In 2015, I earned about $40,000 on the side while holding a full-time job as a senior financial analyst at a large company. While making this much through a side gig is not all that common, I didn’t start out making $40,000 – I worked up to it.
If you want to build a side income stream, it’s important to start by focusing on the first dollar. Then build a system you can follow to grow your revenue and reach your next milestone.
Here is the story of how I made $40,000 in side income and steps you can take to get on the path to doing the same.
The start of a side income passion
In the summer of 2006, I wrote my first blog post. In those days, there were very few bloggers earning a significant income and I never thought about turning it into a business until a couple of years later.
What was important about the summer of 2006 was that it led to my discovery of online writing as a serious medium to reach friends, family, and people anywhere in the world.
In my early days of blogging, I wrote diary style journal entries. As my focus turned toward a specific niche topic, I created my first money making blog – a political blog focused on the Middle East.
In the years I maintained that site, I learned many valuable lessons on how to run a blog; I taught myself how to do web design in HTML/CSS and began to understand the importance of things like using search engine optimization to expand my audience and earn revenue from ads.
In 2008, I founded a new blog with a different mission. I had just finished a stint as a bank branch manager and decided to share what I learned as the guy who decided if your mortgage or credit card application was approved. That blog evolved into Personal Profitability, my finance blog I still own and maintain to this day.
Along the way, I learned many more skills. I learned about content marketing, blog post and article writing, copywriting, and my knowledge of personal finance deepened. As my blog grew, I started to earn more revenue from the site, but it never quite quenched my thirst for side income.
Then, one day, someone asked if I could help them set up their WordPress website, as I frequently helped answer other finance blogger’s website questions on a forum. This happened a few times and I was always happy to help them out. Then someone asked if they could hire me to help them do it. That’s when I knew I was on to something.
The importance of diverse income streams
As an MBA grad in the process of paying off $90,000 in student loans, I was obsessed with earning more to pay down my debt as quickly as possible. I knew that by earning significantly more income, I could pay off my student loans much faster. (I ended up paying everything off two years and 6 days after graduation.)
I realized that having diverse income streams helps maintain financial security, even in the midst of economic uncertainty. I lost a job a couple of years ago, but didn’t stress too much because, while my primary income was going away, I had other income to fall back on.
It took a few clients to figure out what I could charge as a new website designer. I also began writing for other websites as a freelancer. Over time, I was able to raise my rates and earn more per hour. I never cut back on hours, so I kept making more money.
Eventually, I was on track to pay off my bar tabs for an entire month from what I earned online (I was a single guy in my mid-twenties, so it was more than a few beers here and there). Then I was making enough to cover my rent. Then I had enough side income to cover a lot more.
Eventually, I ran into a situation where nearly all of my “free time” was going into my side business. I knew it was not sustainable to work 40-50 hours in a day job and then come home and work another 20-30 on the side, all while keeping up my old lifestyle. So I started brainstorming ideas to keep building my business without sacrificing the things I valued most.
Eliminate time wasters
The first thing I had to do was figure out where I was wasting time in my life. The most obvious was TV. I realized I came home from work, did some side work, and then zoned out in front of the TV watching shows I didn’t care about while paying Comcast $70 per month for the privilege.
I called Comcast and cut my cable, saving me about $840 per year that I could put into my student loans. I also found myself with lots of new free time.
I understand that some sports fans and reality TV addicts may find cutting cable a bad way to come up with more time to dedicate to earning more income, but it was surprisingly easy for me. In addition to saving that money and having more time for my business, I also found myself doing things like going on bike rides and visiting with friends more often. It was a win all around.
Whether it is TV or something else, find your time wasters and ruthlessly remove them from your life.
Set aside working hours
As I mentioned, all of my new free time was not going to writing and website support and design. To grow my income from $1,000 per month to several thousand per month, I needed a plan and a schedule.
I started setting aside dedicated working hours when I knew I could get work done distraction-free. This was key to growing my online income and I would never have earned so much on the side without doing it.
Connect with a network
So far, I’ve shared the things I could do and control myself to grow my income. But eventually, growing a business requires outside support as well.
Along the way, I connected with several great communities that were all instrumental in my online income growth.
One such group is the Yakezie network, made up of personal finance bloggers who showed me my little personal finance blog wasn’t so little and could generate several thousand dollars per year. Because of connections within that group, I decided to attend the first ever Financial Blogger Conference in 2011, a big leap of faith that has paid countless dividends.
Attending that conference, now known as FinCon, taught me how to turn my hobby into a serious business. I connected with new friends, businesses, and clients through the conference. In fact, I wouldn’t be writing this article for Student Loan Hero if it had not been for connections I made at FinCon!
Be persistently persistent
If you work for a big Fortune 500 company, you can probably get by doing the bare minimum for 40 or so hours per week as long as you meet all of your deadlines. If you want to make money through your own business, you can’t wait for others to give you something to do. You have to seek it out yourself.
Few people accidently start a business that earns them $40,000 in a year, let alone while holding a full-time job at the same time. To reach that income level last year, I was always working or thinking about work. After long days in the office, on sunny weekend afternoons, and even on vacation in Spain, I was always working on something.
I had to be persistent. I had to hustle. I had to do work that I wasn’t sure would pay off. I had to write articles I didn’t love. I had to stay up late into the night polishing off a perfect website design for a client. But I loved every minute of it and I wouldn’t change the path I was on for anything.
Making that much money on the side is life-changing. It helped me fund expensive hobbies such as photography and pilot lessons. It helped pay for my trips to Spain and Portugal. It allowed me to pay off my student loans in two years. And this year, it let me quit my day job to focus on my online businesses full-time.
That would never have happened had I not taken the most important first steps: I took a risk, challenged myself, and earned my first dollar on the side. Once I made it past that hurdle, the rest seemed to work itself out.
“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” -The Alchemist
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