“Look for the people who can challenge and empower you, to help you build the life you want.”
When we first started side hustling, in 2004 for Craig and 2006 for Carrie, we had no idea how much our lives would change. All we knew is that we wanted financial security that would give us more time to invest in the things that mattered to us, like spending time with family, traveling, and giving back.
As a married couple, co-parents, and business partners, we now have eight income streams — four passive and four active — and most recently we wrote a book together called “So You Want to Start a Side Hustle.” We have learned a lot over the years.
We were able to build our first business together, by merging our two direct sales side hustles in late 2006, into a company that generates over $3 million dollars in annual revenue today. And each of our revenue streams grew, in various ways, from the success of that first side hustle.
Here are the steps we took to create multiple income streams, leave our traditional career paths, and elevate our quality of life.
We started small
Craig’s first job out of college was working for GE in commercial finance, and when Carrie graduated, she became a preschool teacher. We enjoyed many aspects of our traditional careers. But Craig didn’t want to stay in the corporate world forever, and Carrie was also feeling the limitations of a 9-to-5 gig. So we each began to explore side hustling in more depth.
We started small at first. Craig dabbled in real estate and investing, and Carrie did some nannying and soccer coaching, all while juggling school or our full-time jobs. But none of them was the right fit. Those gigs either required large amounts of money to scale, were temporary, or were too time-intensive to maintain or justify the effort.
Through his colleagues, Craig met some successful business owners who had grown their side hustles to a level that allowed them to leave their day jobs, and he was inspired by their example. Around the same time, Carrie met these same mentors, and they introduced us.
It’s safe to say we wouldn’t have met at all if we hadn’t both been pursuing an entrepreneurial path.
Video by Courtney Stith
We got specific about what success meant to us
With side hustling, our best advice is to start with the end in mind and be as specific as possible. Craig’s initial goal, for example, was to replace 75% of his 9-to-5 salary with side hustle earnings by age 29. Working backwards from that objective, he realized he would have to generate about $4,000 in monthly income.
When we started our first company, we invested about 10 to 15 hours a week into side hustling. As we gained momentum, we developed a philosophy that for every hour we were investing in our day jobs, we would invest an hour into growing our businesses.
In 2007, we started bringing in that $4,000 each month. In 2010, after reviewing our finances, we agreed that Carrie would leave her day job first, since Craig’s salary was now over six figures, which provided us with funds to invest back into our side hustles and savings.
Video by Courtney Stith
When thinking about what kind of side hustles you want to develop, financial security is a good starting point, but it is important to break down what that means to you. Ask yourself, how do you want to live? What do your finances look like? How much time do you have to spend with your loved ones?
Once you have that broader, holistic “life vision,” as we call it, start to break it down into manageable parts and set specific targets.
We didn’t reinvent the wheel
In our experience, your first side hustle doesn’t necessarily need to be your passion. It could be a means to give you more time to discover what that truly is.
Starting a retail business wasn’t a lifelong dream of ours. But our mentors recommended that we explore direct sales, because it required little start-up capital, had the potential to grow, and we could duplicate our efforts over time.
Your first side hustle doesn’t necessarily need to be your passion. It could be a means to give you more time to discover what that truly is.
Now we offer services to help drive traffic and boost revenue for large businesses like Home Depot or Under Armour and more niche retailers in the health and beauty space, without having to manufacture any products ourselves.
As long as you are curious and committed to the outcome, and use it as a learning experience, you can use the business to level up, get smarter, and eventually create the results you want.
We used one opportunity to leverage another
When our sales business started generating over $1 million in revenue in 2009, we started to branch out and diversify even more.
We began doing some paid coaching and speaking engagements, and we invested the profits from those side hustles to buy a rental property. Around the same time, we also started investing more aggressively in the stock market and also did some financial consulting for other small businesses.
We saved Craig’s entire salary for two years before he left his day job in 2016. During this time, we made sure to spend our money intentionally, and on the things that brought us joy like our home, family activities, healthy food, and experiences for our kids.
Video by Courtney Stith
We made sure to be thoughtful about our spending on items like technology, entertainment, and cars. Our 2009 Lexus, for example, has nearly 200,000 miles on it. Our aim with our budget is to create a life for ourselves that aligns with our deeper values, not to impress others.
Our side hustle income, combined with our savings, has created a financial safety net that has allowed us to continue to pursue our passion projects. In the last few years we have started podcasting and launched a nonprofit, Tandem Giving Inc., in 2019. And in 2021, we co-founded a tech start-up and released our book, “So You Want to Start a Side Hustle.”
We found a supportive and empowering community
A common mistake people can make is only looking for what business they should build. We suggest focusing on who has already achieved the sort of goals you are looking to accomplish, and find ways to connect with them.
In our experience, a great way to succeed is to surround yourselves with people who have been where you are and are leading the kind of life you aspire to. Networking can feel overwhelming, but don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Then give it time.
We first met our mentors casually through mutual acquaintances of ours. We’re so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with them more formally and establish a long-term relationship over many years.
Do what you can to take the influences and activities that make you feel negative or drained out of the equation. Ultimately our best advice is to be intentional about who you spend your time with, and look for the people who can challenge and empower you, to help you build the life you want.
Carrie Bohlig and Craig Clickner are the co-authors of “So You Want to Start a Side Hustle: Build a Business that Empowers You to Live Your Life, Your Way.” They are a Midwestern husband and wife duo, raising their young family, keynote speaking, traveling, and running several businesses including Tandem Consulting, ClickGlobal LLC, CC Global LLC, Simply Automate Inc., and LWCB Holdings LLC, and most recently launched their podcast Tandem Talks, and nonprofit, Tandem Giving Inc.