When I started my most recent full-time job, I lasted about half a year before I started a side-gig. I wrote a nonfiction book and sold it to a publisher. The book wasn’t anything fancy—I just put together all my teaching materials from a course I used to teach, packaged them up for a pre-existing book series the publisher already had, wrote a proposal, and sent it off.
But I still get royalties from that book today, nearly ten years later.
More importantly, writing that book helped me land my next nonfiction book project and some speaking gigs. Because I’d written a book in an area that people in my field were interested in, more jobs came my way. Pretty soon, I had three reliable income streams: my main job, my book royalties, and my speaking engagements.
I kept writing, until one day I realized I didn’t need the main job anymore. The side-gigs had become my main gigs.
After leaving full-time employment, it became even more important to think about the variety of income streams that could help me earn a living. Sure, I might think of myself as a “writer,” but writing encompasses so much more than book royalties. Now I work as an editor, a freelance journalist, a writing coach, a copywriter for websites, and, of course, an author. Each one of those income streams is valuable.
When I wrote that first book, I wasn’t planning on leaving my job. At the time, I was happy doing what I was doing. But I did feel that having more than one source of cash was a way to financial stability.
A table with one leg, or even two legs, isn’t as stable as a table with four.
So how do you get four legs? That is, how do you get multiple income streams? Especially while working a regular job?
The first step is figuring out what you are really, really good at. What are you better at than others around you? These are your superpowers. Superpowers can be small—say you’re really good at organizing stuff. Or you’re great with kids, like, you’re the kid-whisperer. (Maybe you’re great at organizing stuff AND you’re the kid-whisperer, in which case you need to call me, and I will hire you.)
Start making a list of your superpowers. Note: now is not the time to be modest. Now is the time to be the opposite of modest. Now is the time to act like your mom bragging about you to her friends and making you want to hide in the closet with embarrassment.
Once you have your list of superpowers, the hard part begins.
Not every superpower can be turned into money. (Although these days, it seems nearly everything can.)
Right now, though, we’re looking for the low-hanging, monetized fruit. If you’re the person who is super good at organizing stuff, put an ad out on your neighborhood listserv offering your services. Remember, you only need one satisfied client. After you get one satisfied client, you can get a glowing testimonial. You put that testimonial on a Facebook business page, and you will get more clients. You give out that client’s name as a reference. Business will snowball from there.
The first client is always the hardest.
Here are some other ideas: Start an organization blog. Befriend other bloggers who write about organizing stuff. (They’re out there.) Put tips on Facebook. Become an expert that people turn to.
A side-gig does two things for you: it provides a financial safety net, and it provides a creative outlet. Let’s talk about each of these things.
Say your organizing business side-gig has grown successful. You have a successful blog where you bring in advertising revenue. People pay you to write guest posts on major websites. You have clients all around town who offer good money per hour to consult them on making their homes more livable. Your business is successful. And you did it all while holding down your main job, too.
Why did you do all of this extra work? To buy a bigger television? If so, please do not tell me because I will be deeply disappointed in you. The whole point of this extra work is to create financial security—remember the table with lots of legs?—not to be able to see the manicured stubble on Tom Brady’s chin at thirty paces.
Take the extra money you earn and pay off debt. Once the debt is paid off, save an emergency fund. Once your emergency fund is created, start saving for retirement.
Put your side-gig cash to good use. Relieve financial strain rather than creating more. If you blow your side-gig money on stupid stuff, you’ll simply create a spending pattern that you won’t be able to maintain. One day you’ll realize that your side-gig has become a second, necessary main gig, one that you won’t be able to keep up with.
You will wear yourself out because you will be working two full-time jobs to maintain your new standard of living. In short, don’t buy a bigger television.
And that creative outlet function I mentioned above? One day, you might find yourself so enamored with your side-gig that you want to make it your main gig. Instead of digging yourself a hole with your side-gig, start creating the financial freedom that you need to one day leave your job and turn your creative, fun entrepreneurial work into your main work.
But don’t forget to have multiple income streams with your new main gig—blogging, consulting, speaking, eBook sales, literally anything people will pay you to do—all centered around your superpower.