Why Are We Still Pushing the Six-Figure Ideal?

A week ago, I was followed on Twitter by a chap promising to help me become a “six-figure copywriter in six months”.

His pinned tweet told me he’d just won a $65 an hour job. £50 an hour.

Let’s do some maths.

To reach £100,000 at £50 an hour, we’d need to work 2,000 hours.

Two thousand hours over six months equates to 333 hours per month. At best, that is a solid 10 hours’ work per day, or for a regular 20-day month, 16.65 hours.

This man’s Twitter handle was FastTrackWriter. That doesn’t seem fast to me, mate – that seems like a recipe for burnout, social Siberia and square eyes.

Shouldn’t we focus on something else?

Let’s be frank. I woke up this morning to the news that 12,000 people were set to lose their jobs following the demise of Debenhams.

Even more worrying:

It’s worth noting that said young people are arguably the most impressionable. This begs my question: Why are we still promoting a six-figure lifestyle when some of us can’t even get a job?

The LinkedIn ideal

I write this as someone who’s been relatively ‘poor’, and not so poor. I remember vividly, at 23, reversing my car into a stationary van and panicking at the bumper costs. There was £400 in my account.

Thank God I wasn’t emerging into the world of work in 2020, where the dichotomy of unemployment versus six-figure, sports car lifestyles is so glaring. Just for fun, try typing “six-figure” into a content search on LinkedIn.

Six-figure personal training in seven steps. How to be a six-figure recruiter in today’s economy.

You can have the same fun with other terms like “passive income” or “£10,000 in a month”. If their claims are genuine, good for them. But in this ever more-polarising year, isn’t it time to focus on other measures of success?

The damaging undercurrents of the six-figure aspiration

Let it be known that there is absolutely nothing wrong with ambition. Likewise, we each have our own measures of achievement – whether it’s a medal, an article in the local newspaper, or jetting off on holiday knowing that the business will run itself.

But in the pursuit of pipe dreams, we could be doing ourselves more harm than good.

Multi-level marketing

There aren’t enough hours in the day to express how diametrically opposed I am to multi-level marketing.

If you’ve not heard of this scourge, you are blessed.

Multilevel marketing (MLM) is a strategy some direct sales companies use to encourage existing distributors to recruit new distributors who are paid a percentage of their recruits’ sales.


In context, Carol is a single mother who needs some extra income before Christmas. Her friend recommends she join the Luvyalife programme – all she needs to do is buy a batch of weight loss coffee sachets, then sell them to her friends.

Carol cannot believe her ears. She’s got the chance to run her own business, and if she joins the referral scheme, she’ll be earning six figures a month. She’ll have a Range Rover, a gold star, and she’ll be totally debt-free!

Small print: Carol has to shell out huge sums to sign up and buy this stomach lining-dissolving crap. She’s not making any money, so she’s forced to recruit others to join the inner circle.

In this frankly horrifying 2019 documentary, we see multi-level marketing for what it is: a cult. Strip back the promises, and the figures speak for themselves:

  • In 2017, 89 per cent of Nu Skin distributors made no commission whatsoever
  • Just 1.09 per cent made more than £870 each per month
  • Thirty-six out of 90,000 distributors made five figures per month.

“It’s 24 hours a day, and you’re told that if somebody doesn’t support you, even friends or family, you should get rid of them.” These are the words of a former distributor who was so afraid to speak out, she remained anonymous.

The worst part

The worst part about all this, and arguably the abovementioned “six-figure” schemes, is that they are peddling lies.

Whether it’s the lowest-of-the-low pyramid schemes or questionable online courses, both push an unattainable lifestyle. It’s not going to make us any happier, or work any less.

Does money really make us happy?

Over the years we’ve seen a torrent of literature challenging our attitudes towards money. I must confess to having read such titles as:

  1. Rich Dad, Poor Dad – Robert T. Kiyosaki
  2. I Will Teach You to Be Rich – Ramit Sethi
  3. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck – Mark Manson.

There’s little point in being pious and pretending I’m not motivated by money. We all want to live comfortable lifestyles, with a roof over our heads and guilt-free holidays or takeaways.

But where do we draw the line? Is it worth sacrificing our health in pursuit of the six-figure lifestyle?

These books teach us some valuable lessons. For example, one of Ramit Sethi’s guiding principles is never to scrimp on tools that promote self-improvement. If a Fitbit will encourage you to exercise, don’t feel guilty about spending. You’ll be better off in the long term.

“That man is richest whose pleasures are cheapest.”

Let’s not overlook our privilege here. It’s easy for Henry Thoreau (and me, to a lesser degree) to say things like this. To put it in pop culture terms, here’s what the Friends gang has to say:

“I guess I just never think of money as an issue.”

“That’s ‘cause you have it.”

Ouch. Everybody’s circumstances are unique. What we should not be doing is preying on the less fortunate with phoney yellow brick road pledges. How can we be rich in other ways, and how can we promote this?

1. Rich in confidence.

If you find the secret to self-esteem, tell me how. In four years of freelancing, my confidence has come from positive feedback, strong relationships and yes – charging what I’m worth.

What you’re worth might be different for everybody; it might make you rich, or it might make you comfortable. Thank goodness there are benchmarks like the ProCopywriters report to remind us, especially when our personal confidence fails.

2. Rich in people.

Where would we be this year without our wonderful networks? Even the most tenuous of Twitter connections have led to some of the warmest feelings – knowing there are others out there who’ve got your back. It could be family, friends or your own writing crew. But they’re (cheese alert) priceless.

3. Rich in health.

The healthy among us have doubtless never been more grateful for their own physical condition. To get out of bed in the morning is a privilege. Again, we should invest in this.

The takeaway

The world is like porcelain right now: One careless remark could have catastrophic effects on our mental health. That’s why it’s so important to be compassionate in our messaging. There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to financial goals, but we shouldn’t discount what really matters.

As we enter the Christmas period, we’re encouraged to grab this materialistic culture with both hands. What’s heartening, however, is that our attitudes are changing – we’re shopping locally and reinvesting in what’s important.

By all means, reach for the stars. Order the takeaway. Work towards your goals. But please, please look after yourself.

six-figure lifestyle
Katie Lingo
by Katie Lingo
1st December 2020