Anthony O’Neal never thought he’d be making seven figures as a personal finance expert. “Ten years ago, no one really believed you could be a millionaire off of the internet by itself,” says O’Neal, author of three best-selling books on eliminating debt.
At 19, O’Neal was $35,000 in debt and a college dropout. Fast-forward 19 years, and he’s since helped more than 250,000 people on their path toward a debt-free life with his best-selling book Debt-Free Degree. He also hosts his own podcast, The Table with Anthony ONeal, with more than 100 episodes focused on helping listeners shift their mindset, create a clear vision for their future and make their vision a reality.
“In the past, building wealth meant: Get your foot in the door at a big company, invest a lot of money into stocks, and you’ll get $1 million over 20 to 30 years,” O’Neal says. “Now, I see the future of generating wealth evolving to this remote work space, where people are making $1 million in one week because they’re serving others and utilizing the internet.”
O’Neal smiles as he shares his hot take on how the rules around building wealth have changed, while I pick my jaw off the floor. He makes reaching seven figures sound simple. Attainable, even. Admittedly, as a millennial in the landscape of high inflation, stagnant wages and an unstable stock market, it’s a welcome notion.
Looking around my home office, I can see it’s true that today’s working landscape appears vastly different from the cubical view of years past. I can’t remember my old morning routine. The last time I sat in gridlocked Los Angeles traffic on my commute is a faint memory I’m not sad to lose. And I’m not the only one. After Airbnb announced in April 2022 that its employees could choose to work wherever they’re most productive, the company reported a staggering 800,000 visits to its careers page within a week of the new policy. Data from Pew Research Center shows that nearly 6 in 10 U.S. workers whose jobs can mainly be done from home are working remotely all or most of the time by choice.
As virtual work becomes more mainstream, O’Neal has noticed a shift in which industries are raking in better ROI. “Influencers, digital nomads and technology are three main areas I’m seeing that are building more wealth within today’s generation,” he says.
Working remotely offers better work-life balance, saving people hours typically spent commuting to—or getting ready for—work, which, O’Neal explains, many are choosing to dedicate toward wealth-building initiatives. These digitally-savvy professionals are budgeting out their time to efficiently add more income opportunities and leaning on three specific tools to maximize their financial security.
According to a 2022 Zapier report, 40% of Americans currently have a side hustle, and more than one in three Americans plan to or have started a side hustle in 2022. These side hustles earn respondents an average $12,689 per year.
You can freelance on the side using skills from your 9-to-5, or you can start a small e-commerce business capitalizing on your candle-making hobby. Whatever your calling, O’Neal emphasizes the importance of doing so without putting yourself in debt and offers some side hustle ideas with zero startup costs:
- Become a mystery shopper: Yes, you can get paid to go shopping. Companies will ask you to visit their store and report back on your experience, with the pay averaging $24 per hour according to ZipRecruiter.
- Share your expertise as an online tutor: Companies such as Tutor.com are looking for tutors in high-demand subjects including calculus, chemistry, nursing, essay writing and more.
- Tap into the rental market: If you have a spare bedroom, consider renting it. Or if you work from home, rent out your car for the day. With the shortage of rental cars, companies such as Turo, a peer-to-peer car rental company, let you list your vehicle for rent by the day, with some cars generating $100 a day.
Tool #2: Social media
Many view social media as a frivolous way to spend time, but don’t sleep on its wealth-building potential. The influencer marketing industry grew from $1.7 billion in 2016 to $13.8 billion in 2021, and it’s projected to expand to a staggering $16.4 billion by the end of 2022.
“When it comes to growing wealth, I see a lot of people moving away from the traditional brick-and-mortar route and flocking to digital platforms, and asking simply, ‘What can I do to just create and build a tribe?’” O’Neal observes.
Despite being a best-selling author, the bulk of O’Neal’s income actually comes from his YouTube channel and speaking engagements. He explains, “If you have that blue checkmark, or if you’ve got 1 million followers, big-name advertisers like Coca-Cola are coming to you because you have a bought-in audience. [My books] just don’t touch this type of income.”
Cultivating a social following is not for the faint of heart. However, there are endless online courses available, both free and paid, that can teach you how to start your own YouTube channel, podcast or blog. The social landscape is constantly evolving—so start educating yourself now with the knowledge you’ll need to successfully cultivate your own corner of the internet. Especially with exciting opportunities such as the metaverse on the horizon, there is still plenty of room to make a name for yourself.
Tool #3: Branding
As the world grows more digitally-focused, your online presence can make or break your income opportunities. “Essentially,” O’Neal contends, “branding is the new resume.”
To create and maintain your professional brand identity, dedicate some quality time to clearly determine: What do you stand for? What’s your brand vision? Your target audience? Get granular, down to the tiny details such as your brand’s aesthetic and tone of voice. The key is to be consistent. In a metaverse full of people, it’s easy to lose sight of your mission. Just like budgeting, write down your brand identity and stick to the plan.
As our conversation comes to a close, one piece of insight O’Neal shared still echoes in my head: “Wealthy people value their money, but they value their time more. Because, ultimately, they understand you can’t buy back time.” Although side hustles and influencing may be great tools to help you thrive financially, don’t forget to make time to live your life. Money is not the only component of wealth. Sit down and map out what your hours look like. Then determine if the way you’re spending your days is propelling you toward your goals, financially and personally. Don’t be afraid to adjust accordingly.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2022 issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photos courtesy Anthony O’Neal