For the past few years, I've been not only looking to earn more but more diversely.
There are a ton of blog posts and YouTube videos nowadays pushing people to consider the benefits of more diverse income, i.e.: making money from various channels.
This way of making money should do two things: increase your income, and solidify your income. More people than ever seem to be making money outside of typical jobs, but for this way of earning to be successful, it's very important to figure out how to guarantee income each month. Freelancing and making YouTube videos is great but income can be very sporadic.
A brief history of my side income
I started making web projects in 2010 and launched my first paid product in 2013. 2010 was also the year I started my first job after graduating from university that spring.
Although that first product—a magazine-focussed website builder called maggly—was not a great financial success (I closed it in 2015 with only a handful of customers) I had proved to myself that I could make money online.
In late 2015 I transitioned to freelance, which was exciting to dream about and move into. But the reality of fluctuating pay was very stressful. I had three young children and this period was difficult.
In early 2016, I started building Subsail, which is my highest-earning side project. I've also had recurring smaller freelance web work over the past five-ish years. (In early 2018 I started my current full-time job as Head of Product for a startup in London.)
Here is a quick breakdown of where my income came from last year. (I plan to do a bigger post on this soon)
Full-time job: 68%
Freelance web and photography work: 12%
I'm very grateful for the extra money (about a third of the total) that came in outside of my day job. With it we managed to go back to Europe twice last year (a family of five flying between Mauritius–Finland–England to see our families is not cheap!) and also add to our savings (though we had ultimately aimed to save more in 2019 than we actually did).
Why I want more side income
Of course, everyone would like more money than they currently have. Luckily I have built up skills in my career and while studying that I can easiuly utilise for this to happen.
Here are the two main reasons I want to increase my income in 2020:
- I like working for myself, and building and creating things is what I enjoy most. My day job provides stability I need for my family but it's not the creative output I need personally on a day-to-day basis. I always feel the need to be creative—watching Netflix sometimes feels like a waste of time because I could be creating!—but I also want to be able make money from those projects.
- Almost in my mid-thirties, I have no real personal wealth. We live comfortably on a tropical island and my three children (8 and under) have everything they need for a great childhood and we don't have to worry about the bills. But now I want to create wealth: save money and then make that money make more money through investments. Earning more money is the first step to make that happen.
My plan for 2020
1) Firstly, and most importantly, I will keep my day job. It's important to stress how valuable my job is to my current income and its stability means I can provide for my family if I continue working hard. Coming out of a couple of years freelancing, a job means more structure and more restrictions to our lives but a guaranteed pay (and some decent bonuses).
2) With Subsail, I have a project that now runs with very little work. Since launching in mid 2017, I have spent time rounding out the core offering and refusing to build anything “extra”. This means the product works well with zero extra input. I am also actively decreasing the time I put into sales and marketing to get new customers in 2020 and making customer acquisition more passive. New publishers sign up regularly and unless there is a big change in the independent magazine industry, Subsail will continue to grow slowly (luckily, I don't need it to grow quickly).
3) I continue to have two regular freelance web projects, which don't generate a ton of money but are reliable for extra income throughout the year.
1) Spending less time on Subsail, I am free to pursue new projects. The first new avenue I want to explore is a paid theme. I have been blogging on Ghost for just over a year and love the product and respect the company behind it. I've never released a digital product before, but I've noticed the Ghost theme market seems to lack a wide range of quality, modern (and in particular membership-focussed) themes. Spotting a potential gap in the market, I'm planning to create a handful of themes and see what happens, most probably selling on Creative Market and on the Ghost Marketplace. This is the most “passive” of my new project ideas, with work to do up front but then potentially unlimited sales once it's done.
2) A second new potential income stream is a new web product (this time, for a bigger market that Subsail). It's currently called Bunch and all I will say for now is that it is a “content subscription” product that I will be building out privately in the coming months, with an aim to launch publicly in the middle of the year. This may not generate meaningful income in 2020, but I plan to get the product out this year and at least start on the journey for it to become a decent source of revenue for the future.
3) I recently started a new blog called Tee Drop, which is all about t-shirts and t-shirt design, covering six of my favourite indie brands. I don't have plans to monetise the blog itself, but I'm interested in creating a small t-shirt brand. I ran a t-shirt company 20 years ago (!) in high school and basically ever since I've wanted to do it again. With today's internet, there are many ways to start a small brand.
So that's my plan.
Honestly, reading all that makes me think if I have time to pursue all these ideas (and some other ones I have yet to fully flesh out)! It will be great in the coming months and at the end of the year to see what I managed to get done or how off I was as to how much time I had to make these things happen.
I'll continue to post here and in the newsletter during the year as I try new projects and experiment. I also plan to post some basic income reports for each project, so you can see how things are going. Stay tuned for news in the coming weeks.