How I Started A Side Business For Extra Income

I’ve been working on blogs, Facebooking, Tweeting, Linking In, and YouTubing for almost 5 years now. I started writing for this blog in 2006 with a vision about turning a passion of mine, personal finance, into a blog where I could share my thoughts and experiences about personal finance. Four years later, personal finance is one of the hottest blogging communities on the web, and Money Crashers is poised to have its best year yet as a personal finance blog. I still make a nice little side income from writing for Money Crashers, but while I was learning about blogs and social networks, I developed a strong set of skills about how to market a business on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. I also started learning about the power of having an updated company blog and link building strategies to optimize search engine rankings for company websites, and that was the beginning of a career transition and the start of my side business.

The Transition

In September of 2008, I quit my job as a claims adjuster. This was a job that I held for three years out of college, and it was a good job for the time while my wife was getting through her master’s program as a physician assistant, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do long-term. We moved that same month to Orlando, Florida and I remained unemployed for 10 weeks. During that time, I blogged for money, I did odd jobs, and whatever I could find to make some extra money while my wife worked her butt off. Then in January, I started with a temp agency working at a financial services company doing the most menial computer work I’ve ever done. It was so repetitive and had NO meaning to me at all. It was a rough 4 months, but I got through it, and during that time, I crafted a resume with my past experience to brand myself as an internet marketer, and I found a green travel booking website willing to give me a chance. I had plenty of experience, but it was all experience doing freelance work and no employee work experience. I have been with them for over 7 months, and it has been great, because I am doing something that I am passionate about and I enjoy what I do on a daily basis.

The Dawn of Presence Media

During the time of my career transition, my buddy and I saw a huge need for small businesses to get involved with social media marketing. Big business has the money to have a great Facebook page, Twitter account, and create great video content on YouTube, but small business is in the dark. We knew that we wanted to start a side business doing consulting and management for small businesses, but instead of doing all of the things people think you should do to start a business, we did the opposite. We didn’t have a website, we didn’t have business cards, we didn’t have anything. We took a different approach. We said to ourselves, “we’re not going to call this a business until we have clients.” I thought it was a bad approach, but the more I thought about it, it made sense. You can form an LLC, print business cards, design a website, and look really pretty, but if you don’t have any clients, you aren’t making any money so you really aren’t doing business. Presence Media received its first client, a Chick-fil-A in La Habra, California at the end of August in 2009, and it was a great feeling to turn my career into freelance work for extra money.

More Clients

We have the website now, barely have business cards (still need some good ones), and we have 10 clients. It’s a diverse group of clients, but we’ve received them all from personal referrals and friend/family connections. Now in 2010, we need to focus on marketing so we can generate leads from people other than friends, family, and current clients. We are already making a decent side income. It definitely takes up about 25 to 30 hours of my time right now, but I love doing it, and the extra money is great.

You Can Do It Too

I didn’t write this to gloat, because we definitely aren’t big timers. We are doing good for getting our first client 4 months ago, but no one is asking to buy us out. I wrote about this to let you know that starting a side business to make extra income is achievable. Turning a passion, a hobby, or a certain skill you possess into a business can be done if you are persistent and relentless. It’s going to take long hours at night when your family is asleep. It’s going to take some sacrifice, but the reward is that it could turn into your full-time job someday. Then, you are your own boss, your income is limitless, and you create your schedule, not your boss. My advice is to do the opposite of what people tell you when it comes to starting a business. Get clients/customers first, then spend money on starting a business. If you want to make blankets, make prototypes first, get orders for them, then produce them. Follow that rule and you’ll avoid debt and have income before you have expenses.

How does that sound?

  • Ben @ Money Smart Life

    Hey Erik, congrats on the success of Presence Media! I was sorry to lose you as a contributing blogger but glad you found work that you are passionate about!

  • Kristin @ Making Cents Out of Life

    Congrats on your success, and thank you for all of the info. THis came at a great time in my life because it’s been a year since I had to stop working outside my home because of my disability. I’ve worked for almost 15 years and I’m going stir crazy, not to mention I’m broke. This helps me to see that just maybe, if I try hard enough and find that one thing I want to do, I can make my own job from home and not have to worry about getting a job that will let me work around doctor’s appointments or bouts of depression. Hopefully I can create a business from my home that will allow me to have enough income to supplement (or even get away from) disability so that we aren’t living check-to-check anymore. Going to the movies twice a year shouldn’t feel like going on a vacation does for your average person but to us it’s that big of a splurge. Your article helps me see that I can set goals and work toward a better life as long as I take what free time I do have and work as hard as I can.

  • Anissa

    I’ve been tempted to start an Etsy store on the side but haven’t done it yet. Thanks for the push :)

  • Craig

    Agree, huge needs for social media with small business which they would hire small consultants for less money. Problem is its hard to gain a sizeable community.

  • Sean

    First off, congrats on your side business. It sounds like you guys have a solid start and are growing to boot!

    Also, I really like the advice of starting off with clients and then growing into a company. I imagine it will allow you to figure out what works and grow your business based on actual work rather than imagined work. I think a lot of people get too caught up in what you “have to have” to start their own business and forget that what they need most are customers!

    Good luck on your future ventures.

  • thriftygal

    Congrats on your success and extra income! Coming up with an novel idea and turning it into a business is only the begining. Can you please explain (potentially in another post) how you went about marketing your business to clients outside of personal referrals and friends?

  • jeccica simpson

    I sold on Ebay And Etsy for years, thing have changed alot since I started back in 2000, 10 years have past. I was succeful in my Ebay business, but wuth the changes and the higher fees on those sites, it became a loss. Still looking for that golden idea!! I am stay home mom of 3, so anyone can do it if I can!!

  • DG

    Congrats on your side business. It’s nice doing something you enjoy and watching it grow! I think your advice is great. I’m not starting a side business anytime (but was thinking about an itty bitty tutoring business) soon but I agree that establishing a solid clientele before beginning the company officially is important. makes things more secure that way!

  • Lauren

    Congrats and thanks for your useful advice. It’s always nice to get practical advice from someone in the trenches.

  • David/yourfinances101

    I’ve heard it too many times before. Don’t quit your day job just yet.

    Find your passion, start off doing what you love. Work hard, maintain the passion, and soon, you can leave that day job behind.


  • Elizabeth I

    I am so happy that your venture is taking off. I also appreciate your honesty in discussing the not so great career moments you have had.

  • Mac

    It’s good to hear that somebody has started off on the right foot on a side-business. It’s long been a desire of mine, but I’ve had trouble determining exactly what kind of business to work on…and finding the time to do so.

  • Erik Folgate

    Thanks so much to everyone for your encouragement! By no means am I making a ton of money from this venture, but it’s debt free with a positive cash flow so it definitely is a mini success for me at this point!

    If any of you have any questions about your start-up, feel free to contact me. I’ll also be doing a short series on cheap online tools to help run your small business

  • SC

    taking the first step is probably the hardest part for me! congrats on your success

  • Nicole Reilly

    I really enjoyed your blog posting. It hit home. I’ve taken some good advice from it such as the get clients first and then… approach. It makes alot of sense. I’ve been involving myself with alot of social media and have been getting heavily involved with reviewing products, blogging and working my way up to being a influential Mommy Blogger. Who knows, I love it and am finding ways to get paid along the way. There are ways to make money if you are willing to look for them and put the time in. Thanks again for your posting.

  • Lisa

    Hey thanks for your post. It’s great to read about what you’re doing on your path as you’re putting it together! I appreciate your honesty and sharing your ideas.

    I too have done 2 home businesses, being the parent at home with the kids as their Dad worked. One started using skills from a job I’d been laid off from, along with related skills from a previous job. I was able to pull together services to meet the request of a group that turned into my first clients. This “gig” lasted a number of years until the kids grew more and the home office was too challenging. The second came about when a hobby/interest “went viral.” I was able to grow this enough to make it a very small home business = again at home with the kids/Dad working.

    I so can relate to the — putting in extra hours, importance of doing what you LOVE, making it happen from what you know and seeing a niche you can fill.

    Best wishes. Thanks again.

  • Kalen

    I am in the same field Erik. I have been a blogger and a paid guest blogger for sites like Money Crashers and did a lot with SEO. However, my resume experience is mostly related to blogging and I’d like to change that in the future. Social media seems like the next great stage for my career. We should talk sometime, I would love to work with a fellow Money Crashers writer who has skills I am just starting to explore myself.

  • Kalen Smith

    I am in the same field Erik. I have been a blogger and a paid guest blogger for sites like Money Crashers and did a lot with SEO. However, my resume experience is mostly related to blogging and I’d like to change that in the future. Social media seems like the next great stage for my career. We should talk sometime, I would love to work with a fellow Money Crashers writer who has skills I am just starting to explore myself.

  • Paul

    . I am a small construction contractor, with over 18 yrs in the business, I have had the experience to grow from an excellent landscaper (all area’s), Demolition, Utility installation contractor, Concrete contractor (special designed drive ways) finally interior custom home remodels. I finally moved to the Project mange end and estimating due to an illness that is confining me to my home while I go through treatment. I am looking for ways to earn an income, was hoping someone might have need of my skills. Paul at [email protected] I will give you my contact number.

  • Nitin Lalith

    Hi..!! I’m a 20 yr old guy..!! thought of an idea of doing a business of wedding planners, So printed my business cards started distributing it to my friend and relatives. And now i want to do some marketing or may be publishing my business to everyone so that they will know me…. Please suggest me an idea…??????