I’m going to have to ask you to trust me on this – believe it or not, I didn’t grow up with dreams of being a consultant. I’d love to say I ran around as a kid with a ream of invoices, offering my unsolicited opinion and leaving my unsuspecting audience with a bill for services rendered.

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your views on childhood), the first couple decades of my life were far more traditional – go to school, get a job, do what you like in the time that’s left over. It’s the American Dream, right?

Wrong. At least it didn’t sound like anything in MY dreams! My dreams were full of beaches and sharks and sunny afternoons with friends. This “dream” was all Oxford shirts and fluorescent lights and productivity tips.

No sooner did I find myself on this path than I started to try to find a way out – I’m a hard worker, but I’m a BAD employee, and there was no gold watch at the end of my tunnel.  If you’re like me (and let’s face it – you’re sitting online, reading a blog, which you probably found on Twitter or Stumbleupon, and maybe even thinking about commenting…we’re not that different, you and I) you’ve probably thought about trying to make money online through some hair-brained scheme to work through the internet.

So did I! I tried blogging, I tried niche websites, I tried pay-per-click affiliate marketing – I tried an awful lot of things. In the process, I got pretty handy with WordPress, and built a solid base of SEO knowledge, and learned how to set up an auto-responder and run an email marketing campaign. I learned what a USP is, and social media marketing, and “internet mores.”

But something wasn’t quite right - somehow, this stuff wasn’t really making me money, and at the end of the day, it’s awfully hard to justify working two “jobs” when one is paying you, and one is costing you time AND money (especially if you confuse “learning” with “working” and get sucked into a vicious information addiction…)

Then, when I was at my most frustrated, and seriously considering whether it was time to give up and refocus my efforts on something a little more “career-track,” a friend of mine made a really insightful point – I had learned a lot about marketing, but I’d never learned a thing about building a business. I wasn’t adding value – I was just making noise. But there was a bright side…

While I was grasping at straws in internet marketing, I’d learned skills that could translate to real dollars for a business.

If I took a page’s conversion rate from 5% to 10% percent on one of my sites, that was a few extra cents from Amazon or Adsense. If I could do that for a local business, we’re starting to talk about tens of thousands of dollars! If I ran a launch to a few dozen subscribers, I might move an extra ebook or two. If I ran that same launch for a business’ 10,000 customer database, things are getting serious! And if I changed the way that I positioned an affiliate review website, I might see a slight uptick, but for a local business, I had to potential to turn their whole fortunes around.

Action? Adventure? $$$? THIS was an idea I could get behind! And believe me when I say that has radically changed my life.

If you’re not making a healthy amount of money right now, especially if you’re spending an hour or more online everyday, take a moment and ask yourself seriously whether the things you know could help a local business.

That’s all – do you know how to blog? Are you a whiz with Twitter and Facebook? Can you help a website get more visitors, or turn more of their visitors into customers? Or can you help them see what makes their business special and communicate that better to their potential customers?

If you’re reading this post, I’ll bet the odds are 100-t0-1 that you’ve got SOMETHING special inside of yourself that can help someone you know make more money, even if you don’t realize it yet. Take a good hard look at what skills you might have, and whether there’s any way they fit into business that you haven’t thought of yet.

Let me know in the comments. We’ll worry about the details later.

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