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How this 29-year-old turned his side hustle into a $1.5 million business

In 2014, I was fresh out of college and thought my life was set: go to medical school, get a six-figure job as a doctor, and make my parents proud.

None of this worked. I realized that I hated blood and needles and was kicked out of over 15 medical schools. My parents weren’t so happy.

From 2014 to 2019, I took private lessons, did a few modeling gigs, started a drop shipping business, and even worked as a real estate agent. But nothing was consistent to bring me a steady stream of income.

After several business attempts, I finally found something that worked: posting financial tips on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. In 2021, my content creation business brought in $1.5 million in revenue — and my mom stopped sending me job postings.

How I Built a $1.5 Million A Year Business

I had been posting on YouTube since 2006, but the content was random and inconsistent. So I decided to stick to the subject I was most passionate about: money.

Growing up in a painfully frugal family, I’ve always been interested in finding ways to be smarter about earning, saving, and investing. In 2018, I created a new YouTube channel dedicated to financial advice. I posted almost daily, as well as on Instagram and TikTok.

In 2021, Chang’s business brought in $1.5 million in gross revenue.

Photo: Charlie Chang

My first videos got a dozen views each, half of them from my mom. I still earned most of my money from odd jobs and hustling.

But in April 2020, about a month after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, I noticed a spike in interest in stimulus-related content. That month, I posted 20 YouTube videos about recovery and relief efforts. One of my videos went viral, earning me $10,078 in ad revenue and 30,300 subscribers.

In May, I posted 19 videos and made $15,791 in ad revenue. And in June, I landed my first sponsorship deal with Foundr, an online education company; they paid me $250 to create a TikTok post.

I continued to experiment with different types of video content to see what was most effective in growing my audience and driving brand interest.

In November, after securing another partnership deal and reaching around 200,000 subscribers, I decided to launch my first online course to teach people how to start their own successful YouTube channels.

In 2021, I added affiliate marketing to my sources of income. I made $86,000 in January, then averaged $150,000 per month in 2021.

How to create multiple streams of income

Today I have over 650,000 YouTube subscribers. So far this year, I’ve earned around $197,700 per month through five income streams, many of which create passive income. At one point I made $245,000 in a month.

What I love about the company I’ve built is that I get to choose when and where to work. Some days I will work zero hours, and other days I will work 12 hours. On average, I work 35 hours a week.

Here’s how I built each of my revenue streams:

1. Affiliate Marketing: 40% of monthly income

With affiliate marketing, I earn a commission for promoting another brand’s products or services. I post affiliate links in my YouTube video descriptions and on my website, then get paid every time someone is directed to a brand’s product page or makes a purchase.

To earn passive income through affiliate marketing, you need to include links on targeted content in a niche that people are looking for. This can lead to clicks for months, even long after you’ve posted. For example, I link to captions based on popular search terms, which I find using the Google Trends tool.

I get most of my affiliate deals through partnership management platforms like Impact Radius, Partnerstack, and Share-A-Sale. Creators of any audience size can use these websites to find and join affiliate link programs.

2. Brand sponsorships: 25% of monthly revenue

With brand endorsements, companies basically pay me to mention them in one of my videos or on my website.

Brands usually contact me through my YouTube profile email address, but I also work with agencies like Spacestation to get more sponsorships.

Finding a niche has helped me develop a loyal and genuine following, which has been crucial to my success. I answered some Covid related financial questions that no one else was asking. Then I took the concepts with the highest audience engagement and ran with them.

“What I love about the company I started is that the money I make isn’t directly tied to my time,” Chang says. “I can choose when and where I want to work.”

Find your own niche by asking yourself: What is a specific problem that I can solve with my unique history and knowledge? Understand the ins and outs of your audience, like their age, location, and general interests. During the negotiation process, remind brands why this audience is valuable to them.

3. YouTube Ads: 25% of monthly revenue

I make another quarter of my income from YouTube Adsense ads that appear before or during my YouTube videos.

To join this program, you must have at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours in the last 12 months. Once you’re part of the program, it’s important to post regularly and create videos based on what your audience responds well to.

4. Online course sales: <5% of monthly income

My “6-Figure YouTube Academy” and “Personal Brand Masterclass” courses are both hosted on Kajabi. These courses took months of planning, research, filming and editing.

For YouTube Academy, I outlined what I was going to teach in each video using Notion, an online workspace organization tool, then created slides to play during each video on Keynote. It took me a week to shoot over a hundred videos, which I edited myself with Final Cut Pro X.

From there, I curated my videos on Kajabi and started marketing the course on YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram. I don’t spend money on advertising.

5. Coaching: <5% of monthly income

I meet clients one-on-one to consult with them on how to make their businesses more successful. It’s a great way to connect with my audience and get to know them on an individual level.

My coaching sessions are done via Zoom, which allows me to meet anyone from anywhere around the world. I charge $500 per 60 minute session.

Recently, I started building StartupWise, a resource platform for new businesses and entrepreneurs. I also work on a company called Side Hustle Mastery, and its companion newsletter called Hustle Club.

Charlie Chang is a content creator and serial entrepreneur whose mission is to educate people about personal finance and entrepreneurship. He is a graduate of UCLA and founder of StartupWise. Follow him on instagram and Youtube.

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