“I didn’t want to wonder ‘what if?'”
 

Dane Cobain, 28
Side Hustle: Freelance writer and novelist

 

Starting small

Dane has been writing since he was 14, and it has always been his ambition to make a living from his writing.
After studying creative writing at university, Dane got a job in social media marketing where he spent his time writing blog posts and other types of copy. However, he felt it wasn’t quite the same as being a full-time writer, so he decided to make a change and start a freelancing career on the side.

He had a lot of confidence and always believed in his ability, and was he was pretty certain his freelancing would take off. After 4-5 months of freelancing, he asked his employer if he could reduce his hours to part-time. They declined, and so he handed in his notice.

By that point, Dane had already successfully secured some freelance work, which allowed him to save up enough money to pursue his side hustle full time.


Confidence in his decision

We asked: “Have you lost anything due to your side hustle?”

“Yes – my mind!”

From March to June this year, Dane worked constantly. He didn’t see his friends much and lost touch with his social circle because of the books he was writing. He’s still trying to get the balance right.

“I was always pretty confident in the decision because I knew that if I didn’t try it, I’d always regret it and wonder ‘what if’. That said, I was often worried about money and worried I wouldn’t get enough work in, which turned out to be unfounded.”

Dane did have some low points because he was overworking, but he continued to plug away as he was committed to the course of action and to his bank account. The hours he was putting in were building up his financial stability.


The financial payoff

Self-employment has actually helped Dane save money. Working from home means commuting costs are obviously lower, and he doesn’t spend nearly as much money going out for lunches to escape the office!
He still hasn’t taken a pay cheque yet and has left all his money in the business, but he is going to give himself a salary next month.

“I mostly figured it out as I went, although I did chat different bits through with friends and family members. A client put me in touch with his financial expert, which helped, and there’s a surprising amount of information online that you can tap into.”


Why he took the plunge

Dane wanted to make his side hustle his full-time job for a few reasons: less stress, better quality of life, and more challenges. In his old job, there were lots of inefficiencies that Dane didn’t have the power to fix. He wanted to pick projects that he could feel passionate about.

Changing his side hustle into his full-time income has always been in the back of Dane’s mind, but towards the end of last year, something clicked.

“I realised: it’s now or never.”

He signed up to freelancing sites and put himself out there – his first client came through Twitter.

Dane’s ultimate goal is to align his day job and his passion, and he’s found that having published books is a real advantage when looking for client work.


Still winding down

Dane has only been self-employed for a few months and is still winding down from working the initial long hours, but he feels happier. His friends and family have started noticing the difference, so he must be doing something right!

“Stress and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive, at least for me. I’m happiest when I’m busiest.”

He earns more now than he did when he worked in marketing, and he plans to carry on writing for clients as long as he can, alongside continuing his career as an author. The dream is to earn enough from his book royalties to make up his wages – at the minute they’re 5% of his income, so there’s a long way to go.


Dane’s typical working day

He wakes up and heads into his living room at 8am to start work. He likes to have YouTube videos playing on TV while he works, and he makes sure he has regular 5-minute breaks. He gives himself six jobs per day and works ahead of schedule if he can.

He calls it a day on his client work when his girlfriend gets home, and then switches to his personal writing – he spends a lot of time looking at a screen.

His family life hasn’t been affected in the long run, but when he was starting out there were some challenges. While he still made an effort to spend time with his family, he wasn’t really present. He’d make plans to visit his mum and end up taking his computer with him so he could spend the weekend working.


Dane’s pros and cons

Pros

  • Your decisions: You can choose which work you take on.
  • Scenery: You can work where you want to.
  • No office politics: You don’t have to deal with as much drama and bureaucracy.
  • Get more out of it: You can make more money and it’s more rewarding.

Cons

  • Challenging: A lot of hard work in the early days.
  • Lack of stability: Uncertainty until it’s fully up and running.
  • Self-motivation can sometimes be tricky: You have to be able to motivate yourself.

Dane: “I didn’t want to wonder, ‘what if?'”


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