Learning how to make $100,000 a year is a common goal for many — and why wouldn’t it be?
The six figure number is a milestone that would put your earnings well beyond the median household income in the United States, and potentially afford you with a more comfortable lifestyle.
But how do you get there – especially if you’re making nowhere near this number now?
Ways to earn 6 figures a year:
There are many ways you can get to earning six figures a year. The two most common ways are:
- Getting a job that pays six figures a year
- Starting a side hustle and scaling it so you’re eventually making six figures a year
- A combination of the two above strategies
None of these options are easy, and they will likely involve sacrifices and sweat equity. But leveling up your full time job and scaling a side hustle are exactly what we specialize in at IWT. The following systems have worked for thousands of our students successfully, and with time and effort, you could be on your way to earning 100k in a year.
What Does a Six-Figure Income Actually Look Like?
You need to make at least $100,000 a year if you want a six-figure income. That means making at least:
- $8,333.33 a month, or
- $2,083.33 a week, or
- $416.66 each workday, or
- $52 an hour.
Breaking down your larger goal into smaller increments will help you understand what it will take to get where you want to go. Can you land a full-time job that pays $52 an hour? Or can you freelance for that amount?
It’s important to figure out where you are now compared to these benchmarks if you want to reach your goal of 100k/year.
How to make $100,000 a year in 5 steps:
- Step 1: Set up your Tripod of Stability
- Step 2: Earn more money in your career
- Step 3: Find a side hustle
- Step 4: Get your first client
- Step 5: Invest in yourself
Let’s get started.
Step 1: Set up your financial foundation
When you have a goal as ambitious as “I want to earn a six-figure income,” it’s easy to lose sight of the really important things in your life.
I’m talking about the basics: food, water, shelter, etc.
This is the “Tripod of Stability” — all of the foundational, big aspects of your life that you keep ultra-stable so you can take risks in other areas.
“I’m a proponent of part of the Tripod of Stability,” says Naveen Dittakavi, founder of NextVacay.com. “If you have a day job, you need to ensure that it’s stable. You have to carve an ability to work on your side hustle while doing great work at your day job.”
He continues, “I lived at home for six years. My parents were really cool and helped me get by while I built out my business.”
Naveen recently scaled his hustle so that he’ll be taking away roughly $1 million this year (so you know he knows his stuff).
By taking care of your big things — your home, car, relationships, food — you’ll be able to take risks in areas like your side business. As Ramit says, when you have your bases covered, you’re not really taking risks at all.
Your Tripod of Stability doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re free of sacrifices though. If you want to devote yourself to making six figures a year, you’re going to have to change some of your habits and beliefs.
“I sacrificed a lot to build my business,” Naveen recalls. “After all, living at home with your parents for six years means you’re going to be single for six years — BUT it gave me what I wanted out of my life.”
Action step: Identify your Tripod of Stability
Write down the three main “legs” of your Tripod of Stability. These are the things that, if they remain constant, would allow you to weather dramatic changes in other areas in your life. It could be things like:
- Your home
- Your car
- Your job
- Your spouse or partner
- Your savings account
Once you know what makes up your Tripod of Stability, you can make sure you have those areas secure so you can start taking risks in areas like starting a side hustle.
Step 2: Earn more money in your career
If you’re looking to build a six-figure income on freelancing with your side hustle alone, you can skip this step.
If having a job is one of the legs for your Tripod of Stability, though, you’re going to want to maximize your salary as much as possible.
Why? The more you earn, the closer you’ll get to your first six-figure year. There’s no better way to do that than to negotiate your salary.
Check out this chart that shows how much a $5,000 increase in salary can add up over the years:
Not only is it a BIG win, but it also sets you squarely on the road to earning more after just one conversation with your boss.
And the first step to do this is actually straightforward — but many people still forget it: Do good work.
“First and foremost, you have to deliver great results,” says IWT reader and six-figure earner Enoch Ko. “Without results, no amount of networking or relationship building can get you [to six figures]. That said, you have to build good relationships at work along with delivering great results.”
“Results and relationships go hand-in-hand,” he continues. “Once I had proven myself to be a Top Performer, higher salary was just a matter of time — having regular salary discussions with my managers and skip-level managers, working out timing with the corporate planning cycles, etc.”
Once you prove yourself to be an invaluable asset to your company, begin to build two of the most important tools at your disposal: your network and your observations. Enoch made such an impact he eventually moved on to another role that he was referred to by … his current manager.
“It was through building good, trusting relationships through delivering great results that helped,” he says.
One thing that can have a HUGE impact on salary negotiations is showing you can add even more value in the future.
A great way to do this is simply by asking questions of your manager:
- What’s something that you would like to improve within the company — and how can I help?
- What traits do you value the most in a new hire?
- How can I help with your most important goal this quarter?
Not only will this show that you have initiative but it also gives you insight into exactly the kind of talking points that will grand slam your salary negotiation.
Action step: Prepare for your salary negotiation
Check out our resources all about how to prepare for your salary negotiations. A few great places to start:
- The Ultimate Guide to Getting a Raise and Boosting Your Salary. The definitive guide on how to ask for the raise you deserve.
- How to use Natural Networking to connect with anyone — including the exact email scripts. If you think networking is sleazy or scammy, it’s because you’re doing it wrong, or worse – you’re preemptively shooting it down out of fear.
- Master Class: Negotiating Salary. IWT founder and NYT bestselling author Ramit Sethi walks you through the exact tactics, scripts, and systems you should use when negotiating your salary. If you want to learn how to make $100,000 a year, this is a great place to start.
Step 3: Find a side hustle idea
This is the number one barrier holding people back from creating their side hustle.
After all, you’re looking for something that’s profitable and that you’re passionate about.
And the Venn diagram between those two things often seems like two separate circles.
Luckily, you already have profitable skills already. That’s what Christina Nicholson of Media Maven realized when she left her job after years of experience as a television news reporter and started working for a PR agency.
“Like many people, I didn’t have a great boss,” Christina recalls, “and more attention was paid to the hours I was sitting in front of my desk in the office instead of the quality of work I was executing.”
That all changed when one day a client came in to pay his retainer and Christina discovered that it was more than what she made in one month.
“That’s when I realized I could do all the work AND keep all the money,” she says. “I didn’t need to work for someone who caused me unnecessary stress. I didn’t need to get vacation approved or be on the receiving end of an attitude when I needed to leave the office early because I had a sick child.”
She continues, “I could also do other things, like host local and national TV segments on a freelance basis.”
So she began to build out Media Maven, her hustle to help other businesses get a handle on their PR. “After starting my business,” she recalls, “I saw what was possible and it motivated me, even more, to learn more about entrepreneurship and take things to the next level.”
That’s not the only way you can find a profitable freelancing idea either. If you are at a loss for where to start, check out the 30 proven business ideas in the PDF below. As you scan the list, think about how you might apply these ideas to your current skills and hobbies.
For now, just choose one business idea. It’s okay, you can always change it later. For now, we’re going to just try one out and try to find a client with it.
Step 4: Get your first client
In order to start earning money, you need to find the people who will give you money for your ideas.
But the question is … how? Where do you find these people?
Naveen’s tactic? Offering mouthwatering value.
“I was really involved in a lot of entrepreneurial aspirational groups,” he explains. “So entrepreneurs would hang out there and I would find ways I could add value. I wasn’t trying to pitch or close deals. I would just say that I had a computer science degree and, ‘I can help you clarify your vision and understand what it takes to build it out.’”
“I’ve always been helpful,” Naveen continues. “I started to find that being helpful to other people builds trust and will result in sales. I was in a position where there was limited talent to execute tech projects and there wasn’t a lot of people to help aspiring entrepreneurs.”
By doing this, Naveen did two very important things when it comes to finding clients:
- He went to where the clients lived. By going to exactly where his target market hung out, he was able to build a network of potential clients and people he could help.
- He offered amazing value. Naveen recognized an opportunity to show his potential clients that he was the man to help them. This value-add helped him gain his first few clients.
You can do the same thing.
- Who is my client?
- Where do they go when they want to look for a solution to their problems?
- Where are they ALREADY looking for solutions to their problems?
- How can you connect them to your service?
At this point, you’re also going to want to niche down your market in order to really tailor your services and draw in customers. So think about who’s an example of a client who might want to buy your product.
A few questions to jump-start your research:
- How old are they?
- Where do they live?
- What are their interests?
- How much do they make?
- What books do they read?
Using this information, find out what your clients need by going to the places they go.
- Looking for physical or massage therapists within 50 miles of your house? Yelp should get you started easily.
- If you want to do large dog grooming and sitting, well there’s probably a local pet store or dog park near you where owners are all congregating just waiting for you to offer them a solution.
Here are a few suggestions of some other great sites freelancers can use to find business online:
- Writers: MediaBistro.com, Upwork.com, FreelanceWritingGigs.com
- Illustrators/designers: 99designs.com, Designs.net
- Programmers: Toptal.com, SmashingMagazine.com
Once you find a potential client, you’re going to want to reach out to them and pitch your services.
Action step: Find a client and email them (with scripts)
Find your client using the information I’ve outlined above. Let’s say you are a video editor looking to pick up some side work. Here’s a handy script you could use (just replace the “video editor”–specific stuff with your skill):
I saw your post on X and visited your website. I noticed that you’ve recently started using videos too.
I’ve been doing video editing for three years and I’d like to offer to help you edit your videos and get them optimized for the web.
That would make them look more professional and load faster, which is important for your readers. And you’d free up time that you could use to create new content.
We can discuss the details, of course, but first I wanted to see if this is something you might be interested in.
If so, would it be okay if I sent you a few ideas on how to help?
A few takeaways:
- There is zero fat in the pitch. Every word counts and is needed to help really sell the benefits of working with you.
- Don’t mention payment. There’s nothing that will kill a potential client’s interest in you more than pushing prices on them before they’re ready.
- Stress the benefits. This email shows the client why it would be in their best interest to buy from you in the third paragraph.
Once you get a client using this email, congrats! You just secured your first client — but it doesn’t end there. You need to actually do the work for them, and that means continually adding value.
“Being super aware of how you can help people and how they perceive you and recognizing that money will come if you’re valued by your audience helps most,” Naveen explains.
Step 5: Invest in your finances AND yourself
Investments can take all shapes and forms. Let’s walk through three areas where you can start to invest when it comes to building out your six-figure life.
Investment #1: Personal finance
This is IWT’s bread and butter. We have extensive resources when it comes to personal finance. It’s also a very important leg anyone should have on their Tripod of Stability.
The easiest way to get started ensuring your personal finances are in order is by automating your finances.
This is our system of sending your paycheck where it needs to go each month (utilities, rent, cell phone bill, etc.) so you don’t have to worry about it.
“Being financially conservative, I have also automated my cash flow so that I automatically have savings and investments,” Enoch says. “I enjoy not having to think about savings and investments. I enjoy being able to spend money without worrying whether I’d have enough cash to pay for the highly cyclical quarterly gas bill or bimonthly electricity bill when they come.”
“Automation is incredibly important,” Naveen says. “At the time I was drawing a wage from my day job, it was helpful to put my trust in a system that made sense and would work out in the end. At the time, I was putting cash away in my ING Direct account and my sub-savings accounts. I was able to see that number increase and I saw it worked really well.”
Automating your finances only takes one to two hours at the most, but once you set it up, you don’t have to worry about it again. It’s definitely a key part of how to make $100,000 a year.
AND it’ll save you thousands of dollars over your lifetime.
Investment #2: Your side hustle
If you want to know how to make $100,000 a year, you’re going to have to hustle hard. That means you’re going to reach a point in your side hustle where you’re going to have to put back some money into it if you want to grow.
That could take the form of hiring employees, buying a website domain, or getting a mentor / coach as was Christina’s case.
“It sounds cliche, but working smarter instead of working harder is how I reached six figures,” Christina explains. “How do you work smarter? You surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and have already achieved what you’re working for.”
So she hired a business coach and found someone to help her build out her business.
“I really did my homework,” she says. “I hired someone with a team of people, all of which were successful entrepreneurs earning at least multiple six figures, many of their clients were earning at least multiple six figures, and the coaching team had a very high retention rate, which told me they must do something right!”
That’s just one example though. You can find many ways to put money back into your business to help it grow.
One great way to invest is to seek out mentorship or purchase a product or a book — which brings us to …
Investment #3: Yourself
Possibly the best investment that you can make that will put you on a path to make 100k a year is putting money in developing yourself both career-wise and on a personal level.
“My biggest investment is self-care,” Bonnie says. “The first thing on the calendar each month is Pilates, pole fitness, massages, day spa visits, couples therapy, quick getaways to Desert Hot Springs, and so on. If I’m not my best self, I’ve got nothing to bring my clients. It’s just stupid important, as investments go.”
Who cares if this seems like a luxury? Who cares if people might scoff at the idea of getting a massage? What matters is that YOU want it and that YOU are willing to work for it.
The best way to get started is to begin investing in yourself. This is something people rarely think about when they start learning how to make $100,000 a year.
And one thing that you will find very common with people who have not taken the time to invest in themselves and learn how this stuff works, is they will create what’s called levels of abstraction.
Rather than just going directly to what they want, they will create all these different levels of abstraction — like making a Facebook page or a blog — that make them feel good, but that actually don’t require them to do the hard work.
So, they’ll spend six, nine, twelve months doing something frustrating and then give up because they never spent time buying a couple good books or buying a course.
That’s why we want to offer you a proven system that’s helped thousands of students earn tens of thousands of dollars a month — for FREE. When it comes to how to make $100,000 a year, this can be a big step:
The official handbook to 6-figure freelancing with zero experience
- The three fears you MUST overcome if you want to make it as a 6-figure freelancer
- How to become a highly sought-after expert (Hint: It has nothing to do with credentials or degrees)
- How to figure out if an idea is profitable before investing time and effort
- The six parts to an email pitch that clients can’t refuse
- The Briefcase Technique that’ll make potential clients choose you over anyone else
- And much more!
Enter your name and email below to get the free handbook.