If You Want to Get Rich, Work for Free!

Earning Money vs Creating Wealth

Do you know the fastest way to get rich? I don’t know if I do, either, but it’s not by asking your boss for a raise!

A guy who does contract labor for one of my businesses came to me this morning to ask for more money. I was surprised at how carefully he had thought out his plan. I’ll call him “Keith” to protect his identity.

First, he listed all the money problems he was having. “My cars needs work, I have no savings, I have a bunch of credit card debt.” Then he suggested how he could take over some tasks that I do. “I could cover your work on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings,” he said, “and that would leave you more time to do marketing or whatever.”

Now, if you own a business, you’re probably thinking that I should be doing back flips, right? Here’s a guy offering to take away some of my daily grind to give me more time to develop my business. As a matter of fact, he’s pretty good at the work, and almost every one of my clients who works with him likes him a lot. And, he works for a reasonable hourly amount.

So where’s the problem?

Here’s the problem: I’ve been meeting with this guy once a week for the past year and a half to help him learn about business. I’ve coached him on marketing, encouraged him to go out and find new clients, set up systems for him to generate new business, and overall just done everything I can think of to put him in a position to help grow our business. Which could potentially net him a ton of money. Yet he’s still thinking like an employee.

So, what would I say to him if he was sitting right here? I’d say, Keith, you should have come to me to offer to cut your own wages! If you want to get rich, work for free! As long as you look for and receive an honest hour’s pay for an honest hour’s work, you’re going to be an employee. Only when you can get your mind around the idea that real wealth is created rather than earned will you begin to realize your potential as a member of our organization. Or any great organization.

If that sounds like a crazy idea, let me give you a concrete example (I’m going to use made up numbers to further protect Keith’s identity). In this particular business, we’ve found that, given our current level of effort and expenditure on advertising, with normal repeat clients and new clients through word of mouth, we can expect to average about $80,000 a month in gross income. We’ve been doing it long enough to know that that’s pretty much how it works out, and until we come up with a breakthrough way to market our service, we can depend on that average over the long haul.

By the time we pay our fixed overhead, health insurance, employees, corporate taxes, investors, and me, there’s about $10,000 left to pay Keith and our other independent contractors, and to reinvest in the business. I know it’s not a ton of money, but I like the business and it spins off a lot of other work for me. Anyway, the pool of money available to pay Keith is finite, and in some ways the more we pay Keith the less we have available to be creative in trying to grow the business.

I’ve got ten apples, right, and you want four. That leaves only six apples for me, and if you’re still hungry in six months, I know you’re going to come back to me for another apple. But let’s flip the paradigm on its head. What if you could increase the number of apples I had, with the promise that you’d also get more?

“Why would I want to do that,” you might say. “I could just go out and start my own business.”

Sure, but think about two things. One, why haven’t you done it? And two, if you start a business yourself, you have to be prepared for all the work involved: incorporation, setting up the office, hiring employees or independent contractors, dealing with vendors, and, the most critical and challenging part of every business, selling. What if I told you that instead of doing all that work, you could concentrate on only one aspect of the business, get really, really good at it, and potentially make tons of money?

Well, that’s exactly what I’m telling you! I have a business with an absolutely rock solid service that’s head and shoulders above everything else in the area. The facility is in place, the reputation is impeccable, and the follow-up service for the clients you’d bring in is fantastic. In fact, I’m going to give you lots of opportunity to serve those clients and find other ways to generate income from them. All you have to do to help is find a way to bring in new clients on your own initiative.

If you make the number of apples I have get bigger, I’ll give you some of those apples. I’m happy to give you more apples because more clients means more word of mouth, more momentum, more energy in the room, more opportunities for growth, more ways to serve both the existing clients and the new clients better. Everybody wins!

I interact with a lot of folks in their early twenties, and when they’re getting into the job market, a lot of them talk about jobs they’ve considered. You’d be surprised how often one of them says, “that job had lousy pay. They wanted to pay me on commission.”

I tell them this: “if you want to get rich, go back to those guys and tell them you don’t want the base pay at all. Tell ‘em you’ll work on pure commission for six months. Get another part time job to pay your rent if you have to. Doing pure commission sales could be the most important learning experience in your financial life.”

I think you get it. The reason I say this is that if they learn to create wealth for other people, rather than trying to earn money, they’ll be able to create wealth for themselves. I’ll repeat that in a different way. A critical step toward getting rich is to realize that you must create wealth rather than earn money. Earning money means you’re limited to the hours you can work and the pay you can convince somebody to give you. Creating wealth means you’re limited only by your imagination and ability to learn.

If you want to get rich, work for free! Now don’t just do something, DO SOMETHING!

About Nicklaus

Nick has studied the martial arts and philosophies of Asia for 44 years, and has used their principles to start five successful businesses, including SEO Ann Arbor. He's an attorney, entrepreneur, consultant, and author of four books on martial arts, including Budo Mind and Body, which was featured in Black Belt Magazine. He advises a wide variety of businesses and individuals on marketing, motivation, mastery, success, and kicking your ass into gear.