Since my 20s, I’d desired to be financially free, which is basically to have passive income in excess of my expenses. Passive income is income earned from having productive assets such as businesses (stocks) and real estate. But as nice as it is, the question is: ‘How do I raise funds to start, invest and run my businesses and build a real estate portfolio?’. 

Hence, this is where ‘active income’ is needed. 

To pursue financial freedom, the amount of active income I need should greatly exceed my living needs and commitments. So, there is a need to have growth in active income. Years later, now in my 30s, I earned more active income than the amount I used to make in my 20s. This enabled me to raise capital to invest and build my investment portfolio, thus, increasing my passive income. 

So, the question is: ‘How to increase active income?’. 

Here, I’ll list down 6 skills that could help us to do so. As I reflect, some of these skills come naturally to me. But, there are others which I need to improve on as I continue to progress in my career. So, the 6 skills are as follows: 

#1: Technical Skills

Typically, it refers to our abilities to deliver certain work tasks. Often, this would be based on the education and apprenticeship received in our profession. So, in my case, I can pursue a career as an accountant as I completed ACCA. But today as I write, I could not offer audit, tax, advisory, and other accounting services to the public as a chartered accountant as I did not up my ‘technical skills’. 

Instead, as one who is passionate about education on personal finance, the skill of accountancy that I acquired from ACCA is more than sufficient (I believe). My challenge, however, is to translate ‘numbers’ so that my reader and viewers can relate to them and find them meaningful. To do that, the technical skills which I need to acquire would be related to content creation: teaching and copywriting skills. 

Thus, the technical skills that I use to earn active income would be: 

1. Accountancy skill. 
2. Teaching skill. 
3. Copywriting skill. 

#2: Sales Skills

You can be the best cook in town. But, if you start a restaurant without knowing how to sell your food, that would be problematic to your restaurant. Hence, the ability to sell, which includes the ability to generate quality leads, build rapport, do sales presentations, follow-up, close, and provide after-sale services, is quite important. There are many who make top dollars as they are top salespeople. 

In my case, I was exposed to doing sales when I became an insurance agent at a young age of 19. Although I didn’t really succeed in that career path, I’d learnt 1 thing about sales and that is – leads bring appointments, appointments will lead to more follow-ups and more follow-ups could eventually turn into sales. Hence today, at, I believe the whole sales process is somewhat similar. But, instead of 1-to-1 selling, we do 1-to-many sales and our selling is in writing. 

Thus, the main sub-skills to do well in sales would be as follow: 

1. Lead generation skills. 
2. Presentation skills (one-on-one or public speaking)
3. Closing skills (the ability to convert prospects into customers). 

#3: Communication Skills

There are two dimensions to this. The first is for employees where they need to communicate and coordinate well with their superiors, staff, peers and multiple external parties such as clients, suppliers and distributors. Personally, as I’m not an employee, I don’t have first-hand experience on such communication. But as a self-employed, the communication vibe is different (probably easier) as I tend to hang around other self-employed people. 

Thus, the approach to communication is more horizontal for me than vertical. If you know how to manage expectations of your boss, colleagues, customers and so on and so forth, that skill (communication) is highly valuable. 

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m the guy who possesses such a skill (for now). 

#4: Leadership Skills

One aspect of being a good leader is to have the ability to: 

1. Attract various talents. 
2. Motivate various talents to work towards a common goal. 
3. Take ownership and responsibilities when issues and challenges rise. 

This is not an easy skill to acquire, thus, it is valuable. 

Think about it. A CEO will need a higher degree of leadership skills if he leads as much as 1,000 employees as compared to one who leads 5 employees. Hence, I would say that the more you could lead, the more you could be earning. To me, as my work involves more about ‘production’ over people relations, I therefore, would not say that leadership is a core strength to me. 

#5: Financial Skills 

This includes abilities to raise capital, budget, invest and protect wealth. Hence, as one who completed ACCA, is passionate about personal finance, and built an investment portfolio (both stock and real estate), I’m more confident in such an area and would claim that this skill set is my core. Once again, the skills that are included here are: 

1. Raise funds.
2. Control spendings. 
3. Investing (Capital allocation).
4. Estate Planning (Insurance, Will and Trust).

#6: Adaptability Skills

I believe digitalisation plays a big part in this. For instance, a few decades ago, it was common for people to advertise on traditional media: print media and TVs. Then, there is a shift to digital  advertising: Google, YouTube, and Facebook. For, readership and viewership had grown as a result of such a shift. But today, we are starting to see a shift into newer technologies: AI, Blockchain and Cloud. Nowadays, ChatGPT is on the rise and hence, as content creators, we are ‘tested’ in our ability to adapt and remain relevant in the marketplace. 

Otherwise, we might end up becoming ‘a thing in the past’ like newspapers and magazines. 


As I reflect, I believe my core strength lies in Skill 1 and 5 as I’m left-brained. For Skill 2, 3, and 4, they require some effort for me to hone them over time. Likely, as you read, your core skills would be different from mine. Hence, the skills that you need to work on will be different. 

So, how do we 2x our active income? 

Well, I guess it is for us to leverage on our core skills and to select (just 1 skill) in the list of six skills to work on in the immediate term. I believe we would have a better chance in positioning ourselves to raise our active income, if we improve on the one selected skill and as well as our core skills. 

Which of the six skills are your core and which one you like to work on?  Please comment below.

Ian Tai
Ian Tai

Financial Content Machine. Dividend Investor. Produced 500+ Financial Articles featured in in Malaysia and the Fifth Person, Value Invest Asia, and Small Cap Asia in Singapore. Regular Host and Presenter of a Weekly Financial Webinar with Co-Founded, an online membership site that empowers retail investors to build a stock portfolio that pays rising dividends year after year in Malaysia and Singapore.

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