As any freelancer can tell you, you’re likely to experience varying cycles of feast or famine. One of the ways to minimize the downward swing is to build up alternative revenue sources. Those can be side hustles, investments or participation in other people’s businesses.
Think of serial entrepreneurs. At any time, they have multiple business ideas they’re considering. And they probably also have their hand in multiple businesses.
One such entrepreneur who comes to mind owns a successful technology company. He’s invested in a yoga studio. He runs a web design/development company with a partner. And he has multiple apps that he’s developed and that generate passive revenue.
Another entrepreneur I know has an IT recruiting company, investment in a software business and ownership of a popular dating app in the UK.
While I can’t say I’m at that level, I am constantly on the lookout for opportunities, and I’m not afraid to embark on new adventures. Below I mention some of those opportunities that panned out and some that I’d rather not think about.
It’s certainly been my primary source of income but I’ve also sought out opportunities to create multiple revenue streams.
For example, early on in my freelancing career, as a side hustle to have some guaranteed revenue, I taught an adult Career Training class. It covered subjects such as how to write your resume and cover letter, how to interview, what employers look for, etc. The materials I found to teach that class were limited and of poor quality. So I made my own.
At some point, I met another instructor who taught the same class in another school. Like me, she’d been disappointed in the available teaching materials and had created her own. We pooled our work and turned our self-created teaching materials into a published textbook, The Ultimate Job Hunter’s Guidebook.
We filled a void in the market, and our book soon became a leading Career text adopted by colleges around the country. That book is now in its seventh edition. It’s been 25+ years, and we still receive royalty checks every six months. What started out as a side hustle teaching a class became a decades-long revenue generator.
Four web pages soon turned into 10, and then dozens of web pages featuring condo hotel properties all over the world. The website content mushroomed into daily assignments and work on other marketing projects as well.
Rather than pay me a salary as a startup, my father and brother included me as a partner. I received a percentage of every sales commission made. And an added bonus was that I learned a lot about SEO and marketing that I was then able to apply to my other copywriting clients.
That real estate business still operates today and generates revenue although not as much as it once did due to market changes and significant competition from much bigger players than us.
Along the same lines, another on-the-side venture that lasted three years involved me promoting an annual symposium about condo hotels. It was a quality event that provided tremendous value. By using our condo-hotel real estate website and mailing list, and explaining in detail what the symposium offered, I was able to attract hundreds of paid attendees to the event. Everyone who registered resulted in a commission for me.
Goodness no! I wish that were the case. I’ve had my share of disappointments in my attempts to generate additional revenue streams. I spent about 4 months writing and marketing an e-book that sold fewer than 10 copies.
I also partnered with a startup, online company that was selling artwork with custom framing. I wrote the website (200+ pages) and other marketing materials in return for a percentage of sales.
After a year, the company was showing signs of growth but still had a long way to go to become profitable. With well-funded competitors moving into the market, the CEO made the decision to pull the plug.
I can easily get upset when I think about the time and effort I put into those ventures and others that flopped, but the ones that that were successful more than even the score. Plus, the experience garnered with each opportunity, not to mention the confidence I gained in my skills, was significant. Not every situation can be evaluated in dollars and cents.
I’m married, so over the years my husband has also contributed revenue to our household, of course. We share the same philosophy about money.
We’ve also always strived to live beneath our means and be good savers. We’ve invested much of those savings in growth-oriented mutual funds that include holdings in the stock market. We’ve been fortunate to be invested in years when the stock market has done well, and therefore generated additional revenue for us. It’s the ultimate in passive revenue.
None of this is relevant to my freelance writing business other than to say that you don’t have to be 100% reliant on copywriting. Without an employer governing your time, you have the opportunity to explore other businesses and investments. And as you can see by my examples, in each new venture I used my copywriting and marketing skills.
Trying different angles, and also putting your money to work for you in vehicles like stocks and mutual funds, can have financial and personal benefits.
Want to know more? Check out the final post in this blog series, What Does Success Look Like?