Today’s post comes from Neal Frankle, a Certified Financial Planner in Los Angeles. Neal reached out to me with an inspiring story about how earning $100 through his WealthPilgrim.com blog — after a year of blogging — turned out to be a life-changing moment.
Read this if you find yourself falling into the comparison trap of reading about sky-high income reports and overnight successes. Even little wins can turn into massive results over time.
If you’ve got a business that generates even $200 (or less), it can change your life.
I know this first-hand because that’s what happened to me.
(And if you don’t have such a business now, you are in the right place to find one. Nick’s site is a goldmine full of business ideas and he tells you exactly how to implement them.)
I’m a successful money manager, but back in 2008 I was in a world of pain.
The market was disintegrating; my clients’ portfolio values were sinking along with my own investment accounts. My business and my income were in a free fall. Everything I worked so hard to build up over 25 years was on the verge of collapse.
I was scared stiff and decided I had to diversify my income. That’s when I launched WealthPilgrim – a personal finance blog. As Nick often says, blogging is not the best or fastest side business to work but it does illustrate my point.
It took me a long time to earn $100 a month because I didn’t know what I was doing. I wasted all kinds of time building out an information product – with no one to sell it to. I only had 50 subscribers at the time.
Fortunately, other bloggers befriended me and helped me understand SEO and the importance of targeted traffic. At this point, I focused on writing – both for my own blog and reaching out to A-list bloggers offering to write a guest post for them. The advantage I had was that I was a Certified Financial Planner® (CFP) and that helped me get my foot in the door.
Still, it took about a year before I had my first $100 month. Using the same formula of writing targeted posts and guest posting, my traffic slowly grew. It took another good two years longer before I started earning $2,000 a month consistently.
I’ve been blogging now for about 6 years and my revenue has certainly grown.
Nick’s Notes: It didn’t take a full year for SHN to start earning $100 a month, but it wasn’t overnight either. You have to convince yourself you’re building an asset around this body of work that maybe, just maybe, will eventually pay you back.
Nick’s Notes: I think this is a perfect illustration of the compound effect. Just like investing over time, the cumulative learning, habits, content creation, SEO, and blogging experience all compound to increase your earnings over time. The exciting thing is just like with stocks, it can be exponential; not just linear.
But I would have never stuck it out had I not reached that $100 a month mark. When I saw that I could earn money – even just $100 – it transformed my life and gave me the encouragement to keep going.
At that point, I knew I had a business that earned money – and one I built all on my own. It didn’t make any difference that the amount was a pittance. I knew that I could increase the traffic and the income would follow. All I had to do was continue my writing plan.
I felt excited, purposeful, and positive.
Let’s break this down to see how even a tiny side business can upgrade your life big time.
The Building Blocks – Realize What You’ve Got
If you have a business that brings in, let’s say $200 a month, you have an amazing asset.
You may not realize it yet, but you really do. Lots of people dream about creating a side gig and that’s as far as they get. You are the 1 person in a thousand who has actually done something and made it work. You really need to celebrate that.
Like I said, I had to work for a very long time to earn $100 a month with my blog and I can tell you it was much harder to make that first $100 than it was to earn the next $5,000.
If you’re already at the $200 level, you’ve really done something you should be proud of because it’s rare.
It’s important to keep this success in your mind because your mind will attack you. Along the way, when things get hard, your brain will tell you that you aren’t successful, that it’s not worth it and your business will never grow.
Step 2 – Harness The Power
Let’s assume that your business is sustainable, is capable of growing and is worth your time. Let’s also assume that you aren’t in debt and you’ve got your emergency account set up.
Your next step is to start reaping the benefits of all you’ve done so far.
You’ve got $200 coming in so I want you to put aside $100 every month for your future. If you can only afford to put $25 aside, that’s OK too. If you can afford to put the entire $200 away, so much the better.
The amount you save isn’t important right now. What’s important is to commit to a systematic approach to build your wealth. The easiest way to do that is to set up an automatic investment plan with a brokerage custodian or mutual fund company and make sure you are comfortable with the amount.
When you set up such a plan, the investment company takes that $100 right out of your bank account at the start of every month and invests it for you without you having to do a thing. That means you don’t have to think about it, and it also means you can’t spend the money.
Nick’s Notes: This is about paying yourself first, and the habit of automatic savings and investing. If you have plans to reinvest your profits in your business, that’s cool too, and Neal will address that below.
Side Note: For right now, don’t get too hung up on how to invest this money. My suggestion is to use a broadly-based low-cost index fund or index ETF. Talk to your financial planner for other ideas.
Step 3 – Turbocharge Your Success
After your auto invest plan is in place for 3 to 6 months, it’s time to take it up a notch.
In a perfect world, I’d like you to double the amount you save. If you are saving $25 a month now, can you take it up to $50? If you are saving $100 a month now, would $200 work? If you can’t reach that level, it’s fine. Do as much as you can without putting yourself in a difficult position elsewhere.
Theoretically, it shouldn’t be that tough to ratchet up that savings because hopefully your business is doing better over time and your spending remains at a similar level as before.
If neither of these conditions are true, it’s time to dig deeper and solve those problems. And don’t overlook the power of having a spending plan. My experience is that when people simply track what is going out, they magically find ways to cut waste and save more. Try it – you’ll like it.
Notice what’s happening here.
At this point, you’ve really taken control of your financial life in a way that few people really do. It’s not the money that transforms your life – it’s the success.
You’ve been successful at:
- Creating a business that generates growing profits.
- Making your financial future your priority by funding it first.
- Making a mindful spending plan.
- Leveraging your success by setting up an automatic investment plan and increasing your monthly investments every 3 to 6 months.
I’ll be frank. My goal for you is to get to a point where you can bank $2000 a month. You do that by growing your business and increasing your savings every 3 to 6 months.
If you do that for 10 years and earn just 6% on the money, you’ll have more than $325,000 after 10 years. And if you keep at it for 20 years – you’ll have close to $1 million.
And even if you bank just $200 a month, the results are impressive. In ten years, that will grow to over $32,000 and it balloons to almost $93,000 in 20 years. I promise that you won’t feel that $200 a month leaving your checking account each month but you’ll certainly appreciate that extra $32,000 or $93,000 down the road.
Can you see why I get so excited about this? Your side hustle that is maybe only bringing in $200 a month today could be the springboard for your entire retirement plan.
If you don’t think your business can grow to this level, that might be OK. Run your numbers and see if you are OK with the result. If you are, fine. If not, look for ways to either expand your existing business or move into something that has more opportunity.
What You Need To Do Right Now
Today, while you’re still excited about this, I want you to put this plan in action.
- Set up your automated investment plan today. Remember, you can always change the amount whenever you want. It’s better to go up than down so start with an amount you know you can afford.
- Pick a day 3 to 6 months from now to review your savings amount and put it in your calendar – now. At that point, your goal will be to double the amount you put aside. If you can’t hit that number, do the best you can.
- Rinse and repeat every 3 to 6 months. Double your savings number (or as much as you can) until you can save $2000 a month.
Of course, once you hit your goal, there is no reason to stop. You can continue to increase your monthly investments as much as you like. If you do, it will only make your financial future brighter. But I like to have an end goal in mind when I start off. It just makes it easier to stay in the game when I can see a finish line.
If you want to take this exercise to the “Seal Team 6” level, I recommend you go through your spending plan immediately. That might be a great way to really bump up your savings.
And those who are super serious, I recommend you ask someone to be your accountability partner. You’ll check in with that person every month to tell them how you are doing. Are you hitting your goals? Are you staying on task? What challenges are you facing?
What If You Want To Use Your Side Hustle Cash To Replace Your Day Job Income?
No problem. In fact, great idea.
But if that’s your plan, you’ll have to slow down the rate at which you build your auto-investing plan. I still recommend you start off with $25 once you start earning $200 a month consistently. But rather than double it every 3 to 6 months, add $25 to it each period if possible. In other words, after the first period of auto-investing $25 a month, you’d bump it to $50 a month. Then, after the next 3 to 6 months, increase it another $25 smackers to $75 if possible and continue with that template.
While your retirement nest egg will grow a little more slowly, you’ll gain a lot more freedom by reinvesting into your business and accelerating its growth to leave your job faster.
Nick’s Notes: It’s not a race to replace your day job income, but rather enough to cover your monthly expenses. If your goal is to get out of your job, your current salary is largely irrelevant; your ability to pay your obligations is what matters. And keep in mind you’ll be freeing up at least an extra 40 hours a week when you quit.
When I started my blog, my goal was to generate enough income to pay my mortgage if my business didn’t recover. Once the blog brought in just a little bit of money, I knew I was on the right path. I started an auto invest plan and now, seven years later, I can’t believe what it’s grown to.
Had I not done that I probably would have spent the money as it came in. But by putting that money to work – even though it was a very small amount at first – I got motivated and inspired. I saw what my little business could do and how it could change my entire financial life. I had something tangible to show for all the work I put in.
Do you think this will work for you? Could a $200 side hustle change your financial future?
(top image credit)