I've been side hustling since I was a teenager. I've sold my paintings, done freelance web development on the side, and even tried side gig apps like Rover and Poshmark.
In 2017, in between back-to-back layoffs, I started my blog I Like to Dabble to be a creative outlet. It was originally a hobby blog about crafts until I pivoted it to cover side hustles and different money topics. Then I began researching ways I could monetize it.
Initially I didn't think it would make much money, but I wanted a way to cover hosting and operational costs. But as soon as I earned my first dollar with my website in 2017, I vowed to never rely on one source of income again and got to building.
Today, my site has become an award-winning, globally recognized side hustle and money resource that's now earned me $80,000 in total since I earned that first dollar and brings in up to $4,000 in passive income each month.
Here is my best advice about growing side-hustle income.
I really struggled in the first couple of years of building my brand. The world of blogging and being an online content creator was completely new to me. I was so worried about failing and that I wasn't doing things "the right way."
One of the biggest mistakes I made early on was getting caught in the comparison trap and looking too much at what other online creators were doing, daunted by the resources they had at their disposal.
But the more I told my story and put myself out there, pitching myself to brands and media outlets with help from tools like HARO (Help A Reporter Out), and using social media to reach out and build relationships with others in the personal finance community, the more I Like to Dabble grew.
I also started experimenting with the content I created and finding different ways to measure how I provide value to my audience. Today, I regularly poll my audience — Instagram polls on stories are great for this — and ask them if something was helpful or not, if they want to see more of "X" or not. Then I use their responses, note what is and isn't working, and move forward with the next idea or project.
Video by Stephen Parkhurst
I failed a lot. And it took some time to hone my mission. But instead of seeing my mistakes as setbacks, I started to view them as the foundation for future successes. My best advice is don't wait for your idea to be perfect. We're all just figuring it out as we go.
The important thing is to learn from your missteps, build on them, and use the experience to help you focus on what is important to you and what you want to accomplish moving forward.
I started out doing everything for my side hustle on my own. I was the only writer on my blog and I did IT, bookkeeping, admin work, customer service, social media management, marketing, and design. The weight of all those responsibilities led to burnout, and it became increasingly difficult to think creatively under so much stress.
I wasn't used to asking for help, but I knew how important it was for the success of my business. After one year, I hit over $1,000 in monthly income from I Like to Dabble. I hired a couple of freelance writers to help me with content creation, a lawyer to help put together contracts for partnerships, and a virtual assistant for admin duties and some social media tasks.
I also reached out and joined a couple of small mastermind groups about one year into my side hustle. I could have done this sooner, but I was skeptical at first about how much it would actually help. But the community and networking opportunities have both been valuable.
They have helped with strategies for growing my business like learning more about SEO, which brings me more traffic to my website (and more passive income from the ads and affiliate income from that traffic), as well as the best tools to use, and have provided a safe space to talk about my business without judgment.
Depending on your industry, a great way to find a mastermind group is by searching on Facebook or Twitter. At least in the world of blogging, some of them have monthly fees attached, so just be aware of that as you conduct your search.
Don't be afraid to ask for help. Once you do, a world of opportunity will open up to you.
I started out with my blog and brand having no income streams. Today I have nine income streams and counting. The first revenue streams were ads on my website, my consulting services, affiliate income and sponsored partnerships through my content, and freelance writing and design projects.
Then I started generating more passive income through products that I created one time that continued to yield a return without any additional work, like printables, digital downloads, and online courses. I make an average of $2,000 to $4,000 a month in passive income alone.
Video by Mariam Abdallah
Then I decided to try out a couple of other income streams. I saw other creators have success in offerings like workshops, which can also be a passive income source from recordings of your lessons, and speaking engagements.
Research and experiment with other income streams to grow your earnings. And as you explore and add new ones, give yourself time to take stock. If you find that there are ones you no longer enjoy doing, put them on hiatus and stick with the ones that help you thrive.
When I started out as a content creator, I did a lot of freelance and sponsored projects for sometimes as low as $50, and even sometimes for free. The more I did that, the more it became difficult to increase my rates and my opportunities: I was stuck in the cycle of cranking out content for little payout.
Last year, I set a goal to stop working with people who don't see my value. I increased my rates and offerings and dropped clients and turned down any sponsor that wouldn't meet my rates. I also stopped doing free consults over Instagram DM and instead created a "Pick my brain" session on Calendly, along with my other consulting services.
Video by Mariam Abdallah
Now when people email me, they get an auto-response that says, "I don't work for free. If you are requesting something you expect me to do for free, I will either not respond or respond quoting my normal rates if it is a project that I think my audience would enjoy."
That auto-responder has made a world of difference in my day-to-day operations and workflow in my side hustle, not just with clients, but with anyone who pops into my inbox, because it sets the tone for how I run my business.
All of these steps have helped me to earn more and have given me more time to work on the opportunities that will most help me achieve my goals. My best advice for anyone who is starting to freelance or launching a side hustle: Your work and time are valuable, so don't be afraid to stand your ground when negotiating pay, just like you would for any job.
Side hustling is definitely a long game, and it is frustrating if things are slow at first. But keep at it and keep experimenting, putting yourself out there, and stand your ground on pay.
It also can get very lonely, so reach out to others in your community about what has and hasn't worked for them. Maybe there is a time-saving tool they recommend or they have a contact at a specific media outlet that they can connect you with.
People want to know you and your story. You never know who will be inspired by your experience. So take it day by day, track your progress, and in a couple of months from now you can look back at all the amazing things you've done.
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 become a globally recognized and Plutus Award-winning side hustle and money resource with 100,000 monthly users between the website and social media. She has been featured on Business Insider, MSN, Huffington Post, CNBC, Refinery29, L.A. Times, and more.
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