this Internet Marketing stuff for about 3 years now, I just “celebrated” the 1 year anniversary of having the small non-profit that I worked for close because of the economy.Instead of looking for another “real” job at my age (54), I took over a teaching contract my old company had, and focused on building student numbers and classes, getting paid on a per-class basis and also selling them my class books.At the same time, I began getting serious about building an online business with my teaching materials, using my technical background to develop a decent site I could promote from.But although I’d been reading and studying Internet marketing techniques (i.e. buying all those guru and WSO deals), I found that beyond the continued development of my local classes and materials, I was just spinning my wheels online as I “tried to learn everything” and “plan things perfectly” rather than actually DO something.With our family income cut by 1/3, things began to catch up with me financially toward the end of 2011. Panic mode began to set in.  Then, one day in December as I was backing up some stuff off my main drive, I ran across a “Take Action” graphic file you and Izzy had for one of your FA episodes or Foolish U. guides.Don’t ask me why it ONLY struck me JUST THEN, but it did.  Take Action.  Simple as that.I went back through all my old Foolish notes and pulled every piece of action-related advice you had given and put them up as post-it’s around my screen…. “Get it out and build on it”, “Just do the work”, “Finished is better than perfection”,  etc.Turning off my email, my phone, and putting away all the PDF IM files I had printed out the past 3 years, I just focused on creating materials that had the potential to bring in more immediate income, focusing on my local students who were an “instant” market I could sell to.The first week of January I held two “free” senior-related technology seminars (something I do the start of every year to promote classes) and had the biggest turnout yet (over 150 attended). As of now, our January classes are all full, and Feb/March probably will as well.And this morning I finished my 4th sellable class book since restarting in December. Although I only typically sell about 6 to 8 books per week in class, at about $15 each, the extra $300 to $400 a month they bring is welcome. And with my immediate goal of having a sellable book for every class by February, the additional income should stay consistent.

    For me, this was a quick win. And although I’ve got a ways to go before I actually can replace my old income, at least I now feel I’m DOING something.

    I’ve not lost my goal of getting this stuff online, and adding video tutorials and a membership site (and some Kindle books), but for the short term the plan is to continue working my local market until the rest of my books are done.  Then move outward.

    So again, thanks for this article and the Acting Taking podcast. Both were very timely encouragements that I needed to hear.

    1. Sorry to hear about the drop in income, but I’m happy to hear you’re taking action.

      Just a little effort and you’ve brought in more students. If you keep it up, you’ll have yourself booked solid.

  4. When I made my first $0.37 from an adsense site, I was on a high that lasted for days.

    It was possible!

    Then, I’ve made more in other ways, online. But all I needed was $0.37 to start.

    1. “This stuff really works!” was the reaction that I’ve gotten from clients over the years. Even after doing this for 13+ years my clients (and now students) are surprised that it works when they finally achieve it.

      But after that the confidence they have (even if all they got was 37 cents) is powerful.

      Thanks for sharing your story, Johan. Oh, I’ll be releasing that recording we did this Thursday.

  5. Good article, Tim.

    Joe and I started AdSenseFlippers with an intention to just cover the salary of a few of our outsourced agents until we could get them a “real” job again.  We started off just looking for “Gettin’ Ahead” money.  Once we were able to actually achieve that, everything else just fell into place and we feverishly worked on tweaking it to make more and then building it out to make it worthwhile.

    Many that read our blog haven’t yet made it big, but there are some that have made it to the Getting Ahead level which is encouraging.  It seems SO much more difficult to make that first $500/month than it does to grow from $500 – $5,000…

  6. This is the best blog post I have ever read in reference to making extra money.. I’m afraid to share it because I want to implement it first then backlink it from my blog! Dannnnng, like my son would say when I say
    something amazing!

    1. Cool. I wanted to let people know they don’t need to over-complicate things when looking at their entrepreneurial ideas. Sometimes we just need a little gettin’ ahead money to be able to think clearly and open up the future for ourselves.

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