The Ladders of Wealth Creation: A Step-by-Step System to Up Your Earning Power

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nathan barry

Nathan Barry went from working at Wendy’s to running a software company doing $2.5M in revenue every month.

But there were several steps along the way — and those steps are the topic of today’s episode.

In 2019, Nathan penned The Ladders of Wealth Creation to explain why to level up your earning power, you usually need to level up your skills.

In this episode, we cover:

  • The 4 Ladders of Wealth Creation
  • How you may be able to add new income streams to an existing side hustle or business
  • A marketing strategy that’s working well for Nathan right now

  • Hulu Ad Manager — Make the move to streaming TV advertising today and reach a highly engaged audience for as little as $500 per campaign!

hulu ad manager


Ladder 1: Time for Money

The first ladder is exchanging time for money at job. It could be hourly or salaried.

For example, my jobs included:

  • Shelving books at the library
  • Running the cash register at a Mongolian grill
  • Managing pay-per-click ad campaigns as a marketing intern
  • Managing a sales territory of Ford dealers

nathan barry ladders of wealth creation

(Image courtesy of

Ladder #2: Your Own Service Business

In Nathan’s framework, the second ladder is branching out on your own with your own service business. You can do this as a solo freelancer or as an agency.

In my case, that looked like:

  • Painting houses
  • Editing books
  • Freelance writing

For Nathan, it was designing and developing iOS apps.

To make the leap from Ladder #1, there are a whole host of new skills to learn, including:

  • Managing your time
  • Customer service
  • Estimating projects
  • Invoicing
  • Setting up a business entity
  • Potentially bringing on team members and being responsible for their work

Ladder #3: Productized Services

On the next ladder, we’re still selling a service, but we’re treating it like a product. Examples might include:

In my case, I’d consider my video website audits an example of this — a fixed deliverable for a fixed price. Or that time I did some virtual assistant recruiting.

Related: How to Start a Recruiting Business

Nathan argued that to achieve this ladder, you need to master the skills of copywriting and online payment systems so that customers can buy from you without even having to speak with you first.

Ladder #4: Products

The final ladder to climb — the one with the highest earning potential — is selling products. This could include:

  • Digital products like courses, ebooks, and printables
  • Apps
  • Airbnb rentals
  • Software
  • Marketplaces and networks

For Nathan, this is ConvertKit, his super popular email marketing software for creators.

For me, it’s Side Hustle Nation. We talked about how a content business falls under this category, and pondered the challenges of capturing attention online and the best places to direct that attention (ads, affiliates, sponsors, products, etc.).

And with this ladder comes a new set of skills to learn, including perhaps:

  • SEO
  • Paid acquisition
  • Sales funnels
  • Building a team
  • Systems and scaling
  • Data analytics

The big picture idea is you can jump steps on the ladder, but you can’t skip learning the skills required.

Links and Resources

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Nick Loper

About the Author

Nick Loper is a side hustle expert who loves helping people earn more money and start businesses they care about. He hosts the award-winning Side Hustle Show, where he's interviewed over 500 successful entrepreneurs, and is the bestselling author of Buy Buttons, The Side Hustle, and $1,000 100 Ways.

His work has been featured in The New York Times, Entrepreneur, Forbes, TIME, Newsweek, Business Insider, MSN, Yahoo Finance, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Financial Times, Bankrate, Hubspot, Ahrefs, Shopify, Investopedia, VICE, Vox, Mashable, ChooseFI, Bigger Pockets, The Penny Hoarder, GoBankingRates, and more.

1 thought on “The Ladders of Wealth Creation: A Step-by-Step System to Up Your Earning Power”

  1. In Ladder 1, step one, managing time is where I am. I need a plan to do that. I work an average 35 hours a week. Drive time usually one hour a day times 5 days is 5 hours a week so that is 40 hours a week. Well anyways could you please send me a plan or maybe a link for that, so I can get started. I already have things to sell. I just need to take a pic and post them see what I mean.
    Thank you
    Sandra Stogner


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