If there’s one fact I’ve mentioned time and time again on This Online World it’s that you can always find a way to make money online or by using technology.
I’ve been slowly growing my blogging income and trying to take This Online World more seriously, so I was incredibly excited to have Charlie, one of the co-founders of College Life Made Easy, agree to take part in my Young Money Interview series.
Not only in Charlie a full-time blogger running an absolutely incredible blog catering to college students, she also uses a variety of other side hustles to make money every single month!
Now, if you’ve missed the other guests on my Young Money Interview series, I highly recommend checking them out:
- Kyle from Financial Wolves on website flipping.
- Nathan from MillionaireDojo on eBay selling.
- Todd from Invested Wallet on profitable blogging.
But, if you’re up to speed and ready to see how Charlie from College Life Made Easy makes all of her income through blogging and various side hustles, read on!
About Charlie, College Life Made Easy, & Side Hustling:
My pen name is Charlie. I’ve lived in quite a few places, but I’m currently residing on the West Coast in the Portland metro area. I’m one of those people who find overcast days to be deeply satisfying. I’m a free spirit, a low-key hippie, and my path to entrepreneurial success has been a bit unconventional.
What I value most in life is freedom, or the ability to do whatever I want, whenever want.
For college, I went to a very crunchy school for massage therapy. The choice was an impulsive decision (I submitted my application riiiight before admissions closed). I had also never even received a professional massage in my life up to that point.
After taking a gap year, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for a career.
But what I did know was that…
- I wanted a career that paid well.
- I wanted to be able to minimize work hours so I could maximize my free time.
- I didn’t want to spend a long time in school.
My leap in the dark panned out, and I even had a knack for body work. My first massage job out of school paid $25/hr, and I was making $40/hr within 9 months.
Was it my calling in life?
No, but I appreciate that I got what I needed from the job and more. I learned invaluable lessons (about other people and myself) from working in the field.
My career as a licensed massage therapist gave me so many personal freedoms which is what facilitated the discovery of my true passion, and I’ll always be grateful for that!
Starting College Life Made Easy:
I started College Life Made Easy in 2016, and it originally started as a coupon blog for college students.
However, there isn’t a massive demographic for student coupons, so the blog sort of morphed into more of a college lifestyle blog.
I still wanted to help college students manage their finances, and College Life Made Easy has plenty of awesome freebies, coupons, and information on college scholarships to help students save money.
SEO drives a lot of my search traffic, and the College Life Made Easy Pinterest account currently has more than 23,000 followers. In terms of SEO research tools I’ve used Google Keyword Planner and the chrome extension Keywords Everywhere to find low competition keywords I can write about.
College Life Made Easy is monetized through Mediavine ads, sponsored posts sometimes, and affiliate links, and has allowed me to make blogging into my full-time job.
Now that I’ve transitioned into blogging full time, it’s fun to say that I’m retired from the traditional 9-5 at the ripe age of 25!
Other Side Hustles:
When it comes to side hustles, I like to take a diversified approach. So there are a few different avenues I like to use to make extra money. My three main squeezes are the ones I’ll focus on.
For one, I enjoy using an app called Field Agent. The app offers cash for completing different tasks within the surrounding local area.
The tasks vary, but for example, a job might want you to audit a display in a store by taking pictures and answering a few questions. Another will have you try a product and provide feedback.
What I really like about Field Agent is that it’s easy to use, and they pay via direct deposit. Plus, there’s no minimum balance to cash out.
Another way I made money on the side with is a survey website called Prolific. It’s different than any other survey website that I’ve used, and in a really good way.
The surveys on Prolific are actually studies that are being conducted by researchers, which can make things more interesting. Studies pay pretty decently compared to how long they take to complete as well.
The best part about Prolific is that you’re always compensated for the time you spend completing a survey (so long as you provide quality answers). If there’s a study available for you take, you already qualify for it.
I never have to deal with getting kicked off a survey for “not qualifying” after answering a bunch of questions, and that is SO refreshing!
The third is a side hustle blended with a passion project. I have an Instagram page called Older Labs, and it’s been my jumping point for creating a small retail brand.
It’s basically what it sounds like – a page where the theme is old Labrador Retrievers. I created a website for Older Labs where I sell clothing via dropshipping. I’ve also printed up batches of stickers and I ship those out myself.
When & Why Did You Start?
I first started using Field Agent in the fall of 2018. I don’t remember exactly where I first heard about it, but it might have been on r/beermoney actually. I also started using Prolific around the same time.
I began those side hustles because I was doing research for an article about easy ways for college students to make money. Of course, before making any recommendations, I need to take them for a test drive.
It’s safe to say they passed my review as I haven’t stopped using them yet!
I started the Older Labs Instagram page in June of 2017. I opened my online store for it in the spring of 2018.
The inspiration for the page was my senior dog, Knuckles, who was 16 at the time. I saw there were hundreds of Instagram accounts dedicated to sharing pictures of puppies, but there weren’t really any for dogs on the other end of the spectrum.
Old dogs need some love and appreciation too! I felt there was potential for the senior dog niche and I seized the opportunity to fill the void.
Okay, but why Labradors in particular right?
I went with senior Labs because:
- They’re the most popular dog breed in America.
- I wanted to create a clear and concise theme for the page.
With Field Agent and Prolific, I’ve consistently made an extra couple hundred dollars a month. And that’s just with casual use.
I’ll usually check the Field Agent app when I’m about to go to the store to see if there are any jobs in the same area. Prolific I’ll check when I remember to (which is not the best way to optimize earnings).
If I was on top of my game more with those two streams of income, I could have easily doubled those earnings. I’ve learned that there’s a Chrome extension that alerts you when there is a new Prolific study is available – it’s very handy!
Running my Older Labs account has also been a great way to connect with other people all over the world. The bonding over a mutual love of old dogs can be beautiful and heartbreaking at times.
Running an online store and figuring out dropshipping has taught me a lot, too. It’s something new for me and I’m enjoying the challenge of figuring it out.
Wins & Losses:
Outside of growing my blog to a full-time job, the biggest win for my side hustles has simply been watching the the community around Older Labs grow. The hashtag I started on Instagram has over 71,000 uses right now. That’s a little mind blowing to me!
I feel like I hit the nail on the head with the idea. All the interest around it is very encouraging.
My biggest loss was investing in a logo for Older Labs way too early.
Being excitable and impatient, I got ahead of myself. I paid a pretty penny for the work of a professional graphic designer, and while he was great to work with and I loved the design, I wish I had held the reigns a little longer on that decision.
While the logo is beautiful, ironically my best performing design is something I whipped up myself. Live and learn, but that was a painful lesson for my wallet.
What Advice Do You Have For Other Young Entrepreneurs?
I’d like to think that you can learn almost anything online. You don’t have to wish for something, because you can accomplish it.
The mind is a powerful thing. Seriously. As inconsequential as it sounds, it all starts with believing that you can and will be successful. Not only that, but you deserve to be successful.
So, start now. However you can, whenever you can. Keep learning and apply your knowledge.
Experiment over time. What’s working for you? What’s not working?
The original way I imagined how things would work VS what actually did is vastly different. So, be flexible and willing to change your strategy.
Once you have something that’s working, don’t become stagnant. The only certainties in life are taxes, death, and impermanence. You need to be constantly adapting to changes for continued success.
Becoming complacent will steadily but surely kill a thriving endeavor. Celebrate your wins, but keep in mind that nothing is permanent.
If your end goal is making money, then focus on what people already have an interest in. You can do what other people are doing, but don’t think that you can do the exact same thing and experience the same amount of success. Find a way to make your ‘thing’ different!
Do keyword research to get a better understanding of what people want, assess the competition, and then capitalize on less saturated niches!
I’d like to thank Charlie for taking the time to be a part of my Young Money interview series.
I find it truly inspiring that Charlie is able to make a full-time income from blogging even though she’s just recently graduated from college. The fact that she can also find the time to make a few extra hundred dollars every month from her side hustles and grow a considerable social media following for her ecommerce brand is remarkable.
I think Charlie’s entrepreneurial success really highlights the fact that you can earn income online in so many different ways. As long as you take Charlie’s suggestion and focus on serving the needs of a market while differentiating yourself from the competition, you can start to make progress in your industry/niche.
Starting a successful blog or online venture will be a tough journey, don’t get me wrong, but the rewards are certainly worth it if you put in the effort and continue to adapt to challenge.
I highly recommend checking out Charlie’s blog if you are currently in college and looking for some very useful resources, and definitely check out College Life Made Easy on their socials!
Catch you guys in the next one!
Charlie is a co-founders of College Life Made Easy, a blog that aims to to help busy & broke students THRIVE during their college experience. On her blog, Charlie covers topics such as finance, dorm living, organization and more.