Side Hustle to Main Hustle

[Guest Post] Turn Your Side Hustle Into Your Main Hustle

Gen Y Finance Guy Side Hustle 15 Comments

Hey!  I’m Claudia Pennington, a digital marketing consultant and personal finance blogger over at where I’ve been writing about the journey to debt freedom and financial independence.

Our personal finance journey began in early 2015 when we were living paycheck to paycheck.  We had some money saved in our respective retirement accounts, but we struggled to keep money in our savings and checking accounts.  Every dollar we made, we spent (and then some).  We had a credit card balance, a mortgage, and student loans.

We tried for years to get ahead of our money, but nothing stuck.  We’d attempt to get out of debt, but then summer would roll around and we’d use credit cards to fund home improvement.

After taking a hard look at our spending, we realized that the real problem we had was that we lacked goals for ourselves.  Because we lacked goals, we spent money without consideration for what the money was helping us (or not helping us) achieve.

In spring 2015, we started searching online for tips on getting out of debt.  We stumbled on a community of personal finance bloggers who share their stories and tips for getting out of debt.  We also found another community of personal finance bloggers who seek financial independence.  We were hooked!

To achieve debt freedom, we focused on increasing our income as quickly as possible.  Garrett’s performanced-based compensation motivated him to focus on his best customers generating more revenue in his territory.  I found a full-time job that leveraged my skills and experience in digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO).

In addition to those employment opportunities, we started a side hustle in digital marketing and SEO.  Within a couple of weeks, we had our first client.  I negotiated performance-based compensation in addition to an hourly rate for our consulting work.

While in the midst of the hustle, we put our 1,500 sqft house on the market.  We didn’t particularly love this house and we didn’t want to be saddled with its six-figure mortgage.  Having a big house required a regular infusion of capital and time to address its many maintenance needs.

Side hustle compensation continued to grow (and so did the income from our W-2 jobs), so we had an income snowball forming.  The more effort we put into our day jobs and our side hustle, the more money we made, and the more debt we paid off.  Within seven months, we grossed enough from our side hustle to pay off our credit card debt.  We also paid off a couple of high-interest student loans.

Around the time we crushed our credit card debt, we moved into a 500 sqft home.  With the side hustle income and the money we saved by downsizing, we paid off the $70k mortgage on the 500 sqft home about one year after we moved in.

At the start of our journey in 2015, we had $204,971.31 in debt, which included the original mortgage, student loan debt, and a credit card balance.  With the small house mortgage, our debt ballooned to $240,352.35 in November 2015.  

As of November 2016, our debt was down to $24,495.32, a decrease of about 89% in one year.

Today, our debt balance is about $10,000.  We have just one student loan remaining.  At 4.25%, the interest rate on this single student loan is high enough to be annoying, but low enough that one could make an argument for paying the minimum payment.  But we committed to 100% debt freedom, which we anticipate achieving next month.

Once we’re debt free, we’re taking full advantage of all investment accounts at our disposal.  We’re also saving for the real estate we plan to purchase in 2018.  Because we’re nearly debt free and living in a smaller home, we have more time and money available to craft the financially-independent lifestyle we seek.

To put us another step closer to financial independence, we’re laser focused on increasing our income.  As a digital marketing consultant, my compensation is three to four times higher than the salary from my full-time job.  Once our side hustle income replaced 75% of my salary in September 2016, I quit my job.  

Today, I gross more than I did at my full-time job in just one-third the time.  Leaving my full-time job has given me more time to focus on the digital marketing training courses we created.  We turned our side hustle into Side Hustle, LLC, a digital marketing consulting and training business.

While there are dozens of reasons why we created a business, our focus is helping thousands of aspiring side hustlers become digital marketing consultants who make at least $75 per hour.  We formed a business out of a desire to help others use a side hustle in digital marketing to achieve their financial goals.

If you’re ready to start a side hustle, sign up for the free email course to learn more about what it means to be a Digital Marketing & SEO Consultant.

Gen Y Finance Guy

Hey, I’m Dom - the man behind the cartoon. You’ll notice that I sign off as "Gen Y Finance Guy" on all my posts, due to the fact that I write this blog anonymously (at least for now). I like to think of myself as the Chief Freedom Officer here of my little corner of the internet. In the real world, I’m a 30-something C-Suite executive. I am trying to humanize finance by sharing my own journey to Financial Freedom. I believe in total honesty and transparency. That is why before I ever started blogging, I decided that I would share all of my own financial stats. I do this not to brag, but instead to inspire motivate, and also to hold myself accountable. My goal is to be a beacon of hope, motivation, and inspiration, for you, the reader, by living life by example and sharing it all here on the blog. My sincere hope is that you will be able to learn from me - both from my successes and my failures! Read More

Comments 15

  1. Congrats, Claudia! You’re an inspiration and a fine example of what courage looks like. Out of curiosity, how did you land your first client within the first 2 weeks? That’s super impressive… especially if they found you through an SEO channel. 🙂

    Also, fantastic job crushing your debt. You’re well on your way to building a stable base on the other side of the ledger. Best of luck as you continue your journey.

    1. Hey Michael! Thank you so much for your kind words. I found a client on a Craigslist who needed help ASAP and it was the perfect fit–a combination of hustle and timing.

      We’re super excited about the rest of the journey. Onward and upward!

  2. This -> “we lacked goals for ourselves” – is probably the main reason people aren’t getting ahead. Having some well-defined goals is a very powerful factor toward success! Congrats on establishing your plan and making strides to achieve your goals! #RockOn! 🙂

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Brad!

      I concur. Without goals, we had little motivation to change our ways. After investing countless hours in self-improvement over the last couple of years (and encouragement from Dom!), I’m setting 10x goals today. 🙂

  3. I think in the SEO industry in particular there are a hell of a lot of people out there who simply want someone to trust. Whether you’re approached by firms from the US, UK or the likes of India etc it can be difficult to know who to believe and trust. They all effectively promise the moon on the stick and quote unrealistic prices which are either not affordable or you just know in the back of your mind there is no way they can possibly do what they say they can for such a small amount of money. You just can’t seem to win. In your case I think you protrude confidence and trust which in a saturated and snake oil salesman niche like SEO can go a long way!

    1. Jennifer, you are right on the money. Thank you for your kind words. Too many agencies and consultants promise “first page results,” which are meaningless in this local and mobile-first age of search. Argh. It’s frustrating. I’m putting together a video soon about pricing because it’s ridiculous and lacks transparency. How are small businesses supposed to afford $10k+ per month?! As a result, small businesses don’t get the help they need. These are some of the many reasons why I’m on the mission I’m on. 🙂

  4. Wow – side hustle income exceeding primary job income is the dream. I can think of few side hustles in which that possibility is a strong one, but SEO/marketing is definitely one of them. Blogging and real estate, my two side hustles, have me on a path to exceed my “main job” income within the next 6-12 months. I think the key is to keep grinding and believe that you can succeed. Thanks for sharing your story, Claudia!

  5. Great job with that side hustle! SEO/Marketing isn’t hard, but it does require some upfront research and learning, of course. I love that it can be used across all industries. If one industry is down, like housing, you can move on to a different industry. Everybody needs marketing and SEO. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Erik! We’re so lucky. 🙂

      We’re a little soured by the experience of large home ownership. Haha. We want to travel the US in the next couple of years and then I think Garrett has his heart set on turning a couple of shipping container into a new tiny house for us, somewhere in a warmer climate.

  6. Congrats on your results here Claudia, appreciate you sharing your story and it’s awesome to see that you’re kicking debt to the curb!

    Will have to check out your service and keep on keeping on 🙂

  7. Wow! Congratulations (on both the crazy debt pay off and the successful side hustle)! At FinCon – It took me a minute to recognize you when we were checking in because I knew you from two cup house and you had the side business on your name tag! Didn’t realize that was the beginning of quitting your full-time job and making your side hustle your main gig!! Congrats! Any advice on where to find clients? Do you have a media kit you send?

  8. Pingback: Income Across the USA - What Does It Take To Be In The Top 5%? Top 1%? - Gen Y Finance Guy

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