It’s been almost ten years since I had a real job.
By real job, I mean the get-up-and-go-to-work, work-until-you-finish-your-shift, go-home sort of job. One where you get out of your pyjamas and go outside before starting.
Instead, I have made various side hustles into my full time income. I choose when I work each day. I take on small jobs, complete them, then decide whether to take more. I take time off when I want to, and work in the hours that suit me.
Sound good? I have to be honest, it is. But it’s not all roses and rainbows.
How and Why I Made Side Hustles Into My Full Time Job
I have had ‘proper jobs’ in the past. I’ve been a cleaner and a teacher. I’ve worked in shops and cafes. I’ve served drinks and food at weddings, helped students pass exams, answered phones, and emptied bins. In my adult life, many years after leaving university, I took time out to retrain with every intention of returning to work straight after. But I never did. The work I retrained to do was a no-go for me and my applications and interviews following my qualification were half-hearted, to say the least!
Instead, I started searching online. I skipped over the ‘You Can Earn $1234 While You Sleep’ ads and started filtering out the real earning options from the timewasting ‘opportunities’ and scams.
Over the next few years I took several part time jobs with flexible hours to top up when I could earn from home. Since then I have never stopped exploring new side hustles and income streams, dropping the lowest paying or most restrictive work each time I found something better.
What Exactly Do I Do?
I’ll outline some of my favourite hustles in another post but, just to be clear, I’m not talking about MLMs here. I have never sold an Avon product, Usborne book, or super-slimming-lose-weight-now juice. I don’t know much about any of these schemes, except that they didn’t interest me. I have also never worked for less than minimum wage, and often earned significantly more.
I’ve written, built websites, been surveyed, mystery shopped, analysed websites, set questions, marked exam papers, answered text messages, stocked shelves, tutored students, built displays, sold clothes online, and counted people. Some were great little earners; some were really not worth the time.
Today, I’m a lot more focused. I have two or three streams of income which I am confident about and which work for me. And, perhaps most importantly, I have the confidence that I could replace any one of them with other work any time I need to – without leaving the house.
Why I Love A No-Job (or Many-Job) Income
When your income is dependent on one employer, and one job, it’s easy to get comfortable. The money comes in each month and the work gets more predictable and there is nothing much to worry about. Until there is.
Redundancy, illness, or a change in situation can be devastating when there is nowhere else to go. At my busiest, I had four or five jobs at a time; losing any one of them would not have affected my income very much. I’ve also investigated a whole range of other interesting work from home jobs which, for one reason or another, were not for me. The more I looked, the more I realised just how many genuine money making opportunities there are out there.
There is no 9-5. No same-old, same-old. No weekend. Daily and weekly tasks vary and the work changes regularly. The fun stuff breaks up the boring stuff. I work on improving my more interesting streams of income and dropping any work that has lost its appeal. The freedom to try different things is one of the perks of self employment.
The jobs I took to ‘make up the numbers’ at the start were menial and very part time. They got me out, mixing with co-workers and talking to people (I really should do that more – working exclusively from home has encouraged my hermit-like tendencies far too much!).
People work towards financial independence partly for the flexibility to spend more time travelling, on hobbies, or with family. The way I work gives me that now.
I exclusively work from home: I’m self-employed, with no set hours. I regularly take work on with deadlines and often work late to meet them, but my day to day activity is completely up to me. If I need a day off I take it. If I need to travel, I skip the weekend traffic and leave midweek. Flights and holidays are booked when they are cheapest, not when my boss lets me have annual leave.
I have what I call financial flexibility. I work when I want, as much as I want. It sounds amazing, but there is a downside.
The Negative Side of Self Employment and a Flexible Income
Of course, this method of earning through side hustles meant that I never progressed in a career and joined the higher earners. I have very little pension provision and holidays are unpaid. I would have struggled to get a mortgage alone. Income varies and is never guaranteed. I’m not sure I could have done it if I had dependents.
Financial Flexibility and Early Retirement
What I did is not for everyone. If I’m honest, I sometimes wonder if it’s really right for me. Motivation is something I am constantly working on and I still struggle with it all the time. I love to see my retirement pot growing, but not always enough to drag me away from fun and back to my computer! So the ability to stop working when I’ve earned what I need is not good for my long term savings.
When all my expenses for the month are paid (I’m cheap to keep – so they don’t add up to much) and already I know I can earn enough to cover next months’, there is no immediate pressure to work. I’m hoping that solid targets, published on this site, will help with accountability. We’ll see!