Want to start your own business but worried about taking an income hit? Many freelancers and small business owners ultimately make a lot more than they did in a traditional job. In some cases — such as with employee-turned freelance writer-turned entrepreneur Marc Andre— the self-employed even end up generating a six-figure income that had eluded them while working for an employer.
Let’s backtrack a bit to understand exactly how this can happen. Back in 2008, Andre was working in a full-time job as an auditor, with a salary in the low $40,000s. He’d been plugging away in his role for over three years but saw little growth potential despite his extra efforts to get ahead.
“I had tried everything I could think of to make myself more valuable,” recalled Andre. “I passed exams to become a Certified Internal Auditor, took on additional projects outside of my job description, and generally looked for any opportunity I could find to get more experience. I always had great reviews from my supervisors, but it wasn’t really getting me anywhere. I wasn’t totally miserable in the job, but I felt like I had no future there.”
Dissatisfied that his income had stayed stagnant despite working outside of his job description, Andre presented his case for a raise — and got about $5K added to his yearly take-home pay. But a year later, he realized that he had more responsibilities than ever heaped on his plate, yet was back to doing work that he wasn’t paid for.
Grooming a side hustle
Andre considered his options, which included looking for jobs at competitor firms, or grooming a side hustle that he’d started to eventually make it his full-time occupation. Ready for a new challenge, he decided to take a leap of faith and chose the latter, which involved trying his hand at a combination of freelance writing and managing his own web design blog, at first while keeping his day job.
“With the new certification, I should have been able to find a better-paying job without too much difficulty, but by the time I completed it, I had already started my business on the side,” explained Andre. “So rather than looking for a new job, I decided to stay where I was and see if I could simultaneously grow my business. The combination of frustration with my job and the potential that I saw with my own business sparked an interest in trying to grow my business.”
The experiment was successful. His website began making about $2,000 per month, and freelance writing allowed him to make another $1,000 per month, which came close to replacing his auditor salary. So with cash reserves of about $30,000 that he and his wife had set aside as an emergency fund when he left his job, Andre leveraged some initial efforts, which he had started while serving as an auditor, into his main bread and butter, splitting his time evenly between website work and writing projects.
Once Andre gave notice at his employer, he was offered a $10,000 raise to stay — it wasn’t too little, but it was too late. “At that point I had already left the job mentally, so I turned it down,” said Andre. “It was discouraging, but not surprising, that they didn’t offer the raise until they felt the threat of me leaving.”
Since Andre had already started his gigs part-time while still in his full-time job, he was able to add more work with two of his best clients when he left his employer. He leveraged these contacts into regular weekly and monthly assignments from a few different design blogs.
Grossing over $1 million in sales
The proactive strategy quickly paid off. In the first month, Andre started making more money from his own business than he had from his previous position, doubling the amount he made from freelance writing from $1,000 to $2,000+, which when combined with $2K per month from his website surpassed his old salary — and it continued to multiply. In 2009, his first year of self-employment, he experienced around a $20,000 income bump from what he’d earned in his day job, raking in about $60K.
Every subsequent year since then — from 2010 to 2018 — Andre has logged a six-figure income. In fact, from selling four of the blogs he had created in various industries, he grossed over a million in sales, and that doesn’t include the amount that he made from the freelance-writing side of his businesses.
Andre did not always feel compelled to be an entrepreneur. He had originally started his first website just to make some extra cash and didn’t feel passionate about freelance writing. But he quickly realized that these were stepping stones to diverse challenges that he enjoyed, and his efforts also had potential to become something much bigger.
While he enjoyed the flexibility that he had as a freelance writer, Andre recognized an opportunity to make even more money by shifting additional focus into website management. So after cracking the six-figure marker two years into his freelance career, he gradually scaled back on writing to dedicate more time to his own website, ultimately selling it — and he has been repeating this strategy ever since while still taking on freelance gigs on and off. “I basically used freelancing as a bridge to get me to that point,” said Andre. “It’s been a great full-time business for more than 10 years now.”
The web design blog that Andre was working on part-time while he still had a full-time job wound up earning $20,000 per month, and he sold it in 2013 for $500,000. Since then, he has launched blogs in other industries, selling three photography blogs for a total of over $700,000. In total, he has grossed over $1 million in sales from his websites. Currently, Andre manages his own personal finance blog, VitalDollar.com, while continuing to simultaneously work as a freelance writer in finance, web design, and photography.
The keys to his success
Andre maintains that the key to his success was that he never viewed freelancing as the ultimate goal. Instead, he used the skills that he developed as a freelancer to create his own entrepreneurial venture, which ultimately took his income higher.
“At the very beginning it was simply for some extra money with no intention of growing into anything full-time, but that stage didn’t last long,” said Andre. “Within a few months, maybe less, I saw bigger potential and I quickly set a goal of replacing — and then far exceeding — the income from my job.”