How Do You Go From Minimum Wage to $80K In A Year? Part 3

In case you didn’t catch Mr. PoP’s first post, this is the last post in a series on how he went from a minimum wage job to making $80K in a year through commission sales positions.  Here are the links to the all the posts in the series if you want to start at the beginning.

Art of the Sale by Philip Broughton – An interesting read on sales as a profession both to sales people and non-sales people!

Is Sales Right For You?

Happy Friday, everybody; thanks joining us for the third part of our series. I’ll wrap this up by going over why I think more people should consider sales, and how a career where you get paid for performance interacts with some aspects of personal finance and even lifestyle design. But first, what did we learn so far in this series?

What we’ve learned:

  • Not all sales jobs are created equal – some can suck, some are great
  • Sales jobs are generally higher pay than average
  • Its possible to get a sales job quickly, and move up quickly if you’re good

But first, I’d like to address the most common objection we found in the comment section:

“Mr. Pop, I’m analytical / introverted / INTJ, so I can’t do sales.”

I’m all of those things [Mrs PoP’s note – we are definitely both big introverts!], and consider myself a slightly above average account executive. What does matter (in complex, high-dollar sales!) is how driven you are, and if you can solve problems. If you have those two traits, you’ll probably be fine.

So What Does Any of This Have To Do With Personal Finance?

There are huge swaths of personal finance advice for how to squeeze every last dollar out of your budget, and Mrs. Pop and I agree with most of it. However, there are two levers you can pull in accumulating large amounts of wealth; spending less, and earning more. So if you’ve already cut your budget to the bone, isn’t it time to figure out a way to increase your income level? I’ve seen lots of talk about side hustles, and it’s all great stuff, but I’d like to point out that every single side hustle involves selling something! So why not just get a sales job and look at it as your main hustle?


But Lifestyle Design?

No joke. The thing with sales is that you have a target income, or a quota, or some other metric to hit. As long as you hit that metric, management usually gives you a ton of flexability in hours at the office, working from home, etc. We have a guy at our office named “200% Chuck” because he always seems to be at 200% of his quota-he’s really that good! One day I asked Chuck’s manager where he was; she laughed and said, “I don’t know, why would I care?” On the other hand, if you’re 20% Steve, you better be in the office from 7AM to 7PM until things straighten out…

This has real implications for lifestyle hacking. 99.99% of my sales occur over the phone; I’ll never see the majority of my clients yet still make $80K per year. So what if I was doing this and living in Mexico? Or in a Thailand? Or in an RV living on the road in Southwest America? These are interesting questions, and I might get to find out someday.

I truly hope that these posts help get somebody with poor employment outlook (philosophy major anybody?) to consider comission sales.


Mrs. PoP here – from the wife’s perspective (and a non-sales person), reading the Philip Broughton book, The Art of the Sale: Learning from the Masters About the Business of Life really opened my eyes a bit to Mr. PoP’s work since I don’t usually stop to consider the sales aspect of the businesses I have been involved in.  Broughton makes the powerful point that if he could teach one thing to his children, it would be how to help others see value in what you have to enable you to sell better.  With that knowledge, he posits, they would certainly never be hungry or homeless.  Mr. PoP doesn’t ooze salesman – but he seems to thrive in an environment where he knows exactly what numbers he has to hit to increase his pay.  If I could have those kinds of metrics to be measured on, maybe I’d be a little more agressive in my job… who knows?


Do you seek the freedom that 200% Chuck has in his workday?  What if you had a job that you could do from anywhere and it only took you a few hours a day?  

27 comments to How Do You Go From Minimum Wage to $80K In A Year? Part 3

  • swimmy44

    I am curious – what is being sold here?

  • CF

    Woahhhh… I’m INTJ too. I wrote a post about it actually:

    I’ve never considered a job in sales – the closest I came was when I worked in retail while in university. I had to sell loyalty cards to customers :S I was actually pretty good at it, but I really really disliked it.

    • Retail sales is a completely different beast – while it is where Mr. PoP started it’s got very little to do with where he ended up (with the exception being the commission and metric based pay structure).

  • Ivy

    I am ISTJ and I can’t do sales, not because I can’t communicate well with people, this is just as critical in my job, as it is in sales, but because I have psychological difficulty “closing the deal”. Even when the product is good, I am happy when explaining the value, but uncomfortable “confirming the transaction”. I am lucky that in my current job I am indeed needed to explain the product, but somebody else negotiates the actual sale.
    I do think you can get that lifestyle design through other jobs too. I work from home 3-4 days a week, and frankly if I went up to 5, it still wouldn’t bother people as long as keep delivering (except for some video meetings and big calls, for which the office is still more comfortable). If you are not customer-facing all the time, and if you are high performer, there must be some opportunity to arrange your work more flexibly. In sales it’s about meeting the quota, in other jobs it may be about flexibility of working the hours that are needed for each task – whether early or later conference calls, or staying very late before a big deadline, but leaving early when the schedule allows. There is luck involved in being on the right job, but if you are valuable to the company, this should be on the table for discussion.
    When the kids are older I am thinking of working from vacation places in the summer, or from some cool location like Italy or South France for 2-3 months, while they explore. :-)

    • Mrs PoP here – In my last job I was an “explainer” on transactions as well. Holding the clients hands and making sure that they understood exactly what they were getting – but someone else always did the negotiation and closing of sales. Now I’m even further removed from the sales channel… But some days I wish I had Mr. PoP’s job and vice versa.

      I definitely think it would be awesome to work remotely from the south of France for a couple of months each summer. I actually find that on days when I work remotely I often get more done than when I’m in the office, but my boss is fairly old fashioned in that regard and likes to “see” people at their desks. But I have hopes that I can change that within the next couple of years. I love the 2-3 month remote working vacation idea. Rent a summer house in a different location each summer – still get plenty of work done and have time to explore new areas and cultures! If you have to be working, sounds like a pretty sweet way to do it.

    • My palms sweat at the thought of cold calling (a key reason I enjoy being an employee is the fact I don’t need to market my services as I would if I was a freelancer). I’m not much of a people person.

      I’m also more productive when I work from home (though I only do so when I’m unwell or the odd half day here and there). I definitely enjoy the office environment as well, though – I’m not particularly social and so that regular interaction is quite nice.
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  • WOW I don’t know how I’ve missed this series. I’m going to have to pass it on to the boyfriend for sure, though.

  • Interesting subject. I’ve always found people who are successful at sales very interesting, and early in my career as a freelance writer I used to interview and study salespeople in various industries. It takes real skill that translates to marketing and selling all sorts of businesses. There’s a lot to be learned from successful salespeople.

    Had a friend who sold magazine ad space, about as difficult a sell as you can find. She was very good at it and made a nice income. She used to say that if you can sell, you can sell anything. It really does seem to be a native talent.

    • There may be a native talent element in some sales people, but Mr. PoP would argue that he’s not one of them. He really feels like he learned specific sales methods that when applied consistently provide pretty reliable results.

      But I do think it’s an interesting skill because some of his coworkers have moved to neat places – one moved from IT sales to art sales on a cruise ship. So his whole little family moved onto the cruise ship and got a tiny 2 bedroom cabin and he sells art from the Ledo deck (or wherever on the ship it is) – but is really successful at face-to-face sales like that. And they get to travel around the world while the kids are young stopping in different ports all the time.

  • I’m naming the PoPs master of the three part series. If someone had asked you ten years ago where you would end up, would you have in any way guess your current job? I love how life’s unexpected turns can lead you into a better direction that you wouldn’t have found without having a negative thing happen first.

    • Aww, thanks Kim!

      10 years ago we were living down the hall from each other in our college dorm, dating other people – so I can definitely say there’s not a whole lot about our current lives that was on the radar 10 years ago!

      As for a negative turning into a huge positive, I couldn’t agree more. At lunch with a friend earlier this week, I was reminded of when I got mono and how much that changed the direction of my life. As silly as it sounds, getting mono was hugely empowering and oddly had a big influence on my career direction – and probably also affected Mr. PoP and I still being together today. So while mono sucked – it’s hard to imagine where I would have ended up if I hadn’t gotten it. Weird, huh?

  • […] PoP describes, in a series of posts, how he went from a minimum-wage job to earning 80 grand a year. Today’s post is the third; scroll down from the homepage to find the […]

  • I’m certainly not a sales person. At all. I worked in retail sales and hated every moment of it. I hate feeling like I have to convince people to part with their money. But I understand that it can be a lucrative career for those who are good at it! And it definitely breeds some important skills.
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    • Mr. PoP wasn’t the biggest fan of the time he spent in retail sales – but the type sales that he does nowadays is completely different from retail sales. Funny how everyone always seems to associate sales with sleazy used car salesmen or annoying kiosk peddlers when there are so many other types of sales people in the world – many of whom you may not even realize are sales people!

  • It’s funny how you can just tell certain people have a knack for sales. I often think of car salesmen, some are pretty bad, but the good ones seriously make me want to buy a car, haha
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  • Just caught this series now! Good job! Personally, I like not having the stress of targets to meet at work, but lots of people are very successful and this motivates them!
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    • It’s definitely a stressor and a motivator for Mr. PoP – and while I don’t have the same metrics at my job, sometimes I wish I did! When Mr. PoP meets his metrics, he gets to decide how hard he wants to work after that… So he can take some down time without feeling guilty about it.

  • […] How Do You Go From Minimum Wage to $80K In A Year? Part 3    How Do You Go From Minimum Wage to $80K In A Year? Part 1 […]

  • I’ve found this series really interesting!

    My views on sales stem from observations of two kinds: retail, and advertising sales. Both brutal.
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    • Glad you liked it! Most of Mr. PoP’s colleagues who are in his same position came from either retail or advertising – and the switch to their current sales environment was pretty big for everyone when they came to the company. But turnover at his job is way lower than average turnover rates for “sales” in general, so I figure his employer must be doing something right!

  • To get ahead in this world you will need to sell in some form of way. Interviewing for a IT job you need to sell your knowledge. Performance review time you have to sell your accomplishments. To get a promotion you need to sell your value to your employer. Even as a manager in a non sales environment you have to sell your employees on the benefits of your training.

    Learning a few sales techniques is extremely helpful in anything you do.
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    • I think you’re probably right – it doesn’t hurt to learn a few sales techniques to help toot your own horn at the appropriate time to get ahead.

  • Rose

    This is a very inspiring 3-part series. Thank you Mr & Mrs PoP. I’ve been unemployed (and not in receipt of benefits as I’m partnered, although the partner doesn’t partner with his money!). I’ve a target of £80k in 4 years or I lose the house I’ve lived in for 24 years. I’m hoping the solution lies in your example. I have tried commission sales but I don’t seem terribly good at it. I have got some sales skill though and feel I need just to keep going with it and get better. I’m not that smart though so it takes me ages to understand and remember the products and their benefits.

    • Thanks for the comment Rose. Since writing this article I transitioned into sales training and get to see lots of people make the transition from a different career into a commission sales role. Internal drive, grit and hard work seems to have more to do with success or failure than native intelligence. One other thought-products and benefits are important, but make sure to focus on the pain points of the buyer-these are the things that the buyer cares about, and so they are really what drive the sale.
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