I figure it’s time to follow up on how my Side Hustle Your Way to FinCon actually went… especially since side hustling is for everyone. Seriously – everyone. Check out this list. Pick something. Get on it.
Back in March, I decided I was going to attend FinCon – a conference “where money and media meet.” Partly because I really wanted to learn more about blogging, partly because I wanted to meet a bunch of the people whose blogs I read, mostly because it was in New Orleans and I’d never been there.
I loved New Orleans. And when I say I loved New Orleans, I mean, I loved it like I’ve been stalking Craigslist for apartments since last Friday. I even really wanted to live in the French Quarter, but the New Yorker in me thought there was no way I could ever afford that – turns out I totally could. Not only could I live in the French Quarter, if I wanted to live outside the heart of the city or with a roommate, I could probably almost live there as a freelancer (assuming I majorly upped my game, but FinCon has pretty much convinced me that I could).
New Orleans is freaking awesome.
Back to the money though – my goal for FinCon was to side hustle $1,500 for the trip. I estimated that number would cover the cost of the conference pass, flight, hotel, food and fun.
I didn’t quite make it, but $1,321.62 is nothing to sneeze at – especially considering I’d never really side hustled before.
So where did this money come from?
I had four main outside income streams:
- Theater Stuff (Stage Managing & Props): $879.70
- Mystery Shopping: $131.70
- Freelance Writing: $348.83
- brokeGIRLrich (Sponsored Posts & Advertising): $124.07
In addition, I added any other random side hustles I hunted down and eBay sales which came out to about $100-$150.
But wait! That’s more than $1,500. True. But I had the good fortune of having a tire explode on me this spring and rather than scrounging for money or touching my emergency account, I just deducted it from this sucker.
So as far as I’m concerned, I successfully hustled $1,321.62 for FinCon.
Fun things I’ve learned about side hustling over the last few months:
Sometimes hustling sucks. I had some serious side hustle fails while figuring out what on earth I was doing – from super over extending myself at times to taking on projects that were just too big to totally not making enough money for it to be worth it at times.
Sometimes hustling is awesome. My mystery shopping income up there isn’t super impressive but for all of those shops (except one – see “totally not making enough money for it to be worth it” above), I just popped in a store on my way home, picked up a free pretzel or bookmark or cup of coffee and spent 5 minutes filling out a survey about it when I got home. As far as I’m concerned, those hustles were worth it.
Side hustles that use talents you already have make you the most money. My best side hustle this summer was stage managing for a little cultural production called Beat the Drum for Haiti (otherwise known as that time with the squirrel). I used a skill I already have that lots of people don’t, which meant it was a way more lucrative side gig. The next highest paying hustle was making props.
I like writing. Without a doubt, freelance writing is my favorite side hustle. I love stage managing, but doing it on the side around my regular work schedule is really, really stressful. Freelance writing fits in pretty much anywhere. I can knock out articles during slow days at work. I can write at home while my laundry is going. I can write at 7 am or 3 am or 2 pm. It’s pretty terrific.
Ok, enough about that, I bet you’re wondering – did FinCon really cost $1,500? Or even $1,321.62?
Oh my gosh, I’d be like the worst personal finance blogger ever if it did. Good golly.
So no, FinCon did not cost anywhere near that.
And since I killed it with the side hustling, I didn’t worry too much about my expenses. The pass was paid off months ago and the rest – the fun was worth spending for. I went on 3 awesome tours, drank way too much (mostly just on the first and last night) and ate at some way nicer places than I usually frequent.
If you’re thinking of hitting up FinCon next year, $600 isn’t too bad for 5 days in the Big Easy, but let me assure you, you can do it even cheaper if you wanted and still have a great time.
Lessons learned from paying for FinCon:
Commit early. I bought the Early Bird pass which was nearly half the price of a last minute pass. The price of the pass kept creeping up as time passed, so I just decided to dive in and get that sucker back in March. What made this idea even better was the knowledge that I could sell it if I changed my mind (although for you commitment-phobes, it probably meant there were plenty of people like me selling their passes as the conference got closer, so you might have bagged a good deal).
Credit card churning is awesome. Unless you’re like my friend J. Money (who I met in real life and was alarmingly star struck – and this is from a girl who works with normal stars on a regular basis) who is all about simplicity, churning is pretty awesome. But it’s not simple. I mean, it’s simple to apply for the cards, but definitely not as simple to track. For tips from a credit card churning superstar, check out my other friend Holly over at Club Thrifty. For me, this meant my flight cost $11.20 in taxes and my hotel room was free.
Frugality has some extra costs. Sometimes when you share a room with people you’ve never met it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes people are super swell human beings with incredible snoring issues. And sometimes you make lifelong bonds with the other non-snorers in your room. On the plus side, avoiding your hotel room does make you much more social.
Don’t forget to about the Danger Zone. It’s a real thing. I ate so many meals out the days before and right after FinCon that I was solidly in the danger zone. It might actually have been the thing I spent the most on related to this trip outside of the conference fee.
No, who am I kidding? It was alcohol. Alcohol was totally the highest budget item on this trip. And more than half of it was free.
I’m probably going to need to add my future cirrhosis treatments to this budget, but at least I’ve got decent health insurance.
And FinCon itself? Totally worth going to. Financially, I picked up more freelance work. I learned a lot about networking (not in the least from watching my friend Shannon over at Financially Blonde work it – that girl is ah-maz-ing) – primarily how much I suck at it, but, whatevs, fortunately most people there just want to help you.
I lucked out and roomed with Tahyna Kristina from The Me Project, who is a really successful freelancer and definitely took me under her wing. We were so well matched that even the Bloggers Helping Bloggers (or whatever their name is now) paired her as my mentor, which made me laugh. She was pretty good at making me talk to people I “should” know.
I also roomed with the incredibly patient Jessica from Mo’ Money, Mo’ Houses. She somehow always seemed cheerful, even when incredibly sleep deprived. I’m pretty sure it’s because she’s Canadian.
I drank The Jester – supposedly the strongest drink in the world. Definitely the grossest. And I don’t think it’s got anything on a Wang-Wang (and if you know what that drink is, you are totally a former Holland America crew member or Mariner).
I organized a super successful ghost tour! I hope any of you that joined us were as happy about it as I was. We had a really big crowd!
And now I will leave you with a ridiculous and slightly embarrassing story about my last night at FinCon:
I drank a little too much and decided to wander back to the hotel on my own from the bar we were all partying at, but next to the hotel was a souvenir shop. I realized I hadn’t bought a New Orleans shot glass yet (I collect them) and went in to make this purchase. It was drunk crucial.
The store was pretty much deserted, so I wandered over and picked out the shot glass that was clearly the best and brought it over to the cashier. He rang it up and it came up as $8.99. I was like “9 dollars for a shot glass, no way!”
Most people just think things like that, but drunk Mel flat out told the cashier that. Followed by “I’m not paying $9 for a shot glass. Why is it so expensive? Don’t you have cheaper shot glasses? Seriously, does it come with alcohol?”
…I may have been a bit of a mess. But it was slow in the store and the cashier seemed amused by me and he walked me over to the shot glasses and showed me the cheaper ones. I returned to pay for it only to find out some big dude was standing there the whole time watching this go down.
I paid for my shot glass and he started chatting me up. Seriously dude, you want to chat with the insane lady that just refused to pay $9 for a shot glass? Whatevs. He asked me what I was doing in New Orleans and I said I was there for a personal finance blogger conference… which got me a weird look followed “baby, can you help me with my budget?”
Way to know your audience, sir. I’d say I walked away laughing. And I did… but turned out we were staying at the same hotel.