From 9-to-5 to 5 figure months: My 4 simple steps toward more freedom

TL;DR — Quitting your 9-to-5 job is scary. I know because I did it – without any plans whatsoever. But since then, I've grown multiple online business to five figure months. You can too with this 4-step process.

Last week, I met a 23-year old fresh out of college who was trying to build the “Uber of house cleaning services.”

I asked him, “Why not start your own house cleaning service? Then, once you have some customers, you can build a platform to manage them.” This is the far easier, less risky, and surefire path.

My suggestion was met with rejection.

So instead of pursuing the “sure-thing” business and making some money while pursuing his idea, he’ll try to thread the needle and attempt a high-risk startup idea that requires a ton of upfront capital.

I get the hesitation. I used to think building a business was impossible too:

  • But with what idea?
  • With what startup capital?
  • When should I quit my job?
  • How do I find clients and start making money?

But I’ve learned over the last few years that an online services business is the fastest, most affordable way to start earning money online and work from anywhere.

Now, I’ve launched several six-figure online businesses – while bouncing between 7 LatAm countries.

Literally all you have to do is solve someone’s problem. Don’t overcomplicate it.

Follow this 4-step process and you’ll have a fully operating business in just a few months:

James on a lake in Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia

Step 1 — Identify your high-income digital skill

Identify your competitive advantage. Some questions to get you started:

  • What do people go to YOU for help with?
  • What can you help people with that others cannot?
  • What’s unique about you?

The skill you identify here should be something …

  1. You enjoy doing and are good at
  2. You can charge a premium for
  3. You can solve someone’s problems with

When I quit my job and started my own business a few days later (don’t do this by the way), I had been working as a digital marketer for two years.

So I doubled down on the skills I had developed and offered a whole ton of services under the umbrella of digital marketing: Webinar hosting, social media marketing, Facebook ads, Google Ads, Google My Business management, SEO, content creation, Google Analytics analysis, email marketing…

This is not specific enough. I don’t think I need to tell you that 🤣

But the reason I had immediate success ($13k in my first 30 days) was because I found a service that I was good at, that was in high demand, and that I could charge big money for.

In 2024, I’d only recommend choosing a digital skill by the way. There’s no faster way to become location independent than launching an online-first business.

Even if you think you have no skills (that’s a lie), there’s still hope:

First of all, just because you don’t have any skills today doesn’t mean you can’t have any skills tomorrow. The internet has democratized education, which means you now have access to content (courses, guides, videos, books, podcasts, etc) that twenty years ago, people had to pay tens of thousands of dollars for.

Quit whining and go learn a skill. Here’s a list of sources:

Second of all, you don’t necessarily have to administer this service. Meaning while you sip piña coladas in Quintana Roo, México, you can digitally manage a house cleaning business in Queens, New York.

The internet is a beautiful place. It allows us to build service businesses that don’t need us to physically carry out the service.


Baby turtle hatchling in Los Cabos, Mexico

Step 2 — Identify a high-margin niche

Don’t sell your services to elementary school teachers who have no disposable income.

Instead, sell your service to people whose pockets are overflowing with money.

And the second important part of this step is making sure your skill and service can solve a major problem that they have. This is how you know they’ll be willing to pay good money for your service.

Don’t be afraid to get specific! It’ll help you sell and market yourself.

Some examples:

  • Basketball trainers in Canada
  • Dentists aged >50
  • Remote tech startups with <50 employees

Step 3 — Turn your skill into a service by creating an offer

So you’ve identified your skill. Now you have to convert it into an actual service that can solve a problem for your niche. Here are some hints:

  • Skill: Writing → Service: Monthly email marketing
  • Skill: Web design → Service: Landing page setup and optimization
  • Skill: Yoga → Service: Yoga for executives

The next step is to create an irresistible offer (essentially, pricing, packaging and a no-risk guarantee).

Stop reading this and download/buy Alex Hormozi’s $100M Offers. Honestly, this book will teach you how to build an offer much better than I can and ever will.

However, here’s my attempt:

Packaging your offer means …

  1. defining your services clearly,
  2. setting up pricing that reflects the value of the outcomes your service provides,
  3. and packaging the the services and pricing so it solves your target market’s problems.

One thing I did not do for the longest time in my business was introduce a guarantee of outcomes. After reading Hormozi’s book, this new addition to my offer has been a gamechanger.

Here is how my content creation offer looks today:

Tiered services options

I’ll save you the details on pricing and the guarantee (because they’re juicy) and end by saying this:

Pricing and packaging is really hard.

There’s zero chance you nail this perfectly out of the gate. You’ll have to experiment, test out different prices and different tier levels, and tinker with your offer over time to match the needs of your target market.

Here are a couple packaging strategies you can try out:

  • All you can eat — One monthly price for access to all your services
  • À la carte — Each service you offer has a unique price, and customers can pick and choose
  • Tiers — Basic, pro, and premium levels with increasing access to your service (above)

Make your service a monthly or quarterly subscription, and stay far away from short-term, project-based services. The goal is to run and grow a business – not be a freelancer forever.

Step 4 — Do relentless outreach & stand out from the crowd

The final step is all about getting in front of the right people on social media and email.

(I’ll talk about this in detail another day but the #1 easiest way to build a full sales pipeline is by building an audience on social media.)

Everyone and their mother has to do outreach to get business, right? So how are you going to stand out?

So how are you going to stand out? No matter the medium or format of your outreach, your goal is to not look or sound like everyone else.

Sure, there are proven practices and scripts some have used to secure clients. But fully expect that your target market and outreach recipients receive those 20 times a day.

So the only option you have to get their attention and stand out is by being different.

Also, business is personal. Don’t put people on a pedestal. Instead, be personable, proactive, helpful and kind.

Have confidence in your service and the value it brings. But a gentle approach is better than an aggressive one.

The worst approach you can take: Desperation. Yuck! Don’t come off as needing to close a deal like your life depends on it (even if it does).

Send that care package.
Attach that gif to your email.
Surprise them with that subject line.

This is where the money is made. Rabid personalization.

James throwing a cup of sand on a beach in Los Cabos, Mexico

Now, when your online business is making a little money (I’d say $3-4k – seriously!), quit your job.

It doesn’t matter how much you’re making in your current 9-5. Don’t let that blind you.

Your online business already provides you with more freedom than you currently have – even with a lower wage than you currently make.


It’s time to go all in on freedom and location independence (this is the reason I suggested a digital skill and online business in the first place).

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I have a question for you:

If I were to dedicate the next Freedom Files YouTube video to you and one challenge you’re facing right now, what would that issue be?

Typically, I get something like the following:

  • I can’t find a remote job
  • I don’t know the right long-term location for me
  • I don’t know how to start a business
  • I am a digital nomad but haven’t settled in a country
  • I pay way too much in taxes and need a solution
  • I want to invest in countries before they are popular

Let me know by emailing or DMing me. I’ll write about it publicly because many others likely have the same challenge as you do.

Location freedom is near

I started an online business, lived in 10 countries, learned a new language, bought international real estate, and got residency in Latin America – all within 2 years.

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