A few weeks back I vowed to make an effort to really learn about growing my online presence. I had been reading about ways to start a side hustle. I had been researching ways to make a few extra dollars. I had been trying to figure out a way to live the life that I wanted to live, financially free to follow my dreams and aspirations. I had already dabbled with many of the ideas over the years. I had written an e-book, I had a youtube channel and I had a blog that had been around for 14.5 years. I had started all of these things as a hobby. I had never really tried to promote myself or my work. I never even tried to do the most simplest of things to grow my internet presence. At the end of June, I vowed to change that. I few weeks ago I wrote about that vow. I wrote that I was going to commit time each day toward building my online hobbies into a side business.
Setting a Financial Goal while building an Online Side Hustle
Before we begin I would like to say that I would LOVE to be able to live off of these things that started as a hobby. That would be the ultimate goal. But I am not expecting that to happen anytime soon. I wanted to set a first goal for myself. My mind kept coming to the figure of $300 which would be enough to cover my car payment. But that seemed high and lofty, considering my typical monthly revenue on adsense has been between $5 and $10. I haven’t even made it to my first $100 payout yet! My amazon affiliate links are similar, I don’t generate much at all, months can go by without any revenue being built, much less paid out. Therefore, you can see why $300 seemed like a lofty goal. With that in mind, my goal is to make $100 extra a month. I will go from there to see what happens next! But seriously, $100 a month is pretty nice. $1200 a year. Yes, $100 is my first monthly goal!
Research SEO to drive traffic to your Site
The first thing that I did is that I googled SEO. I had heard of SEO plenty of times before. But I knew NOTHING about it, much less how to correctly enact it. In case you don’t know, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. In a nutshell, this is the process that you can create a blog or a youtube video so that it can be easily seen and found by others on the internet during internet searches. SEO is the methods one can utilize to get traffic to their site.
I read constantly the first few days. I took notes. I will not go into detail in this post. Maybe someday soon I will write an SEO post for the Uninformed (as I certainly have been) as I continue to learn and fine tune my own sites. But let me just touch on some of the most basic of ways to optimize your SEO. There are quite a few ways that you can format a blog post to make it easier to pop up on internet searches. Keywords are very important and they should appear in various locations. GOOD keywords and phrases is even more important! The more I read and did my research, more that advice and ideas rained down upon me. I was going to go into overload mode. So I stopped with those most basic ideas. I decided to take these ideas to my own personal weight loss blog, my personal journal that chronicles my journey. I decided to apply some of these principles to my upcoming posts. I wanted to see if there was any effect on my statistics if I changed how I was doing things.
The Results of better SEO to boost traffic and income on a blog
I didn’t do a whole lot different. I still posted the same type of content. I just started to think more about my tags and keywords. I made a conscious effort to make sure that my keywords were included in my opening paragraph and my closing paragraph. I started to formulate my posts so that they were in shorter sections with headings for each section. I tell you, nothing major in terms of changes. My regular readers probably didn't' even notice a change. I decided to give it three to four weeks before I really looked at the statistics of my blog. That time has come.
As you can see from the graph above, my blog was pretty level in terms of how many visitors that I was having each day. Then, right around the first of the month, my numbers almost double That is an incredible jump for VERY little work! There can be no other reason for this jump other than my changes! I will definitely call that a win.
These early steps to taking control of my finances by learning to turn my hobbies into side hustles have been a success. My efforts on my personal blog made it very obvious and clear that the changes that I have made and what I am doing, is in the right direction! This is a learning process. I am constantly looking to adapt and adjust and grow. That is necessary if I am going to live my dream and become financially independent. I am on the right path now! I however think maybe I am ready for the next chapters in the SEO book. What else can I implement?
We all have dreams. Your dreams might be living an existence of financial independence, to own your own home, buy a new car or RV, live more frugally or maybe you just want to get out of debt. It doesn't matter what your financial dreams and goals are but it is important to sit down and create a budget!
Why should you create a budget
There are quite a few benefits that can be gained from creating a budget. And all of them can help you on your road to financial freedom.
1. A budget will give you a clear picture of what you are spending each week and month. When you create a budget, you will be able to quickly see where your money is going. Are you spending most of your spare money at a convenience store buying lottery tickets hoping to win the lottery? Is your paycheck primarily going to buy new clothes, go to the movies, or for eating out? A budget will allow you to see any potential issues with your spending. For example, are you buying a cart full of groceries each week but then eating at restaurants for every meal? That could be a problem with your financial expenses. A budget will allow you to look at your expenses and see any trouble spots; like that overpayment of groceries that ends up sitting unused and eventually thrown away because you opt to eat out each day. A good budget will help you find items that may be wasteful or unnecessary.
2. A budget will allow you to stay focused on the end goal. For the person that is desperately wanting to buy a new house and is saving for the down payment , a budget will keep them on track. If your end goal is financial independence, a budget will allow you to continually fine tune your expenses so that you know exactly how much you have to be earning from all channels of income before you can leave you 9-5 job. A budget will keep you on track and focused on your eventual success.
3. Having a budget is a perfect way to make sure that you do not overspend your income. This is for me the most important reason that I have a budget. Sure, I want to reach my financial goals to buy a house, live financially free and be my own boss. But a budget for me is a way to ensure that what I am spending each week does not exceed my income. I am trying to save money and to live fiscally responsible. A budget allows me to know exactly what I have to spend each week. I know how much I have to spend toward groceries, toward eating out and toward fun and entertainment. Knowing how much I have available for those things in my life gives me the knowledge and power to control my spending. It keeps me from going into debt or dipping into my savings, two things that I want to avoid if at all possible, because neither one of those brings me closer to my end goals.
4. A budget will help you plan for emergencies. Life is going to happen. You are going to have that day when your car breaks down or you need to spend money on some large purchase. For me just the other week it was my laptop. It decided to give out on me. I certainly didn't want to spend the money on a new laptop, but I had no choice. Luckily for me, my budget allows for emergencies. I have put money aside for such occasions. Admittedly, I wasn't happy to pull that money out of my savings account but I had it there for when I needed it! No-one can predict when such an emergency will occur. But we can control the outcome by having an emergency fund built into your budget.
How do you create a Budget
research-your-financial-freedom.htmlFor me the first step to creating a budget was with the process of diligently tracking my expenses for a few weeks. Before I could create a budget that would work for my lifestyle and within the constraints of my income I had to find out where I was spending my money. I did this the good old fashioned way. I wrote down every expense on a piece of paper.
Find your set monthly expenses when creating a budget
After you have a good month or two of your expenses you can start to really dive into the expenses and categorize them. The first thing you want to extract from the list is the monthly expenses that stay the same (or very close to the same) each month. This will typically be your rent/mortgage, phone bill, internet, cable tv, electric, water, garbage. List them out and add them up. These are your non-negotiable items.
The total dollar amount of these items needs to be deducted from your monthly income before any other items can be deducted.
After you have your monthly bills deducted from your income, you will see how much money you have or incidental expenses. Incidental expenses are things like groceries, eating out, entertainment, clothes, etc. This is where budgeting money gets fun!
Decide what is important to you when creating a budget
Once you have deducted all of your monthly expenses, you should have a dollar amount of what is left for these incidental expenses. This dollar amount is what is left over after all of your bills and basic necessities have been paid. This is where you get to decide what is important to you. I call this the additional or extra budget. This is more negotiable and subject to change as my lifestyle adjusts and adapts to what is happening in the world and in my life. This is when you will decide what you are going to spend your extra money on. Will you spend $500 on eating eat each month or will you spend $200 on groceries and eat at home instead.
Start with the most important 'extra' item on the list. For us, that is groceries, but for you it may be something else. Refer back to your list of expenses that you started at the beginning of this month. You can easily calculate how much you spend on that item. List that item on your budget with the total dollar amount that you spend/plan to spend each month. Deduct that amount from the dollar amount that is left from your income.
If you still have money left from your income after you deduct that last planned budget item then you can refer back to your expenses list and find the next most important thing and calculate how much you spend/want to spend each month. Add that item to your budget list and deduct that from your income. Continue doing this until you have everything you find important listed and accounted for or until you have no more income left. Make sure that if building a savings account is important to you that you include savings as one of your line items. I would highly recommend a savings and an emergency fund, because life does happen and it's not always how we plan.
I have created a sample budget to show how a budget can work. I built my budget based on a $3000.00 monthly income. These figures are fictional, but can show exactly how a budget works.
In this sample budget I have listed $1700.00 in monthly bills. I will deduct that from my $3000 monthly income. That will leave me with $1300.00 for my incidental/extra expenses. So lets see a sample budget for these additional expenses
As you can see, I have included a basic savings account that I personally use for those big items such as a down payment on a car or a house. And as that amount grows larger, it becomes savings for my future and retirement. As I spoke about earlier, I added an emergency fund and a vacation fund. I personally like to keep these funds separate. A vacation isn't an emergency and I don't want to wipe out my complete savings to go on vacation. An emergency could happen to you the day after you get home or three weeks later as was the case for me one year. You see, we went on vacation and three weeks later my car died with no notice and totally unplanned. I had to buy a new car. Most recently, we went away for a long weekend and the day I got back my laptop died necessitating the purchase of a new laptop. Thank heavens for an emergency fund! You will see other line items that are self explanatory. But maybe you don't know what I mean when I say incidental fund. I like to include an incidental fund. There will be the day that you forget your lunch and have to pick up a lunch at a restaurant or any number of unexpected expenses. A budget needs to have the freedom to live a little. However, for me that incidental fund becomes a challenge to see how much I can save from my incidental funds. If I want a big item that isn't included in my budget, I try to save every penny from my incidental fund until I have enough to purchase that wanted item.
Creating a budget doesn't mean never buying new clothes or going out to eat. It doesn't mean denying yourself the luxuries of life that you really enjoy. Creating a budget is a way to make sure that you have the money for what truly is important to you. It gives you the roadmap to financial freedom.
Financial freedom is well within your ability. Your dreams of traveling full time, quitting your job and being your own boss is sitting right in front of you. Now is the time to get your finances in order and make the changes that are necessary to this life of living free. Most people start looking at a financially independent life and jump right to ideas to earn money that are away from a typical nine to five job as the first step. This is a great start because it is important to set these ideas into place so that you can begin to build your stream of income. However, one of the very first things that a person needs to do is to sit down and take a deep look at their expenditures. They need to look at their budget, or create a budget if one is not in place. Taking a deep look at your true cost of living is so very important. Research your expenditures. It will give you a roadmap to successful financial freedom.
Review your Spending
Each week, I sit down with an old fashioned accounting book and my receipts. I write down the date of a purchase, the store and the amount that I spent. Everything goes into this book. A two dollar purchase at a convenience store for a drink? It’s in there right beside the larger purchase for a computer or a down payment for a vacation. No expense is inconsequential. Why do I do this? It seems like a lot of work to a most people. However, this simple act of notating my expenses is important for a few reasons. The first and most important reason is that it keeps me in check and I can know that I am not overspending my income. Secondly it gives me a very clear picture of where I am spending my money. Am I dropping hundreds of dollars a month on random useless purchase? Last but not least, It helps me keep my budget up to date and relevant to my current life status.
Track your Expenses
Why is it important to know where I am spending? As you move to financial freedom there is going to be a moment that you are going to be taking that leap of faith to quit your job and allow your side hustle become your main source of income. There is going to be that time when it’s time to step into the RV and drive away for a life of full time travel. Or maybe that magical moment will be when you quit your job and can work from home for yourself doing what makes you happy. Whatever your dream, there will be a wondrous moment when you decide that it is time to fly with that dream. You need to know exactly what you are spending each week. You need to know what your basic financial needs truly are. Do you need $1000 to live or will you require $3000 a month? You need to know what your goal is and tracking your expenses is instrumental to creating that goal.
Cut your Expenses
Furthermore, if you want to reach that ultimate goal a bit more quickly, you can pare back your spending so that you can reach your goals faster. What are you spending your money on? Are you picking up a lackluster breakfast every morning at a fast food restaurant. Something you don’t really like, but it’s just convenient? In that case, when you see the $25 a week/$100 a month that you are spending, you may just decide that the convenience is not worth the money you are spending. That may be worth the convenience to you, but maybe that weekly and daily purchase may be holding you back.
Spend time looking at your expenditures each time you review your logs. Look for weeks where you found better bargains for the same service or product. Review your information to determine what differences occur between weeks. Think about what is important to you. Is it really important to have that $5 cup of coffee or will a to go cup from home work just as well? Be willing to compromise. A $5 cup of coffee may not be worth it, but a $1 cup of coffee at the gas station may be the perfect solution. Find what works for you in the most financially sound way. Look at your expenses! Decide what is important and start spending your income on things that are worthwhile to you. Only you can decide what is important for your life and what you can easily cut or at least scale back. Cutting back my expenditures in my case is super important for a few reasons. The first an main reason is that I want to save as much money as I possibly can. Many of my goals and dreams require some large expenses right up front. There are expenses like the purchase of an RV and/or the purchase of a home. But even beyond building my savings account, cutting my expenses and therefore my monthly budget will allow me to reach my goal to be financially independent at a lower budgeted amount! That sounds like a really good reason to cut expenses to me! There is no one size fits all solution to looking at expenses. What is important to one person is not important to the next person. However, you should be willing to look at where your money is being used with an open mind. Research the way that you spend money and the trends that you have with your income. At the very least, you need to know exactly what your expenses are so that you can decide how to work that into your future financial plans. At the best you will find ways that you can cut your expenses in order to reach your financial freedom more quickly!
Living a life of financial freedom that allows you to be capable of following your dreams and living the life that you have long desired is right in front of you. You have researched ways to make your dreams come true and read multiple lists that contain ideas for earning the income that will allow you to travel full time, buy that new car, purchase a house or maybe be your own boss. But what now? How do you take these ideas and convert them into money and become financially independent?
Steps to become Financially Independent
Like you are doing, I read countless websites and watched multiple videos in an effort to do my research. I systematically crossed off ideas that had no interest to me and likewise eliminated the options that seemed to be low reward for a high amount of work. I wanted to focus first on things that while they would take work, at least offered a better chance of success! Trying the lower yield options are not off the table for me, I plan on checking out some of those other options, but down the line as I decide that the time is right to diversify. I can then try some of those other ways. For right now, I am going to focus on those things that I can more easily implement that offer a higher chance of success.
You may be starting from absolute scratch and if so, that is perfectly fine! In fact, it is perfect! You will be able to take the time to set up your blog, YouTube, freelance work, whatever plan you decide to implement and do it the correct way right from the start! Do the research. Do it the right way from the beginning. In my case, I have had a weight loss blog since 2006. It started as a personal online journal and grew into my hobby. I didn’t set it up as a way to make money. I didn’t optimize it for consumers and I did absolutely no work to drive traffic to my site. This website gained its readers and followers by total accident! I missed a golden opportunity.
In the first 13 years of the life of that blog, I never tried to take it to a more professional level. To be more specific, I never tried to monetize my efforts. After more than 13 years of consistently posting, I broke down and did it. I purchased a domain name and decided to join AdSense. I knew that blogs were a way that people were making money and I wanted a piece of the pie! Allowing the ads was easy and painless. I was ready to see the money roll in! Right? Unfortunately that was not the case. The payout for AdSense is in $100 increments. After one year, I still had not made it to my first one hundred dollars. What was I doing wrong? Discouraged, I gave up. I left the ads on my website, there was no thought to them and they just ran in the background, I had given permission and they ran without any thought from me. I figured that eventually I would make it to that pay out threshold and I would enjoy a wee ‘gift’ of $100 every once in a while.
In 2019, I started a YouTube channel as a hobby and as a way to chronicle my life, my weight loss efforts and my attempts to get and be fit. I love creating my videos. I spent some time working to build a fan base. What did I do? I spent countless hours watching similar channels and making thoughtful comments. I worked to create good content. I endeavored to build my talent in filming and editing my videos. I wanted my channel to grow organically with little or no effort on my part. Of course I had hoped and dreamed of my channel reaching the magic number that is predetermined by YOuTube that would allow my channel to be monetized thereby allowing me to start earning money off of my channel. But I was doing this channel for fun and I didn’t put inany further effort to grow the channel. Even without the extra work needed to push myself further I managed to garner almost 500 subscribers in the first year. It was still only half of what I needed for Monetization of my channel. I didn’t push myself and my channel. I didn’t take the time to learn how to promote my channel. I missed another opportunity and I grew frustrated and allowed it to remain my hobby.
Plan for a financially free life
The dream for financial freedom and that desire to travel full time didn’t die. I had gotten disappointed in the fact that building a blogging business was not going to happen naturally and I had given up on everything other than passively trying to earn money. I did the same thing with my YouTube channel. Growing a channel was hard and I was happy with my hobby, and I didn’t try to build the channel. But, had I given up prematurely? What could I do to make my blog/website get more traffic? How could I promote my YouTube channel in order to get more views and subscribers.? Because let’s face it, more traffic means more clicks on those ads!
That is where this experiment begins. What would happen if I worked to revamp my website and my YouTube channel? What would happen if I really dove into SEO and reworked my site? I kept coming back to these ideas as a way to bring myself to financial freedom and as a way to travel the world as I wanted to. I knew that I was definitely doing something wrong. I wanted to do it right. I wanted to go back and fix what I started incorrectly. (Which is where someone just starting out is in a better position, you can start correctly and fly early versus have to fix mistakes!)
I work full time. I knew it will be difficult to find time. I knew that this wouldn't be exactly easy. But I became convinced that in order for this to succeed, that I had to make a commitment to spending time each weekday and as much as I can during the weekends. A minimum of 5 hours a week to learn all I can and then to go back, adjust, change and put new methods into place that will drive more traffic to my sites didn't sound like too much. Due to the fact that I already have these two outlets in place and already have some basic idea of where I am, I should be able to almost immediately see the results of increased traffic. But the same is true for someone starting out. The analytics are there for new blogs and YouTube channels also. Just like I will be watching closely while I make the changes, you also will need to watch and tailor your efforts to what works!
Becoming financially independent is not going to be an easy path for the average person. There may be moments of frustration and lingering feelings of being overwhelmed. That is completely normal. But, don’t let those completely natural emotions and feelings derail you from your goals. Identify where you need work and correct the problems. Your dreams, goals and ambitions are right in front of you! Devise your plan and hold yourself to that plan. Spend the time and then reap the rewards of living the financial life of which you dream.
Check out the article starting on the road to financial freedom an article giving 10 tips for online income.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.