Meet Joe. Joe is fresh out of college and working a full-time office job, making a decent entry-level salary.
Carol, on the other hand, also has a full-time job, spends her lunch breaks learning how to code, and has a lucrative side hustle. She spends her free time blogging on nights and weekends.
As a result of Carol’s decisions, she’s putting herself in a position to make six figures using diverse skills in different fields while Joe skates along depending on one source of income.
Just like Carol, you can use high income skills to earn more money. The economy is changing, and more and more young people are choosing to learn skills to get ahead instead of just accepting their place at whatever company they work for.
This article explores how you can develop high income skills to build a stronger financial future and achieve true financial independence.
23 High Income Skills to Learn
- Software development and web design
- Graphic design
- Digital and social media marketing
- Email marketing
- Public speaking
- Affiliate marketing
- Artificial intelligence
- Provide corporate cloud training
- Project Management
- Audio production
- Financial savviness
Here are some high income skills that you can use to advance yourself and your career.
People often turn their nose up at the idea of sales. The truth is that sales have changed in recent years (at least in the tech industry).
Just about every high-value job requires sales skills in some form or another. That’s because selling, at its core, is all about persuasion. Selling any idea requires strong communication skills, empathy, and good timing.
Take a look at any high-performing startup or enterprise, and you’ll find that it’s sales professionals who are responsible for driving profits. The best salespeople are usually rewarded handsomely for their efforts. It’s not uncommon for sales professionals to make six-figures a year with their high income skills.
The best part about being a salesperson is that you typically don’t need any qualifications or a hard skill to do it. It’s more about having a great personality and believing in a product.
If you have a big personality and you’re great at communicating your ideas to others, you should consider looking into sharpening your sales skills.
Even if you fail at sales, you’ll still learn valuable skills that can permeate into just about any other line of work. Ultimately, every job requires sales skills in one form or another like building rapport, selling ideas, and persuading others to take action.
Here are some books that I recommend for improving your sales skills:
- People Buy You, by Jeb Blount
- Getting to Yes, by Roger Fisher and William Ury
2. Software development and web design
There is a massive demand for people with web development and software engineering skills who know how to create digital assets for businesses with great user experiences. Skilled software developers can easily earn six figures annually and potentially even right out of college with these high income skills.
With so much taking place online today, a web developer skilled in programming languages like Python and Java, and who knows how to manage cloud services like Amazon Web Services (AWS), is always going to have well-paying jobs.
3. Graphic design
Behind every great piece of content is solid graphic design. This is true whether a piece of content lives on a website, on a piece of paper, or as a PDF or email.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a degree to excel in graphic design (although it definitely helps). If you’re talented enough, you can develop this new skill on your own and put together a portfolio of impressive assets. In this line of work, most employers only care about your samples and your ability to get high-quality work done quickly.
To make money with graphic design, you’ll probably need to pay for the Adobe Suite or similar software. You’ll also need a powerful computer to create and process graphics.
Another skill in huge demand is search engine optimization (SEO). This is what companies use to rank at the top of Google. This section of the search engine is prime digital real estate, and a business owner wants to be one of the first few options that come up when customers search for related keywords.
Learning SEO isn’t all that complicated. In fact, you can learn the basics for free using a program like LinkedIn Learning.
Once you master SEO, you could get a job providing consultancy services for organizations that need to improve their rankings.
5. Digital and social media marketing
Digital marketing involves building and managing websites, email lists, social media accounts, apps, and more. Most businesses simply cannot survive without an effective digital marketing strategy.
Since just about every service today is available online, learning digital marketing is an invaluable skill. Digital marketers who can master the soft skill of blogging, podcasting, and social media communications will most likely always have steady, well-paying work.
To increase your knowledge in this increasingly growing field, consider taking some online courses in Udemy.
6. Email marketing
All you have to do is take a look at your inbox to see that many companies are having a hard time with email marketing.
Even today, many businesses are spending money creating poorly designed emails that do little to sell their products or services.
Online businesses are always looking for talented email marketing professionals who know how to work with HTML, have an eye for design, understand databases, and can expertly craft subject lines.
If this describes you, consider becoming an email marketing specialist. You could find work in just about any industry if you’re talented enough and capable of producing messages that stand out and drive clicks.
7. Public speaking
The next time you go to a conference or trade show, spend some time listening to the keynote speaker and watch how they give their address. Chances are that person will make thousands of dollars for standing in front of an audience and delivering a speech.
Public speakers make it look easy, but just wait until you get in front of an audience and start trembling, forgetting words, or speaking in a voice or tone that doesn’t resonate nicely. You’ll see just how hard it can be without training—which is why there are opportunities for people who can pull it off.
A lot goes into public speaking, and preparation and practice are key. It’s also important to read a room and adjust on the fly based on your audience and mood.
For a primer on public speaking, look into the online course version of Dale Carnegie’s classic course Public Speaking Mastery. In this timeless lesson, Carnegie can help you find your inner public speaking voice, transforming the way you address colleagues, customers, business partners, classmates, and even wedding guests.
Companies across all industries need written content for their websites, social media, and sales documents.
There are a few different ways you can start making money as a copywriter. You can work full-time as a writer for a website, or you start your own business and work as an independent contractor. Some also choose to use their copywriting skill as a side hustle on top of their full-time job.
Copywriting and doing content marketing aren’t easy, but they can be decent side jobs. You may not even need a college degree to be a copywriter.
9. Affiliate marketing
In basic form, affiliate marketing involves selling another company’s products, or working with an affiliate that can sell your product for you. That said, there are two main ways to earn a high income from affiliate marketing.
The first is to become an affiliate, a position in which you get paid to sell other people’s products or services. For example, if you run a popular gadget review website or channel, you can get paid whenever a viewer purchases a product that they found within your YouTube videos.
On the other hand, let’s say you came up with the next best phone case. You can then connect with highly trafficked phone case review websites and pay those affiliates a commission whenever they sell your products.
With the right online business, it’s entirely possible to make several thousand dollars per month, or even way more than that, with the new skill of affiliate marketing.
10. Artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) is quietly taking over the business world as more and more companies integrate intelligent and automated processes to streamline workflows. Over the next five years, this technology will explode… and could change just about every business process.
If you’re an expert AI engineer, that’s going to be one of the best high income skills of the future. If this line of work interests you, consider going back to school and studying computer science.
But you don’t have to become a data scientist or software engineer to profit from AI. You can also build a working, practical knowledge of how AI works. This way, you can become a change agent and either help companies implement AI or sell AI services on your own.
11. Provide corporate cloud training
Right now, businesses everywhere are moving their workflows and applications to the cloud to improve reliability and availability and make it easier for employees to access critical services.
There’s just one problem: Many teams lack advanced knowledge about cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.
If you’re tech-savvy and have advanced knowledge about how cloud systems work, you could make extra money by hosting corporate training seminars and conveying your wisdom to IT teams.
With this high income skill, you can help upskill workers, providing up-to-date information and training about configuration, deployment, maintenance, cloud security, and cost control.
Teaching isn’t just for educators. It’s also a valuable skill professionals can use to explain services and persuade others.
Teaching is often required in business settings when educating customers about new products and services with tutorials or training end-users on how to use software or services.
Teaching is another high income job that takes practice. The more you do it, the easier it is to communicate with others and convey your intended messages and goals. Those who can do it effectively can be ultra-successful in a variety of high income roles, ranging from sales to technical support to client onboarding.
At the same time, learning how to teach is a great way to give back as you advance in your career. Teaching is a way you can pay it forward, leading to valuable mentorship opportunities.
If you already know a valuable skill like copywriting, graphic design, or SEO, you should feed into the demand and consider sharing your knowledge with others by teaching online courses and tutorials.
To teach high income skills online, you could make YouTube videos or work as a blogger and monetize your services. If this sounds interesting to you, head to Teachable to create online courses and market your services.
Of course, you can always teach an online course as a side hustle too, teaching English on sites like VIPKid. But you most likely aren’t going to make six figures teaching English online.
Cybercrime is rising in volume and sophistication, and no individual or business is safe from it. This is why cybersecurity is a top need for businesses across all industries.
In that light, there is a global cybersecurity shortage with millions of open positions across the globe. Companies in the private and public sectors desperately need cybersecurity professionals to fill jobs and keep their data and systems safe.
This is an excellent high income career opportunity for those who are just entering into the workforce, or for those who are looking to pivot and make more money. It’s also a critical skill that can make you stand out from the crowd. There is high demand for people who know about threats like ransomware and malware and can provide insights, training, and consultations.
Get up to speed with the “Introduction to Cybersecurity” course on edX.
14. Project management
Project management takes strong organizational, leadership, and communication skills. Project management may include information technology (IT) initiatives, SEO, launching a new product, or constructing a new high-rise apartment building.
Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg is something that all aspiring project managers should read.
If you’re handy with a wrench, you may consider a trade skill like becoming a plumber. Working as a plumber can be very lucrative, especially if you start your own company and build a client base. You can charge anywhere from $50 to $200 or more per hour to complete a job—and more at odd hours on nights and weekends!
Plumbing may not always be the most glorious work. But it’s another type of industry where there is always high demand and high pay, making it a great skill to learn.
16. Audio production
Pay close attention the next time you hear a radio ad, a commercial, or even a music track. That track didn’t just appear out of thin air. It required vision and someone to help transform a raw idea into a polished production.
Like any other high income skill, you can learn audio production from the ground up by taking online classes or going through training.
Become an expert on audio production, and you can make a great salary or even opt to make money as an independent contractor. For example, once you learn audio production, you can work in podcasting helping companies create professional audio tracks that tackle industry issues for share-worthy content.
You don’t have to be a technical wiz to earn a lot of money. You can also bring in a lot of money if you’re skilled at physical labor.
One of the best high income skilled jobs you can perform is landscaping. Start by taking on small jobs in your neighborhood: mowing lawns, trimming hedges, and installing and maintaining gardens. In time, you may bring in enough business to buy more equipment and even hire a team.
There is a lot of money in landscaping, and if you’re talented and have an eye for design, you may even consider going to school for it and pursuing a degree in landscape architecture.
As far as high income skills go, landscaping is a bit like the pet supply industry: there is almost always demand, regardless of how the economy fluctuates.
18. Financial savviness
You don’t need to be Warren Buffet, but it does help to have a working knowledge of money if you want to be successful in business and in life.
In fact, even having an awareness of money can differentiate you from others when interviewing, managing projects, purchasing, and talking with customers.
Finance and money management can be challenging, but anyone can learn this high income skill. To get started, read Financial Intelligence: A Manager’s Guide to Knowing What the Numbers Really Mean by Karen Berman and Joe Knight.
If you’re a regular visitor of this website, or if you’ve read my book Financial Freedom, you should hopefully be on the right track.
Yet another way to make money is to become an expert in another language and work as a translator. You could learn Chinese or Spanish, or you could learn sign language and work with people who communicate using their hands instead of their voices.
In the translator job market, you could get a job working for a media company or an individual. For example, athletes and celebrities often have personal translators who follow them to various places and communicate information.
Networking is key if you want to make more money, achieve business growth, and further your career. Simply put, it’s impossible to further yourself without making connections and growing your personal circle.
Networking can seem intimidating, especially for those who are shy or afraid of approaching new people. But with some practice, this high income skill gets easy. Skilled networkers display confidence and have a clear sense of their goals and vision. That way, they can communicate effectively when meeting new people and pursuing their goals.
Imagine going to LinkedIn and connecting with the CEO of a business that you’re interested in. This type of direct outreach is certainly possible and even encouraged… but if you’re going to mingle with C-level executives, you need to have a strong sense of purpose so that you can maximize the connection and further yourself.
For a primer on this topic, look into Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Ever wonder what makes a great leader? Traits like clear vision, integrity, honesty, and focus come to mind. And while there are some things you just can’t teach, there are plenty of lessons that can be picked up along the way.
Leadership is about having soft skills (e.g., the ability to listen, understand others’ emotions, and be kind and generous). You’ll also need to dial in a set of hard skills to effectively lead (e.g., the ability to type well, design a product, or perform a service are all examples of a hard skill).
There are countless things you can try to start building better leadership skills in your daily life. The more you practice them, the further you’ll go and the more value you’ll bring to your team and professional life.
For more info on leadership skills and the difference between a hard skill and a soft skill, check out Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Remember that you don’t have to be a CEO or manager to practice leadership skills. By having the right attitude and treating people well each day, you’ll increase your chances of getting promoted and advancing your career into a leadership position.
Negotiation is an essential soft skill to learn in business and in life. It’s important for just about any situation, from asking for more money from an employer or client to obtaining funding and convincing project stakeholders to take action.
It’s also super important in your personal relationships. At the end of the day, if you cannot learn to negotiate with your friends and loved ones fairly, you’re most likely going to lead a lonely life.
Negotiation isn’t taught in schools, but it’s one of the highest value skills professionals can learn and master. Learn how to negotiate, and you can accomplish just about anything.
One must-read book on negotiation is Never Split the Difference: Negotiation As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss. The author is a former top FBI negotiator who teaches about the valuable skill in a fun and engaging way.
Creativity is often overlooked, but it’s an essential high income skill. Whether you’re a freelancer providing services, or a CEO trying to come up with the next best business idea, without creativity, your work and products won’t stand out from the pack.
Great careers for creative professionals include copywriting and blogging, graphic design, and email marketing. Copywriters and bloggers are also in high demand due to the growing need for content marketing.
Spark your creative juices by reading the book The Art of Noticing by Rob Walker.
Thriving in the Skills Economy
We are now moving towards a skills-based economy. Job candidates have value based on their knowledge, skills, and ability to produce.
As IBM’s Alex Kaplan says, skills are the currency of the future. According to Kaplan, companies will make hiring decisions and issue work based on the value of an individual’s skills and their current needs. For example, they might need a software developer to work on an app for three months. After that, they might look to hire an influencer to bring awareness to the new product.
In addition to understanding this shift, it’s also critical to develop valuable skills to remain ahead of the curve with respect to automation. Several industries—like the fast-food industry and manufacturing, to name a few—are already experiencing automation.
Soon, automation will come for white collar jobs as well. To avoid ending up on the chopping block, workers need to prepare and adapt to the changing economy by gaining high income skills to avoid displacement in the years ahead.
How to Expand Your Skills
At the end of the day, there are nearly infinite high income skills you can learn. The more skills you acquire, the more opportunities you’ll have to bring in extra cash.
Here are some common ways to expand your skillset.
Take on an apprenticeship or internship
It’s never too late in your career to take on an apprenticeship or internship to increase your earning potential. You most likely won’t get paid or you’ll get paid very little, but the experience can be worth its weight in gold if you can fund the endeavor.
Working as an apprentice or intern involves taking on a role and learning as much as you can during a set period of time. For example, you may start an apprenticeship with an artist and learn how they go about their craft or manage the business side of their work.
Take online courses
Not all types of skills require advanced schooling. In some cases, you can learn everything you need to monetize a high income skill by taking an online course.
For example, Udemy offers great online courses that provide a wealth of information on a variety of useful topics.
You should also look into taking online courses through public or private universities or even local community colleges.
Learn by doing
In some cases, you don’t need to take any courses to expand your skillset. The faster approach is to endure trial by fire and learn as you go along.
This strategy can be risky—especially if you’re doing paid work. Yet if you’re a fast learner, you may be able to get by just fine.
Ask team members for training
You may also be able to go to members of your own team at work and ask for advice on expanding your skillset.
For example, ask a graphic designer to sit down and go over the basics about how they got started with their job. Or ask a software engineer to provide a list of sources to help you get started learning coding skills.
You may even ask to shadow someone for a day and learn more about what they do. This could be a great way to learn a different role and see if you like it before shifting your career or changing jobs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you make a lot of money from podcasting?
Podcasting can be a great skill to learn if you’re good at audio production or you know how to interview someone. It’s also hard work, and it can be difficult to monetize. That being the case, there’s no guarantee you can make a lot of money at first.
If you want to start a podcast, put together a solid plan first and consider working with others who can help with production.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are attributes that make it possible for you to interact with others. Some soft skills include good communication, organization, and likability.
Soft skills complement hard skills like being proficient in programming languages like Python or Java, understanding social media marketing, video production, or knowing how to type quickly.
In general, hard skills are easier to learn than soft skills. That’s not to say you can’t learn soft skills. They just tend to be deeper personality traits.
Is video editing in high demand?
Video editing and audio production are in high demand, as social YouTubers and companies both need help producing high-quality videos. It’s possible to make a lot of money online editing videos if you can find steady gigs or full-time work.
Is real estate a good skill?
Yes, selling real estate is a good skill to have, but it usually requires certification to work as an agent. Or, you can find opportunities and broker or flip deals. You will have to work hard and hustle to make money in real estate, but if you land a few good deals, they could provide passive income for the rest of your life.
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a strategy that involves embedding links into digital content that takes visitors to partner links. When someone clicks on your affiliate link or makes a purchase, you can receive a cut of the proceeds.
Is it hard to find digital marketing jobs?
Digital marketing is very competitive, and it can be difficult for aspiring marketers to get started. Once you get your foot in the door as a digital marketer, however, working digital marketing jobs can expand your network and expose you to many different opportunities. Use LinkedIn and job sites, ask for referrals, and network constantly to discover digital marketing opportunities online.
Can plumbers make a lot of money?
Plumbers who are willing to work hard and put in long hours can easily make six figures.
How much you make largely depends on how much you want to work, whether you’re independent or work for another company, and your location. But it’s not out of the question for skilled plumbers to charge $100 per hour or more for their services. And, if you can build out a team of plumbers to work under you, that’s when you can really start raking in extra money with passive income.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, there are many opportunities for making money online and helping other organizations grow. But if you want to achieve financial freedom, you should focus on developing skill sets that align with your earnings goals.
The great part is that you don’t need a bachelor’s degree—or a college degree in general—to develop in-demand skills. Thanks to the internet, there are countless resources you can use to increase your working knowledge of just about any topic.
Here’s to finding a high-income skill you’re passionate about and that takes your earning potential to the next level.
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