My journey as a serial side hustler began by accident. I never even considered entrepreneurship as a teenager or college student. As the eldest child in a Puerto Rican family, my instructions were very clear: "Go to school, get a good job, and make a comfortable living." That was the idea of success for my traditional Latino parents.
So I studied hard, got a full ride to college to study molecular biology, and graduated in 2007 into a career as a scientist in the biotechnology field at the age of 22.
Fast-forward to 2013 and I was living the dream, making money, traveling the world, newly married, and had just graduated with my master's degree in biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University.
But while I was seemingly checking off the boxes of societal success, I was also dealing with a quarter-life crisis. I hated my job and felt like I was living a life that wasn't mine. The work I was most excited about was my 6-month-old passion project, a Latin food blog I named Delish D'Lites.
Then one day in January 2014, I walked into work, got fired, and drove home in a snow storm. I didn't realize it at the time but it was literally the best thing that could have happened to me. It motivated me to really consider what made me happy, and I started thinking about how I could turn the blog into a thriving business.
Last year, I earned over $46,000 through Delish D'Lites. I'm on track to make $60,000 in 2020.
I've always been passionate about food and cooking. Even before I got fired, I had toyed with the idea of quitting my job to go to culinary school. But as I started sketching out what that might look like, I realized that I wanted a life that wasn't tied to having to show up to a specific place to get a paycheck. I wanted freedom to live and work anywhere. In other words, I wanted to earn passive income and make money while I slept.
As I sat on my couch, having just been fired for the first time in my career, I realized that, as unsettling as the experience was, I had an opportunity to build a freer life. I could work to turn my blog into a profitable venture.
I dove headfirst into learning everything I could about blogging, food photography, social media marketing, and securing sponsors and ads for my site. And the blog has steadily grown over time.
Video by Courtney Stith
From that passion project, I have developed nine different revenue streams that make it possible to bring in an extra $50,000 a year on top of my day job as a quality supervisor that range from blog ads, sponsored blog and social media posts, affiliate marketing, freelance writing, virtual events and speaking engagements, business and financial coaching, passive investing and day trading, teaching Zumba, and podcast ads and sponsorships for my most recent side hustle, a podcast I started in April of 2019 called "Yo Quiero Dinero."
Translated as "I Want Money" in Spanish, "Yo Quiero Dinero" is a personal finance podcast for Latinas and people of color, who are traditionally underserved by financial organizations.
Before I started my side hustles, I was looking at having to pay off my student debt until 2035. But my blog helped me pay off over $39,000 of student loans in 17 months.
I refinanced my student loans four times between 2016 and 2020. I reduced the repayment time, first to 15, then 10, then seven, and then five years.
My side hustles have also helped me accelerate my path to early retirement. In 2018, I stumbled upon the concept of FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early) and began implementing FIRE concepts into my finances, and now I'm on the path to financial independence. My plan is to be retired from traditional 9-to-5 work by 2030.
Video by Stephen Parkhurst
You may not realize it but you probably already have skills you can turn into a side hustle. Start by first writing down your talents, hobbies, or projects you've worked on, and focus on the ones that you do well but also enjoy. A great place to start is freelancing or consulting using the same skills you offer at your 9-to-5, especially if you already enjoy your day job.
Once you've narrowed down your list of skills, do some online research and figure out what the average rates are for those skill sets. Also think about the amount of time per week you have available and make sure you know the initial investment needed.
Eliminate side hustles that would require you to purchase a lot of equipment but won't make a lot of money. Instead, focus on the ones that only require a small upfront investment, aren't a time suck, and could potentially turn into a career.
It hasn't always been easy, and freelancing does come with a certain level of rejection. But my experience over the last few years has been so valuable. I do wish I had better understood the logistics of running a business, when I first started out — things like how to handle taxes, having separate accounts, knowing when to invest in the business, and when to outsource help.
Video by David Fang
I struggle with burnout sometimes too. But because my blog essentially runs itself now, I can take a step back and let it make money without too much intervention on my part. Many of my other income streams are more ad hoc, so I can choose when I have the bandwidth to take on new projects.
No matter what type of business you want to start, I believe that the common denominator of a successful side hustler or entrepreneur is that their service or product helps their customers solve a meaningful problem. I'm a big fan of online businesses, because the overhead is typically very low and you can work from anywhere.
Don't try to outsource everything right away: Learn how to manage different aspects of your business first, then outsource what doesn't add value to your time after you become profitable. Make sure to pay yourself from day one, and then reinvest the excess funds back into your business.
Remember that you don't need to be the world's foremost expert on your subject in order to charge for your skills and services. My best advice is to simply have the courage to start today. Commit to the journey and continuously learn new skills. Perfect your craft and use your talents to serve others.
A side hustle is an opportunity to live life on your own terms. With some extra money in your pocket, it can feel like there's nothing stopping you from making your wildest dreams come true.
Jannese Torres-Rodriguez is a certified financial education instructor (CFEI) through the National Financial Educators Council (NFEC) and a first generation Puerto Rican blogger and business coach who built a $50,000+ side hustle and is pursuing financial independence. She became an accidental entrepreneur after a job loss led her to create a successful Latin food blog, Delish D'Lites, that reaches over 250,000 visitors per month. After becoming a successful business owner, Jannese became passionate about financial literacy and is on a mission to educate Latinas on topics like entrepreneurship, investing, and building generational wealth through her new podcast, "Yo Quiero Dinero."
More from Grow: