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At one time, Mike Lam was just your average New York office worker, employed as a programmer at Goldman Sachs. Then, he needed to find someone to watch his dog.
He soon stumbled upon the website DogVacay, which hooks up owners with pet sitters and boarders.
“I didn’t want my dog in a kennel, and I didn’t want to pay (hundreds) for a doggie hotel,” Lam said in an interview.
So he used the online service and was so smitten he signed up as a host himself. His very first client was someone jetting off to China for an extended trip.
Fast-forward and Lam was ready to move on from the world of high-finance firms to something new. While he could have taken his programming skills elsewhere, Lam decided to focus on his DogVacay services.
“What sealed the deal was realizing how lucrative it can be,” said Lam, who added that he makes about as much dog watching as he did at Goldman Sachs. “Plus, I’m not sitting in an office 10 to 12 hours a day. It’s a much happier life.”
Lam’s story is the perfect example of how regular people can use the power of the Internet to quit their 9-to-5 jobs for a more enjoyable and fulfilling career path. Here are six steps to making the transition.
1. Identify what you have that others do not
Start by figuring out what you can offer that others can’t provide for themselves. For Lam, that was:
- Living in an apartment close to parks.
- Possessing good animal-handling skills.
- Having the time to walk and watch dogs day or night.
Take stock of your assets and talents and ask yourself: Would others be willing to pay for what I have, or what I can do?
Go ahead and write down all of your possibilities and then narrow them down to the one most promising prospect. Focus your energy there to start.
2. Find the right platform
Now that you know where your moneymaking potential lies, find the right Internet site to help you market it to the world.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are several sites worth considering:
- Airbnb lets you rent out rooms or your entire home to travelers. HomeAway helps you rent out your primary home or your second home to vacationers.
- Elance, Guru and Freelancer are bidding sites in which buyers post jobs — anything from writing to programming to legal services — and providers bid for the project.
- If you have a car and are comfortable giving strangers a ride, Uber, Lyft and Sidecar may be for you.
- Getaround and RelayRides let you rent your car to a stranger. Boatbound lets you do the same with your watercraft.
- DogVacay and Rover are two sites that may be perfect for pet sitters and dog walkers.
- Etsy, iCraftGifts, UncommonGoods and ArtFire are among the most popular places to sell handcrafted items.
- Postmates, Instacart and TaskRabbit let you serve, respectively, as a courier, personal shopper or assistant to others. TaskRabbit also has categories for handyman, cleaning and moving help.
- Ebay and Craigslist can, of course, be used to sell just about anything under the sun. You can post services on Craigslist. To maximize eBay’s potential, read our article on buying and selling for profit.
3. Charge what you are worth
On almost all of the above sites, you’ll find people buying and selling services for a song. But if you want to live off your talent, you need to charge enough to pay the bills.
Of course, unless you have a rock-star resume, you’ll probably need to offer reduced rates to start. However, once you begin to develop a positive reputation, don’t be afraid to charge more. Yes, you’ll lose some customers, but you’ll probably gain others if you market yourself right.
Remember, bargain-basement prices may be a turnoff for consumers and clients seeking quality.