How I am side hustling my way to financial independence

I’m side hustling my way to financial independence by selling these temporary tattoos for bachelorette parties on the internet.

They are gold, sparkly and say ridiculous things such as “bride tribe” and “wolf pack.” Women buy them from me on Etsy at an insane markup and usually in packs of 15 or 20. They wear them on their faces and arms when they are out with their girlfriends celebrating the bride-to-be at a Vegas pool party, on the streets of Nashville, or in the clubs of Miami.

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I also sell printable scavenger hunts for bachelorettes to use on their bar crawls.

These products sell at an even better margin. I make a simple checklist one-time and then have hundreds of people download for $7 each. They print them at home and I don’t have to do anything after the sale.

The only “expense” is my time up front to make the checklist and the minimal Etsy transaction fees. I much prefer selling the printables because I don’t have to worry about shipping or inventory.

I’m on the path to financial independence and I think it’s silly that people will pay so much for throwaway products for one-time events. Originally, I got into this side hustle though because the money was there.

And, I didn’t even have a bachelorette party for my own wedding.

I guess you could call me an entrepreneur now and the crazy thing is that I was never like this before. I went from someone who didn’t have the confidence to put myself out there, the type of person who would rather binge watch HGTV on Saturday mornings than work on a project, to a full-fledged side hustler.

Last year I made $40,000 on my side hustles on top of my day job. This was not my planned path to financial independence but it’s the quickest way there for me.

My Journey to Financial Independence Started In Debt

I learned about the concept of financial independence retire early (FIRE) when I was paying down my student loans. My now-husband and I woke up one day and realized that we were over $100,000 in debt.

I say we realized it suddenly because before this time we honestly didn’t know that debt was that bad. Everyone we knew had student loans, a car payment, and a collection of stuff financed on credit cards.

We became super motivated once we realized how bad of a situation we actually were in.

We made a series of financial decisions right in a row after this point that was critical to our journey out of debt.

  • I sold my car eliminating a car loan and a nearly $400 monthly car payment.
  • We got engaged and chose a moissanite stone for my ring instead of a diamond (cost of $300 versus thousands).
  • I went to tons of networking events and landed a job in Silicon Valley that required us to move but also came with a big salary boost.
  • We sold nearly $5,000 of our financed furniture on Craigslist and then rented our house out to cover the mortgage.

During this time we didn’t eat out, said no to plans with friends (ironically I turned down attending a bachelorette party which ruffled some feathers), and we focused 100 percent on paying down our debt.

With the increased income and our low expenses, we were able to pay off the debt in under 2 years. When we got married in December 2016, we were 100% debt free.

Next, I Tried All of The Fancy FI Strategies

The next logical step was to try out all of the fancy FI strategies that I had been reading about on the blogs for years but couldn’t partake in because 100% of our money was going to debt payoff.

I was fortunate enough to have both the income and the employer plan that allowed the Mega Backdoor Roth. I took real pleasure every time I called my 401k plan provider and asked them to roll my after-tax contributions into my Roth IRA. And, I practically giggled with joy when hitting my traditional 401k limit before year-end.

The first time I performed a Roth conversion from my Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA I was a little nervous but I was digging it in a way that only FIRE nerds would understand.

If I had to explain what I was doing to the financial provider, I was a little annoyed but also secretly pumped that I had learned what I thought were the secrets of the financial game.

PS – I screwed up the Roth conversion majorly by not knowing about the pro rata rule. Rookie mistake!

But, I still wasn’t satisfied

You would think that I would be content with this phase to FI but I found myself growing a bit impatient. I was working towards the goal of saving 25 times our annual expenses and I felt that even our rapid progress to FI was too slow for me.

We loved hiking in Colorado, good coffee, and international travel. We didn’t love office lights, 24/7 work schedules, and limited vacation days – no matter how luckywe were to have our jobs and great coworkers.

I also wanted to save even more in tax-advantaged accounts once I hit what I thought was the max. My husband wasn’t eligible for a 401k and I wanted to contribute on his behalf so we could double max out.

I started researching to see what else I could possibly do to sock more money away. That is when I came across the Solo 401k and I made it my goal to create one for my business. I found out I could put away an additional 25% of business profits in tax-advantaged savings.

The only problem is that I had no business. I didn’t make any money on the side and didn’t feel like I had the time or any good ideas to do so.

Enter the Side Hustling Path to FI

I listened to a bunch of podcasts and somehow found the inspiration to give this side hustling thing a go. I had a hobby blog that was about our student loan payoff journey that I decided to monetize.

Also, I wrote more strategic, well-organized blog posts such as a step-by-step instruction guide on how we DIY’d our wedding flowers instead of going with a florist, bringing the cost of flowers to less than $400 from $4000.

We had a budget Game of Thrones-themed wedding and I reviewed the different companies and service providers we used and how we saved. These posts were monetized with links to a few products that I had used for the wedding and I received a small commission if anyone purchased them.

The hardest part was trying to attract people who were looking for that information to the blog.

Many people are afraid of “selling” but what I found is if you can attract someone looking for that exact information at the exact time they want it, you’ll never have to sell anything because that information is what the person wants right then.

And as someone who does not like putting myself out there, I definitely did not want to do any selling at all. Attracting the right person at the right time was a tricky skill to learn though.

I experimented with running Pinterest ads and used them to attract budget-inclined brides ready to DIY their weddings to my site. After some costly failures, I found the Pinterest strategy that worked!

The site quickly became profitable for me. I was able to introduce many new readers who came to my site for the wedding information to the concept of financial independence and retiring early as well which is a double win. I now receive emails from people who said the first time they ever found out about financial independence was from my site.

The fire is spreading!

I also started my side hustling Etsy shop and a podcast about financial independence during this time. On the podcast, we’ve interviewed over 150 people about their path to financial independence including Steve! The podcast gave me even more ideas about side hustling and increasing my income as a strategy to FI.

In 2017, I was able to achieve my goal of opening up a Solo 401k and saving 25% of my profits.

I also contributed to the Solo 401k on behalf of my husband so he could hit his 401k match, after having him work for me on the blog. He is not a FIRE-person by any means but he wrote a post about how he no longer wants to buy a truck that has been a hit with Google traffic. He is happily employed by my site as a very occasional guest writer.

What’s Next for my Side Hustle?

In 2018, my side hustling revenue topped out at $40,000. Although I still work full-time and I’m a very career motivated person, I do feel great that I have more options on my path to financial independence. I know I don’t have to wait until we save 25 times our expenses to try something new or different.

I’m actually much more intrigued by the idea of being an entrepreneur right now than I am about retiring early. It is possible to find fulfilling work that gives my husband and me the time and location freedom we desire. If I didn’t like my job so much, we would probably be living the FI lifestyle now while continuing to build passive income or our first company.

In August of this year, we’ll be having our first child and I’ve heard that changes things. I do feel good that we have a nest egg built up and profitable income streams coming in as we move into this new phase of our lives.

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