How I make money

I write this because I want indie hackers to see that the route to freedom isn't necessarily just from creating a 'successful business'. It's also from making good and consistent financial decisions.

I don't think we talk about this stuff enough.

This is my story of how we literally built wealth on our terms one day at a time.

Where we were 10 years ago

I measure many things in life on how old my kids were at the time. In this instance, I was pregnant with my 3rd child. He is 9 years old now.

It doesn't feel like that long ago, but we sure managed to turn around our financial situation.

At that time:

  • my husband's had a business that he had to close down
  • Ministry of Testing was still in side-gig mode, but I was also walking away from a co-working business that I had spent a couple of years (co)building and not made a penny from.
  • we had no money and had significant debts (personal loans, credit cards, etc)
  • we had a property that we owned, but we're struggling to pay for.
  • at the same time we had a mini life crisis and decide to pack up our things and go traveling, we then decided to move to Cambridge for a bit of a change.

10 years of making better financial decisions

We've been optimizing life for things we believe in over money, we're far from perfect and life is always challenging, but we are triers.

I also make many decisions that stop us from making 'top dollar'. I've never really wanted to do high end consultancy or have a full-time corporate job.

I've also always loved working from home. We also not only chose to have many kids, but to also unschool them. This has pretty much thrown out many (financial) opportunities due to either lack of ability to show up physically in places or just the time that is needed to attend to the kids. I have zero regrets about this.

The past 10 years of making money

So over the past 10 years we made money by:

  • bootstrapping Ministry of Testing (to 7 figures...now a 6 figure company, damn COVID! 😭) - instead of trying to sell the company, we opted to keep a regular income from it and we (my husband and I) are majority shareholders. We see it as a long term investment/asset.
  • husband did some high paying consultancy, then mid paid, then none.
  • property rental - this took years to make it become a worthwhile investment, but am glad we stuck with it, for the income plus the current property value.
  • Indie Hackers (almost 2 years now 🥰) - the money I get paid to work here
  • Rosieland newsletter/community (6 months) - paid newsletter (soon to be community and other things)

The past 10 years of spending money

Just because we earn more, it doesn't mean we spend more. Rather we look for places to invest the money, or to pay off debt. We also seek advice from our accountants, especially on how to avoid paying unnecessary tax.

What we've done with our money:

  • paid off all our debt (apart from property loans)
  • focused on being tax efficient rather than taking lots of money, in the UK this means taking an income of approx £45k, anything above that and the tax rate is much higher.
  • put as much as we feel comfortable into a pension (it's tax-free)
  • put as much money as we can into our ISAs (tax-free savings account)
  • generally we are pretty frugal, though not with the number of kids we have 😬
  • made one seed investment
  • do extra payments on our mortgage when possible
  • we've definitely been far from perfect with managing this, sometimes life gets a bit overwhelming to keep on top of it all

Financially secure enough to make the right decisions

I've long been of the opinion that life is better if we can make choices based on what we want to do, not because we need the money. It's horrible being in a place with not enough money.

For many years at Ministry of Testing I was making enough money for me to not really have to worry about my income. I felt secure in how much I was making and as a result I was able to make what I felt like were good decisions for me and the company.

If I had been desperate for money, I would have done things for the money rather than for the good of me or the company. I don't believe this is a good place to be, if you can help it.

Good decisions aren't made when you are desperate or stuck in a rut.

I take this philosophy into everything I do: I cannot do things just for the money. I want to create value and enjoy things everywhere I go and if I can't I just won't do it.

I'm in a much better position now to say no to things I don't want to do. Of course I wouldn't want any of my income to go away, but I also I know I'll still be just fine if my income goes away from Ministry of Testing, Indie Hackers or Rosieland. Not as well of, but just fine.

And this means my mind can focus in on doing good work...and creating more wealth.

  1. 5

    This is indie-hacking to the core! Loved reading this essay @rosiesherry! ❤️

  2. 4

    Great post! Often there is never "one" solution in life, but a balanced and smart approach implemented with dedication over the long-haul. Thanks!

  3. 4

    Thank you for sharing Rosie! I really resonate with your journey; I spent the last couple of years working in high paying contract roles so that my partner and I could buy our first flat (which is soon going to be a reality :) we're just doing the final paperwork on it). Once that's done, I think there will be a lot less pressure to work really hard, and I can start dedicating more time on my own projects. From there, I'd like to optimise my life for quality free time as opposed to more money. I can see our income dropping in the next few years, but I believe that other opportunities will arise from the time that we'll gain back.

    1. 4

      Yes, a high paid consultancy gig helped fund our current house. House security/ownership is so important to us as a family.

  4. 2

    "Optimizing life for things we believe in over money" is really a dream for many of us.

    I'm still fascinated of your choice to do this and raise so many kids at the same time - respect! Thanks for sharing :)

  5. 2

    Thanks for sharing this @rosiesherry

    Yeah... part of deciding to be indie is about planning your life and lifestyle. And things started to get more real when kids are starting to get into the picture.

  6. 2

    Great post, love the idea of sticking to the real estate play. Definitely takes time but is a long run game. Wish I had started early learning about investing in real estate.

    1. 1

      Wish we had done more with stocks!

      1. 1

        It's never too late though we've mostly played the long game. Meaning we tend to favor long-term gains over trying to gamble and go for quick wins. That usually means money market funds but we've dabbled in stock and I've had stock options in the past.

  7. 2

    Thanks for the insight, really interesting!

  8. 2

    Thanks Rosie. "In deep" post. I appreciate you shared this. Hopefully COVID will end soon and we all can move forward.

  9. 2

    Great stuff with the kind of message you rarely see from people selling financial freedom dream. It's how you use the money you are making that's more important than how much you're making.
    And being clear about how you want to lead your life.

  10. 2

    Thanks for writing this :) - this stuff is super critical for Indie Hackers to at least have a passing understanding of. V. cool to hear your thought process.

  11. 2

    Authentic post! Thnx for sharing

  12. 1

    You can make money by freelancing. You can do blogging, and you can make great money with blogging. I'm also making good money with blogging myself currently i'm running this blog http://www.criclink.com/

  13. 1

    I like that Rosie! Especially this part "I'm in a much better position now to say no to things I don't want to do. "

  14. 1

    Thanks for the transparency. Financial freedom is often a collection of good decisions. Your post also makes the point that these decisions are also very personal- financial literacy isn't one size fits all.

  15. 1

    Thanks for sharing an open and transparent post Rosie.

    This is. why we rock with you

  16. 1

    Thanks for sharing your experience Rosie. Really interesting perspective achieving goals your way!

  17. 1

    Thanks for sharing Rosie! If you don't mind me asking did you go for residential or commercial property rental? I have been thinking about residential as I understand it more than commercial, but the second home stamp duty puts me off a bit, feels like a warning shot from the government. Would love to know your thoughts on this.

    1. 1

      It's complicated, lol.

      We've got 3. I feel a bit awkward saying that tbh. 🤷🏻‍♀️

      The first one was our first home (2007). The next one is our second (and current) home that we had 28 days to complete it on (2012). So we did those two on a residential mortgage. We've rented out our first one, first to a nightmare person, it was horrible. More recently to a really nice family, thank f**** god.

      We bought our first property on a commercial mortgage last year, a flat. I think we'll continue on that path. It needs a long term view, IMHO, and we live in and buy in Brighton, so generally, the market is pretty stable, or easy enough to sell. The property is not really profitable right now, but it covers it's costs. But with a long-term view, we believe it will be. We're still learning tbh, but keep a close eye on the local market and kind of have a long term goal of being a 'good affordable landlord', so many local families are priced out.

      There's also the option of buying commercial property through (tax-free) pension contributions. I keep a lookout for this, but not yet found anything worthy of pursuing. Honestly, it feels complicated.

      We're looking into another property atm and also trying to remortgage our current house to do a renovation, and with COVID it definitely feels like things have tightened up.

      TBH, I often come up with ideas and property finds, and my husband does all the legal, money and paperwork stuff. 😅

      1. 1

        Thanks for sharing! Totally agree on commercial property, buying it through a SIPP would be a great idea. If I ever make a bricks-and-mortar business this is probably the way I would go for the premises.

  18. 1

    Thanks for sharing Rosie. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾Inspiring and agreed, $$$ are def an undiscussed piece of the puzzle in hackerland. Hats off for unschooling and managing all your projects, too; do you have strict time divisions for what you work on?

  19. 1

    btw a random question: who can start a series on IH.com? Is it only from the core team? Cheers

    1. 2

      @kevon if you're interested, shoot me an email: [email protected]

      1. 1

        Thanks Channing! I will keep it in mind. Was just curious :)

  20. 1

    Can you do "good things" and create more wealth? Are these mutually exclusive activities? Where do you see them overlap?
    Very nice post and well written.
    PS - How does one find an income generating opportunity within the indie-hacking organization? I have been writing on Quora for the past 7 years. I have generate 2,400 responses to small business-related questions, my area of expertise, and write almost daily.

  21. 1

    This is really interesting. Thanks for being so transparent. One question.

    Do you take any money from your business as dividends? This is much more tax efficient yes ?

    1. 2

      Yes, basic minimum wage salary plus dividends. Dividends can’t be paid monthly, they are not meant to be a wage. So we do it every 2-4 months.

      1. 1

        That’s really interesting. Sorry to pry but this fascinates me. Is the 45k total? Or is the 45k salary and you top that up with dividends?

        1. 2

          45k total, each.

          If you have a full time job, and an indie business, you probably end up pay lots of tax (close to 50% I suppose) to extract the money out. So it's worth thinking about how to spend it, rather than just withdrawing it in excitement.

          1. 1

            This reminds me of a Youtube video I just watched. Seems like if you have a business, just put almost everything on business expense and get the tax benefit there. Taking out money and get taxed means you're losing a lot of value.

        2. 2

          This comment was deleted 6 months ago.

          1. 1

            This is great info. Thanks.

            Remind me to hit you up if I ever need financial advice lol

  22. 1

    thank you for the authenticity

  23. 1

    Thanks for sharing this Rosie 🙌🙌🙌

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