One reader shares his PeerStory and experience making big money through a four-month side hustle plan.
Today's PeerStory is from Nelson Granger and a perfect wrap to our five-week series on making extra money online. Nelson wrote in after he read the first two week's posts on the site about How to Make Money Writing Online and How to Make Money Crowdfunding. He had tried several ways to make money and made over $4,000 on his side hustle strategy in just a few months.
Check out the other posts in our how to make extra money series:
How to Make Money Freelancing and 9 Website Resources
How to Make Money Online Selling on Craigslist
Ways to Make Extra Cash: All the Rest
If you're unfamiliar with the term side hustle, it's just another term for having your own business. Side hustles are less formal than starting and running your own full-time business. Think of a side hustle as something you might do for a few hours a week or on the weekends. Side hustle jobs are a great way to turn your hobby into something you get paid for doing and can grow into a full-time job and a way out of the rat race.
That's why side hustles should be a part of everyone's long-term plan for financial freedom. It can be a way out of the 9-to-5 and into doing something you enjoy for the rest of your life. It's not all roses, though. There's a reason it's called a ‘side hustle,' but put in a bit of work, and you'll start seeing more money from referrals and past customers.
Nelson's story is excellent and typical of the average side hustle story. Follow his experience, and you'll have your own side hustle story to share in no time.
My Side Hustle Story
I started learning about the ‘side hustle' in 2006 during my junior year at the University of California, San Diego. I was working part-time at a franchise coffee shop which will remain nameless but let's say I wasn't making big ‘Bucks.' I needed a way to pay for more of my tuition and living costs instead of allowing the student loans to pile up. Tuition and fees for the next semester would be nearly $5,000, and I didn't want to take it all out in loans.
I figured if I could make at least a few grand in addition to the three days a week I was working at the coffee shop, I would not have to take out any loans for the next semester. I talked to my parents about the idea and they agreed to spot me the money upfront so I wouldn't have to take out another student loan, on the condition that I would repay them from side jobs or through a student loan next year.
First, I guess not everyone is familiar with the term ‘side hustle'; I know I wasn't when I first started learning about it. A side hustle is just another term for a part-time gig or job. It is different from a job in that you don't have a set schedule and are just picking up extra money for projects here and there.
I got turned on to the idea by another student picking up a little extra money writing programming code and doing IT jobs. My major was Business Administration, so there was no way I would be writing code, but he assured me there were many other ways to make a little extra money. I spent the rest of 2006, about half of November and all of December, learning about different ways to make money.
My $4,000 Side Hustle Strategy
By January, I was ready to go with a few different ideas but I wanted to set things up first. I set up a simple website to talk about myself and some of the things I could do. Since my focus was on marketing and I had interned with a local marketing firm over the summer, I decided that my best bet would be in that field.
I posted on my website some experiences and examples of sales copy and promotional material that I had written. I started a profile on the freelancer site Elance and talked to friends and everyone I could about picking up a little extra work.
Your website isn't a requirement to succeed in your side hustle story, but it's a good start. Having your own site gives you more credibility with customers. You also get to profile your skills and experience in more detail than you will on other sites. Putting together a basic website is probably easier than you think. Through Bluehost WordPress Hosting, you can have a site online in less than an hour.
I got my first gig in February, tutoring a 13-year-old for a local family in response to my Craigslist ad. It wasn't much, but it paid $15 an hour for four hours a week and would last about two and a half months. I took it because I hadn't seen much from anything else.
By the end of February, I had made an additional $150. Not great, but it was a start.
I got lucky in March when I got in touch with the blog of a marketing magazine through a contact at the firm I had interned the summer before. The blog was looking for a weekly writer to provide two articles and do some rewrite pages on the site. They offered $100 per article and $150 for each page I would rewrite. I figured it would take a couple of hours a week to write each article, and I could rewrite the web pages, there were four, over spring break.
Still working on my tutoring gig; by the end of March, I had made an additional $1,590 and was excited about where my side hustle story was going!
In April 2007, the real estate bubble had not quite popped yet, but real estate agents and firms were starting to worry. I landed a gig with two real estate agents to write sales copy for a few advertisements they wanted to run in newspapers and local TV. They had seen my Craigslist ad for marketing copywriting. They were willing to pay me $200 per piece but the copy would be a little longer than a general article, and I had to promise as many revisions as they wanted. I wrote two advertisements for them in the last week of the month.
My tutoring gig wrapped up in April, but I can't say that I was sorry to see it go. The family was nice enough, but the money wasn't worth the time and transportation cost. I learned from my side hustle story that you need to ask for more than you would normally want for a per-hour job because you might only be working a couple of hours but will have transportation time and set-up time. I was making between $35 to $60 an hour on other projects, depending on how quickly I could write, so a $15 an hour tutoring job just didn't make sense.
Beyond these two, I wrote for the magazine's blog throughout the month. By the end of the month, I had made just over $3,000 and was starting to see some real money come in from my side hustle strategy.
May was a tough month because I had to study for finals and follow through on my side hustle strategy. I had one month more to work because I wanted to start another internship during the summer. Besides the articles I provided to the magazine blog, the real estate firm needed another two sales pieces written. The second one they wanted was a smaller spot so I agreed to do it for $100 instead of the regular $200.
By the end of the month, I had made $4,130 from my side hustle story over the four and a half months. In addition to the money from my part-time job, I was able to pay my parents off completely. It wasn't easy work, and in hindsight, I probably got lucky finding some of the gigs, but it was a great experience.
For people considering making money with a side hustle, I would recommend a few points:
- Don't waste your time with freelance websites. I spent hours responding to project requests and never got anything from the sites. Instead, you might want to check out Fiverr.com as a way to get started. Freelancers post smaller projects on Fiverr for $5 each and upsell for more money. It's also a great site for getting things done that you don't want to do.
- Ask for more than you think you will get for a project. You may have to negotiate down and want to be happy with the amount you finally agree to take. Plus, you want to make enough to make up for the time you have to spend searching for gigs also, which can be quite a few hours each week.
- Talk to everyone you know about your experience and what you are offering. I got my most lucrative gig from talking to someone at the prior year's internship.
- Only side hustle jobs you enjoy doing. Sometimes they don't pay much, or you might be stressed out from other responsibilities. It makes it a million times easier if you enjoy your work.
On top of Nelson's suggestions, I'd say that Udemy is a good resource for preparing for your side hustle story. The online education site offers video classes for as little as $10 each and can be a great way to update your skills for your side hustle strategy. Develop your skills enough, and you can make good money by posting your own video on the site.
I want to thank Nelson for sharing his story. If you have a PeerStory about a personal finance challenge or success you've had, please share it through the blog.
About the Author
Joseph Hogue is a financial expert and investment analyst. After serving in the Marine Corps, he started his career investing in real estate before becoming an investment analyst for some of the largest private investors. He's appeared on Bloomberg and on CNBC as an investment expert and has published ten books in personal finance. Now he helps investors reach their financial goals and invest in the stock market with some of the same advice he used when working for the rich.