(and three phases to ‘get there’ from my personal experience)
I have five siblings. I grew up in communist Poland. We weren’t so poor we went hungry, but our life was very modest. My father was the sole provider for our family and my mother took care of the household and six children.
I’m not insanely rich either. Our household income is about twice as much as the average household income in the richest country in the world, and we live in the 40th richest country.
Two months ago my wife’s 21-year old Nissan Micra broke. I bought her a 16-year old Toyota Yaris. I paid in cash. I didn’t have to worry how to get the bucks for this purchase. I’m going to the USA in a few weeks. I paid $1,000 for a plane ticket in cash.
It Feels Weird
I remember when I was a student and had two kids. We lived from one month to another never being sure where the money would come from. I got some odd jobs, our parents supported us a bit, I had a tiny student loan and I got a small scholarship on my 4th year at the university.
But we spent everything, every month.
So, it feels a bit unreal to earn enough not to pay attention to the prices at the grocery store. My wife hasn’t yet wrapped her mind around this situation. She still acts like we are poor, makes a fuss over her expenses and is half-ashamed when she goes over her monthly budget and asks me for something extra.
She is surprised that I always have cash in my wallet and wonders loudly where this money comes from (with a hint of suggestion that I defraud family budget 😉 ). Even though I explained all of our income sources to her and showed her the balances of our bank accounts it didn’t really penetrate her conscious mind.
Which, by the way, made my road to wealth even harder. I had to pursue my side hustle and keep an eye on her so she didn’t spend everything we have.
Poor people don’t think about future, they are fully concerned about the current moment. They have not experienced financial security don’t know how to achieve it. They know very well what it means to wonder how to pay for groceries.
My journey to financial independence started about six years ago. However, four years ago we completely wiped out our savings. We were left without a dime. We bought a house.
Everything went to the mortgage contribution, tax and bank fees, renovating the new house and buying new furniture. We even took loans to pay for some furniture. And the new mortgage’s monthly installment was about 19% of our total monthly income.
What Made Me Start?
By the way, our financial situation six years ago was what really pushed me over the fence. I didn’t have much belief in myself or the way to success I decided to pick, but I really had no alternative. I earned about two average salaries, but we had a student loan and mortgage to pay and three kids to support.
I struggled to save even 5% of our income. And whenever my wife decided we needed to go on a vacation, buy new furniture or a new car that diligently collected savings disappeared overnight.
I am good with numbers. I extrapolated of our income, spending and savings and it looked like we would end up with about $30,000 of life savings when I reach retirement age. We had no leeway, no security; we couldn’t afford even one major expense, like a car accident or unexpected huge medical bill.
How I Got Here?
Phase I: Changing Money Mindset
I knew I needed to build my own business or our chances for financial independence would be slim to none. However, I had no idea how to run a business. I was completely clueless.
Among many personal development books I started to fervently devour at the beginning were a few personal finances titles. I started fixing our finances by paying myself first $60 a month. It went against my gut feeling and my whole life experience, but setting aside money BEFORE you spend it on bills, taxes, and groceries was what wise people recommended.
The second habit I started very soon was tracking my all spending. Even if I bought only a pack of matches I registered it in my Excel sheet.
When it comes to being frugal “Your Money, Your Life” was a great book that opened new realms of frugality in front of me. I thought I already was a miser, but just a few months into my transformation I was able to save another $100 a month.
The third habit I embraced was giving to charity. I had already been doing it regularly, I just scaled up this habit.
Those three habits by no means made me rich. They changed my money mindset into a more abundant one. I felt a bit more in control, and our savings steadily grew. About six months into my transformation my wife was fired from her job. We lost over 20% of household income, but it didn’t affect our lifestyle one bit. And our savings kept growing, slowly, but surely.
Phase II: Hustle
While creating my personal mission statement in autumn 2012, I discovered I want to be a writer. For several months I had been studying what it meant and how to go about it. I started writing my first book in April 2013, and published it in less than 50 days. In 2013 I published three more short booklets.
There was a steep learning curve. I was losing money on this venture, but not much. I did everything on a shoestring budget. Publishing my first book cost me exactly $5. I got one payment from Amazon in 2013; it was less than €12, about 1 hour of overtime in my day job.
In January 2013 I published my fifth book and it became an Amazon bestseller. I sold almost 1,000 copies of my books in February and earned half of my day job salary.
I had a moment of utmost satisfaction when I said to my wife at the beginning of March:
“Oh, by the way, I earned half of my salary from royalties in the last month.” 😀
This phase lasted till November 2016. We bought a house and wiped our savings. I paid the last $1,000 to a nimble publisher to revamp my books. They all got better covers, book descriptions and were professionally edited. I published more books.
Some of them became bestsellers as well. Some were flops. I didn’t hustle just on the book publishing front. I passed a few exams, obtained a couple of Oracle database administration certificates and changed jobs (30% salary raise). I became an online life coach. I started a blog, ExpandBeyondYourself.com, in October 2013.
Nonetheless, book sales were my main additional source of income and they were dwindling. I sold only about 200 copies in July and August 2016. At the beginning of 2015 I joined a paid mastermind, so I actually had several hundred dollars of recurring costs and I was forced to subsidize my business from my day job salary in the summer of 2016.
I tried many different approaches along the way. I tried getting on the mainstream websites, without success. I wrote answers on Quora. This brought some traffic to my blog and helped me sell a few copies of my books a month. I created paperbacks. I created audiobooks. I tried promo sites. I tried selling on other stores than Amazon.
All to no avail.
Phase III: Business
In August 2016 I discovered book ads on Amazon. At the beginning of September 2016 I created the first ones. And they made all the difference.
My book sales exploded and stayed at a reliably high level. I never sold less than 900 copies a month since November 2016.
I was also overwhelmed and burned out at that point in time, so it was very fortunate I discovered those ads.
My coaching practice boomed around that time as well. In January 2016 I obtained a digital coaching certificate at Coach.me and I got more clients.
In May 2017 I offered an author I respected a help with his Amazon ads. His book was practically dead, selling only a few copies a month. It sold over 100 Kindle copies in the first three weeks we started working together.
It dawned on me: I can help other authors and get a cut of the profits from their ads. This was an ideal deal. They sold more books, I got paid.
The actual execution was bumpier than this ideal vision. I had one advantage — I was known in the self-publishing world. I quickly got a few more customers. I managed to generate a few hundred dollars in less than six months since starting this new venture. It also forced me to focus more on my own ads, so my books sold even better.
In the last 15 months my wife quit her job, I downsized my job to quarter-time. My side hustle income replaced my full-time corporate job as a senior IT consultant.
I have not one, but four occupations now. I’ a database administrator, but also an author, a coach and a book marketing expert.
I now have several coaching clients, three sources of royalties, and I manage Amazon ads for 20 authors. Our income is versatile and stable.
And we have enough money on our savings account to support our lifestyle for half a year, even if we don’t earn a dime.
It took a long time. Four long years, before I stumbled on the Amazon ads and two more before I scaled my side hustle to what it is now. Perseverance got me here and it will get me further.
Don’t give up on what’s important for you.