One reader shares his Side Hustle Story and experience making big money through part-time side jobs from home
Today’s article was originally on my personal finance blog, PeerFinance101, as a reader story from Nelson Granger. Nelson had been following our five-week series on making extra money online and wanted to share his side hustle story of how he paid for college with part-time side jobs from home. He tried several ways to make money and ended up making over $4,000 on his side hustle strategy in just a few months.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term side hustle, it just means having your own business or part-time jobs where you work for yourself. 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.
Nelson's 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 up front 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 really 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 that was 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 write 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 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 done an internship 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 a freelancer website and started talking to friends and everyone I could about picking up a little extra work.
Your website isn’t required 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. You can have a site online in less than an hour through Blue Host WordPress hosting.
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 put 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 were offering $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 my tutoring gig as well, 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 ended up writing 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 just wasn’t worth the time and transportation cost. One thing I learned from my side hustle story is that you need to ask for more than you would typically 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 as well. 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 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 could pay my parents off ultimately. It wasn’t easy to 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 then upsell into more money. It’s also an excellent 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 you 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 the job's responsibilities will stress you out. It makes it a million times more manageable if you enjoy what you are doing.
On top of Nelson’s suggestions, I’d throw in 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 as well.
I want to thank Nelson for sharing his side hustle story and process for how you can make money on part-time jobs. Now it's your turn! What's your strategy for finding freelance jobs online? In what ways have you turned a hobby or part-time job into real money?