The Very Honest Truth About Going Full Time With My Side Hustle

Hi, it’s Ariel, Michelle’s editor. Over the past couple of years you’ve seen me here on Making Sense of Cents talking about real life frugality, living in a small house, and writing and editing strategies. Part of being here is that I work as a freelance editor for her, and I recently turned that side…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: June 5, 2023

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The Very Honest Truth About Going Full Time With My Side Hustle #sidehustle #makeextramoneyHi, it’s Ariel, Michelle’s editor. Over the past couple of years you’ve seen me here on Making Sense of Cents talking about real life frugality, living in a small house, and writing and editing strategies. Part of being here is that I work as a freelance editor for her, and I recently turned that side business into my full-time job.

Even though I started side hustling as a freelance editor three years ago for Michelle, it wasn’t until about six months ago that I took the plunge and decided to go full time with it. That’s actually what I’m going to talk about today – the very honest truth about turning my side hustle into a full-time job.

For full disclosure, I know Michelle on more than just a professional level. She’s my sister-in-law, and we’ve known each other for nearly 15 years. She and Wes actually rented a room from us years ago, where she spent hours every night working on side hustles, while Wes and I stayed up way too late watching Lost on Netflix.

That last statement says a lot about her work ethic, which is something I’ve come to admire more and more as we’ve become closer as friends.

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Even though I had one, I didn’t really get the whole “side hustle” thing.

Reading personal finance blogs wasn’t something I was doing before working for Michelle, but to get a feel for the genre, I started consuming more and more of them on a regular basis. Beyond basic personal finance advice, I noticed one glaring similarity – many of them were talking about side hustles being this thing that could bring us all a little financial flexibility.

However, I took issue with the term “side hustle.”

I had always worked a bunch of part-time jobs, from two to four at any given time. My husband, who works as a special education teacher, even had part-time jobs on the side. None of our part-time jobs paid much more than minimum wage; they had set hours and there was very little room for growth.

I’ve come to understand that as the real difference between a part-time job and a side hustle, with the “hustle” part not as negative as it might sound. I think of it now more in terms of working really hard for something.

Calling your work a “side hustle” isn’t just rebranding your part-time job to make it sound sexier either, there is a real difference – a side hustle is something you can grow, control (for the most part), and maybe one day turn it into a full-time income.

I still didn’t realize this, or how it would actually work, until this past summer.


Stop, rewind a little bit, and let’s go back to when I started side hustling.

My husband and I desperately needed that extra income when I started working for Michelle, something I don’t think she knew at the time. We had been making some pretty poor financial decisions for the first part of our marriage – maxing out credit cards and buying a house when we probably couldn’t afford one.

Before I started side hustling, we were working on paying off those credit cards and our finances were stretched very thin. If there were just one or two extra expenses in a month, and there usually were, credit cards seemed like the only way to manage those expenses, and we were seriously trying to eliminate that debt.

When I started working for Michelle I was probably earning an extra $300 a month, which may not sound like a ton, but it was huge for us. That extra income saved us from adding to our debt and made it possible for us to finally pay off our credit cards.

This is part of the financial freedom those personal finance bloggers are selling you, but it isn’t easy work.

If you are already working, have a family, or any other major commitments, then you have a pretty limited amount of time to find and pursue extra work. Many side hustles, mine included, are ones you can work outside of your other obligations. Still, that can be a hard fit for many of us.

On top of starting my side hustle, I was also back in school to finally finish my bachelor’s degree, so between school and my jobs, I was working around 80-90 hours a week. It was painfully exhausting, and my husband and I hardly ever spent any real time with one another. We prioritized time with our three children as much as possible, and our date nights often consisted of us sitting next to each other on the sofa working.

Oh yeah, he was also back in school for his graduate degree.

Related: 15 Of My Best Working From Home Tips So You Can Succeed


As graduation neared, I had to make a decision.

My husband and I were actually graduating just a week apart from one another. He would be earning more because of his graduate degree, but I had to decide what to do because we had accrued over $100,000 in student loan debt between our three degrees.

We knew that going in, and the plan had always been for me to get a real job. By “real job” I mean full-time employment.

The thing is, and this is going to sound a little whiny, I didn’t really want to get a full-time job. I knew it would mean that I wouldn’t be as available for my kids, plus I’d be entering the workforce 10+ years after most of my peers.

I wanted to still spend the summers with my family and just be there for them as much as possible. I seriously considered just trying to cobble together several part-time jobs to make that lifestyle a reality, but that didn’t feel right either. I wanted to start making a real financial contribution to our family’s future.


Then, something big happened my Dad passed away.

He had been sick for about a year, and his illness and passing solidified my feelings about being around as much as possible for my family. His death also meant that I would take control of his assets, which meant selling his home.

I hate talking about my Dad’s death this way, but selling his house was one of the biggest contributing factors to our current financial situation and being able to go full time with my side hustle. We used the money from the sale of his home to pay off our house and bulk up our emergency fund.

I don’t want to spend much time here because it can be a hard thing to talk about, but again, it’s an important thing to realize when you hear stories like this. I wish I could say that I hustled harder than anyone else and made it here all on my own, but that’s not my truth.


That turning point was everything.

My husband and I had many long conversations about what I might do job wise, and knowing that we had eliminated all of our debt, excluding our student loans, meant that there was some flexibility during our student loan grace period.

In addition to working for Michelle, I was working two other part-time jobs, but that only made up about 20 hours per week. My editing work had picked up a little bit, and with school being finished, I decided to spend that extra time during the summer to see if I could turn my editing thing into a “real” job, meaning a full-time income.

If it didn’t work, then I would find something else. Honestly, I’d probably still edit for Michelle on the side, but I really did need to start earning more.


To my surprise, and with some work, my business grew.

Through my website and word of mouth, I picked up several other clients, and because I now had the time, I threw my name in for every type of editing or writing job that came my way – from editing an eBook for a ghostwriter, to putting together a book of poetry for a nonprofit, and to picking up a few writing gigs of my own.

Most of those were one time jobs, but they helped me realize that I could actually grow my business into something more. I eventually landed two big clients who needed some help on a regular basis – Millennial Money Man and Laptop Empires (hi Bobby and Mike!) – and that’s when my income really started to increase.

Despite a little more stability with those larger clients, this is all freelance work. If I want to take a vacation or if a kid is sick, I lose income. I also have more expenses now, even hiring an editor to occasionally go through my writing.

From starting at around $300 a month, I’m now grossing a pretty regular $4,000 a month – I recently had my first $5,000+ month! It was an insanely busy month with incredibly gratifying results. I feel like I can go ahead and call this full-time income status.


About those two part-time jobs.

Until the end of 2018 I still worked both of those part-time jobs. I still have one of them because I love it, especially the little bit of stability it brings me as I keep growing my business. Owning your own business is a little terrifying at times, so I’m not sure when and if I will leave that other job for good.

I waver on it a lot right now because I’ve seen an increase in my income since leaving the other one. And because I often work on a per hour basis, I can quantify the difference in pay, knowing that putting that time into my business will likely lead to another income boost.


So, can anyone do the whole side hustle to full-time job thing?

Here’s the thing, there’s not a magic pill you can take to start a successful side hustle, so don’t listen to anyone who says, “This is the one side hustle you’ll get rich from!”

Making a promise like that is just plain dishonesty.

Still, there is a lot of room out there. Just this past week I talked to someone who is actually making an MLM work as a side hustle, someone who is squirreling money away for retirement with Taskrabbit, and someone who quit her job after starting a successful Etsy shop on a whim.

Personal finance bloggers like Michelle aren’t selling you dreams; they’re telling you about a reality that takes extra work to attain. And, they talk about it so much because many of them started their businesses in a similar way to how I began – just something on the side to make a little extra cash.


My financial future, my side hustle, and privilege.

With no mortgage, credit card debt, or car payments, we are actually able to cover pretty much all of our bills and savings with my husband’s income, so we plan on allocating as much of my new income towards paying off our student loans. Not going to lie here, we’re also taking a couple more family vacations.

I know I said I didn’t want to spend much time on stuff with my Dad, but I do want to circle back around to that because I have big, complicated feelings about it all.

What happened moneywise after my Dad passed away is not something everyone will experience. That’s a privilege that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s also the difference in how some people get ahead while others don’t.

I think if I had left out the part about my Dad, this story would have a completely different vibe. I feel very strongly, though, about honoring him by making sure we don’t squander the benefit he’s allowed our family. He was never very good with money, and I know he’d like to know that I’m making the most out of what he’s given us.

While I really do love what I do, I honestly feel an even greater sense of responsibility because of his contribution.

Do you have a side hustle? Do you want to turn it into your full-time income? Have you already made the transition? Share in the comments below!

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Megan

    I think it is a lovely tribute to your dad that you can appreciate and acknowledge the advantages he gave you. And I think it is a sign of integrity that you want to be up front about it because there are often stories about people pushing through debts in record time who really under sell the boost that an unexpected financial change gave them. I know when I talk to people about paying off my student loans, I try to give them all my tips for budgeting because that made a big difference. But I also mention that my parents were doing things like gifting me $500 for Christmas because that sort of thing did make a difference and it did give me wiggle room at times when I could really need it.

    1. Megan, thanks! And your right, transparency can be hard at times but I think it gives a fuller picture.

  2. Hari | Parhelia Finance

    Wow that was a great story Ariel! These are some of my favorite blog posts to read because people like you inspires others, like me, to remember and know why you have to keep going and not give up so easily. You’re definitely on point about how changing from part time side hustle to full time status takes so much extra work and energy. There’s been many times that I’ve doubted myself if my “side hustle” will be worth it or not, but I think if you’re staying consistent and making progress, you can definitely do it, just as you did. Thank you for sharing this with us and motivating us to keep going! I’m sure your dad would be proud! 🙂

    1. Thanks Hari! I think he would proud too <3

  3. JB

    As someone interested in starting a side hustle, I appreciate the honesty and personal touch of this piece. It’s always great to see how personal situations impact decisions and outcomes.

  4. Although late, my condolences for your loss, Ariel. I really appreciate your transparency about the issue, and for recognizing the effect his passing had.

    Conversely, it’s possible that a loved one’s passing can result in the opposite: create extreme debt because of hospital and/or burial costs. Again, I am so sorry for your loss, but I am also happy that you did not face these circumstances.

    Thanks also for sharing about your financial journey. It was motivating to read about the very real possibility of transforming a side hustle into a full-time gig.

  5. Laura

    Thanks for sharing such a personal post. Both about your father and your financial situation both are really hard topics. Thanks for sharing. I really appreciate you sharing your thought process. I would really like to get my side hustle to the same level as yours. Likely not to turn into a full time job but steady suplemental income sharing your

  6. DNN

    It’s good to know that you caught on to the whole side hustle thing because of Michelle’s positive energy rubbing off on you. you do know that you’re a side hustle millionaire in the making, right? 🙂

  7. Love the transparency in this post. I’m also currently working to grow my side hustle (blogging) into my main hustle so I can at the very least cut my hours back at my full time job & this was very inspiring to read.

    Thank you!

  8. Eden

    Our parents help us in all kinds of ways, and it sounds like your Dad helped you just when you needed him most, even if that’s not what either of you expected. I don’t think that’s anything to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. It’s part of your story. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  9. Eric

    Condolences to you on the loss of your dad! I have heard it said that loss is a doorway to new beginnings and opportunities. I believe it. It sounds like that for you. I enjoyed reading this. Very real and most importantly you allowed yourself to be very vulnerable out here and that goes miles. Keep going and keep growing!

  10. This was beautifully written and so insightful. First of all, my condolences on the loss of your dad. I love how you are honoring him through your sound financial decisions.

    Secondly, I love your honesty. Reading these debt payoff stories get annoying and sometimes insulting when you find out that the person paid of their debt but already had a trust fund or turned out to have a spouse who is the owner of a huge company.

    And of course congrats on turning a side hustle into a career. No matter how you got there, it’s still a major win.

  11. Thanks for writing this! I really like reading about successes from side hustles because then I feel like I will be too.
    Im not sure what to call what I am doing, because I want it to be a full-time income one day. Right now I’m just working at it, while being being at home and homeschooling my tweens.
    I haven’t had a ‘real job” since I quit it in 2009 to stay home and raise my babies. I definitely didn’t know anything about blogging back then.

  12. Ariel, what a lovely, lovely post. Thank you so much for your candor and sharing. I inherited money from my uncle so our house was bought with cash, which makes a huge difference in our reality as compared to many people, so I am right there with you on the complicated feelings about the money from your dad’s estate. It’s very bittersweet. Best wishes to you and your family and I look forward to more of your posts. 💕💕

  13. Ariel, I really enjoyed this post for many reasons. I love hearing the journey and lucky you to have such an inspirational sister-in-law. The gift from your father was meant to be. Lasting gift in this lifetime to your family.

  14. My side hustle was always a money pit for me in the past. I hope to turn Spiritual Healing into a side hustle this year and move on to it full-time by October 2020. I’m starting to add services to my blog that has been going strong for a year. I finally have some affiliations with companies that I purchase from regularly so I will be able to link to more items with each post I write. This blog and the affiliate marketing class from Odi Productions are going to be all I use to get myself to the independent stretch. My eBay business is going pretty good and my mom is decluttering through it so I’m so excited to see what the future holds. Maybe add secret shopping to the list of side hustles soon! Thanks for your hard work and maybe I’ll ask you to edit my blog once I stop having time for it!

  15. Thank you so much for sharing Ariel. This article blessed me. Congratulations on all that you have learned and accomplished! It is very generous of you to share the journey and to encourage others.

  16. Stephanie Gatewood

    I love your honesty and willingness to share. I’m a personal finance blogger and talk about side hustles a lot…and not just ones that you can grow into a full-time business of your own, but also part-time jobs that will contribute an extra $200-$500 a month. As you said, even a few hundred dollars can make a huge difference when it comes to paying for unexpected expenses or paying down debt.

    I’m hustling hard trying to build my business, but I realize how privileged I am to be able to devote so much time to my blog. I work another job part-time from home, and we already have financial freedom, in large part, thanks to my husband.

    He was an enormous influence on me since he’s naturally frugal and a saver; I had to change for the sake of my marriage. 🙂 We also never had student loan debt (we’re Gen Xers), so we started off our careers pretty much debt-free.

    I think many people who’ve attain financial freedom worked hard to get there, but some of us were lucky enough to be presented with special opportunities (like your inheritance or my husband’s frugality and ability to save).

    It’s good to be honest about the help or luck we’ve had so that others don’t think there’s something wrong with them if they take longer to achieve what we have.

  17. Great outcome. I tell my kids not to get in student loan debt if they aren’t committed to being able and focused to pay it off. I would hope that they consider the same when they marry. There are cheap ways to get a college degree that my kids have pursued and they have also made mistakes with college loans, but when graduated taken on 2 jobs to pay those debts down. Imagine what freedom you would have had without that debt to make decisions about what you wanted to pursue. As a mother of 4, who also works outside the home, we do what we want to do in the end. Thanks for sharing your story and how you turned things around and made a side-hustle your successful business. In my case, my full-time job is my true and consistent passion. My side hustles feed my other interest, but aren’t making me rich in money, but in other ways.

  18. Rolan

    Ariel, thank you for sharing. It’s difficult just talking about your struggles with people you know, let alone in a blog post.

    I lost my Dad also and though I didn’t receive a windfall after his passing, I got the fire and determination to after my dreams and live the life I’m meant to live.

    I’m inspired by your story of finally going full time in business. I wish you continued success in your journey!

  19. Thank you for sharing this personal story and sharing it in a transparent and upfront manner. I’m happy for you that you are now financially healthy, thanks to the indirect gift from your dad.

    It’s everyone’s dream to be able to enjoy a life of freedom and still make a sizable and reliable income. I’ve left a well-paying job to pursue the same dream and I’m now living a life of passion. 🙂

  20. Nancy

    I bet your Dad would be thrilled to know that he was able to make such a great difference in your life with the sale of his house. Nothing makes parents happier than helping their children in all circumstances. He would be proud of you.

    God Bless!