Thanks to my side hustle, I paid off $38,000 in 18 months; now it's a job that makes me six figures

Entrepreneur and financial coach Katia Chesnok shares the steps she took to turn her side hustle into a thriving career.

Katia Chesnok

Five years ago, I was working full time in banking, and even though my salary was low, I loved my job. But I had a big problem: I had $38,000 worth of credit card debt. I was working hard, but I was still broke. One day after work, overwhelmed and tired, I got a letter in the mail telling me that due to a missed payment, my credit card debt had been sent to a collections agency.

I didn't know what to do, but one thing I knew for sure at that moment was that I was going to pay my credit card debt and stop living paycheck to paycheck. I had to find ways to increase my income in order to be able to pay my debt.

Today, I'm the founder of Economikat, a personal finance blog and Instagram platform that educates and empowers millennial women to get financially wealthy, and the founder of CP Clicks, a digital marketing and e-commerce company. Thanks to what I earned from my side hustle, I was able to pay of my credit card debt in 18 months, and CP Clicks is now my full-time, six-figure job.

Here is what I've learned about how to turn a side hustle into a thriving career. 

Katia Chesnok is the founder of CP Clicks and the blog Economikat.
Courtesy Katia Chesnok

Pick a hustle that makes sense for you

To get started, I did research about different side hustles, but nothing really seemed to fit. Then, one day, while all this was going on, I was working with a client at the bank and she started telling me about her job. She was working as a digital marketing freelancer, creating online marketing and e-commerce campaigns for small companies using Google and Amazon advertisements. She mentioned the Google marketing certificates she took online, which were all free.

I went home and looked into the certificate program. The idea really resonated with me, so I decided to pursue it. 

In less than a month, I had completed three free certificates.

Get referrals

I shared the news about my new skill with my network, telling them that I was now a certified online marketing specialist, and I hit the ground running. 

A few weeks after I shared my career news with my network, a neighbor recommended me to one of his friends who owned a small local business. He needed help in increasing his sales and wanted to promote his business online.

That first referral was key. Once I had that experience under my belt and examples of the work I could do, I started to connect with more clients who needed online and e-commerce marketing services. 

How to turn your side hustle into a successful business

Video by David Fang

Devote time to your side hustle 

As I grew my business, I would come home from my day job and work from 7 p.m. to midnight. I focused on my side hustle on the weekends as well. Between my full-time job, my side hustle, and all my other obligations, I was working over 80 hours per week for almost two years. 

I learned so much from this experience, but the biggest lesson was that discipline and consistency are key if you want to achieve a goal. 

Take lots of small steps in the right direction

My side hustle was doing well; I had several clients; my monthly income had increased; but I also had to reduce my monthly discretionary expenses and stick to my budget in order to save more and pay my debt faster. I also negotiated and increased my salary at my day job.

I found that the smallest steps were actually the most effective when it came to following through with my budget. I meal prepped at home and cut down on dining out and buying new clothes that weren't on sale. I researched discounted or free entertainment activities. And I waited at least 48 hours before buying something online, so I could determine if that item was really a need or just a want. 

I negotiated my car insurance down, canceled some other recurring costs like my cable and gym membership, and I found a cheaper cellphone plan. I also decided to stop using my credit cards while I was paying them off and used debit cards and cash instead. 

What's the difference between a debt avalanche and a debt snowball

Video by David Fang

Start with the end in mind

With the additional income from my side hustle, I was able to pay all my credit card debt in a year and a half. I used the avalanche payment method and focused on paying the cards with the highest interest rate first, and then kept paying the minimum on the other cards. Thanks to my budgeting strategy, I was also able to set some money aside to build up my emergency funds, and I was no longer living paycheck to paycheck. 

I also found that during this time, thanks to my passion for digital marketing, and the rate that I was taking on new clients, my side hustle income was growing to the point where my gross monthly income was regularly exceeding my salary as a banking analyst. At that point, I began the transition to run it full time, and I started making six figures with the company shortly after I made the leap to leave my day job.  

I built my side hustle all while working full time at my day job. Remember, you don't have to quit your day job to start a side hustle, or even quit at all.

I accomplished my money objectives by setting consistent and specific tangible goals with a deadline and always remembering to celebrate my smaller wins. These wins matter too, and acknowledging them gives you the motivation to continue.

Katia Chesnok is the founder of personal finance blog and Instagram platform Economikat, where she educates millennials, Latinx, and BIPOC communities on all things money, and empowers them with wealth-building tips to earn more, negotiate, side hustle, budget, and invest. She paid off more than $38,000 of credit card debt in 18 months thanks to her side hustle, which later became CP Clicks, her six-figure digital marketing business. 

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