In June of 2016, I stood on a beach in Florida and married my wife Ally. I expected the run up to our wedding to be a bit hectic, but what I hadn't accounted for was getting laid off a month before saying "I do."
As part of my severance, I received a bonus after agreeing to stay on until the end of September to train the person they were going to be outsourcing all my duties to. I also was able to land a 100% remote gig with a start date immediately following my last day with the retail IT company that was laying me off.
I thought I was rolling in the dough. A small bonus, severance, and a remote gig waiting for me? What could go wrong? But six months later, I was laid off again, except this time it was much more abrupt. That week was my last: no severance, no offer to stick around for a mini bonus, no PTO payout, nothing.
At the time, my wife and I had no savings, which was one of the reasons why we opted to elope in Florida with just the two of us rather than taking on the cost of a wedding. We had $35,000 of debt from credit cards, hospital debt and student loans, and later our car loan.
The back-to-back layoff experience got me thinking. It felt like depending wholly on one source of income was just waiting for when that one source would be gone. I refused to be in that position again.
After the first layoff, I started a blog called I Like to Dabble. At first it was just a hobby, and I wrote about my craft projects, but I soon realized that I preferred actually crafting to writing about it. So I decided to make the blog about the one thing I knew more about than anything else: side hustling. It was something I'd been doing since I was a teenager, with gigs like selling my paintings at festivals and fixing up and reselling game consoles on Craigslist.
After I was laid off the second time, I realized that I could monetize the blog. Writing about side hustles and my financial life, working on I Like to Dabble motivated me to stay on track and accountable, and the income from the blog, alongside my full-time job as a software engineer, helped me to pay off that $35,000 in two and a half years. Today, the blog has 100,000 monthly users, and my nine revenue streams bring in anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 each month.
Here is how I did it.
I spent about $100 to purchase a domain name, hosting, and security for two years. With my background in web development, I already had a lot of the skills I needed to try and make this a full-fledged resource website, but I knew that there were still new things I could learn to make the blog the best it could be. With help from a lot of Googling and YouTube tutorials, I experimented, wrote, coded, and designed during early mornings, late nights, and weekends. The more work I put into it, the more I wanted to do.
I didn't immediately monetize the blog, but a few months into the process, I found a couple of ways I could at least pay for the blog's hosting and a little of the time I was spending on it with advertisements and affiliate links.
Video by Stephen Parkhurst
I used Google AdSense to display ads on the blog, which only brought in about $80 monthly. This was before I had any sizable traffic to be able to join a higher paying ad network. Once I did reach those traffic levels, about 25,000 sessions per month, I applied for and was accepted into Mediavine, an ad service platform that now displays ads on my blog.
Then I started reading up on affiliate links to make affiliate income by promoting products and brands I already used and loved. Affiliate links are unique links given to you by that brand to promote their products with. When a reader clicks on any of those links and performs a specific action or makes a purchase, you make a small percentage or commission.
That's how the first two income streams from my blog were born.
Video by Stephen Parkhurst
The more time I put into the blog, the more it took off. The more it took off, the more connections I made with other bloggers and online publishers. These connections brought me to more ideas and ways I could monetize this online baby of mine and make it into a real asset for myself.
Three and a half years later, I've been able to build up nine separate income streams, a mix of active and passive income, with this one blog, including advertisements and affiliate partnerships, freelance writing projects that I do under the I Like to Dabble name and freelance design projects, and helping other bloggers with some design projects, mostly Pinterest or printable related.
I've found that the throughline for many of these revenue streams is the relationships I've been able to develop over time.
Sponsored partnerships: I partner with several brands that will sponsor me to create content that promotes them in one way or another. I mostly do outreach to brands that I already have relationships with or want to form relationships with. Those who reach out to me I usually meet virtually to talk about those needs to see if we would be a good fit.
Services: I do side hustle coaching and blog coaching/consulting. This started as a free service as a pilot program of sorts, and got some positive testimonials from my first clients. From there, I started offering the coaching as a paid service.
Products: I have several products available for purchase on my site such as my side hustle course, workbook, and printables. I developed them using platforms like Teachable and Canva. I also collaborate with an accountant and lawyer who share their expertise via video in the course and insights in the workbook. These products are passive income because I created all the products once and don't actively have to do any work on them, besides yearly updates, but continue to get paid when people purchase them.
Speaking engagements: I started doing speaking engagements in 2020. And while they are all virtual for the time being, I cover topics like side hustles, blogging, and Pinterest for business for a wide range of audiences through companies, virtual conferences, social media lives, and webinars.
Webinars and workshops: I host several webinars and workshops throughout the year that bring in additional income, like a Canva Happy Hour, where I show people how to design assets for their website, and another recent one called Elevate Your Influence with Yo Quiero Dinero host Jannese Torres-Rodriguez, where we talked about how to monetize your skills and build streams of income online.
Video by Courtney Stith
All of these revenue streams didn't all happen at once. I added them slowly one by one as I saw the opportunity and weighed whether each was a project I could handle.
The process involves a lot of trial and error. I experiment and usually jump right in when I see the opportunity. I take it on, see how the time was spent that month with it, what was the return, and decide if it is worth growing or not continuing with it the next month.
Much like our brokerage account that holds investments is a financial asset that brings in passive income via dividends and compounds in value as time goes on, my blog is an asset that brings in passive income through some of my income streams and grows in value as it grows over time.
The only difference is my blog does require some sort of active involvement to continue its growth. The income isn't yet as passive as I would like it to be. My goal is to make $3,000 a month in passive income, and as it continues to grow, that potential is there.
I also know with proper planning and hiring more people to help me, if I wanted to walk away from the blog completely, I could. After being approached by a website broker who did an evaluation of the site, I learned that I could sell it today for six figures.
Ultimately, I think the true beauty of side hustling is the ability to create anything out of nothing to create more options for yourself, and have more control over your life and your future. When you have the ability to create your own opportunities, the possibilities are endless.
Daniella Flores is a software engineer, serial side hustler, and creator of the blog I Like to Dabble. She has grown I Like to Dabble on the side of her full-time job to 100,000 monthly users between the website and social media and is a two-time Plutus Awards finalist who has been featured on Business Insider, Huffington Post, CNBC, Refinery29, LA Times, and more.
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