Welcome to The MapleMoney Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. I’m your host, Tom Drake, the founder of MapleMoney, where I’ve been writing about all things related to personal finance since 2009.
We’ve talked before about various ways to make money on the side, but how do you succeed at making a few extra dollars while not interfering with your day job?
My guest this week is Robert Farrington, of The College Investor. Robert started blogging as a side hustle while he worked a 9-5 career as a manager with Target. Robert explains how he balanced blogging with a full-time job, and how he eventually was able to convert his side hustle into a full-time business.
These days, Robert enjoys the flexibility of being able to balance his working hours with other priorities, such as family time. I asked him about a few of his top productivity hacks, including why he schedules time to accomplish specific tasks.
Best of all, Robert shares what he believes is the #1 thing that allowed him to grow his side hustle into a full time business. His answer may surprise you. It’s all here, on the Maple Money Show.
This episode is brought to you by our sponsors at Borrowell. Whether you’re looking for a personal loan or a mortgage, it’s important to know your credit score. Borrowell will provide you with your Equifax Credit score, for free, and the process only takes a few minutes. Access your credit score today!
- How the retail schedule works well with a side hustle
- Keeping your 9-5 and your side hustle separate
- Why ride sharing companies like Uber make great side hustles
- Productivity hacks to balance a day job and side hustle
- How Robert uses schedules time to get things done
- The importance of networking to grow your business
We’ve talked before about various ways to make money on the side but how do you succeed at making a few extra dollars while not interfering with the day job? Robert Farrington runs a site called, The College Investor and he grew a side-hustle into an impressive business all while holding down a day job in the retail sector. He shares how he was able to do this and gives tips to help others balance a job, a side-gig and family.
Welcome to the Maple Money Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. Today’s show is sponsored by our friends at Borrowell. I use Borrowell myself to check my credit score and credit reports each month. Having a good credit score can help you get a better mortgage rate and lower insurance rates. It may even help you land that dream apartment as most landlords now ask for a credit score and report. Get your free credit score in fewer than three minutes at maplemoney.com/borrowell. Now let’s chat with Robert…
Tom: Hi Robert, welcome to the Maple Money Show.
Robert: Hey Tom. Thanks for having me. I’m so excited to be here.
Tom: Your story is similar to mine going back to when you had your day job. I always found yours to be a little more impressive though. So what we want to talk today about is this idea of side-hustling while you have a day job. Can we go right back to the beginning of it when you were working at Target? Can you tell me what that job was about?
Robert: Yeah, I started The College Investor in college when I was finishing my last year. I was already working at Target as an hourly supervisor at the time but I always had this passion for money and technology. Everything kind of came together when I decided to start a blog. It was really just a passion project. I had no intention of making any money necessarily. I mean, of course that was a nice idea but I was just passionate about it. Once I finished my college degree and started working full-time I got promoted to assistant store manager. I really still enjoyed blogging and started learning a little bit about how to make money. Then I started networking with other bloggers. So it was really becoming a really cool side-hustle. I was working 40 to 50 hours a week as a Target assistant store manager. I was able to make it work because I was very passionate about it and enjoyed it. I think when you want to do something you always find the time to do it.
Tom: Yeah, it’s interesting that you said 40 to 50 hours. I thought it might have been worse. I know from my past in retail, especially at the management level in retail, it can be kind of a real time suck where you can’t just work 8:00 am to 4:00 pm and leave for anything like that, right?
Robert: You’re totally right. But the retail schedule actually worked really well for a side-hustle. I worked one night a week. At night I used to go in at 3:00 pm or so and I’d work until 11pm or 12 am. It meant weekends too, but when you work on the weekend you also get a day off during the week so I might have a Wednesday off but I would work on a Saturday or Sunday. On the flip side, I had a Wednesday off and you know how productive you can be on a Wednesday? Everyone else is at work and you can get things done. It’s the same thing at night. You don’t have to go to work until 3:00 pm so you have the whole morning that you could do things for your side-hustle, yourself and you still can find time to do other things. You’re not tired because you just woke up and you have your whole day ahead of you. So it actually worked really well for having a side-hustle even though it was 40 to 50 hours a week.
Tom: Yeah, that’s a good point about having some weekday time available because with my day job I’m Monday to Friday, 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. And not so much productivity-wise, but if you want to talk to a company or anything about work for your business, that’s not easy. I basically have to do it during my lunch hours and schedule all my calls for 12:00 pm hours just to be able to work my business into that.
Robert: Exactly. And it’s the same if you want to record videos or if you want to podcast because you have guests on your show. Being available during normal business hours is super helpful for growing a business or a side-hustle. Yes, it’s a lot of time but it also works. Then I can also focus on my regular days. On Mondays and Tuesdays I might work an 8:00 am to 4:00 pm or 5:00 pm and I’d get home and spend time with my family. So it wasn’t like my side-hustle, my work and my family was all conflicting. They all kind of stick together pretty well. And I do think that’s attributed to the retail schedule.
Tom: My schedule has always been pretty set. It’s basically 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. I work, get home, spend from around 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm with the family. Then when go to sleep, it’s business time. What did your schedule look like? You touched on your time shift a bit but how
many total hours were you putting into the business? You’re doing 40 to 50 at work, what’s left going for the business at that time?
Robert: I’d still say I spent 20 hours a week on the business. I would have something like a four or six hour day on those weekdays so that’s about 10 hours. Then I’d still probably put in an hour or two every single night, even on the weekends. That also doesn’t include the random time when I would check my emails on my phone every day. One thing about Target is they lock all the computers down so there was no working on my business while I was at work. The extent I could do was I could maybe check social media on my phone or check my emails on my phone. But it wasn’t like I had any dedicated time during the workday to do it. I know there are some engineers and other people in our space that are at their computer and can work on their business and do their work at the same time but that wasn’t necessarily the case for me. It really was very distinct and different. And there was no real overlap between the two.
Tom: Yeah, it’s funny you bring up the engineers because there seems to be a high percentage of bloggers that are engineers for their job. (Laughs)
Robert: I know, that’s the only reason I bring it up is because I feel like they’re at the computer and for whatever reason they’re able to do both. But I was never able to do both. I actually feel like it’s like a safer approach to side-hustling while working full-time. Don’t mix the two. When I left my day job last year I would say a good 50 to 70 percent of people had no idea what my side-hustle was. It wasn’t like I was trying to hide it but I didn’t say, “Hey, I’m side-hustling. What’s up guys?” It never came up. Unless people found it and wanted to have more conversations about it, it wasn’t anything that really came up at all in the workplace.
Tom: Yes, that’s a good point and I guess it’s that whole thing—that myth of multi-tasking. Sometimes it’s better just to separate that.
Robert: I think you’re totally right. I think there are definitely things you can do. You could check social media; you could check some of your emails. But you also need that focus time where you can like actually think without being distracted. And I think that’s huge for growing your business whether it’s a side-hustle or a regular business. A side-hustle is harder because you are doing it on the side. But if you can find an hour of distraction-free time—which most people probably can (even if they’re working full-time) one hour a day somewhere can be committed to a side-hustle that could probably earn you some money over time.
Tom: Yeah, there are a lot of people in my situation working the regular shift during the day on weekdays who often say they don’t have time, yet they’re spending the entire evening watching TV so there’s always time to be productive.
Robert: That’s exactly it. That’s one thing I always joke about. How did I find the time? Before we had we had kids I would actually sit on my laptop next to my wife on the couch. And my wife would be watching some terrible show like The Real Housewives (of some place) or Keeping Up With the Kardashian’s or whatever—something I would totally not be into. But I would be next to her blogging. That was more entertaining for me. We were still together. She wanted to watch those shows and that’s cool but I had no interest in that. But I was able to write and blog while she was watching those shows.
Tom: We’ve talked a lot about how we were able to fit blogging into our schedule. What are some other ideas? If someone wants to do some kind of side-hustle, what’s a good side-hustle? Maybe just a short list of what people could do while still holding down a day job?
Robert: I actually just wrote about my best side-hustles and broke that down because I think scheduling an income is huge. It’s not just about growth potential but what you want to do. This may sound weird because I know these ride sharing companies get bashed a lot because you don’t earn a lot, but I think ride sharing and driving for Uber or Lyft or whatever company is out there for delivering… I mean, there are always ride delivery companies whether it’s Uber, Doordash, Housemate. Those are phenomenal side-hustles and here’s why; it is the only type of side-hustle that you can literally do anywhere, anytime and earn money. If you are free at 2:00 am on a Tuesday, you can literally drive somebody for Uber and make some money. There’s no one to report to. There are no commitments. There’s no time constraints, no upfront investment. And so that’s why I think those are phenomenally good side-hustles. Is it going to change your life and make you a millionaire? No, but will it allow you to earn some extra money that you could potentially pay off your debt in a year. Could you put a little bit more toward your retirement account because you’re trying to close a gap in your savings? Yes. Those side-hustles allow it so I’m a huge fan of those for people that don’t necessarily want to start a business but want to be able to do something that’s totally flexible on their terms and earn money.
Tom: Yeah, the Uber idea reminds me of even before these apps existed where you could just start delivering pizzas or something. Obviously, it’s not as flexible. You have to have a schedule but there are certainly ways to make money in the evening. It’s not glamorous and it’s not the highest paid but it’s additional income. This is on top of your day job.
Robert: That’s so true. At Target I used to hire a ton of seasonal workers every year and a lot of them were trying to get this job for two months. They just wanted a part-time job to make some extra money for Christmas or to pay off debt or something similar. They knew it wasn’t glamorous but it was structured. You still had to be there for a shift. You had to get hired and trained to do all this. But with these companies there’s no structure. There’s no boss. There’s no real requirement if you have some time today. You can do it for an hour then go back to your life. I was recently in an Uber the other day and the driver was a teacher who said she turns on the app every day when she’s done with teaching (at about 3:30 pm or 4:00 pm) and she goes until 6:00 pm. It allowed her to pay off her student loans in about 18 months which is huge. So if you’re just looking for that little bit extra money you could totally do that on your terms. Where else are you going to be able to work for an hour and a half a day and do that?
Tom: That’s a good point. I’m no Uber expert but I heard now that they have options where if you’re on your way home from work—let’s say you have a long commute or something, you can turn it on specifically to help someone get a ride from this point to that point.
Robert: Yeah. You could do directional, right? So if people are going in that direction it will try to use an algorithm to make sure you’re going that way. So it’s pretty cool, like I said. But it’s the potential to side-hustle and earn on your terms which is very, very, rare.
Tom: Yeah, for sure. I figure one way you were probably able to fit this in, and we’ve talked about this privately a lot too is that I know you’re super organized and able to stay on top of everything. Do you have any time or productivity hacks that let you manage having this day job and a business on the side?
Robert: I’m big on, if it gets written down, it gets done. I’m that kind of person. I have a calendar. I use Google Calendar, nothing fancy. I would block off my work time and as weird as that sounds, I’m a dolt. Do I really need to write my schedule down? Yes. I would actually put “work” in the calendar and just have it blocked. Then I would have “calls” and I would have “tasks” and “projects” and “family time” blocked in my calendar. And then I would use Asana which is just a to-do list. You could use it to do any kind of app or you could use a piece of paper and just write down a to-do list. But I would always have intentional things I wanted to do during my time. And that allowed me to minimize that switching time. I would get home from work and I wasn’t spending time thinking, “What do I need to do? Ya-da, ya-da, ya-da.” It was, “Go do X, Y, Z and just knock out this to-do list.” And my to-do list in Asana is automated so it would say things like “Did you share your blog post today?” Very basic things like, “Did you answer your comments for your readers?” So I would just do this on a routine and no thinking was necessarily required. It allowed me to just—I knew what time it started so I could dive right in and just start knocking out tasks. Then I also feel like you get that little “high” or “rush” when you’re checking off tasks. They say it’s a mental thing but when you’re completing your task list you feel good. Not only are you getting things done without having to think about it, you really feel good when you get everything knocked out in the day.
Tom: Yeah, I’ve been guilty in the past of having busy time where it’s like I’m pretending to work but not really getting anything accomplished because I don’t have a solid list to go through.
Robert: Right. I sold my car and I ride share everywhere. I take Uber everywhere. But the cool thing is I’m not driving so when I’m in the car I can knock out my emails, I can knock out my social media, I can respond to people. By the time I actually get to a computer, whether it’s at home or a co-working space or whatever, all the non-essential stuff is pretty much done and I can really just focus on my work time. So I’m getting something like an extra 20 minutes per car ride. That’s about 40 minutes a day of time by not driving and just sitting.
Tom: I’ve kind of thought about that myself. It’s too bad that the subway doesn’t go between my house and my work or something like that because I’d almost love to get out of the car and be able to be on my phone or something. But I don’t think we can make Uber work as well here as you. We’ll link to your post in the show notes but I know you’ve actually been able to make Uber cheaper than owning a car in the first place.
Robert: Yeah, it costs me $200 or $300 a month. The whole post was because my car was dying and I thought, “Do I buy a new car or do I try this out?” So I tried it out and here I am two years later and I love it. It’s so much more convenient. It’s still about the same cost. I could go out and buy a car anytime. It’s not like I need too. Cars are a dime-a-dozen. They’re everywhere, right? So if it ever became any inconvenience I could just go get a car but it’s been it for two years and I love it.
Tom: Sounds great. Any other tips about growing a business while you have a day job? Are there any ideas that take it to a next level in working towards not having a day job?
Robert: I think the big game changers worked for me even as a side-hustle. It’s the same thing I think applies in any business. The number one thing that changed my business and my side-hustle was networking with other people in the space. I think that sometimes even when you’re side-hustling, you have to remember to connect with others. You might think you’re in a silo and you don’t have time but you should really find the time to reach out whether it’s a blog—even if you’re driving for Uber or Lyft, join a community of people that are driving and see what hacks they have to make more money. Because, there are communities out there—I know of them. You can talk, you can network, you can learn how to do it better so you can potentially earn more. That was really a game changer for me. I started just with email. Then social media and then calls and video calls. Eventually, I went to in-person events like conferences. I would take time off of work. I would never tell anyone what it was for. I would take my one or two week’s vacation a year, mark it off and use it to go to a conference. And I would learn, get educated and connect with others. That was really a game changer for my business—learning what to do because there are other people out there that are doing it better than you. Even side-hustling. They’re doing the side-hustle better than you and if you can learn from them, you can earn more.
Tom: I’ve got to assume that nowadays there’s probably a Facebook group for everything. Certainly Uber drivers, but maybe pizza delivery? Everybody’s probably got a Facebook group where you can go and talk?
Robert: Absolutely! I saw a post the other day about Turo. Have you ever heard of Turo? About renting your car out?
Tom: Yes, yes.
Robert: Yeah, it’s a service that lets you rent your car. This person put together all their hacks and tricks about how they have three cars they rent out all the time. It pays for itself and they’ve made money on it. Whatever odd thing you are thinking about doing, I guarantee there’s someone out there doing it and has probably shared some tips, tactics or ways make it better.
Tom: Yeah. I’m a big fan of networking. We just published a podcast episode about networking that we recorded live FinCon. I agree it’s probably the number one tip to boost whatever business you’re running.
Robert: I think people ignore it when you say side-hustle. I know I did when I started out side-hustling because you just don’t think about. You think about all the to-do lists you have to do and you don’t think people in your industry are going to value you as much because you’re a side-hustler and you’re not doing this full-time. I thing you have to overcome these mental blocks and try to find networking opportunities even as a side-hustler.
Tom: For sure. So now that you’ve gone and quit your job, what’s that look like now? Are you getting more work done? Do you just have more free time with your family? Can you walk us through what’s changed?
Robert: Yeah, both. I mean, that’s the cool thing. Now I’ve taken this void of 40 to 50 hours—and I would still say that my work now is the side-hustle which has grown to about 30 hours a week. But it’s not insane. The family time fills in the rest along with the flexibility to do things that are valuable and important to me. It’s huge. I enjoy my business. I enjoy my side-hustle. So that’s fun to do more of but I really enjoy spending time with my kids and my family and traveling and not being necessarily bound by a schedule. So if I want to work today I can, if I don’t, I don’t have to. I can do it at night. I could do it in the day. Whatever meets the needs of our family, I can do it. It’s really nice to have that flexibility. Sometimes it’s challenging. There’s only one person in control here of whatever it is you want to do and that’s you. But at the same time, it’s super flexible and really enjoyable.
Tom: That’s great. Well thanks for being on the show. Can you tell people where they can find you?
Robert: Yeah, you can find me at thecollegeinvestor.com or you could hit up our YouTube channel at The College Investor and Instagram at The College Investor as well.
Tom: Great. Thanks for being on the show.
Robert: Definitely. Thanks for having me on.
Thanks to Robert for the great insight on juggling a side-hustle with a job and other priorities. You can find the show notes this episode at maplemoney.com/robertfarrington or head over to maplemoney.com/show and catch all the past episodes. I’d love to hear your feedback about the podcast. Please head over to maplemoney.com/iTunes and leave a rating and review and let me know how I’m doing. See you next week.