I’ve always been obsessed with making extra money.
- In elementary school, I launched a (very unsuccessful) newsletter.
- In middle-school, I ran a (slightly more successful) summer camp for neighborhood kids.
- In high school, I stayed busy by babysitting, which provided regular, if modest, paydays.
It wasn’t until I grew up and had kids of my own, though, that I fully committed to earning a steady income on the side. Sure, I have my full-time job, and so does my husband, and that regular income allows us to cover our basic bills and expenses. But who knows when those paychecks might unexpectedly disappear. Journalism isn’t exactly known for its job stability.
The Creation of Money Planners
During my first, sleepless and anxiety-filled year of motherhood, I hatched a plan to give myself (and my family) a solid back-up plan in case things suddenly went south with our 9-to-5 gigs. I created Money Planners, which are essentially workbooks to help people with specific goals and challenges (such as affording a baby or launching a business). I made them pretty, thanks to the help of a freelance illustrator. And then I uploaded them to Etsy.
It took me two weeks to make my first sale. I was a little slow to realize that I needed to promote my little shop with the enthusiasm that one might muster for a new child. Soon, I got the hang of it: I bragged about it on Facebook, shared it with friends, and begged bloggers for coverage.
Eventually, it started working. I got my shop up to a healthy $200 a month in income. Not enough to replace my day job, which I hope I never need to do anyway, but it is enough to give me a little peace of mind. And I know that I could ramp up sales if I ever have the extra time and energy to devote to it.
It turns out looks matter. A lot. If your product doesn’t look pretty, no one is going to buy it. It’s not that Etsy shoppers are a superficial bunch, but it’s a website devoted to beauty. People will buy things that appeal to them visually, even when you’re talking about budgeting and money goals.
My other main area of shortcoming related to start-up costs. I forked over around $400 for a fancy printing press to create hard-copy versions of my digital planners. They are still sitting in my basement. In this day and age, people apparently prefer digital planners. They download automatically, and people can then frame them, stick them in a binder, or, if you’re truly devoted to the Etsy aesthetic, insert them in a vintage clipboard.
More Money, Less Time
Having children might have convinced me I needed a side-hustle, but it also made it harder to find the time to maintain it. Babies, it turns out, take up a lot of time, and soon we had two. As a full-time working mom with two little ones, I barely have time to brush my hair, let alone run my Etsy shop.
That’s where automation comes in. Etsy allows for automatic downloads. Other tools, like MailChimp, lets me set up automatic autoresponders to send free samples to interested potential customers, as well as schedule newsletters to go out when I post new products. Hootsuite lets me schedule my Twitter posts so I can write them whenever I have time, which is usually at 10:30pm after everyone else’s bedtime.
Two years after I first launched by shop, which I like to call Palmer’s Planners, I’m happy to say that my venture is far more successful than the entrepreneurial projects of my youth. Which is to say, I am making more than $0 dollars from my endeavor. Sometimes it’s $200 a month, sometimes it’s closer to $50. Either way, it gives me a financial cushion that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
Kim blogs over at kimberly-palmer.com, and is also about to release her 2nd book, The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life, which comes out in January.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Perhaps these make the perfect gifts for some of your friends needing a little financial push? Is there a way to subtly give these to people? Haha…
*If YOU have a side hustle you’d like to share with us, give me a shout!