How I made extra money while building my business

How I've made extra money on the side

When I first started freelancing I was mainly living off my savings while I built up my business. As I watched the money decrease in my savings account, my insides were filled with dread. Panic would sometimes overtake me and I'd think:

  • My business isn't building up quickly enough.
  • What if I run out of savings and my business STILL isn't doing that great?
  • I don't want to return to my day job, but what if I have to?

If you're at the start of your freelancing journey then you've probably felt the same way, or maybe you still do.

Here's the thing: money is important. Quitting your job to fulfill your dream of freelancing is super admirable, but you have to get used to the fact that your finances won't be the same to begin with.

It helps if you can make some money on the side of freelance biz. And there are plenty of ways you can!

In the past, here's some ways I've made money on the side:

  • Sold my clothes on eBay. I killed two birds with one stone here because I had a TON of clothes that I needed to get rid of. I made £300 / $455 on eBay.
  • Sold my furniture on Gumtree (or you could use Craigslist.) You can get decent money for furniture like desks and chairs. List it as 'pickup only' and see if it sells. Your junk is another persons treasure!
  • Taught someone. I charged hourly to teach IT skills to home-taught children whose parents weren't great with tech.
  • Sold blog ads. If you sell 5 blog ads at $10 each, that's an extra $50 per month. That could go nicely towards petrol (gas) for your car!
  • Replied to ads for small design jobs. Sometimes people don't want a total rebrand, they just want someone to add an opt-in to their site or fix their social media buttons. I found that I could fit about 4 or 5 of these jobs into one day, which provided me with some decent extra money.
  • Sold website reviews. A couple of local companies asked me to review their website and tell them what needed improving. They were industrial companies- not my target market at all- but I didn't mind because it was extra money.

Here are some other (random) ways you can earn some extra cash if you really need it:

  • Babysitting
  • Dog walking
  • Cleaning
  • Look for work on eLance, Freelancer and similar sites.
  • Become a mystery shopper
  • Become an affiliate
  • Be someone's virtual assistant for 2-5 hours per week.
  • Handle someone's social media.
  • Sell digital goods on Etsy, like photo overlays and Photoshop patterns.
  • House-sittng
  • Sell articles

Sometimes, prideful freelancers will refuse to make money in any way that isn't directly linked to their business. Don't be like that. Making extra money is clever- it's not a compromise and it doesn't reflect poorly on your business. You won't have to do these side jobs forever, but doing some of them when you first start freelancing can really help support you, as it did for me.

How to build meaningful relationships within your business

This is a guest article by Zoe, front-end web developer at ZoeRooney.com

My entire business model is based around relationships. I don't market my work nor do I take clients directly. All of my work comes through the relationships I've built with designers and through previous clients' referrals. I have absolutely had my fair share of business relationships that end up feeling icky. On the flip side, I have a number of really wonderful relationships that have lasted years.

Things Not To Do

There are a couple of things that I'm pretty sure always go badly when building relationships (and I think these can apply to business more generally as well):

  1. Ignoring your gut. Every single time I have ignored a gut feeling telling me "I'm not sure I want to do this," I have completely and totally regretted it. I don't have gut feelings about every potential project or client, and this isn't a threshold that every project passes. It's more that if there's a "no" voice anywhere in my head I've learned to listen.
  2. Overvaluing the cool factor. I've had clients ask for a lot of value for a discounted price because they're well known or doing something cool. While there's absolutely value to high-visbiilty projects, I've learned to be super careful in these situations. There's a very fine tipping point from "everything is awesome" to "I'm being taken advantage of," and the only way to avoid the fall is to be extremely careful about not overvaluing the cool factor.

Things To Do

On the flip side, I've found a few things to be consistently helpful:

  1. Doing Unto Others. I try to put out there what I want to get back. When I was first contacting designers I wanted to work with, I cold-emailed them with a message that was all about how much I admired their work (with specifics). Then, I'd end by saying I'd love to hear from them if they needed extra development capacity. It's never about what I can get from someone else. People can tell when you're selling to them and it doesn't create a relationship, or at least not one that will last. Similarly, I don't try to sell myself to clients. Either we're a fit or we're not, and it's important to me that both sides reach that conclusion without sales tactics muddying things up. This is tricky when a client is struggling in one way or another and takes it out on me (happens occasionally), in which cases I try to remember my friend-via-business-relationship Meg's advice about client good vibes. Doing unto others also covers things like sharing via blog posts and answering every single advice-seeking email.
  2. Telling it like it is. Telling it like it is with regards to project costs, time frames, availability, whether or not I want to work on a project, whether I can even do what someone is asking me to do, etc., can be hard. This is especially true when it involves saying no, particularly  when the person has asked really nicely and with great enthusiasm. I find that thinking long-term helps. Perhaps I have to say "no" right now, but by doing so honestly and nicely (and by offering suggestions for where to go next), I'm still building a relationship with that person in case the next time they ask it's a "yes."
  3. Keeping business as business. Business is not personal. Even when the relationship with the client is friendly and we're all telling it like it is, the work is not personal. In my experience, the more I can clarify and come to agreement with people I'm working with on the project goals, scope, specifics, and outcmes in advance, the better. Each business decision doesn't have to also have a huge impact on the relationship, but the relationship starts to filter in when things are unclear.

For me, I think it all comes down to keeping it real. We're all people here and we're all doing the best we can. My role is to keep doing my best and to do what I can so everyone I work with can do their best, and at the end of the day we'll all feel good enough to keep on working.

Zoe Rooney runs a small front-end web development company focused on working with talented designers to create beautiful, functional websites. She works mostly with WordPress and Shopify, and for creative businesses and bloggers. She is also a wife and mom to two little boys.