The Side Hustle Report #4

Side hustles are hard guys! One of my goals this year as outlined in my initial side hustle post was to write every day and see if I can get traction by publishing short stories online.

I was doing a great job with this through March but then warm weather arrived, I got a little bit ill and suddenly writing wasn’t on the forefront of my mind.

I found myself enjoying it less and less as I moved into mid-April and the daily grind of forcing one hour of writing onto the page began to get to me. On top of that I had the additional time needed to format the stories for publishing via KDP or on Nook or wherever(I publish to five different places and each one requires a slightly different format) and suddenly I was spending an average of 1.5 hrs every single day on writing.

That’s hard to maintain when one works a full time job and I found myself enjoying life a bit less because I barely had any free time for myself during the week. I recently got promoted at work to a more managerial position and that meant a bit more responsibility there(and a bit more enjoyment in my work as well which is great), but it also means less time for myself.

I’d wake up early to exercise a bit, walk the dog, shower, make breakfast then run off to work. I’d get back around 5, cook dinner, walk the dog and suddenly it’s 6:30 and my girlfriend’s home. Now that it’s starting to get warm and sunny, we might want to take a walk but even if we don’t, we have to eat dinner and it’s 7 P.M. and I now have to get my hour of writing in which doesn’t leave me a lot of time to do anything for myself considering I generally get in bed by 9:30 and yes I’m aware that makes me sound like an old man, I like my sleep!

It also cut into the quality time I spend with my girlfriend as I’d lock myself in my office for an hour plus writing every night instead of spending it with her. It was a big drag to be honest.

I started this process looking forward to my nightly ritual of writing but by mid April, I was dreading it because I’d much rather spend time with my girlfriend or play a game, or read a book or go for a walk and I couldn’t do that due to this limit I placed on myself.

I found myself stressing about writing rather than enjoying it. Many days, I had to force an hour of crap onto the page because I had run out of ideas and writing those days just wasn’t all that fun anymore. I’m an anxious person in general and my anxiety seemed to amp up during this period and I just started feeling crappy because of this internal pressure I was putting on myself. It was just no fun anymore.

I started to resent it and I didn’t like how it was making me feel so I decided to make a change. Continue reading “The Side Hustle Report #4”

The Side Hustle Report #3

Welcome back to the side hustle report! I’m looking at February data here and it’s crazy to think that March is almost over and spring weather will be upon us soon.

As a recap, January was a $11.34 gain after expenses on $29.34 in earnings.

If you haven’t read this before, the side hustle I’m trying this year is writing/self-publishing short stories. It’s something I did back in 2013 and am trying it again in 2017.

There isn’t a huge market for short stories so I’m not expecting this to be a huge earner but there’s no harm in earning a little bit of extra cash while practicing my writing.

You can read the first two reports for my strategy and discussions around expenses so I won’t repeat myself here but I do I notice that my writing is improving as I go through this process. I have written almost every day with the exception of a few days early in March due to illness.

I published a ton of stuff in January due to all the writing I did in December but that has slowed in February and March as I don’t have that extra lean-in anymore like I did from December and have to spend more time writing and editing.

I will say that 50 minutes per day writing is not a lot of time to get stuff done as editing takes a huge chunk out of that.

I will also say that finding 50 minutes per day to write every single day is a struggle sometimes as I’m already tired after I get home from work. I only really have about three to four hours of free time during a weekday to walk and play with the dog, cook, spend time with my girlfriend, watch TV, play video games, read or take a walk so taking an hour out of that is certainly a challenge. It does help that I enjoy writing although some days I’d rather be doing anything else which is why it’s key to do it every single day or I’ll fall out of it like I did in 2013.

My TV watching has suffered the most as the result of this revival of my hobby/side-hustle and I really only watch TV on the weekends now because I don’t have time for it on weekdays.

It’s an interesting change in my life but I think it’s a good one since I’m now spending that time on something productive that will help me grow instead of just vegging out on the couch.

I do sometimes think about bringing a personal laptop to work and just writing a bit in a conference room during downtime(of which there is a lot) or during lunch and that’s something I might consider from time to time during slow season.

I’m glad I’m still sticking with this and while the numbers right now aren’t all that impressive, I’m excited to see what happens to the royalties and net income from self-publishing as I stick with it for the full year.

Let’s take a look at the February Data. Continue reading “The Side Hustle Report #3”

The Side Hustle Report #2

Welcome back to the side hustle report! It’s month one of actually publishing stuff and I’m hopeful that positive results follow.

Last time I talked about my writing process and laid out the baseline as well as my earnings for the month.

As a recap, December was a loss of $10.44 after expenses since I spent some money preparing covers for January.

I’m writing mainly short stories which don’t sell that well so the cap on my earnings here is pretty low but I’m trying to use this as an opportunity to learn as a writer and earn a tiny bit of money on the side while I work up to full-length novels later on in life.

My expenses here are limited which is what makes this a nice side hustle. The risk in writing like this is pretty low since the main expenses are covers and stock photos for those covers. I use fiverr for my covers to keep expenses low and had a stock photo subscription a few years ago that I still have a lot of stock photos from.

There are other ways to go about this as well. I’m doing it the cheap way but professional cover services, editing and promotional ads can cost quite a bit of money for those who want to go all in on self-publishing. I may get there someday when and if I start writing longer works but the money just isn’t there in short stories so I have no interest in making big investments in this right now.

I do however find that my stock photo collection is lacking a little bit and am considering purchasing a stock photo bundle that allows me X images for X dollars for a year to help me out with some on demand cover variety. Right now, I often find myself having to use a cover that doesn’t quite fit the narrative because I have it and I’m cheap which can cost me sales in the long run.

I talked about how I pulled a lot of my KDP select stuff to publish wide in the last update. I think that has had mixed results and while I intend to keep all those stories wide for now, I did publish my latest story on KDP Select(Amazon only) just to get more visibility on my author name which will hopefully help improve amazon sales. Those were slow in January and continue to be slow in February.

I’ve continued to write or edit every day which is awesome and I’m starting to feel like some of the things I’m writing show a lot of progress which is the goal with this whole process. I’m barely two months in so I have a long way to go since I committed myself to this for the full year but I’m still having fun with it and will hopefully make a little bit of money from it as well.

Let’s take a look at the January info and see how it looks. Continue reading “The Side Hustle Report #2”

The Side Hustle Report #1

I went into detail about my love for writing, how I see it as something that I want to do after I retire and how I want to try self-publishing again to see if I can get some extra cash to invest with in this post a few weeks ago so I won’t reiterate all that here.

I started writing again in December in order to get started on building up a base of stories/novellas to publish starting in 2017. This first report sets a baseline for 2017 and will show how much I earned passively in December from the work I’ve published in 2013. It’s not a lot but it’s more than 0 and I’m hoping that writing and publishing again will help that grow. Continue reading “The Side Hustle Report #1”

Turning a hobby into income

I’ve often asked myself what I wanted to do after I “retire” because retirement means different things to different people. I talk about retirement and financial independence interchangeably because to me they mean similar things; it’s a time where you have the option to quit your day job and do whatever you actually want to do with your life.

The goal for me is to reach financial independence and then decide if I want to transition into early retirement or continue working. I think a lot of people want to quite their job as quickly as possible but I often wonder if they ask themselves what they’d do with their time if they quit? There’s a reason that a lot of millionaires and billionaires continue doing…something long after they’re financially settled and that reason has to do with boredom.
I’m in the middle of an extended vacation right now. It’s great not going to work but it’s also quite boring at times. Historically, in my free time, I am a professional at wasting time away by sitting on my ass while watching TV, playing video games or surfing the net. I’m on this journey for financial independence and early retirement and yet I’ve never really thought about what I want to do with the time after that.

Doing nothing sounds pretty appealing right now as I head back to work but I’m not so sure it’s something I’d want to do for the rest of my life.

Now that’s not to say that the alternative is awesome.
Working a 9-5 gig in an office isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time either and while some enjoy the hell out of it and don’t mind doing it until they’re 65, I’m not one of those people.
I’m lucky enough in that I have a job that I somewhat like at the moment but if I had the option of this versus something nothing without financially worry; I’d choose nothing. Nothing means no office politics, not having to get up at 7 A.M. on a snowy cold day and all the other BS that comes with office work. I think that’s the dream for most people – no more office work but what exactly does that mean? If I’m not working in an office then what the hell am I doing with my day? I bet a lot of people have a ready answer to that but I really don’t and that’s something I want to change this year.
If you’re one of those people who have it all figured out then I bet your answer has something to do with one of your hobbies. These can be anything from traveling, blogging, gardening, working on cars, or whatever interests you. I think if you ask people what they want to do after they retire, you’ll get an answer that includes hobbies in one way or another. I want to garden more, I want to read more, I want to travel more, etc.
I’ve spent some time the last few weeks asking myself this same question. It’s easy to say I want to retire early and start saving for that retirement but I also wanted to define what that retirement would include. For me, it’s not as easy as saying, I’m done working, now I’m going to sit, hang out, go on walks and read because I think(and know through experience in college) that I’d get bored of that rather quickly.

I want something more out of life, I want my personal growth to continue when I quit the office grind. I think a lot of people don’t realize how beneficial your job is as a driver of personal growth. I know I’ve become quite a different person in the past ten years and I think a lot of that is due to my job environment and the things it forces me to do and endure. I’ve struggled with social anxiety through my teenage years(forget about presentations!) and have learned to deal with it through my job because it puts me out there and allows me to practice things I’d never otherwise practice in a structured environment.

I’m not a social butterfly in general and having to get out there every day and talk to people has made me a much better speaker, presenter and overall a better person to be around. All I’m saying is that jobs aren’t all bad and you get a lot of benefits besides a paycheck if you look for them.

It’s certainly not all great and frankly a lot of it sucks ass and if I won three million dollars tomorrow, I’d be out the door in a second BUT there’s structure there that helps you manage your life better and stimulation that your brain sorely needs to grow and be healthy. I may not appreciate a lot of it but I appreciate those parts. I want those parts to still be in my life when I do ultimately give up the 9-5 gig and transition into something else.

And that’s where writing comes into play. These questions around what I actually want to do when I finally pull the plug on retirement ultimately come down to a hobby that I’ve enjoyed since my teenage years and that’s writing. I don’t mean the type of writing I do on this blog although I do enjoy that as well, I mean publishing short stories and novels; creating characters and worlds.
Starting this blog has made me realize that the road to financial independence and early retirement isn’t that easy. Limiting expenses to maximize savings rate isn’t all that fun either as I live the type of life I want now and I’m not in a rush to be super frugal now to enjoy life later. I want to enjoy life now and enjoy life later as well. That presents a  challenge since the only other avenue to increase savings rate is to make more money. I do expect raises and career progression in my job that will help that but I also don’t want to transition into a life where my job becomes my entire life. That means there’s a maximum I can expect to earn without transitioning into middle or upper management and maximizing my income.

However, there is an alternative path to improving income and that’s taking my hobby and trying to convert it into income! The internet has created opportunities that didn’t exist before for people with a certain skill set. Whether you write, create music or video content, program, stream video games or whatever you can take that skill and earn money off of it in ways you couldn’t do before.

There is a whole new subset of self established earners that are making money off of their talents through the wonders of the internet and writing allows me to do that as well.

Back in 2013, I first dabbled in self-publishing my stories via the various self-publishing platforms. I wrote a few stories, learned how to format and publish them on the various websites(amazon kindle publishing, smashwords, nook press, apple, etc.). It was all relatively easy, I wrote, formatted and clicked some buttons that allowed people to buy them. Indie publishing was all the rage back then and I wanted to jump on the bandwagon and see if I could do it.

Within a few months, I was making $100+/month writing short stories and novellas but ultimately as my laziness got the better of me, it all fizzled out and I stopped writing. Writing is fun but it’s also work and I began to realize that and my younger self preferred to just sit on my ass and play video games or watch TV.

I didn’t have the drive to stick with it and see where it would lead me. I spent about four months total writing, published about a dozen stories and then stopped even dropping an almost finished novella. Self-publishing isn’t the perfect way to generate passive income as you have to continue to produce content to drive people to your sales channels and eventually my income began to fizzle out but still the payments from amazon kept coming even if they slowed down a lot. Even this month I made about $10 from stories I wrote almost four years ago. It’s not a lot but it made me wonder what would have happened if I stuck with it.

I think I’m an OK writer and there was obviously a market for what I was putting out there. I went back recently and tracked down all my payments from the various sales channels and my four month endeavor yielded about $2000 in earnings. I don’t remember how much time I spent writing but it wasn’t a ton since I’m a pretty quick writer. There are also expenses here, I had to buy stock photos to use as covers and use websites like fiverr to get covers designed but the overall net profit was still far north of $1500.

That doesn’t seem like a lot but it wasn’t a lot of work overall and self-publishing is a business model that builds upon itself. The more stories and novels you have, the more chances you have to get click through sales via amazon also bought sections and similar sections on other websites. The more stories you continue publishing, the more likely you are to show up on amazon new top seller lists and the various other such lists on other channels. The reality is that you have to keep writing to keep earning and stopping means you lose a lot of momentum. As such this isn’t true passive income but that’s not what I’m aiming for with this.

The point I’m trying to make here is that I know it’s possible to make money using one of my skills. I’ve done it before, it wasn’t a lot but it was more than 0 and more than 0 is something that would help improve my savings rate and that’s of interest to me now. On top of that it’ll help me grow as a writer and that’s the main driver here.

I’m a different person now than I was back then and my priorities have changed. I didn’t have this idea of financial independence or early retirement in my head back then and I didn’t appreciate the extra income and the potential for more of it down the line. I was lazy, unmotivated and unstructured and it showed in my approach to the craft.

I look at my future now and I ask myself what I want to do when I retire and if the answer is writing then I have to realize that I simply won’t be a good writer at 45 if I don’t practice. I haven’t written much in the past few years and that’s a shame because it’s a lot of years lost that I can never get back. If I want to be a serious writer later on in life, I have to practice and the best way to do that is to simply write.

That’s what I’m going to do in 2017. I’m going to write and I’m going to edit and I’m going to publish and see if I can get anyone to buy my stories like they did in 2013.

This is something I’ve had on my mind for at least a month now when I started thinking about 2017 goals. I probably have the same goals as many others in this community. I want to improve myself but I also want to improve my savings rate to get that freedom date moved up and this helps me kill two birds with one stone. I can be a better writer by writing and I can potentially earn more income by self-publishing the things I write.

It all won’t be good but the feedback I can get via reviews and emails from my readers will be key in helping me become a better writer. I looked back on some of the things I wrote years ago and read some of the reviews and they weren’t bad. The reality is that you have to be pretty good to make some money in this world as there are thousands of other people doing the same thing and it’s easy to get lost in the clutter. There is potential to make money but maybe I was just lucky in 2013 and this won’t lead to anything and yet I can’t help but want to try.

I’ve seen what tracking can do for my portfolio and asset allocation in this blog and I know how much of a motivator it can be to lay things out publicly and track them monthly.

I plan to do that with my writing as well. This will never become a blog to advertise my writing. I will never share my pen names or anything like that; that will always remain secret and any sales will be generated naturally without advertising. I want this to not only help me grow as a writer but to be a test of whether or not I can make money with a side hustle like writing without outside influence if I stick with it for at least a full year.

I want this next year to be a test to see if I can be a successful writer. It’ll be a full year of writing, publishing and tracking.

I have an advantage here that I have a background in self-publishing, know how it works and know how to do but that advantage is nothing if I don’t commit to writing on a daily basis.

It’s almost 2017 now and I’ve had this thought in my head for at least a month now and to get going, I started writing again on 12/4/2016. I’m finishing up a novella and a few short stories.

I’ve written over 60000 words since that day and just published my first new story today with more novellas on the way. The goal is to write and/or edit for at least one hour every day and so far, I’ve met that goal since I started.

This blog won’t change, it will still be about my journey to financial independence and early retirement but if I can get there earlier by self-publishing and writing then why not try? If this can help me reach my life goals faster then it’s worth doing even if I fail.

Worst case scenario, I sell little to nothing but I become a better writer. Or I simply realize that it’s not something I really want to do when I quit my job and that’s better learned now than after I quit my job and have nothing to fall back on but boredom.

I’m going to approach this like a 2nd job – something I have to do every day without fail in order to make ends meet and hit my goals. I plan to track my progress each month like I do with my dividends, portfolio and savings rate.

I’ll do a post about 2017 goals in a week or two and will make sure to include some writing goals as well to show commitment to this.  If I can make some extra money and boost my savings rate while developing my writing skills then this should be an endeavor well worth doing!

Continue reading “Turning a hobby into income”