How to Build Skills Quickly (And Get Total Job Security in the Process)

By Sean Ogle •  Updated: 05/23/23 •  6 min read

Our whole lives, we’ve been trained to think that gaining knowledge, building skills, and simply learning how to do stuff takes a lot of time.

The traditional education system for most people lasts about 16 years.

Sure much of that is spent in your younger years learning the essentials of communication, math, and basic history – but imagine if right now you spent 16 years learning nothing but things directly relevant to your life.

The amount you could accomplish is nothing short of mind-blowing.

However, no one thinks 16 years in advance these days.  Hell, people hardly think 16 hours ahead.

One of the most underrated and valuable concepts in life is rapid skill building.

I define that as learning how to do any type of skill or craft in a much shorter time frame than you’ve been trained to think is necessary.

Every day I talk to people who want to learn how to become freelance writers, dive into copywriting, or work from anywhere. The question is always: “I want to travel, work from home, and generally be free, but I don’t know how to do it.”

If you’re really that miserable and really that motivated to change, there are dozens of skills that you could learn in less than a month that will make you instantly valuable to a large number of people.

But there’s one big caveat, and this is the part that people want to skip.

You have to commit to learning.

Building skills quickly isn’t hard.

People are terrified of losing their jobs, their security, and their paycheck. But why? We live in an age where detailed and instructive information has never been more prevalent.

There is hardly a single thing you can’t learn by getting online and following a tutorial — from starting a blog to writing a book. Do you want to learn something more advanced? Buy a used textbook for a few bucks on Amazon. Take a free course online, or spend a few hours on YouTube.

The point is if I had a job and I lost it tomorrow, there are so many things I could learn how to do that others would pay good money for.

Most just lack the motivation to take the initiative.

I could rattle off a dozen skill sets you can (and should) learn right now that can help you start earning money, including:

And so on.

My point is that if you’re serious about building a business and working from wherever you want, get past all of the “Four Hour Workweek” bullshit.  Forget about the idea of passive income for a while.

Go invest a month of time into learning a marketable skill.

Do some work on your own projects or for a friend, ask a local business to hire you, offer to work for free on a project or two, then once you’ve got a little bit of confidence (or even if you don’t) hop on any one of these 105 sites and find yourself some work.

However, the concept of “rapid skill building” applies to much more than just work.

Sure, there are a lot of things that take a lot of practice to get good at. You aren’t going to spend a weekend trying to teach yourself how to play golf, for instance.

But there are a ton of things that, if you actually make an effort to do and set a timeline, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can learn how to do it.

For instance, I’ve always wanted to learn how to make mashups. Take two songs, stick them together, and make something new.

So I spent 45 minutes on Google, figured out what software I needed, and went to work. Literally, in less than 2 hours, I’d created my first mashup that actually didn’t sound half bad.

Learning to do anything in life isn’t as hard as you think. It should be even less difficult if there is a sincere motivation behind it (such as unhappiness or financial motivations).

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How Do You Build Skills Quickly?

Now that you understand the benefits of rapid skill building and recognize it’s possible, how do you go about building skills quickly?

Luckily it’s pretty simple:

  1. Decide on the Skill You Want to Learn. Make a conscious decision and say out loud, “I’m going to learn how to ______.”
  2. Devote 1 hour a day for one month. For many skills, within 30 hours of practice, you can make significant progress and grasp a basic level of competence. This method lets you aim for an hour a day.
  3. Set a Proficiency Goal. What would you need to be able to do to feel like you’ve got the basics down of this new skill?
  4. Set a Timeline. When do you want to have this goal completed?
  5. Tell everyone. Accountability is the most important part of building skills. If you tell people, there’s more urgency to actually follow through with doing it.

So, now that we’ve established how to build a skill quickly and what skill are you going to build.

Copywriting is a great example. If I were following the above steps, here’s how I’d do it.

  1. Decide my skill: I’m going to learn how to become a copywriter.
  2. Devote time: For the next 30 days, I’m going to spend 1 hour first thing in the morning to learning and practicing copywriting.
  3. Proficiency goal. I want to write a 5 email welcome series that sells a product.
  4. Timeline: I’ll have this written by the end of the month.
  5. Tell people: I’m letting everyone know I’m working on my copy skills and asking them if they need a copywriter.

I’d read two copywriting books, get on a site like Swiped, and sign up for a ton of emails to really immerse myself. For the first week or two, I’d spend my time reading and absorbing as much as I could. Then, the next two or three weeks are dedicated to writing. I’d practice my copy for an hour a day.

Will I be a world-class copywriter?

No. But I guarantee I’m going to be pretty good, enough to start landing a few beginner copywriting jobs and reaching out to potential clients.

All it takes is 30 hours to start. And you can do it a lot quicker than you think.

If you really want to build skills quickly, then expand your available time. If you have two hours a day, you can get things done even faster.

The goal is to make consistent progress; you’d be shocked at how much better you can get at something after just a few hours. Keep adding to it, and the sky is the limit.

This post was updated in May 2023 for more accuracy.

Sean Ogle

Sean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
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14 comments on "How to Build Skills Quickly (And Get Total Job Security in the Process)"

  1. Matt says:

    The other day I was helping a friend with his website and realized I didn’t know much about CSS. So yesterday I picked up a book on it and started learning more about it. I’ve got 8 hours of day job to spend learning this stuff. Like you said above, all it takes is motivation and effort to pick up virtually any skill quickly.

  2. I definitely agree that building skills is essential, both when you want a job or want to work for yourself. I remember when I first considered going to business school and an acquaintance told me “Business school is okay, but you won’t learn any skills. You need skills to innovate and create and truly be successful as an entrepreneur.”

    Whether this is good advice or not, it definitely changed my perspective on how I’ve approached education since. I’ve done my best to acquire skills like how to use particular software or how to actually solve real-life problems, not just learn a bunch of theory.

    I think the main challenge for me isn’t building my skills and learning new things, it’s implementing them and turning them into a business or freelance work that I can actually earn money from.

  3. Matt says:

    I’d also add that you don’t need to learn new skills inside and out. You just need enough knowledge to get started. After that you can learn as you need. For example, do I need to know everything there is about CSS in order to start using it? Of course not, I just need to learn the basics, get a good foundation and then when things come up that I don’t know how to do I can just Google it and figure it out.

    I think this holds a lot of people back from implementing what they learn. They think they need to know it all before someone will hire them to do a job. And maybe some of that goes back to the whole school of thought that you need a degree, or you need the whole package in order to be successful when really all you need is the specific skills to get the job done.

  4. Tom Meitner says:

    Sean, this post just kicks major butt. I get really discouraged when people simply tell me they don’t know how to do something. I’ve learned a lot of stuff in the past 5 years alone simply because I realized the “power of Google”, as I call it. Not knowing how to do something isn’t an excuse anymore. Get your hands dirty and start looking around – learning doesn’t stop!

    1. Sean says:

      @Matt I’ve actually considered making the next 48 Hours series “How to Learn CSS in 48 Hours”. Thats one that I’d really have to do some research on though, as I really don’t know that much. You bring up a good point as well, you don’t have to be an expert! You just have to know more than most, which usually isn’t very difficult to do.

      @Jeffrey I’d agree with your friend, the skills I learned from owning a house painting business in college were WAY more valuable than the classroom stuff. There is a place for that, don’t get me wrong, but these days it isn’t about theory, its about practicality and what you can actually apply.

      @Tom Thanks man! And I totally agree, thats why LR has me so excited, because I think it makes things simple enough that people who are ready to get their hands dirty, have an excellent starting point.

  5. I will preface this by saying I have worked as an IT consultant for almost 10 years. When I started out, I thought I needed to know EVERYTHING off top of my head. I studied books, websites, shadowed other engineers. Within 4 years I went from a telemarketer to a Sr. Engineer making 6 figures. You want to know the most important skill that I learned? How to talk to people and how to find the information you need.

    It has nothing to do with being an expert of everything all at once. It is more important to be proficient in a lot of things and have the knowledge how to take 48 hours and turn a topic you know nothing about into something you are proficient at and can sell.

  6. Red says:

    I have to say even when I had a full-time regular job, the things that were most rewarding were skills I took time to learn myself because nobody else knew how to do it. It was like getting paid to learn ‘on the job’.
    Motivation is the key, if you’re interested then learning is fun and enjoyable. Great post.

  7. I think the mindset you’re describing is what separates the wannabees from the doers. It’s too easy to blame lack of time or the perceived scope of learning/doing something new as reason(s) for not accomplishing one’s goals.

    I’d been claiming for months that I wanted to learn sign language. I kept thinking I had to sign up for a class (kinda tough when you’re a nomad!) so I didn’t do anything about it. I finally woke up and realized my ambition wasn’t very high if I couldn’t find an alternative way to accomplish this feat.

    Now I spend 20 minutes a day on YouTube learning sign language and I’m amazed at how quickly I’m picking it up.

    I’m certainly not fluent, but sometimes, you have to be content with “good enough,” or nothing happens!

    Great post.

  8. Benny says:

    I like your writing style Sean. It really relates to me. I completely agree that almost anything can be learned online or with a book. With Google and Youtube, anything can be learned.

    Right now I’m learning Adobe Illustrator and CSS through online tutorials.

  9. Benny says:

    Oh and to add, let’s say I learn a skill like SEO or basic Photoshop design , what’s the best way to market my services?

    And how long were you sore after your marathon? I found I was sore for days after my first half and that’s with all the training.

    Have a good one!

  10. Benjamin says:

    Hey Sean,

    At the start of this year I decided to learn Spanish in three months! (it wasn’t until halfway through the mission that I first stumbled upon Benny and Fluent in 3 Months)

    I can tell you, it was seriously tough. For 3-4 days a week I would spend at least six hours practising Spanish, through books, audio and the internet (including watching lots of Shakira songs 😉 ). It wore me out, but I kept at it because I wanted to speak Spanish so bad.

    At the end of the three months I headed out to Barcelona for a few days to practice what I’d learnt. Like Benny, I don’t recommend this style of language learning, it certainly worked for me in this instance. It felt amazing to land in a country and automatically be able to talk to it’s inhabitants. It made those three weeks of really hard work worth it.

    Anyway man, congrats on the marathon. I read the post last week, seriously awesome stuff 😀


  11. Sean,

    This is so true.

    Three years ago I learned to twist balloons by purchasing a kit from a party store. Best $8.95 I ever invested. A couple of hours of playing around gave me enough knowledge to create a few items.

    I made a commitment to add one new creation per week, and in a year I knew more than 50 things I can do.

    I work part time nowadays and make more money per week than I have ever made in any of my 70 hours per week jobs, and the best thing is I work when I want and take off when I don’t feel like working.

    I can go to practically any city in USA and easily make $500 per weekend if I wanted to, and I plan on doing just that soon. I’ll keep you posted as I have something solid to report.


  12. Cornelius van Niekerk says:

    This has been my philosophy all my life, you just put it into words! Yes it is easier to learn than one thinks, like you said you can learn anything online! Knowledge and skill building is essential to life!

Comments are closed.