How I Earned $40,000 in Side Income in One Year

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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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1 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

  1. VARIABLE APR – APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes.

2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student Loan RefinanceFixed rates from 3.999% APR to 7.804% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.480% APR to 7.524% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.480% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.07% plus 0.91% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.07%. Variable interest rates range from 2.72%-8.17% (2.72%-8.17% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.50%-8.69% (3.50% – 8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled, must be in repayment of their existing student loan(s) and must make the minimum number of payments after leaving school. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Average savings based on 18,113 actual customers who refinanced their federal and private student loans through our Education Refinance Loan between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017. The calculation is derived by averaging the monthly savings of Education Refinance Loan customers whose payments decreased after refinancing, which is calculated by taking the monthly student loan payments prior to refinancing minus the monthly student loan payments after refinancing. The borrower’s savings might vary based on the interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of the loans they are seeking to refinance. The borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if their monthly payments are lower.
2.57% – 5.87%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Earnest
2.80% – 6.38%1Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Laurel Road
2.48% – 7.52%2Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit SoFi
2.47% – 7.99%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Lendkey
2.57% – 6.65%3Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit CommonBond
2.72% – 8.17%4Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Citizens
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.