Since starting M$M, I’ve been really fortunate to build an amazing team to help me support this site. You might see them around from time to time in my FB community, but I wanted to take some time in the next few months to introduce you to some of them. They are all rock stars living the M$M lifestyle of paying off debt and working towards financial freedom.
Hey, I’m Ariel. I’ve been lurking around the shadows here at M$M for the past few months as Bobby’s editor, and I am deep in that side hustle to full-time job thing right now. Before I go on about side hustles and actually making a living from them, let me first tell you how my experience began.
It started about three years ago when my sister-in-law approached me about doing some copyediting. You might know her from a little blog called Making Sense of Cents. Michelle is a big dog in the personal finance blogosphere, and she preaches that side hustle game hard. That’s because, like Bobby, she’s had firsthand experience with how powerful a side hustle can be.
I decided to give it a shot because I had recently gone back to college and figured it would be a good way to make some extra money while exercising that English degree I was working on.
That’s when it started. I had unwittingly found a side hustle.
Side hustle? Isn’t that just a part-time job?
As an English major, and as someone who likes to over analyze things, I struggled for a while with the term “side hustle.”
On one hand, it seemed like every personal finance blogger out there was preaching about the side hustle’s power to heal your financial woes, and I was more than a little suspicious of this cure all.
Snake oil anyone?
Michelle wasn’t talking about it like that, and neither is Bobby. I don’t know that anyone ever was, I’m just generally a skeptical person. I’m also stubborn and need several rounds of experiential learning for something to sink in.
I also had a sort of etymological-type beef with the term. The “hustle” part sounds a little shady, and I am correct in that thinking. But, it also felt like some of these bloggers were just trying to sell me a part-time job under a new name.
It was like someone on the internet decided to rebrand the term “part-time job” to make it a little sexier.
While that might be the case, side hustle took on a new meaning to me when I began to understand it in terms of my own experience.
I’ve always worked multiple part-time jobs.
And by multiple, I mean two to four part-time jobs at any given time. That’s been the norm for my husband and me for nearly our entire 16-year relationship. Even though he’s employed as a special education teacher and making a decent salary (for a teacher), he’s spent time working on a friend’s food truck, as well as repairing and reselling vintage mopeds and scooters out of our garage. There are probably 15 in there right now, no joke.
Besides cleaning houses a few years back, none of my part-time jobs ever paid very well (I can’t clean toilets forever), but they did offer a flexible schedule so we didn’t have to pay for childcare, and they also made it possible for me to spend the summers with the rest of my family.
I figured that first editing job would be like the rest of my part-time jobs, something on the side to make a little extra money until something better came along, and that’s what it was for a while.
Then I realized this: part-time jobs are generally low paying and have little room for growth, whereas a side hustle is a scalable income generator. That’s the difference.
That revelation didn’t lead to a chorus of angels. I just kept working, side hustling, and going to school. This meant a lot of 80-90 hour weeks too.
Oh yeah, my husband was also back in school for his graduate degree.
It was hard, seriously some of the hardest years of my life. My husband and I barely spent time with one another, but we were using that extra money to pay off our credit card debt and to get out of a paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle. Once those milestones were hit, that extra money was used for spending money, stashing away for emergencies, and just trying to get farther ahead.
As we neared graduation (we were graduating one week apart from one another) two things happened.
One, circumstances allowed us to pay off our mortgage. I say circumstances because it wasn’t us being hyper-vigilant about eliminating that debt; it was a windfall that we choose to allocate towards our mortgage for personal reasons. You’ll see why this is important in a minute.
Two, while my husband had a job, I needed to figure out what I was going to do, and you can probably guess why… student loans.
Knowing that I didn’t want to work a bunch of part-time jobs forever, I started looking at full-time jobs. I was getting really scared about my lack of experience, corporate restructuring, outsourcing, and every other thing that’s been plaguing the traditional workplace these past few decades.
I also hated being tied to someone else’s schedule. I wanted our life to continue sort of how it had been going, available for my kids when they needed me and able to travel with my family during the summer.
Knowing that being mortgage free released us from some financial obligations during our student loan grace period, I decided to really pursue the editing thing, which had picked up since the beginning. I made a website, worked on promoting my services, started doing a little more writing, and people started contacting me.
My current job situation.
I was only making around $300-$500 a month when I started my side hustle and that kind of felt like a fortune.
Through some slow but steady early gains, and then really prioritizing my side hustle these past few months, I’m now grossing a pretty regular $4,000 a month, and my projections suggest that I’ll be over $5,000 a month early next year. Holy shit, I think we’ve pretty much hit full-time income status. Wait, can I cuss here? Sorry, Bobby.
Keep in mind that’s all pre-tax. I also have more expenses now, not a ton, but they keep things running smoothly and professionally.
The other thing, this is all freelance work, so my income does fluctuate a bit. This is the hardest thing about being a freelancer, but I’m currently changing my business approach, diversifying more, and working towards a little more financial stability– and that’s all paying off.
Until very recently I was still working two part-time jobs on top of my freelance work, but I just quit one of them. I kept them both for so long because I love them, but I also love how they give me just a little extra support while I’m growing my side hustle.
The financial benefits of my side hustle.
As we’ve lowered our expenses, my husband’s income and my part-time jobs are more than enough to cover our bills and savings, but my side hustle income is what we’re using to pay off our combined student loans. And those are in the six figures, GAH!
With no credit card debt, mortgage, or car payments, we can allocate as much of that side hustle income towards our student loans. I’m actually getting super pumped up about paying them off because I know what that means– more money for travel and retirement, and our planning says that retirement will likely happen in our early 50’s.
Seeing how my side hustle is making those goals attainable has made me even more motivated to continue growing my business.
With a side hustle, you are in control of your growth and success.
I used to be the type of person who just let things happen to me, and I rarely took accountability when things weren’t going well. That’s hard to admit, but I don’t think I’m alone.
When you’re working for others, no matter the size of the business you work for, they ultimately get to determine your pay, your hours, and your overall job security. Even if you are advocating for yourself, it’s really easy to fall into a system that looks at their bottom line over yours.
I think that was part of the problem for me, and starting my own business has helped me realize that my financial well-being is, for the most part, under my control.
While I do have a lot of things to say about privilege and how it aids your ability to control your income potential, I will keep it short: Proselytizing to lower-income families about how they all just need to “work harder” is crap. There are some situations when outside forces do work against you, and someone’s inability to be financially solvent isn’t always from a lack of trying.
Now that I’ve put that out there…
Beyond the obvious financial gains allowed by my side hustle, the personal gains are even greater. And even though freelancing can be a little terrifying at times, the risk of putting yourself out there is quantified for me in personal rewards.
Taking the next steps…
After starting a business, the biggest hurdle for any type of entrepreneur (a moniker I’m still not quite comfortable with) is learning how to increase your revenue and set goals to do so.
Like I said early in this post, I didn’t see my editing thing as much more than a little extra cash, so growth wasn’t something I even thought about. Despite working hard and taking it seriously, I think the fact that I used to refer to it as “my editing thing” is a good indicator of how I felt about it.
Now when I tell people what I do, I say, “I own an editing and writing business.” One of my kids even asked me to edit a book he’s writing called The Great Cat Wars– if my kid legitimizes my job, then I must have made it.
Taking ownership is liberating, but ownership also means I need to get comfortable with what entrepreneurs do, and that’s setting goals and working towards them.
For me, my long-term goal is writing, just writing, and one of the biggest steps I’ve taken towards achieving that goal, while also growing my business, is building up that front end stuff that makes my business more efficient. These are things I neglected when I didn’t realize that “my editing thing” would eventually turn into a full-time income, and having that efficiency and order in place will allow me to devote more time and energy towards my long-term goals.
Should you start a side-hustle?
You heard me admit to my skepticism, but still… Yes, Yes, Yes.
My initial doubt is a little hard to admit to the people I work within the personal finance world (sorry guys), but we have to be honest about this stuff because there is just too much crap online.
As I’ve gotten to know these people on a personal and professional level, I’ve seen that their businesses started at a similar place as my own– a side thing they didn’t first realize could be a full-time business.
Not everyone starting a side hustle, myself included, will reach the $100k per month mark that Bobby and Michelle are at, but we all can start something that gives us some financial flexibility.
I’ll admit that my entry into that world came from a pretty lucky break (I will always thank my brother-in-law for marrying Michelle and Michelle for introducing me to Bobby), but anyone can enter this world. Plus, a lucky break doesn’t mean you’ll succeed.
Your success is up to you on the internet. It’s a big place, there’s a lot of money floating around, and you’re the one who gets to stake your claim and leave a mark.