How Do You Go From Minimum Wage to $80K In A Year? Part 1

After Mrs. PoP’s post on your’s truly working minimum wage, we’ve gotten a couple of questions on how I (Mr. PoP!) went from earning next to nothing in 2010 to the $80K or so I’ve earned in 2011 and 2012.  Hopefully the next two or three posts will be a how-to guide for somebody to have the sort of success I’ve had over the last few years.

The series is going to go something like this:

So first a little background…


Do you want Fries with that?

Socrates never had to flip burgers!

Socrates never had to flip burgers!

In college, I made up my mind to study what I wanted; in my case – Philosophy. I knew there might be consequences to this decision later on, but its worth noting that all of my role models and heros (family member and famous entreprenuers) who had achieved monetary success had done so without the benefit of a college degree. There was lots of joking about having to flip burgers after I graduated, but I knew I was smart, capable of hard work, and could live on ramen for the next few years while I got something going.

When I gave up on buying the business I had my heart set on, it was pretty rough. Over that year I had really fallen in love with the idea, and giving up a dream was tough. To complicate matters, Mrs. Pop and I had gotten married, and we had a new house payment and a kitten to support. Six months into my marriage, I was being supported by my wife and was hanging out at home all day with the cat.  Did I mention this was when the unemployment rate was 12%? Awesome doesn’t begin to describe my level of self confidence.


Fear of Sales

Happily, I am nothing if not determined. I fired up excel and and began to flip through the local listings. Pickings were pretty slim, but I applied (and got rejected) from almost everything. You know those guys that fold the shirts at JC Penny? Yeah, wasn’t qualified for that. Janitor? Ditto. Stock clerk? Nope.

One type of work that frequently came up was commission sales – no experience necessary. Everybody from car dealerships, to Real Estate brokerages, to cell-phone stores needed people who were willing to work on commission.

Why were these roles so difficult to fill? In retrospect, I think there are two reasons. First, I think it was because people, myself included, are scared to work in a position where they are directly rewarded for their performance. Second, when people think sales they think of the slimy used car dealer or, my personal favorite, Alec Baldwin from Glen Garry Glen Ross. Sales seemed scary and dirty; not a good combination.

Here is the stereotype I had in my head:

But at this point, I just needed a job, and quickly. Resume in hand, clean shirt and freshly shaven, I drove down to a local cell-phone shop to apply in person. After a short interview where the manager asked me some basic questions, I was told to show up on Monday of the following week. Success!

Honestly, retail sales was a grind. Long hours in the evenings and weekends, no respect from customers, and scummy co-workers who were constantly trying to scam you for extra sales. However, the upside was huge. I learned that if you are smart and hardworking, you could always find work in front line retail sales, and the money was more than you could get elsewhere. Mrs. PoP and I were running the numbers just now on our nightly walk, and while at the cell-phone store, I was on track to make $45K/year with no previous experience during the worst recession in the past 30 years.


Stock around for more from me (Mr. PoP) in Part 2, where I’ll describe how I jumped into a cushy high-tech sales position at a huge company where I make $80K every year.  But for now, I’ll leave you with an excerpt from the WSJ review of “The Art of the Sale,” a book by Delves Broughton.

Mr. Delves Broughton knows that as customers we have all had terrible sales experiences, but he reminds us of an American tradition—stretching from Benjamin Franklin to Sam Walton—that considers sales the great leveler. “It holds that in a properly functioning democracy, no matter the condition of your birth, if you can sell, you can slice through any obstacles of class, status, or upbringing in a way inconceivable in more hidebound societies.” 


So dear reader – would you ever consider working a 100% commission sales job? What if the higher pay brought you closer to Financial Independence?


Click to continue reading to Part 2: Getting “Rescued” and A Professional Sales Environment

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