Ever faced money problems? 💰
I sure did.
After quitting my job and returning from a month-long solo-trip abroad, I found myself struggling financially.
But in just 1 month, I was able to turn things around and earn over $1000 by using the power of focus.
Let me tell you…
I was out with my cousins celebrating the night of Eid-al-Fitr 2023.
For some reason, I was wearing a Lungi, having my phone and wallet in my hand.
As we crossed a random street, I found an overhanging sun shed that looked ideal for pull-ups.
In a burst of energy, I kept my phone and wallet on an uneven, rough wall and stepped back to give a pull-up.
As I did so, I watched my phone fall to the ground and do bounce.
I rushed towards it. To no one’s surprise, my phone screen was shattered.
I gave the pullups anyway.
While a broken screen by itself was not a big deal, I realized something else. I didn’t have enough money to pay for a brand-new screen.
After I returned home, I checked my active bank balance on my laptop: it had less than $100.
Maybe I could’ve gotten a knock-off Chinese display on my phone. But that was not my main concern.
I was hit in the face by the ugly truth: I was broke.
That day, I made a promise to myself: I won’t fix my phone screen until I earn $1000 in a month (more on this later).
I’d use this tiny fake Nokia phone in the meantime.
But what really happened?
How did I reach this point of financial struggle?
I had a decent job before and a few years of experience as a software engineer. But I quit my job and went on a solo trip across India, a childhood dream I had for a long time (a story for another day).
TL;DR: it was a truly transformative journey, one that I’m glad I mustered the courage to take.
But over a month of travel later, I’d exhausted most of my savings.
Did I not save anything?
I kept a tiny portion as an emergency fund and invested a small amount in stocks. I promised myself not to touch them unless there was an absolute emergency for my family, like accidents, health treatments, funerals or something along those lines.
After my return from the epic solo trip, and as the months went by, day-to-day expenses and supporting my family became harder and harder. Till I reached this point when I realized I didn’t have enough money to fix my phone.
I knew I had to DO something.
Can I not just get a job?
Yes, I could.
With my skills in Software Engineering and DevOps, I was confident I could land an offer from many companies.
But I didn’t want to end up in any ordinary dead-end job. I aspired to join specific big tech firms or fast-growing startups.
I applied to many and landed some interviews, but mostly got rejected.
I realized there was huge competition and unemployment in the market.
Going back to a job didn’t feel right to me.
So, at the same time, I wanted to explore freelancing as a career.
I particularly liked the idea that, as a freelancer, you are totally in control of your time.
You don’t have a boss, but instead, you work with clients.
The tradeoff is, there’s no guaranteed salary at the end of the month like in a job.
In addition to the actual freelancing service(s) you provide, you also have to cultivate the self-discipline to market yourself, communicate proactively, get clients, deliver results quickly and continuously keep learning.
I accepted the challenge.
Landing my first few clients was the hardest part. This is because, when you’re new to the game and have no reviews, clients are less likely to work with you.
But with persistence, you can make it happen.
It took me 2 months to earn about $100.
Next 1 month to earn $100.
Next 1 month to earn $200.
While I noticed my income was growing and had good growth potential, it still wasn’t near what I needed to sustain myself and my family and pursue my dreams.
I could earn way more on a job, much quicker, as I had done previously.
But I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted.
I didn’t fully commit to any 1 path: freelancing or a job.
I kept “get a job” as a plan B since I was still applying for some desirable jobs.
I wanted to “be safe” and “keep my options open”.
But this resulted in half-baked efforts in either path, bringing mediocre results.
How can I get out of this rut?
Focus on 1
I went back to some of my favourite books and mentors.
Tim Ferriss from the 4-hour work week reminded me of the 80/20 rule aka. the Pareto Principle. It states that, for many outcomes in the world, 80% of results come from 20% of efforts.
Ok, so what?
How can this help me?
I realized that I need to focus on a single path and dedicate my full time and effort to it.
I chose to freelance because it offered me the freedom and flexibility I was after.
I accepted the sacrifice of stability, comfort and benefits that a job could provide.
This is when I set the goal for myself: Earn $1000 in a month as a freelancer.
Otherwise, you can’t fix my phone (as a punishment).
$1000 in a month was neither a crazy-impossible target for someone with tech industry experience, nor was it an easy goal for someone new to freelancing.
I found experienced freelancers in my domain earning way more than this, so I knew it was doable.
While I was missing the freelancing experience, I cultivated the most important ingredient: BELIEF.
If you believe you can do it, and dedicate all your time and effort to it, you can make it happen.
And, after roughly 30 days of hustling,
failing, falling and getting side-tracked,
but getting back up every time and trying again and again,
one client project at a time,
I made it happen.
My phone now looks like this:
I wanted to write this blog, not to brag that I’m very rich or successful.
I’m writing this as a reminder to myself, and to anyone else interested, across space and time.
I’m here to remind us that:
if you set a goal, believe you can do it, and focus single-mindedly, you can make it happen.
To maximize your chances of victory:
- FOCUS on 1 thing only
- SACRIFICE or eliminate everything else
- set a tight DEADLINE – a time limit to force yourself to act.
But, before you chase an ambitious goal, you need to identify a solid and clear reason. A PURPOSE. A WHY.
As Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
Writing down your goals, and sharing them with other like-minded people can help you stay on track.
So, I invite you to use the comments below to answer:
- What change do you want to make in your life? What’s your goal?
- Why do you want it? ie. the reason/purpose.
- Are you ready to commit fully to your goal? Are you ready to FOCUS?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.