How to start a side hustle, from someone who quit her 9-to-5 and brings in over $10,000/month in passive income

"Side hustles have literally changed my life."

Jannese Torres-Rodriguez is the founder of the blog Delish D'Lites and the podcast "Yo Quiero Dinero."
Courtesy Jannese Torres-Rodriguez

It seems hard to believe, but there are only about seven weeks left of 2021. The good news is that if you have some money goals you have been working toward, and you've been meaning to start a side hustle to help get you there, you don't have to wait until January 1 to begin.

I started my first side hustle in May of 2013, a food blog called Delish D'Lites. Thanks to my blog, in 2021 I quit my 9-to-5 and I was able to become work-optional. Now I earn over $10,000 a month in passive income. 

The side hustle you start today could become your ticket to financial freedom. So how do you begin choosing the right one for you? Here are some key questions to ask yourself as you begin to explore your side hustle options, and my best advice for getting started today. 

What are you good at? 

When thinking about starting a side hustle, the first step you have to make is deciding what exactly you can do to make extra income. Taking a look at your personal and professional skill sets is a great place to start. 

Have you picked up valuable skills in your career that you can turn into a side hustle? If you currently have a career in a highly translatable area like sales, marketing, teaching, accounting, or law, you can turn that expertise into a consulting or coaching service.

Do you want to make a career change? A side hustle that is inspired by your personal skills can also be a great option. Are you a great listener and always offering helpful advice to your friends and family? You may be ready to start the process to become a life or career coach. Are you highly organized and super-proficient with time management? That could be the perfect recipe for becoming a virtual assistant.

I turned my love of cooking and food into a side hustle that makes six figures a year, by starting a food blog and sharing my family recipes. If you're passionate about a specific topic, begin to explore what paid products or offers you can create in order to monetize your passion projects.

How much time and money do you have to invest?

Starting a side hustle will require some sort of investment in your time and/or money, so ask yourself how much of both of these forms of currency do you have available? If you want to start a blog for example, it can be a relatively inexpensive proposition to launch, depending on what platform and hosting service, often starting at $99 a year or less. 

It will require a substantial amount of time up front to create content that drives traffic to your website. It took me about two years to begin to monetize mine. 

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Maybe you want to become a digital course creator. Your course content will need to be hosted on platforms like Podia, Teachable, or Kajabi, and these sites can cost anywhere from $39 a month and up. It will likely require a few weeks or months to create your curriculum and marketing plan. With the ability to use social media as free marketing tools, it can be easier than ever to start something at a low cost to you. 

If you are just looking to make a quick buck and you're not interested in creating a full-time side hustle, there are a number of gig-economy apps that can fit in with your schedule, and you can make money doing things like driving a ride-share, delivering groceries with Instacart, or pet-sitting with Rover.

Be realistic about what sort of time and energy you have to dedicate to your side hustle and you'll be setting yourself up for long-term success.

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What is your money goal? 

One of the great reasons to start a side hustle is to use it to help you reach your money goals faster, whether that is paying off debt, saving and investing more, or quitting your 9-to-5 to become a full-time entrepreneur. 

So what is your money goal? Start by doing some research into different side hustles that you're interested in to help you decide if they're worth the return on your investment. Depending on what areas you are exploring, some side hustles can pay $100 an hour or more.

When it comes to setting your rates, I recommend referring to platforms like Glassdoor or PayScale to get a rough estimate of what people with job descriptions like yours in a traditional workplace setting earn. The beauty of entrepreneurship is that you determine how much you make. Your prices should be set based on the value that your services provide to your clients.

I knew I wanted to replace my salary, which was around $118,000 per year. For example, after doing one on one coaching sessions for a couple of months at a $97 price point, I began doing workshops where I could serve hundreds in a single session. I started charging $17, then $27, and raised the price as my brand awareness and power grew.

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Then, I decided to move my coaching services to a digital course format that would allow me to serve even more clients in a more holistic manner versus a one-off workshop. I created my first digital course in December 2020 and have earned over $135,000 in a single year. Now that I've grown my business revenue to multiple six figures, I'm focused on creating more free time by implementing automated sales funnels that can sell my products passively. 

As a public-facing business, I began to be approached by companies who wanted to partner up with me on social media campaigns. It can be difficult to know how much to charge for these types of things, but I like to tell people, "If the price doesn't excite you, it's not high enough." 

Eventually, I decided to work with an agent who handles the negotiation part of brand collaborations, in exchange for a fee. This saves me a lot of time that I can dedicate to growing my business.

What tools do you need to set yourself up for success? 

Starting a side hustle means you're starting a business, so my best advice is to treat it as such from day one. Make sure you're separating your business and personal finances to make tax prep easier. Track your expenses and income using your preferred method, whether that's an Excel spreadsheet or an online accounting system like QuickBooks or Xero. 

Decide if you want to form a business entity like an LLC, or if you'd like to just stick with being a sole proprietor in the beginning. When you first go into business, you are a sole proprietor by default. This just means that you haven't yet formed a corporation or LLC with your state's division of corporations. I was a sole proprietor for five years, and once I was earning about $40,000 from my side hustles, I decided to form an LLC with the help of my accountant. 

She filed the paperwork required by the state and obtained an Employer Identification Number or EIN for my business. The filing process can be done online and usually takes between 5 and 10 business days. You can also look into this process yourself by heading to your state's website. Depending on the state in which you live and your business type, you may need additional permits or licenses.

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Taxes are another topic that can often strike fear into the heart of a new business owner. It can be a struggle to make heads or tails of it, especially if you are brand new to entrepreneurship. 

When I filed my taxes in 2018, I owed almost $9,000 in unpaid income taxes because of my side hustle revenue. My accountant suggested setting 15% of my income to taxes, and I began making estimated quarterly payments to the IRS in order to avoid another surprise like that.

Side hustles have literally changed my life. I was able to pay off $39,000 of student loans in 17 months thanks to my food blog. After paying off debt, the income from my side hustles helped me invest aggressively to reach Coast FIRE, meaning that I have enough saved in my retirement accounts to comfortably retire at a traditional retirement age like 65 without saving or investing another dollar. 

My latest side hustle, a podcast I started in 2019 called "Yo Quiero Dinero," has allowed me to become a full-time entrepreneur. Now my work gives me the opportunity to get paid to speak to folks all over the world about their personal finances. So whether you want to explore your passion, make a career change, or just earn some extra money, I hope you can use these tips to decide where to begin your side hustle journey today.

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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