Side Hustle Series: I Make Money Planners

[Guest post by Kimberly Palmer – of Alpha Consumer fame – as part of our Side-Hustle Series.]

I’ve always been obsessed with making extra money.

  • In elementary school, I launched a (very unsuccessful) newsletter.
  • In middle-school, I ran a (slightly more successful) summer camp for neighborhood kids.
  • In high school, I stayed busy by babysitting, which provided regular, if modest, paydays.

It wasn’t until I grew up and had kids of my own, though, that I fully committed to earning a steady income on the side. Sure, I have my full-time job, and so does my husband, and that regular income allows us to cover our basic bills and expenses. But who knows when those paychecks might unexpectedly disappear. Journalism isn’t exactly known for its job stability.

The Creation of Money Planners

During my first, sleepless and anxiety-filled year of motherhood, I hatched a plan to give myself (and my family) a solid back-up plan in case things suddenly went south with our 9-to-5 gigs. I created Money Planners, which are essentially workbooks to help people with specific goals and challenges (such as affording a baby or launching a business). I made them pretty, thanks to the help of a freelance illustrator. And then I uploaded them to Etsy.

It took me two weeks to make my first sale. I was a little slow to realize that I needed to promote my little shop with the enthusiasm that one might muster for a new child. Soon, I got the hang of it: I bragged about it on Facebook, shared it with friends, and begged bloggers for coverage.

Eventually, it started working. I got my shop up to a healthy $200 a month in income. Not enough to replace my day job, which I hope I never need to do anyway, but it is enough to give me a little peace of mind. And I know that I could ramp up sales if I ever have the extra time and energy to devote to it.

Hard Lessons

It turns out looks matter. A lot. If your product doesn’t look pretty, no one is going to buy it. It’s not that Etsy shoppers are a superficial bunch, but it’s a website devoted to beauty. People will buy things that appeal to them visually, even when you’re talking about budgeting and money goals.

palmers planners
I’m no artist, and my first photos of my products looked a little rough. They were dark and off-center. Perfecting a light-infused look took practice, and it’s something I still struggle with.

My other main area of shortcoming related to start-up costs. I forked over around $400 for a fancy printing press to create hard-copy versions of my digital planners. They are still sitting in my basement. In this day and age, people apparently prefer digital planners. They download automatically, and people can then frame them, stick them in a binder, or, if you’re truly devoted to the Etsy aesthetic, insert them in a vintage clipboard.

More Money, Less Time

Having children might have convinced me I needed a side-hustle, but it also made it harder to find the time to maintain it. Babies, it turns out, take up a lot of time, and soon we had two. As a full-time working mom with two little ones, I barely have time to brush my hair, let alone run my Etsy shop.

That’s where automation comes in. Etsy allows for automatic downloads. Other tools, like MailChimp, lets me set up automatic autoresponders to send free samples to interested potential customers, as well as schedule newsletters to go out when I post new products. Hootsuite lets me schedule my Twitter posts so I can write them whenever I have time, which is usually at 10:30pm after everyone else’s bedtime.

Two years after I first launched by shop, which I like to call Palmer’s Planners, I’m happy to say that my venture is far more successful than the entrepreneurial projects of my youth. Which is to say, I am making more than $0 dollars from my endeavor. Sometimes it’s $200 a month, sometimes it’s closer to $50. Either way, it gives me a financial cushion that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Kim blogs over at, and is also about to release her 2nd book, The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life, which comes out in January.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Perhaps these make the perfect gifts for some of your friends needing a little financial push? Is there a way toΒ subtly give these to people? Haha…

*If YOU have a side hustle you’d like to share with us, give me a shout!

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  1. Steven Le December 5, 2013 at 7:51 AM

    Unlike you, I was never really interested with making extra money in my youth. However, it’s a complete different story now. I have similar insight to yours. If I’ve built something that brings me money every month be it $20 or $40, that’s an asset that brings me money. Regardless of how small or big it is. My goal now is to build as many of these assets as I can to generate a decent income from it. Like you say, you never know when your pay checks might just disappear!

    1. J. Money December 6, 2013 at 11:26 AM

      Yup! I actually just watched this documentary called American Winter, where all these families lost their jobs and are literally having electricity cut off, don’t have money for food, getting evicted,etc… And half of them were “regular” middle-class people too who would have never thought they’d be gong to food banks. Scary stuff… We gotta do our best to save and prepare now to be okay in the future!

      Here’s a link to the trailer for it if interested:

  2. Matt Becker December 5, 2013 at 8:04 AM

    Very cool! I clicked over to your shop and the artwork definitely looks great. Very few people even try to make money on the side, and even fewer are ever successful. $200 a month with a full-time job and 2 kids is impressive.

  3. John S @ Frugal Rules December 5, 2013 at 8:36 AM

    That’s awesome Kim! I love how you’ve worked in automation so it is costing you less time to run, yet still be able to have the side gig. A side gig can be challenging enough to work on, especially with kids, and finding ways to streamline it definitely helps.

    1. Kimberly Palmer December 5, 2013 at 10:18 AM

      Automation is KEY. Etsy actually added that feature somewhat recently and it’s made a huge difference.

  4. Holly@ClubThrifty December 5, 2013 at 8:44 AM

    I think that’s awesome you’re making some side income from home! Even if it’s only $200 per month now, it will surely grow over time. People have to deal with their money whether they want to or not….so you picked a good niche! Personal finance never goes out of style! =)

    1. Kimberly Palmer December 5, 2013 at 10:19 AM

      Thank you for the confidence boost! I am definitely hoping to grow it over time… always brainstorming on front! :)

  5. Brian@ Debt Discipline December 5, 2013 at 9:04 AM

    Nice job Kim! Having a residual stream of income is one of my goals!

  6. liz December 5, 2013 at 9:12 AM

    Kim – I too started a newsletter when I was young (Maybe 4th grade?) Always loved to write I guess. Your planners look really fun and I loved hearing about your Etsy site as well. I have been toying around with the idea of starting one as well.

  7. EL @ MoneyWatch101 December 5, 2013 at 9:19 AM

    Great products, side income is hard to achieve but it seems you have done a great job so far. Good luck,

  8. Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen December 5, 2013 at 3:34 PM

    Wow a great idea that’s pretty unique. You’re doing a great job with how it looks. Definitely makes personal finance more appealing.

    I never did much to try to make money as a child. I did start working part-time as soon I could tho for pocket money!

  9. Justin @ RootofGood December 5, 2013 at 4:16 PM

    That’s pretty awesome, Kim. $200/month is a little more than pocket money in my book! That’s like a decent vacation with the whole family. And it sounds like automation makes it take very little time day to day.

    I’ve been doing the automation a little with my blog using IFTTT and Buffer (mostly for Twitter but also facebook).

  10. Tushar @ Everything Finance December 5, 2013 at 10:38 PM

    This is a really unique side hustle. It’s cool to see others find hustles that fit their lifestyles and are outside of the “norm” as far as side hustles go. Plus it’s nice that you are able to work when everyone else is in bed!

  11. Kimberly Palmer December 6, 2013 at 9:26 AM

    Thank you so much everyone for all these awesome comments! You made me feel really encouraged. :) I will definitely keep trying to build this and see where it takes me!

    1. J. Money December 6, 2013 at 11:28 AM

      Thanks for sharing your hustle with us, friend :)

  12. The First Million is the Hardest December 6, 2013 at 7:24 PM

    Very cool! $200/month is nothing to sneeze at! I you’ve got a pretty unique and creative idea going too, well done :)

  13. Taylor December 7, 2013 at 10:11 AM

    Awesome idea! Starting a side hustle can be difficult and it’s great to see others share their struggles and successes. Gives me something to work towards! I wish you lots of luck with your business!

  14. Blair Illiano December 10, 2013 at 10:11 PM

    These look great, Kim. I love the color palette you’ve used. I’m definitely tempted to buy them!

  15. Alison December 20, 2013 at 6:34 PM

    What a cool side hustle. I have so many goals I’m planning for, I could definitely use one of your planners. I’m old school so I would probably buy one of those printed ones you have. Great job!

  16. Mimi Sandy August 8, 2015 at 12:31 PM

    Love your ideas, I am trying to start my own blog right now, and have an Etsy shop of my own, but am not quite “there” yet. It is so nice to see someone who is making some extra income from home without interrupting their normal family life! Thank you very much for the encouragement.