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Written By Colin Graves

“Hey, that’s sounds very reasonable!”

With those words, I dove into my first official side hustle this past week.

Make that, first ‘side hustle’ since discovering the term, ‘side hustle’.

When I launched Mystery Money Man a few months ago, side hustle wasn’t in my vocabulary.  I really had never heard the term used before (pleading ignorance).   Perhaps it’s because to that point, the only exposure I’d had to personal finance blogging was about a year’s worth of pouring over Mr. Money Mustache posts.

Sure, I’ve made a few extra bucks here and there, over and above my primary income.  But I’ve never set out to take a side gig with the express purpose of making money.  Typically, any ‘side income’ I’ve received has been as a one off, or the result of helping someone out who insisted upon paying me.

Birth of a Side Hustle

I’ve got a recording studio in my home, the remnants of a less frugal age. 😉 It’s a pretty cool set up, complete with a soundproof isolation room that I slaved over for quite some time.  As crazy as it may seem, I’ve only ever used this space to write and record my own music.  I’ve often thought about bringing in income by recording other artists, but never took action, always quick to come up with reasons why it wouldn’t work.

As I’ll explain later in this post, those days are over.

A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by a young songwriter about recording some new tunes he’d written.  He was looking for basic arrangements, primarily vocals and guitar.

I told him I’d love to help him out, so he asked what I would charge.  He wanted 10 songs, which sounds like a big undertaking, but given that he wanted to keep things very simple, I knew it was something I had the time to take on.

side hustleHow does $1000 sound?”

Without hesitating, he replied, “That sounds very reasonable!”.

I’m not sure why I was surprised, but really?  It was that easy?  A two minute conversation, and I had myself a pretty sweet paying gig.  The funny thing is that I know I could have charged him double and he likely wouldn’t have balked.  Being my first ‘official’ project however, it’s important to ensure I’m providing great value.  

We started by recording his first song the other day.  The whole process, including set up and laying down a scratch track, took two hours, and it turned out sounding fantastic!

Here’s the beautiful thing.

side hustleBy building templates into my recording software, the remaining process is made that much easier.  We’ll be able to record the rest of the songs over a couple of days, and then I’ll take a few hours to mix and master the final product.

It should work out to about $50/hour, perhaps slightly less.  In the future, with similar projects, I’ll be able to charge $150-$200/song, without any difficulty.

For more complex arrangements, involving a full band with several tracks, $500+ per song is reasonable, but as they are more time intensive, I’ll stick to more simple projects for now.

Side-hustles are the product of action-takers. 

It’s amazing what can happen when you simply decide to take action on something, whether or not you are wholly unprepared and unqualified.

That’s my blogging experience in a nutshell.

I was inspired to start Mystery Money Man for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I hoped, in some small way, to inspire individuals and families to make better money choices, untethered from the narrative of a profit-centric employer.

Before I could get started though, I had to confront a whole bunch of fear and self-doubt.  I came up with several reasons not to bother trying.  I questioned my writing ability and whether my message had any value.  There was also the ‘zero knowledge’ factor of how to build a website.

I could have let it go, but I decided to give it a shot.  Am I ever glad I did.

Starting my blog was a game changer.  

To put it simply, deciding to launch Mystery Money Man began a sequence of events, which looks something like this:

  1. Adopt a “screw it, take action” mindset, dive into blogging.
  2. Realize very quickly the crazy learning curve and begin to question my own sanity.
  3. Learn not to sweat the learning curve, because the process turns out to be so much fun.
  4. Discover an amazing Personal Finance blogging community.
  5. Discover the term “side hustle” from this amazing community.
  6. Start noticing side hustle possibilities that were there all the time.
  7. Dream grows, so does the “screw it, take action” mindset.
  8. Learn to say “yes, rather than “no”.

The Dream Grows

This music recording gig, my first official side hustle, is really one of three “side hustle” dreams I have.  Mystery Money Man is the primary one, though my current focus is not on monetization, but learning how to create content that people actually want to read. 🙂  The third, which I won’t detail in this post, is a graphic design venture I’m working on with a friend.  It’s currently in pre-launch stage, and we’re sorting things out, but it will initially involve logo design services, with the idea of branching out from there. Stay tuned on that one!


Do you lack a “take action” mentality?  Is your side hustle laying right in front of you, but you’re afraid to dive in?  Take it from me, don’t give audience to reasons to not take action, and begin to say yes!  You’ll might be amazed at what happens!


  1. That’s a sweet side hustle!

    I also decided to just take the leap and start blogging one day, instead of optimizing my set up and planning posts out in advance like I had wanted to. I just knew I’d never start unless I just STARTED one day.

    And I think that once you’re open to side hustles, you find they fall in your lap. I’ve started so many different ones just by keeping my eyes and ears open for opportunities.

    • Thanks Ellie, I’d love to hear more about your side hustle success! The blog was really a catalyst for me, as it opened my eyes to other possibilities. Much of that came from reading the stories of other bloggers, but the feeling of stepping out and taking action is contagious.

  2. Bravo MMM! Most excellent. God only knows how much we sell ourselves short and how so many of us are capable of making extra money by doing things that interest us. Great inspiration for your readers! If you don’t try, you’ll never know – pretty serious life lesson that people find very hard to apply to themselves. Helps to see someone else actually do it!

    • Hey T, thanks for reading! I’d love to hear more about your side hustle(s) as well, please keep me posted! : ) BTW, have you joined the new forums over at Rockstar Finance? It’s a great place to connect, I’ll look out for you over there!

  3. I suspect no one is ever 100% ready for a new venture. But the people we often most admire are those who recognize an opportunity, take a deep breath, and dive in. Love the “take action” attitude you outline in the post!

    • So true Amanda, and that’s probably the biggest thing I’ve taken from my recent experience, not waiting until you’re 100% ready. It’s like the ‘slightly cliche’ Wayne Gretzky quote: “You’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!” 🙂

  4. Congrats on the new side hustle! Sounds like a fun way to make some extra cash.

    I don’t multitask well, though I continually try. I have about three things in the works right now, none of which are actually pulling in any money to speak of yet. I’m planning for that to change in 2017!

  5. Thanks Amanda! I’m kind of fumble my way through multitasking as well, something I’ll need to definitely pay more attention to in the coming months. Love to hear more about your upcoming projects!

  6. This is awesome, Congratulations!

    I wonder how much we sell ourselves short and leave on the table simply because we’re afraid to speak up? Alas, we’ll never know unless we speak up and take action!

    I definitely don’t lack a ‘take action’ mentality … if anything, I suffer from jumping into things before I’m ready. This “winging it” approach usually works out fine, but it can come back to bite me from time to time. I’m getting better at taking a bit more time up front 🙂

    • Hey Ty, Thanks for the ‘winging it’ heads up, I’ll definitely keep that in the back of my mind! So true, though, you have to take risks. And yes, I’ve done so in the past, but I do tend to be very measured/reserved by nature, so my default is to take things very slow, too slowly. I’m enjoying my ‘new approach! :)”

  7. This is really interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I’ve joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your fantastic posts. Also, I have shared your web site in my social networks!

  8. Today is my birthday, and always around my birthday I start dreaming big…and setting goals for my next year. This blog post really resonated with me as I start to really take action on some side-hustles. In fact, I wrote down on my visualization card “Side-hustles are the product of action-takers.” Great quote. AND thank you!

  9. “I was inspired to start Mystery Money Man for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I hoped, in some small way, to inspire individuals and families to make better money choices…”

    I’m so glad you did. This article alone is inspiring, even for a blogger like me. I’m really thankful I found your blog. You a have different voice, writing style and I connect with your blog well. Please keep us up to date with your experience on this gig.

  10. Very cool, MMM! Congrats on the side gig. I’m glad you decided to wing it in this case. And for someone who is usually very measured, undercharging was a smart move. As you said, you wanted to make sure you provide great value. It might be more stressful if you were charging top dollar while still learning the ropes. You might put extra demands on yourself that could take away from enjoying the experience.

    Sounds like you found a really great way of making some extra money. You could grow a business out of it just by word of mouth. A friend I used to sing with in NY got tired of depending on pianists for gigs. So she taught herself keyboard. Nothing great, but good enough to accompany her vocals on songs she writes. Then she started recording her own demos. Before she knew it, she was running a small demo factory out of her apartment.

    • Very cool, Mrs. G! I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how things go. I think the important thing is tailoring the work to what I’m able to accomplish in my space, also within the time I have available.
      There are so many layers to music production, that you really can define areas of focus. I recorded my own band’s CD in the same studio a couple years ago, but we sent it off to a producer in L.A. for all of the mixing/mastering work, as I knew my limitations :).

  11. What an awesome side hustle! My partner and I are all about having our “things” make money for us-and this is a great example! My partner is also a musician and has built a recording studio in our house. It never occurred to me that he might be able to make money off of it when he wasn’t using it for himself. Judging only from the pictures you posted, your equipment is much more professional than his 🙂

    • Hey Jax, thanks for sharing! It’s amazing what you can do with even a laptop, software and a decent microphone in this day and age. I should have purposed to make more money off of my set up a long time ago, but it’s never too late!

  12. Just starting to figure out how to find side hustles myself. I don’t have a recording studio, but I like taking pictures and writing and hope I can find something that can help keep,us going during some lean times. Enjoyed the read, and actually… I liked the pic that is posted with it! Nicely done! Keep it up MMM I will keep following along too! Lol.

  13. I love seeing musicians utilize their skills to launch a successful side hustle! The best part of this project, as far as I can tell, is that you genuinely enjoy the work. If you could line up a couple projects per month, that would be incredible.

    My wife and I are both musicians/music teachers by day, so I’ve thought about pursuing a similar path many times. In the present, my wife owns her own teaching studio, which she operates out of our home. I decided it might be best to pursue a non-musical side hustle, so I got into real estate about six months ago. Overall, in hindsight, the key to the successes of both our efforts has been willingness to take action, as you said. Nice post!

    • Thanks FS, and that is so cool that you both teach music! Having the studio definitely provides the ability to make some decent money. Thankfully the initial cost of equipment/reno was covered a few years ago, so all I had to do was hit the ‘go’ button. If I could build up to 2 recording projects a month that would be ideal, but I may have to free up the schedule in other areas. 🙂 I’d love to get into real estate investing at some point, not there yet though.

  14. Wow! Mastering included?!! That is reasonable! My husband puts together the most frugal albums I’ve heard of, but he has to source out professional mastering. That alone for an 11 track album is usually $800-$1,000 depending on who he uses in the Pacific Northwest. Granted, that is part of the process that he cares greatly about, so he likely chooses higher-end studios for that work. Even at such a reasonable rate, your first side hustle gig pays better than mine. Congrats! I’m excited for your new adventure!

    • I really need to write an update to this post! It’s been a great experience, but there are some things I would do differently next time around, including upping my price. As for the mastering, I feel the same way your husband does. For my bands last recording, we paid a Grammy winning engineer in LA a pretty penny for the master. I am far from a Grammy winner, but my master should serve the recording well…we shall see 🙂


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