I’m a college dropout with a seven-figure writing business, and in ten years of running a writing agency, our percentage of hiring college graduates diminishes every year. Instead, we find that the self-started freelancer often has more skills to offer our online writing team than the candidates with all the college accolades.

These 4 L’s offer a pathway on how anyone can reinvent themselves and go from passion to profits without the unnecessary debt.

The pathway

Every year, the average in-state college student spends $25,615 for two semesters of education.

Is that money being put to good use? I’m not convinced it is.

More important than a college degree is knowing how to build a real skill set. After all, talent and skills are what will land you a successful job.

To build a strong, money-making, skill-based career, follow these four steps.

1. Love what you do

The first step on your pathway to success is to discover your passion. What motivates you to get up each day?

For you to be really successful at your career, you should love what you do and be excited to do it every day. Passion is an incredible motivator. It helps drive you toward your goals, achieve a higher level of productivity, and keeps your job enjoyable.

When you’re passionate about your career, you maintain a level of enthusiasm that keeps you striving for excellence, developing new ideas, and solving more problems.

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Finding your passionate purpose is the key to building the foundation for a successful career.

2. Learn all you can

Once you’ve identified your purpose, you should map that to a real skill and become an expert. Take advantage of every learning opportunity that comes your way. By building your knowledge, you can become a leading authority in your field and set yourself apart from the competition. People will recognize you as someone who provides value, and will rely on you as a dependable resource for information.

There are two main ways to learn: the unconventional way and the conventional way. Unconventional learning is achieved by learning from other experts in your field. The people who have already been in the trenches and discovered the information they need to succeed. These real-life skill masters are mentors who value building relationships, connect with their followers, and share real guidance that makes a difference.

Conventional learning comes from local universities, community colleges and libraries who may provide free or low-cost resources for community enrichment. Workshops, courses and seminars are a great way to learn about your field.

Research the instructors and courses ahead of time. You want to learn from qualified experts with proven success in what they teach.

3. Labor in practice

Building a sustainable business takes some hard work, but it also takes some serious bravery. Creating a career you love takes risk, sacrifice and a huge leap of faith.

It’s often waking up early and working late nights. It’s saving every dime you make, leaving the security of an unfulfilling job and jumping without a safety net. The good news is that it’s a labor of love, and the rewards you’re sure to reap will make all of the hard work worth it in the end.

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One of the best things you can do to prepare for your career is to gain experience. The more you practice, the more opportunities you have to learn and grow, both from successes and from failures. Rather than invest your time and money into earning a college degree, consider spending those resources to get more real-life experience.

Take the leap and work toward building your experience with these tactics:

  • Engage: Consider offering discounted services to gain more hands-on opportunities.
  • Practice: You don’t need real clients to practice your skill sets. Create hypothetical scenarios and develop solutions for those needs.
  • Build: Record and leverage your experience by building a portfolio to showcase your skills. Develop materials to start promoting your services.
  • Overcome: Dissolve the self-doubt and fears that may be holding you back. Trust your gut and take the leap.

It’s inevitable that you’ll have some victories and make some missteps along the way. Don’t be deterred. Just keep going.

Everything you learn along the way will only make you stronger.

4. Level up to stay on top of your game

With a solid foundation built, it’s now time for you to continue to grow and charge more for your skills as you refine them. Own your abilities and take pride in what you’ve accomplished.

Do this by embracing your role. Print those business cards, put your name on the door and make it Facebook official. Let the world know you’re open for business. Your confidence will encourage people to hire you and will help build your following.

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Hold your own by offering advice and sharing guidance in your expertise. You’ve done the work and you know your stuff. Now position yourself as the expert you are.

It’s common for people to experience imposter syndrome, when they feel as though they’ve come across their success simply due to sheer luck and are only pretending to be an expert. If you can, try to reframe your thoughts and take a positive approach to any feelings of inadequacy you may have.

Set goals and deadlines to keep yourself accountable. Celebrate small victories. Every accomplishment, no matter how small, is a step toward reaching your ultimate goal.

College isn’t the only path to success

College can offer many benefits and can be an effective path for some people. But, a higher education does not automatically equate to success, and it’s not the only path to a lucrative career.

From courses to workshops, low-cost or free educational online opportunities are changing the way students and employers are perceiving college education.

Some businesses, like Tesla, question the value of a college degree and instead, put more emphasis on skills and talent. Whether you decide to pursue a college education or get your training from real-world experience, the most important thing is to never stop learning.