Turning a side hustle into self employment
This guest post from Crystal is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity and with all sorts of incomes. Crystal writes about finding the balance between paying the bills, saving for the future, and budgeting for the fun stuff at the aptly-titled Budgeting in the Fun Stuff.
Last time I guest posted here at GRS, it was March 2011 and I still had a day job. And it was a crappy day job. I worked in a customer service cubicle position for a company that seemed to go out of its way to tick its customers off. My 45 hours a week plus commutes earned me $26,500 annually before taxes and benefits when I started in June 2005 and $35,500 by the time I left in July 2011.
You read that correctly — I left. I quit and it felt so good! Here is how I turned my side hustle of blogging into my full time job.
Growing My Blog
I started Budgeting in the Fun Stuff in February 2010. I really just wanted to create an online community of personal finance geeks like me that knew how to have fun too. I've been posting daily at BFS ever since and have grown it into a site that gets more than 15,000 visitors a month. I know that isn't the biggest blog ever, but I am proud of it and am so thankful for all of my supporters.
If you are interested in growing your blog, I highly suggest commenting on other sites in your niche. Most of my readers seem to have found me through comments I have left elsewhere. Also, join a blogging forum that fits your site. I have learned so much from the people I've gotten to know through the Yakezie Network. I also think that guest posting truly helps. Not only do you build up links and your reputation online, but readers will start following you if your guest posts are interesting and fun to read.
Creating a Goal
As my blogging hobby grew, I started receiving emails from advertisers. I sold my first sidebar ad within 2 months. I then earned a Google Page Rank and started receiving even more offers. Within a year, I was bringing in about $850 a month from direct ads. I was very excited but knew I'd need at least 3 times that to quit my full time job.
My husband and I sat down and created a goal in March 2011. Specifically, we decided on my blogging target number — $2500 a month from online income on average for 4 months in a row with no less than $2000 in any given month. In short, I needed to make $10,000 in a 4 month period before I could comfortably quit. At the time, I thought I was about a year away from hitting that number. I had no idea what was about to happen.
Starting My Business
In April 2011, Kay Lynn from Bucksome Boomer made a suggestion that has literally changed my life. She knew I enjoyed negotiating with advertisers based on comments I had left in the Yakezie forums. She also knew that she hated it, so she asked if I'd run her advertising for her. We worked out the details and I started nearly immediately. Within a few weeks, I decided to offer my services to others. By the end of May 2011, I had 12 ad clients. I added another 17 in June and it just kept growing by leaps and bounds from there.
Since I make a commission from the deals I close, running the advertising for others meant that my own online income started growing way faster than I ever could have imagined. I also started staff writing like crazy to supplement. I hit $3750 in March thanks to three big ad deals on my own sites. April brought in about $2100 thanks to my new business. Then May brought in about $2050. So I was at $7900 and June came in at more than $5100!!! I was astounded!
In July 2011, I hit a wall. I couldn't grow my online business and work my day job anymore. I was putting in about 45 hours a week at my day job (and sneaking in a ton of blogging time). Then I'd come home and put in another 5 hours each week day and full 8-10 hour days on the weekends in order to keep up with my online work — like writing for my own blogs, running my ad business, and writing and editing the posts for my 11 staff writing positions. I was literally working 85 hours a week on a slow week. So I quit.
I gave my notice in early July and walked out a free woman on July 15th, 2011. I was happy. I was excited. And I was scared.
Self Employment has been Kind
I now run the joint advertising emails for more than 80 bloggers with a total of more than 100 sites. I get to help a ton of bloggers like Kay Lynn. Some of my clients just don't enjoy dealing with advertising, some don't have the time, and some want access to more advertising contacts.
I also still staff write for two other sites, continue to post daily at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, and post weekly on How I Make Money Blogging. I pay myself $1650 every two weeks with $500 of that being diverted into an account for taxes when they are due. My best self employment months so far have been October 2011 and December 2011 when I made more than $18,500 and $25,000 respectively! These two months have proven to be outliers, but $8000-$10,000 a month seems to be the norm. We are saving a third of the extra cash for taxes and using the rest to pay off our mortgage early and to invest more for our future.
Moral of the Story
I am living proof that anyone can achieve whatever they want with the right mixture of ability, persistence, time, and luck. And that mixture is different for everyone. For example, I am finally using my college degree in Marketing to help others and fund myself. I am persistent enough to follow through on all of my obligations. I had the time to put in during those 80-100 hour work weeks earlier this year and continue to put in about 50-60 hour weeks now. I was lucky enough to have a key strength pointed out to me by Kay Lynn in April 2011 and followed through.
Maybe someone will need to substitute some time for ability or add in some persistence in place of luck, but I know there is a right mixture for anyone willing to go for it. Good luck!