In 2013, Alexis Schroeder was enduring the ups and downs of a lifestyle change after losing 60 pounds. People were always asking her questions about her weight loss, she says, so she ultimately decided to start a blog. She had zero intention of making money at first — she just wanted to share the secrets to her weight loss, her new lifestyle, and the changes she had to make along the way.
That’s right; Alexis paid her way through college, earning as much as $80,000 in 2018 with her blog, Fitnancials.com. While she says she knows some experts would say she should have invested her money instead and paid off her loans the slow and painful way, she has no regrets.
“I know it was the right decision for me,” says the blogger.
Before that though, she did all kinds of side hustle work to stay on top of her student loan debt — and the interest that was accruing. She worked for Rover.com as a dog walker, babysat for multiple children on Care.com, worked as a virtual assistant, took care of elderly and special ne individuals in their homes, and picked up freelance writing jobs online.
Along the way, however, she had a feeling she should focus on one thing at a time — particularly blogging.
“People kept telling me to go all in on my blog, and honestly, I didn’t think I could make a real living out of it,” she said. “However, my blog was picking up traffic and I often got a lot of emails from readers, so I figured it deserved a real shot.”
Schroeder says she made $30,000 blogging during her first year doing it full-time (2017), then $80,000 in 2018 while she finished her degree. Her income comes from a variety of sources including advertising, sponsored posts, and affiliate marketing.
Schroeder also took plenty of steps to set herself up for success along the way. She went to community college at first, for example, and she finished the second half of her degree online. She also applied for scholarships and got access to some financial aid.
Another helpful step — Schroeder paid the interest on her unsubsidized loans along the way so her balances didn’t balloon while she was still in school. This made it a lot easier for her to pay off all her loans (around $15,000) the day she graduated.
While not everyone can start a blog and expect to earn $80,000 within a few years, Schroeder does offer some practical advice that can help young people escape the all-too-common fate of many young people today.
If you can find at least a few ways to earn money while you’re in college, you can pay for some of your expenses as you go, stay on top of interest on unsubsidized loans, and graduate college with less debt overall.
Find side hustles you genuinely enjoy. “You probably shouldn’t work as a dog walker if you don’t like dogs,” she says. Find a side hustle you enjoy that people will pay you for, and you’re more likely to stick with it.
Don’t wait to get started. Schroeder says that too many people think it’s impossible to earn real income from side hustling so they don’t even try. But the longer you wait, the more student loan debt you’ll accrue.
Think outside the box. The gig economy is booming and there is an endless supply of side hustles out there. If you don’t think you qualify, it’s crucial to think about the skills you already have. Do you excel at graphic design? Post your services on Fiverr. Do you know a second language? You can work as a remote translator or tutor. Do you enjoy working with children? Teach English remotely. Those are just a few examples Schroeder offers, but there are plenty more.
The Bottom Line
These days, life is pretty good for Alexis and her family. Not only is she entirely debt-free, but she still works on her blog full-time and has a goal of living in an RV full-time. And even though she is very dedicated to running her online business, she usually works less than 30 hours a week and has plenty of free time to devote to hobbies and causes like her endless love for animals.
Without any student debt, Schroeder can check off her bucket list and take adventures she couldn’t otherwise afford. For example, she went to Alaska with her mother last year while still in college, paying for the entire trip — including a pricey Alaskan cruise — in cash.
“I also get to donate monthly to my favorite animal sanctuaries,” she says. She also sponsors animals and pays for their medical bills.
“I knew the busyness would only last a season, and the next season of my life would make all of this hard work worth it,” she says.