Wednesday Welcome: Working Smarter, Not Harder - Jean Chatzky - Making money make sense
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Wednesday Welcome: Working Smarter, Not Harder

Posted by Arielle O'Shea

This morning we have a new approach to reaching your financial goals from Maria Nedeva, the blogger behind The Money Principle. She writes about how making a switch from working harder to working smarter helped her dig out of an enormous amount of credit card debt. Following her advice is a nice goal for 2014!

Maria Nedeva

I love my life and all that is in it. I also love that one thing isn’t in it — debt. Four short years ago we were in about $160,000 consumer debt. Today we are on our way to financial independence.

When the story got out, people started asking how we did it. I told them we had a strategy; they asked me to be more specific. I told them that frugality is not the answer; they asked what is the answer. Here is my answer: To be financially healthy and build sustainable wealth increase your income.

But your ability to work harder — by taking on more baby-sitting, stacking shelves or doing cleaning and gardening — is limited. Your time is limited; opportunities are limited. Working smarter by increasing the level of pay you command is the winner on two counts:

  • It gets you to your financial goals much faster. Remember the shameful amount of debt I was telling you about? Well, we paid it off by increasing our combined income by about 30%. Yes, we worked hard but we also worked smarter.
  • It doesn’t get you ill from exhaustion. Not a joke. Working over a certain number of hours per week and not getting enough rest has many negative consequences for our health, including high blood pressure, constant fatigue, clouded judgement and weight gain.

To do this, you should realize that working hard is about selling time; working smart is about selling reputation.

How much you’ll be able to charge depends on the “reputational capital” you have amassed.

These are the main differences between “selling time” and “selling reputation:”

Selling time

Selling reputation

Being technically good

A good seamstress can make you a black cocktail dress.

Being an artist

Coco Chanel created THE little black dress.

You are in the realm of the replaceable

Your competencies and skill are easy to replicate and there are many who can take your place/job.

You are in the realm of the unique

You have gone beyond the reproducible and your competencies are unique; there is no replacement. No one can replace Kurt Vonnegut.

Replication

You are likely to replicate things and your “products” are for the mass market.

Creation

You create something new and unique; you are not part of a trend, you are creating trends.

Being found

It is likely that people find you when searching for the product or service you offer; in other words, you rely on “passing trade.”

Being sought

People look for what you offer.

One can switch from “selling time” to “selling reputation” in any occupation. How to get there? Try these six ingredients:

Choose wisely. Yep, you’ve guessed it: this is about choosing the area/field in which you can make the switch from selling time to selling reputation. Worn out as the “find your passion” mantra is, there is some sense in it. But I don’t believe in finding passion, I believe in creating passion. So choose wisely and remember that the area where you could sell reputation will likely be at the cross over between talent, interest (yours and others), inspiration and loads of hard work. It pays off, I promise.

Education. You should note that I said “education,” not “a degree.” What will get you to the reputation summit is the systematic gathering of varied knowledge.

Learning. Education is the knowledge you have acquired, learning is the process through which you acquire it. To be able to sell reputation you have to keep on top of your game.

Patience. This switch can happen overnight but usually there are many nights involved. Be patient.

Focus. Long-term endeavors often fail because somewhere along the way people lose sight of what they were looking to achieve. A technique to keep your focus that works for me is to plan backwards: I start with an image of where I want to be, work out the conditions to get there and then prepare these with the dedication of a cult follower.

Self promotion. You could create unique artifacts but you are not an artist, and would never be sought, if people don’t know about it. Self promotion is important. But, please, don’t tell people who and what you are; show them.

About Maria: Maria Nedeva is the blogger behind The Money Principle: a personal finance blog that will “make your head hurt and your wallet sing.” There she writes about money management, wealth and the changing rules of money.