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The Art of Making Money

I recently gave a talk for people starting their own businesses.  The tips I shared for making money might be helpful to you as well:

Get your head in the game.   If you do want to make money, the first step is actually being okay with the idea.  What did you think when you read the title of this article?  “This sounds good – I love new ideas to help me make money!”  Or were your thoughts more along the lines of “making money is a bad thing.”  Making money is an interesting phrase these days.  Corporations, big banks, Wall Street, and rich people are being positioned as bad somehow.  I don’t know about you, but I’d like to be rich.  I have money invested in Wall Street and kept in big banks.  And if it weren’t for corporations, I wouldn’t have Reese’s Sticks and my friends Poppin’ Fresh and Little Debbie.

If you think money is somehow bad, that’s going to keep it from you.  You won’t read books on investing or making money, so you won’t learn about it.  You won’t ask for more of it or do what you need to do to be worth more of it.   Money is great!  If you have money, think of all the good you can do!  You can build a church; you can provide for your family; you can create jobs!   Thinking money is evil is like thinking steel is evil – both can create things that are used for good or for bad.  But in and of themselves, they are neutral.

Could you feel comfortable saying “I want to be rich”?  If you’re still struggling with this, here’s a thought.  Pick your highest value – family, health, freedom, faith, adventure – whatever.  Now ask yourself, “Could I have more of what I value if I had more money?”  If you’re being honest, the answer is yes.  You could give more to your church or spend more time with your family; you would definitely have more freedom to live as you choose.  Now I hear some of you saying, “Money can’t buy me love.”  Well…… maybe not, but it can give you more time to search for it, more options for improving your appearance, and the ability to pay for your match.com membership.

Passion is both overrated and underrated.   Do what you love and the money will follow is a bunch of baloney.  Whoever said this should be crushed by a load of steel.    Businesses started because someone is passionate about something (their Grandma’s cupcake recipe, their inspirational life story, etc.) fail every day.  There actually needs to be demand in the market for your passion.  You need to understand business.  You need to get over yourself and pay attention to what other people are passionate about or need.  If there’s overlap between your passion and their needs and desires – well you might, just might, be onto something.

That said, if you don’t have passion for some aspect of your work, you won’t make as much money as you could.  Passionate people are alive – they seem to love what they do.  The passion gets them out of bed in the morning.  They work longer hours; they are willing to do what it takes to excel at some part of their work.   Simple example – ever had a waiter who seemed passionate about serving or about the food in the restaurant vs. one who seemed completely checked out?  Who did you tip more?  Who do you think the hostess gives the best tables to?  All things being equal, the passionate will make more money.  But passion alone is not enough.

If something isn’t working, let it go.  Life and work are journeys.  If the direction you headed in is turning into a hellish wasteland, turn around!  Not every business idea is going to work, not every job is going to be the right fit.   Some people don’t make as much money as they could because they can’t let go of things that aren’t working.  “But Grandma’s cupcakes are delicious,” they whine.  Well, apparently they aren’t delicious enough.  Time to start selling Grandma’s chicken and waffles or take a business class.  Same for that job you hate.   Every time I left a job I found something better. And every time I made more money.

Ask for more – the market will set your value.   Most of us ask for too little.  We work really hard and never ask for a raise.  Guess what?  If you don’t ask for a raise, you’re very likely not to get one.   Is this because your boss doesn’t think you’re great?  Not necessarily.  It means your boss thinks you’re okay with what you’re getting.  It means your boss is thinking about a million other things like bringing in the money to pay you at all.   Most people don’t get more money because they don’t ask for more money.   It seems obvious, right?  Why don’t we ask for more?

We’re scared!  Money is not going to just fall into your lap, you’re going to have to earn it.  How?  By doing something that scares you (asking for it) or working harder (earning it) or getting better (increasing your value).    You can go on strike, but personally I feel this is the least effective way.  If you are truly worth more than you are being paid, the market will pay you.  You just might need to get uncomfortable to get it (leave Paducah for a larger city for example).  Blackmailing people into giving you anything rarely ends well.

You don’t have to make everyone happy.  Just the ones with the money.  Seriously, who cares if some of your co-workers don’t like you if your boss loves you?  Any of you in business know that often the hardest customer to make happy is the one who got the biggest discount.    If you try to make everyone happy, you won’t have the resources to take amazing care of the ones that really matter.   This is why airlines have first class.  And before you get all socialistic on me, ask yourself if you don’t have your own first class.  I know darn well there are people in your life you text back immediately and some you won’t even give your cell phone number to.  Some people do not get a ticket and they are not on your plane.  And, baby, that’s okay.  Get the right people in first class and take excellent care of them and you will have a great life (and make lots of money).

Don’t be so afraid of losing money.  You’re going to have to take a risk at some point to make money.  You might have to leave a secure job to start a business.  You might have to let go of a client base that’s guaranteed to take on one that’s more lucrative but not a sure thing.  You might have to go back to school.   Several companies I work with recently put extensive systems in place to try to avoid losing money.  They are so focused on not losing money; they have made selling almost impossible!  Guess what’s happening?  Yep – losing money!

If you let fear of losing money dominate your desire for making money – you’re done.  I’m not saying take crazy risks; I’m saying waiting for a guarantee could be waiting too long.  Fortune does favor the bold.  The bold, mind you, not the bold and stupid.  Be bold and smart.

And rich, hopefully very rich.

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Dale Johnson
5 years ago

Denise, I don’t know if I have ever read such a direct and spot on insight about passion and letting things go when they are not working. My father, who is now 83, has been unhappy most of his adult life because he was passionate about a product he designed (and had two patents) but there was never a market nor enough demand or interest. Even to this day he doesn’t understand why he wasn’t able to bring this product to the market, sell lots of them, and make lots of money because it was “by far the best product… Read more »

Len Gehl
5 years ago


There is another saying that drives me nuts, “No one ever died wishing they had spent more time at work.” I get the sentiment, but I’m sure there are plenty of people that wished they had worked harder so their family wouldn’t have to struggle after they are gone. There is a balancing act to life and you have to see the entire field and make decisions that support your goals…assuming you have them!