Ben Simkin was hardly a model student. At 16, he was kicked out of high school for hacking their computer systems.
But that didn't hold him back. At 20, the self-taught computer programmer launched an IT and software company which sold for 7 figures four years later.
Two decades on, the Australian self-made millionaire is the founder of BusinessNET, an online marketing business with $2 billion in sales, and business leadership program, Mastermind.
Here are five lessons he learned on how to generate a million dollars, as he told CNBC Make It.
Most jobs demand a basic trade-off: Time in exchange for money.
But with time a finite resource, the best route to a million dollars is to create your own intellectual property (IP), which you can then scale and sell to generate a continuous income stream — even when you're not on the job, according to Simkin.
"The time and effort you put into work, use to create some asset that you can sell over and over," he said.
For Simkin, that process involved applying his software skills to build digital marketing tools for businesses and create online workshops for business leaders. However, he noted that the same strategy can be applied to various disciplines and professional skills.
With the proliferation of technology, it's become easier than ever to sell your services at scale. But, by the same measure, it's caused competition to heat up. It's therefore more important than ever to find a niche and master it, said Simkin.
When Simkin started in the IT industry in his teens, "everyone was focusing on Microsoft," he noted. So, instead, he specialized in other, more obscure technologies, for which he could charge a premium.
"People who are great at what they do earn by order of magnitude," said Simkin.
Once you've honed in on your specialism, it's time to master "the number one skill" — the ability to make a customer, according to Simkin.
The entrepreneur learned it the hard way when he started out, he said.
"At 20, I was great at computers, but I was not able to make a customer. I was not going to be successful in business without that ability," Simkin said, noting that miscalculation meant he struggled to cover his overheads in his early days.
Fortunately, however, he said there are now countless books and courses available to help, recommending Jay Abraham's "Getting everything you can out of all you've got" as his top pick.
"It's all about understanding the value of your skill and learning to communicate that effectively," Simkin said.
After securing a solid network of customers, you need to prove yourself to them by going above and beyond expectations, said Simkin.
"How you do little things can make a big impact on how you're looked upon," said Simkin, "and you never know who's watching."
It's an approach that worked for him early on, while working as a junior contractor.
"I would stay late and people recognized that," he said. "I was later tapped on the shoulder and given bigger contracts because they trusted me."
Finally, as with anything new, you will likely find yourself faced with unforeseen challenges along the way.
That can be disheartening, but it's important to learn to put them into perspective and see them as just one part of the journey, said Simkin.
"It's really easy to be put off by setbacks. But when you get further down the line, they'll feel very small in comparison," said Simkin, noting that losses that felt huge in his early career have now lost their significance.
"There are going to be ups and downs. It's really about how you respond to them," he added.
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