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I Made Over $400,000 From a Side Hustle on Top of My 6-Figure Salary Last Year. I Love Diversified Income — and This Game-Changing Money-Saver. When Chisom Okwulehie learned she wouldn’t receive a merit-based pay bump during the pandemic, she took matters into her own hands.



This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Chisom Okwulehie, who started consulting agency Juntero as a side hustle when she was an employee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The piece has been edited for length and clarity.

In 2017, I started working at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, where I design and manage infrastructure projects. At the height of the pandemic in 2020, I’d had my first child and was told we wouldn’t receive a merit-based pay increase at work, so I wanted to find ways to supplement my income. My father always told me and my siblings that if your spouse dies, you have to be able to cover the mortgage and support your family. I’m a big advocate for diversified income.

So, I started Juntero as a side hustle with my husband. Now, it’s a corporation that we co-own, split into two subsidiary companies or studios: Juntero Design and Juntero Technology. My husband owns Juntero Technology; I own Juntero Design. Today, Juntero is a full-fledged design and technology business, but it all started with me taking on small projects on different platforms and charging as little as $20.

Back then, I watched a lot of YouTube tutorials to prepare and experimented with my different talents — web design, photo editing, graphic design, architecture design and interior design. People gravitated towards my architecture and interior design services. Initially, I kept my prices low to build a portfolio and accumulate strong testimonials. That credibility is the greatest currency and helped me increase my visibility; for every 10 pieces of positive feedback, I’d raise my hourly rate by $20. Eventually, I learned not to trade my time for money and switched to fixed rates.

Related: At 23, She Started a Side Hustle for ‘Quick Money.’ Now the Business Brings in More Than $1 Million a Month — and Boasts Celebrity Fans.

I made about $55,000 that year, and over $200,000 the next. Then, in 2023, I exceeded $400,000.

Then, near the end of 2021, I realized that I couldn’t help as many clients as I wanted, so I had to put my ego aside and trust other people. I started hiring other designers on a project-based model. They’re not employees; they’re contractors. So, since 2022, I’ve outsourced more than 90% of the work. That helped me scale the business even more. I made about $55,000 that year and over $200,000 the next. Then, in 2023, I exceeded $400,000.

At Port Authority, my salary is $125,000. The net profits at Juntero alone are higher than my 9-5 salary, but I plan to stay at Port Authority. Some people think I’m crazy, but I’m on a public student loan forgiveness program and have three years left. Also, I learn so much from my colleagues’ expertise.

Now that I’m not on the production side of Juntero, I spend more time on marketing and client management. We have two payment structures: a one-time payment model and a subscription-based model. I’ve spent a lot of time marketing the subscription model. It’s an idea that came to me last year. One of my major clients is a developer, so with the subscription model, she can pay the monthly rate and access our services for a range of tasks.

Related: How to Go From Side Hustle to 7-Figure Business and Beyond, According to 3 Women Who Did It

A marketer could hire a designer at $100,000 a year or enroll with my service and see even more output. So it’s a huge cost savings.

I’m very passionate about the subscription model because it’s a game changer: It’s allowing companies that don’t have creative teams to enroll in a membership program and access my creative team for a consistent flow of deliverables, whether it be drawings or 3D models. And it helps these businesses scale, too. One of my clients uses my renderings to consistently sell multimillion-dollar homes over the asking price. With the subscription model, these companies can have five people doing the work for the salary of one; for instance, a marketer could hire a designer at $100,000 a year or enroll with my service and see even more output. So it’s a huge cost savings.

Related: I Turned My Side Hustle Into a Passive Income Stream That’s Earned More Than $1 Million — But Making Money Isn’t Even the Best Part

It’s essential to diversify your income, especially in this economy. You have to plan for your future and retirement, and you can’t rely on your 9-5. If you have the patience, due diligence and organization skills, you should figure out ways to monetize your talents. Make the time to focus on your craft, but only do it if you love it — because you don’t want to face burnout.

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