In November of 2018, I began a freelance writing side hustle. I’ll never forget the thrill of landing my first client. Somebody was actually willing to pay me to write about personal finance.
Honestly, the pay was lousy but at the time I could care less. I had a “legitimate” side hustle writing about personal finance.
Seven months later, this past May, I quit my day job to become a full-time freelance writer.
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It’s been a crazy ride to say the least. I never would have thought that this transition could have happened so quickly.
But a few money decisions I made helped to make it possible.
1. I built up my emergency fund
As a personal finance nerd, I’ve preached to so many people about the importance of having an emergency fund. But the experiences of this past year have caused me to see first-hand what a huge deal an emergency fund really is.
I knew that once I launched full-time, there were going to be ups and downs when it came to my monthly income. I wanted to be able to weather the storms without tripling my blood pressure.
Over the past seven years of our marriage, my wife and I have always tried to save at least 10% of our income in our “rainy day” fund. And whenever we’d get “unexpected” money like from a gift, bonus, or tax refund, we’d try to put a large portion of it away in our Wells Fargo savings account as well.
With just these simple steps, we were able to save up about four months worth of living expenses.
That was a good start. But it was in the next step where we were really able to kick our savings rate int overdrive.
2. I saved all my side hustle income
If you’re not planning on quitting your day job, then feel free to use your side hustle income on whatever you’d like.
But for me, I knew I wanted to turn my side hustle into a full-time job. And for that reason, I resisted the urge to spend any of the money that I brought in from November to May.
Instead, that money went straight into our savings account, increasing our savings to over a year’s worth of living expenses. Of all the personal finance decisions I made, I think this one was the most important.
I’ll be honest. Sometimes it was really hard to not touch that money.
I was waking up every morning writing from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. and then working my day job from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. And then sometimes writing again from 10 p.m. to midnight.
It was exhausting and I wasn’t getting to experience any immediate reward for my labor. I was often tempted to just sit back and enjoy some of this extra money that we all-of-a-sudden had lying around.
But with every check that I deposited into my account, I felt more confident that I’d be able to take care of my family no matter what … even after leaving the security of a salaried job.
As it turns out, the freelance writing business is doing great and I don’t think we’re going to need to touch any of that money for living expenses. So we’re now planning to use some of it towards a rental property and move the rest into a high-yield savings account like Ally or Wealthfront.
3. I invested in myself
While I didn’t use any of my side hustle income on regular expenses, I did spend money on things that would help me grow my writing career.
In October, I spent $400 on a ticket to a personal finance media conference. It ended up being the best $400 I’ve ever spent because the vast majority of my clients have come a result of connections I made there.
Later on, at the end of November, I bought a writing course for $200 that a fellow writer recommended. Again, it was worth every penny because it taught me the ins and outs of what it takes to be a professional writer.
For someone who hates to spend money on himself, I felt a twinge of guilt when I clicked the “buy” button on that ticket and the course. But, looking back, I don’t regret them one bit.
Don’t ever be afraid to invest in “you.”
4. I waited to launch out full-time until my side hustle was earning more than my day job
By the time I stepped down from my day job, I was already bringing in (slightly) more income from my writing side hustle.
And remember, this was while only being able to allocate around 15-20 hours a week to writing. With this in mind, I felt confident that I’d only increase my income once I was writing full-time.’
Again, this helped make leaving my day job a nearly stress-free decision.
I should point that I don’t necessarily think that everyone needs to be making more money from their side hustle than their day job before they launch out full-time. But a good rule of thumb would be to wait until you’re side hustle is bringing in at least half of the income of your day job.
The bottom line is that you don’t want to launch out too early. Even if you’re chomping at the bit to launch out full-time, make sure the numbers look solid first.
If they don’t, hang in there and stay patient until they do.