When I first discovered the concept of financial independence while in my last year of grad school, I knew it was a milestone I wanted to achieve as quickly as possible. At times this led to an almost unhealthy obsession with maximizing income, minimizing expenses, and managing my investment accounts.
This dedication to my finances did pay off though by allowing me to leave full time work after only three years of saving and investing aggressively when I reached semi-retirement in 2018. Then one year later in 2019, after another couple months of work and a lot of international travel, I reached my financial independence target number at 30 years old, and I haven’t worked since then.
This scenario probably sounds crazy to you, because it still sounds crazy to me at times, but once you understand the math behind financial independence and learn about the power of your savings rate, it makes much more sense. There’s no real secret, just a focus on saving as much as possible. During my three year full time working career, I saved between 80-90% of my after-tax income which supercharged my path to FIRE. A huge component of that ultra high savings rate was making as much extra money as possible through side hustles.
At some point in my first year of working, soon after starting this website, I decided to challenge myself to keep my expenses low enough to be able to completely cover them with only extra money I made above and beyond my normal 40 hours of work as a travel physical therapist. That way I would be able to put my entire paycheck each week into savings and investments. I wasn’t sure this would be possible, but I didn’t have anything to lose by trying. It turned out that not only was I able to make it work, but to this day, I’ve never spent one dollar of income from my full time physical therapy travel assignment work! All of that money was saved, invested, and continues to grow over time.
My Side Hustles
As a traveling physical therapist, moving often is a major part of the job. This makes finding ways to make extra money difficult at times, but I was determined to make it work. Below are the ways I found most beneficial.
Credit Card and Bank Account Sign-up Bonuses
If you’ve read my articles in the past, you’re probably familiar with my love for sign-up bonuses. In a little over two years, I was able to earn over 500,000 credit card points/miles, four free hotel nights, and over $10,000 with these bonuses! After three years (the length of my full time working career), the cash earned from these bonuses and cashing in/selling points equaled a whopping $16,630! In addition, from these sign-up bonuses, my expenses were reduced significantly since I used points to cover most of the expenses what would have been incurred from flights and hotels on vacations we took over that time period.
I’m not going to lie and say that getting all of those bonuses were easy though. During that three year period, I completed 33 credit card bonuses and 35 bank account bonuses. I spent 5-10 hours per week researching bonuses and keeping track of everything to make sure I was meeting all of the requirements. I did get excitement out of it though and was able to earn the money remotely, which was important with our work travels.
Below I’ll break down how much extra money I was able to make off of each “side hustle” in terms of a monthly average and an estimate of how much I made “per hour” based on my estimate of how many hours I spent working on each side hustle.
- Average earned monthly over three year period: $460 (not including the value of free vacations and travel)
- Estimated hourly earnings: $16.50/hr
Working Overtime and PRN
Overtime and part time work as a travel physical therapist can be hard to come by. Most travel assignment locations don’t want travelers working overtime since it costs them so much, and many potential part time jobs don’t want to hire someone knowing they’ll only be in the area for a short time. Despite this, I was always on the lookout for extra work as a physical therapist since that would undoubtedly earn me the most money per hour. I was only allowed to work overtime hours at three of my travel assignment locations over the years, but when I was allowed, I worked as much as they would let me. At one of my assignments this led to a 64 hour week on a particularly busy week!
As for PRN work, I was only able to find one PRN job over the years that would hire me knowing I would only be there temporarily. I didn’t get many hours per week but always accepted the hours if offered.
- Average earned monthly over three year period: $590
- Estimated hourly earnings: $45/hr
I started this website in 2016 as a way to provide others with information on financial independence and travel physical therapy. It was a hobby and something I wanted to do to document my journey, but I always hoped that eventually it would make a little money. For the first year, the income generated was very low, but as I started to get more readers, it grew steadily over time. By my last few months of full time work, this website brought in enough income to actually cover all of my monthly expenses and continued to do so on our five month trip to Europe and Asia!
The amount of time and effort spent to eventually generate this income was massive and I wouldn’t recommend starting a blog for the sole purpose of making money, but a blog is a wonderful way to share ideas and track your journey over time. For my first year, I spent a lot of time learning about and designing the website as well as writing, and I estimate that I made about $1/hour based on income generated over that time. Not exactly the best ROI. But as I said it has steadily increased some over the years.
- Average earned monthly over three year period: $660
- Estimated hourly earnings: $9/hr
Total Income for My Side Hustles
In total, I was spending around 25 hours per week on side hustles and bringing in an average of an additional $1,700/month on top of my regular 40 hour per week full time job. This kept me very busy, but I was able to completely cover my expenses with these side hustles alone, allowing me to save all of the money I earned at my primary career as a physical therapist, which led to significantly increasing my savings rate and subsequently reaching financial independence at an accelerated rate!
Another benefit of these side hustles is that they continue to bring in some income now that I’m no longer working (besides the overtime and PRN work, which I no longer do). I still spend an hour or two each week on credit card and bank account sign-up bonuses, and around 5-10 hours per week writing, managing, and answering questions on this website. I don’t have to do these things anymore financially, but they give me something productive to do, and I enjoy the challenge.
What are your side hustles and how are they helping you reach financial independence?