Thanks to side hustles, I make 6 figures and left my day job at 36: Here's what I did that worked

"I now make more as a food blogger than I did as an engineering manager at a Fortune 50 company."

Jannese Torres-Rodriguez is the host of the podcast "Yo Quiero Dinero."
Courtesy Jannese Torres-Rodriguez

This May, after eight years of growing my side hustles while working a full-time job, I took the leap into full-time entrepreneurship. I never imagined that this would be the path for me.

Growing up, I thought the only way to earn a living was to go a more traditional route: school, get an education, and get a good-paying job with benefits. I had no entrepreneurs in my family, and the idea of owning a business and working for myself was never something I thought was an option for me. 

I had a very limited understanding of what being a Latinx business owner could look like. The only Latinx-owned businesses that I had ever seen growing up were mom-and-pop stores like bodegas, salons, or restaurants, but I didn't want to pursue any of those options.

In 2007, I graduated from college with a degree in molecular biology and chemistry, and I pursued a career as a process engineer. After five years of job hopping, even though I was making $75,000 a year in my 20s, I was unsatisfied. I wrestled with feelings of guilt because I felt like I should be happy and grateful for what I had. My anxiety was at an all-time high, and I started seriously considering quitting my job and starting over.

I didn't give up. Instead, I started side hustling, and over time I built a business that makes me six figures a year. That made it possible for me to walk away from my 9-to-5 at the age of 36.

These are the steps I took to get here. 

I did an honest personal inventory 

When I sketched out what my ideal life looked like, it involved cooking, not being tied down to one location, and working if and when I wanted to. 

I toyed with the idea of going to culinary school and becoming a chef, but I realized I didn't want to leave one high pressure career to hop into another. And working in a restaurant wouldn't give me the remote work freedom I was looking for. 

Then I discovered the world of online blogging. It felt like the perfect fit. I could share my recipes, work from home, and maybe even turn this blog into a source of passive income that would give me the time and flexibility I was craving.

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I turned a setback into an opportunity to grow

In May of 2013, I started a food blog called Delish D'Lites. During a brief layoff in early 2014, I took three months to test drive what self-employment would look like. I worked on the blog every day, cooking, creating, photographing, writing, learning, and embodying the full-time food blogger lifestyle. 

Ultimately I found another 9-to-5 job because I was still in student loan debt, and I didn't have another source of income because my side hustle wasn't profitable yet. But I actually cried when I had to go back, because I had tasted the flexibility that I wanted. It was then that I decided that I would do whatever it took to turn this passion project into my ticket to financial freedom.

I embraced the learning curve and stayed consistent 

Over the next seven years, I never stopped blogging. I learned about search engine optimization and made sure to post regularly on the Delish D'Lites site and on social media

It took some time to understand how to actually make money as a blogger, in part because I had to teach myself an entirely new set of skills, like finding my niche as a blogger and learning to make content that was thematically consistent for my site. 

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From 2013 to 2015, I didn't earn any income from the site. But in 2016, thanks to a combination of display ads, affiliate and influencer marketing, and a growing readership, I earned $2,295. And it continued to grow from there.

In 2017, Delish D'Lites made $10,589. The following year, the blog brought in $21,860. In 2019, it earned $46,033, and 2020 was the most lucrative year to date, with $72,939. Halfway into 2021, I've made $67,265 and counting. 

I generated passive income and followed my passion

After investing a lot of time into my first side hustle, in January 2021, Delish D'Lites began consistently earning at least $7,000 a month in passive income. That income allowed me to quit my job in May of 2021. I now make more as a food blogger than I did as an engineering manager at a Fortune 50 company.

I've since added more side hustles to my repertoire. I created Yo Quiero Dinero, my personal finance podcast, in 2019 as a passion project. I started the podcast because my entrepreneurship journey made me realize how little I actually knew about money. 

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As a Latina, I felt compelled to create a personal finance podcast that could teach women like me about online entrepreneurship, investing, and building wealth, all things that I wish I had learned in my 20s. Yo Quiero Dinero has also become a five-figure income source. 

Through the podcast, which started earning passive income in 2019, I've created a number of additional revenue streams including influencer marketing, speaking engagements, freelance writing, digital courses and downloads, and money and business coaching. I used my skills as a food blogger to create and monetize a personal finance blog that accompanies the podcast. 

This diverse group of income streams allows me the flexibility to earn money in lots of different ways. And the passive income from the blogs and digital products gives me the freedom to work as little or as much as I want.

I prepared my finances for entrepreneurship 

I decided to leave my 9-to-5 when I was earning enough passive income to pay for my expenses without having to rely on my salary from my day job, and when it was starting to get in the way of opportunities for Delish D'Lites and Yo Quiero Dinero.

In order to prepare my finances for full-time self employment, I worked with a certified financial planner to create an exit plan so that I could feel confident that I was making all the right moves before making the leap.

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I took several steps to create a solid foundation. I saved up an emergency fund that would cover eight months of expenses in a high-yield savings account. I opened a solo 401(k) through my business, put myself on payroll, took out a workers' compensation policy, set up life insurance, created an estate plan, and talked to my spouse about joining his company's health-care plan. 

Then, three months before quitting my job, I started paying myself a salary through my business and used my entire corporate paycheck to max out my 401(k) at work and bulk up my savings. I wanted to make sure I could pay myself entirely through my company. I also worked with my CPA to elect S-corp status for my LLC so that I could save money on taxes. 

I learned that I can build the life I want 

Becoming a full-time entrepreneur is one of the scariest things I've ever done, but it's the best thing I've ever done for myself. For the first time in my life, I feel like limits don't exist. I am in full control of my schedule and my earning potential. I no longer have to request time off or accept mediocre pay raises. 

Entrepreneurship has taught me valuable lessons about myself and what I'm capable of. It has grown my confidence and helped me get a clear vision of what my ideal life looks like. And it all started with a side hustle and a dream. 

My best advice for someone who wants to turn their side hustle into their main gig: Start today, commit to the journey, and prepare to work. Trust me, when you're on the other side, you'll realize that it was totally worth it.

Jannese Torres-Rodriguez is a nationally-acclaimed Latina money expert, educator, speaker, writer and business coach. She became an accidental entrepreneur after a job loss led her to create a successful Latin food blog, Delish D'Lites. Now, she helps her clients and listeners build successful online businesses that allow them to pursue financial independence and freedom. Jannese is on a mission to educate marginalized communities on topics like entrepreneurship, investing, and building generational wealth through her personal finance podcast, "Yo Quiero Dinero." 

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