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How I Built an Online 5-Figure Business While Working Full Time

In this article, we will talk about how to build an online business while working full time.

Disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links, at no additional cost for you.

I used to be one of those impatient people who gave up on things very quickly.

However, in 2020 things changed.

I kept working on my side hustles even when I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel because a small part of me believed I could succeed.

After a few months, I was so glad to see that my hard work was paying off as money started to come in from all the projects I was working on in my spare time.

Fast forward to April 2021, and I’d made more than $35,000 from my side hustles, in less than one year. That’s actually more than what I earned with my full-time job.

What follows are the things I’ve been doing since I started freelancing part-time that helped me achieve these results.

Writing for my target audience, with the algorithm in mind

During the last two years I have been writing on several platforms, on my personal blogs, and for private clients on a consistent basis.

This is where the biggest portion of my freelance income has come from.

Writing platforms

To make money from my writing, I’ve always created my content with two things in mind:

  • what my target audience wants,
  • the algorithm of each platform.

Now you may ask, “How do you know what’s in the reader’s mind?” 
“And how do I know exactly how an algorithm works on a platform?”

The answer to the first question — “How do you know what’s in the reader’s mind?” — is simple: keyword research. To understand what content your target audience wants to consume, you need to do some research. There are some amazing tools online you can use to see what people actually search for. My favorite ones are Google Trends and the Ubersuggest Chrome extension.

The point is this: when you can find a specific topic millions of readers are looking for, and you address it in an original way through high-quality content, you are going to succeed, sooner or later. You are going to attract clients.

All you have to do is be consistent.


As per the second question — “How do I know exactly how an algorithm works on a writing platform?” — the answer is: trial and error.

This means that understanding how an algorithm works might take a long time, because you have to try different things, observe who is already successful, and focus on what works. However, I have noticed that most platforms have something in common. Their algorithm exists to promote content that engages its users and makes them stay on the platform as long as possible.

As Brent Barnhart explains in an article published in Social Sprout, the more engagement a piece of content gets, the more likely it is to be rewarded by the algorithm.

This means that when a piece of content receives a lot of engagement in the first few hours — usually this engagement comes from your most engaged direct followers — it will probably be pushed to more users (followers who usually engage less with your content, and people who don’t follow you yet).

If these users engage with your content, then your content will reach a wider audience.

In the infographic below, you can see in detail how audience reach works on most platforms.

how to build an online business while working full time
Infographic created by the author

Beyond focusing on my target audience and understanding algorithms, I’ve also invested a part of my first earnings in hiring a professional editor who not only helped me with my articles, but also mentored me.

This is one of the best choices I’ve made.

See, you can be the most productive freelancer in history, but if the quality of your work is low, and you don’t work on continuously sharpening your skills, you’re probably not going far.

This also means that you not only need to become better at what you do every day, but you also need to learn and improve the skills related to content creation (for example, promotion, email marketing and SEO); after applying all these things, I’ve started to make money by publishing just one or two articles per week.


I got my first private clients on Fiverr and Upwork. On these platforms, I offer not only writing services but also editing, proofreading and translation services.

When it comes to freelancing platforms —for example, Fiverr, Upwork, PeoplePerHour and Freelancer — I believe diversification is key. The more services you offer, the higher your odds of finding clients.

Another important thing here — which may sound obvious but it isn’t — is to always provide a high-quality service to your clients, because what you really want here is to get as many recurring clients as possible. This applies to any freelancing job.

It’s when your clients consider you the best in your field, leave you five-star reviews, and come back to you, that you start to attract even more clients and earn well on freelancing platforms.

Most importantly, the algorithm of these platforms is designed to give visibility to sellers with great reviews — because their priority is the experience of their customers.

For example, on Fiverr I’ve noticed that even with only a few five-star reviews I’ve started to receive more orders and attract new clients. It’s clear that Fiverr’s algorithm rewards quality more than quantity.

Screenshot from Fiverr provided by the author (usernames have been hided for privacy). On Fiverr my username is Sara instead of Sira to maintain my privacy.

Coaching some of my readers

This is an activity I’ve started recently — last summer, to be exact. After publishing several articles about relationships and social skills, a few readers contacted me as they were interested in private coaching sessions.

I had already taken a coaching course online. So I decided to review the content of that course and start practicing. So far, I’ve been coaching three clients — which for me is great, considering I started not too long ago.

If you want to provide coaching services, and need a platform where your clients can pay for a session — or a package — you can use Convertkit.

You may know it as a platform to manage your newsletter. However, you can also use it to sell services and digital products. And you can use it for free.

Selling print-on-demand products related to my writing

Another activity I’ve started recently is selling mugs and t-shirts related to my content . Usually I use the quotes that receive a lot of engagement on Instagram. I do this through print on demand.

What is print on demand?

Print on demand is an order fulfillment method where items are printed as soon as an order is made. Often without order minimums.”

You can sell print-on-demand products through several platforms; the most popular one — and the one where I used to sell my products — is Etsy.

However, the best platform I have tried so far is LaunchCart. It’s easy to use and you can easily integrate it with Printful (the platform where you can create your print on demand products).

The best thing about the print-on-demand business is you can sell your products without having to manufacture, store and ship them to the final customer.

This is almost a passive-income activity, as, once you create the designs (to do this you can use Canva) and the listings, and set up everything, you won’t have much to do — you’ll only have to accept the orders placed by your customers.

Now you might ask, “Ok, so what should I do when I receive an order through Etsy or Launchcart, if I don’t have any physical product to ship?”

To create a print-on-demand product all you need is to open an account on Printful, create your first products and link them to your store.

Printful is a print-on-demand, order fulfillment and warehousing platform that lets you design a product, and send an order to a print provider every time a customer makes a purchase.

How it actually works

The print provider will manufacture the product  and ship it to the final customer.

They will also send you all the shipment details so that you can send them to the final customer.

To create my designs I use Canva, and then I save them with a transparent background. This way they can be printed on items of different colors.

This is an example of one of the products I created:

Screenshot provided by author

Also, this is the YouTube channel where I learned how to start my print-on-demand business: Wholesale Ted.

How to Build an Online Business While Working Full Time – Final Thoughts

When it comes to building your empire, something you can’t afford is ignoring the importance of these two things:

  • diversification
  • continuous improvement.

This is essential for all entrepreneurs: whether you’re a writer, a blogger, or a digital entrepreneur, you shouldn’t rely on only one source of income . It’s much better if you have two or three, you never know what might happen.

Also, when you’re an entrepreneur, it’s great to be confident and believe in yourself; however, you should never consider yourself the best or flawless.

There’s always room for improvement, regardless of what you’re good at.

It’s when you’re humble enough to consistently learn new things and keep yourself up to date that you actually succeed.

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