5 Ways I Turned My Side Hustle Into My Primary Income

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I started working when I was fourteen. I was just beginning high school and working part time in the food services industry. Seven years later and I’ve worked a total of ten different jobs! This work has ranged from food services to nannying to hospitality and now, proudly, I work full time as a writer. 

I am in the last year of my undergraduate degree in Professional Writing and I truly never expected to be a full time writer before I even graduated! But, what was once just a side hustle is now my primary income source.

This didn’t happen overnight. I had to work hard and am continually doing so to build the foundation of the career I have always dreamed of. But, there are specific choices I made that have helped get me this far!

I made connections

I was able to get my gig with MAG, as well as the freelance work I’ve done thus far through establishing professional relationships.

Establishing relationships, despite the initial lack of pay, is work that will pay you in the long run.

This is a bit of a side hustle dependent tip, but typically if you’re building your career on your own you’re going to need a support system. I’ve been lucky to have advice, guidance, and make further connections because of the people I invest my time in. And those who have been generous enough to invest their time in me.

You have to sell yourself!

Why are you a person worth connecting with? For me, I actually made a list to answer this question:

  • Strong writing talent
  • Variety of editing skills
  • I am creative and offer a unique voice
  • I am not only willing, but eager to learn

From that point, my goal was to exude and own these characteristics amidst new relationships. If I’m eager to learn, I have to show it. This is why I keep in meaningful contact with writing professors I admire and people in the fields in which I am writing in. I even have a close connection with my interviewer for an internship position I didn’t end up getting.

Truthfully, I would not be continually succeeding at different levels if it weren’t for the people I go to for guidance (and sometimes for more jobs!) 

I put myself out there

Similarly to making connections, this takes a bit of gut. But it is so important.

For me, putting myself out there meant seeking more responsibility in my current job, as well as spending time seeking it elsewhere. I regularly write down ideas I have and work on drafting pitches to send to magazines and blogs that they adhere to.

There have been moments when I’ve hesitated to do this, but you never know if someone will like your work unless they have a chance to see it. And, despite rejections, the times when others have said yes to working with me have been so sweet!

If you deserve a raise, ask for it

Part of what helped Tori Dunlap, millennial money and career expert, earn $100 000 by the time she was just 25 was asking for raises!

I recently did the same and despite how scary it can feel, it feels even better to know you’re earning more because your hard work justifies it.

If you’re unsure about how to approach this, Bridget wrote an article that will help you do so in 7 steps : How To Negotiate Your Salary.

I stuck to a schedule

I dedicated time to my writing to build a portfolio, ensuring it is high quality and desirable for potential clients. This includes scheduling time to work on things that, to be blatantly honest, won’t make money immediately. 

Along with the personal finance writing I do here at MAG, I am a creative writer and poet. This part of my side hustle is important to me, despite the lack of funds it brings into my bank account.

I schedule time to work on my more creative work despite my manuscript being more of a long-term project. It is valuable to be working on it in moments when I am most inspired, which is why I do. In fact, I even set aside time every few months to meet with faculty members at my school and get their opinions, advice, and sometimes edits, of the work.

Time is money

As my favourite Parks and Recreation character April Ludgate said: time is money.

Okay, so maybe she wasn’t the first to say this, but neither am I, right? Plus, it’s true!

The more time I have for my work, the better the outcome. And the better the outcome, the more money it will make me in the long run. Once I adopted this mindset, every minute of my productivity felt that much more valuable.

I found flexible side jobs

Yes, what was once just a side hustle is now how I make most of my money. But, I’m still a broke student and having side jobs that are flexible and that I can rely on is incredibly helpful. 

In fact, the difference now is that my primary source of income now is something I actually enjoy. I no longer have to spread cream cheese on bagels for eight hours and that is something to celebrate!

Using websites like Care and Rover I’ve been able to make money on top of my writing. There are even more sites like this that help you set up a profile and offer your services as a babysitter and/or pet-sitter. 

If you’re looking for a new side-gig amidst a career shift, you can also consider monetizing another hobby/talent or take on a part time job to help yourself make money!

I started an emergency fund

What’s scarier about career-building than the fear of some terrible, personal downfall? Nothing!

I’m starting to think seriously about my career in ways I wouldn’t have expected myself to before my twenties (I’m 21, hi!) and this means planning for emergencies. Considering how independent my career path is, I am the only person I can consistently rely on. But like I said, I’m still a broke student! And saving when you live the life of cheap pasta for dinner every night, can be daunting.

Thus far, the $20 emergency fund has been my method of saving. It’s a low-pressure way to build some backup-money for whenever I may need it. 

I keep these savings in a high-interest savings account. Of all the bank accounts a person should have, this is the best for building your emergency fund.

Honestly, without the promise to myself that I’d save while I chased my dreams, this would not be possible. My diligence in saving has been a requirement for my transition from writing as a side hustle to my full time work. It keeps me on track and ensures that the money I earn is being used in ways that will not only sustain me, but help me build my career.

From side hustler to career woman?

Well, not quite.

Like I said, I still have my fair share of side-gigs that keep me afloat. But, I’m proud to say that I’m a writer when  people ask me what I do now. Most of the work I do feels meaningful because I know I am using my talents successfully. And it makes moving forward in my career that much more exciting!

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About Author

Professional Writing student at York University, Toronto. Fascinated by the relationship between oppression, mental health, and money. Writer, avid TV watcher, and poetry obsessed. You can support more of her work at patreon.com/emnortonwrites

2 Comments

  1. It’s great to hear from a personal perspective describing the growth of a side gig. So many people start something but few continue on through and have success. Most importantly, you (Emily) wrote that you enjoy the type of work you do, which is something that people all too often overlook. Doing something you like (writing, in your case) and achieving some level of financial success has enabled you to quit doing something you don’t like (spreading cream cheese on bagels). I can relate that it’s definitely a good feeling when you can turn doing something you enjoy into a money earner.

    • Thanks for the comment! I totally agree, it’s awesome to not only earn money on my own terms, but through something I seriously enjoy doing!

      Wishing you all the best!