I graduated four years ago, and I’ve managed to pay off $40,000 in student loans since. Oh yeah, and I did it without holding down a real job.
Well, I still have a few thousand to go. But I’m dangerously close to being rid of them once and for all.
My anxiety around student loans began around the age of 19. I’ve lived with the crippling fear that I have $40,000 on my head for the last seven years.
I actually had about $80,000 in student loans total, but my parents took on half of my loans, which we recently re-financed from a 10% interest rate to a 5% interest rate. This probably saved them $10,000 in the long run.
If I could go back, I’d have went to college in state, first of all. Second, I would’ve went to community college while building up my own Youtube channel/personal blog in the meantime.
These two simple decisions would’ve saved me and my parents about $60,000. But you live and you learn.
Anyway, how did I pay these suckers off?
Let’s get into it.
A Lot Of Help From My Friends and Family
In truth, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention all the help I received from my friends and family for a second. I lived with friends rent free for about a year after college, and then I lived with my parents rent free for another two. I didn’t actually pay rent until the last three months I was at home because by that point I’d already been making serious money from blogging for about a year. It was time.
My friends and family cancelled about $700 per month from my bottom line so I could have the freedom to explore freelancing and blogging.
Thank goodness they saw the opportunity that I saw online.
Or maybe they were just being nice. I don’t know.
I Paid $10,000 Off With Freelance Writing
After college graduation I had surgery to take out 5 feet of my small intestine. That had me out of operation for 3 months. After I recovered I ventured down to Orlando, Florida to live with my friend for free until I “got a job” and could move out.
This never happened.
I worked as a waiter for two weeks and quit because I knew this just wasn’t the job I was meant for. Shortly after I worked at Panera for about 4 weeks and quit for the same reason.
I knew that surely there was a job out there I could do that wasn’t meant for high schoolers. My passion was writing, so I started looking for freelance work on Craigslist and Upwork. I found my first job within two days, and wrote a 5,000 word ebook for $100.
It took me about 8 hours, but I was ecstatic because it STILL paid me more than waiting tables or making salads at Panera. Plus I didn’t have to waste time commuting, get dressed, taking a shower, or starting work at a certain time.
I thought I had found the fountain of youth.
Thus began my freelancing journey. I spent the next 6 months writing articles, ebooks, website copy, and more for a variety of clients. Some weeks I made $600, and other weeks I made $250. It just depended on the amount of work I could get.
In total, I was making about $2,000 per month. $650 of that went straight to student loans, $500 went to taxes, because freelancers have to take out their own taxes, so I had about $850 left to live on.
I was actually living pretty comfortably, and probably spent about $70 per week on food.
I continued freelancing for about two years. The amount of money I made hardly changed, and after two years of $600 per month, I was able to pay off $10,000 of my student loans after interest.
I Paid Off $25,000 With Blogging
A year after I graduated, I went on a cross-country road trip through the United States. I left Orlando, ventured west to New Orleans, Austin, El Paso, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and then landed in San Francisco to spend two months with my friend.
I had the time of my life. It was meant to be a vision quest of sorts, to find myself. That’s why I named my blog “Finding Tom” and started writing about my experiences in New Orleans, Texas, and California.
This side-hustle blog never took off. I spent most of my time freelancing, that’s why — but it did lay the foundation for my love of blogging.
When I came back from my trip, I started a publication on this site called the Post-Grad Survival Guide. I began writing five times per week about relationships, following your dreams, travel, productivity, and freelancing.
It was fun, and it was surprising to see my readership grow to 5,000, 10,000, even 30,000 views per month within my first year of blogging. The whole time I built my own email list and came out with a course designed to teach people how to grow their own blog + readership.
On my first webinar, about 30 people showed up live, and when it came time to pitch my new course, 15 people bought it without question. Over the course of one hour, I made $2,500. It was the most I ever made in an hour in my life, and if you were paying attention, it buried my typical earnings per month.
I felt as rich as Jeff Bezos that day. I went out for the first time in a long time, ordered a big cheese pizza from my favorite pizza place, and ate it with great ceremony.
That was my idea of celebrating. 😆
I Paid Off $5,000 With Vlogging
After that momentous occasion, I kept selling my course every few months, and made enough money to travel to the Philippines for the first time.
The course has made me over $70,000 the last two years, and paid for numerous trips through Asia, the Philippines, Europe, and my own country. From that course, I was able to pay off large sums of my student loans.
Six months after I came out with my online course, I was already looking ahead. I was already looking for ways to bolster my income, and I got really inspired by a vlogger named Casey Neistat.
So I bought my own camera, microphone, tripod, and headed off to the Philippines to vlog my life.
Within six months, and after 50–60 vlogs, I made my first ever viral video for Facebook. It got 3,000,000 views, gave my page 20,000 likes, and forced Facebook to message me asking if I wanted to be in their new partner program.
Translation: they messaged to see if I wanted to put ads in my videos.
I said hell yes, and started making an extra $1,000 per month with my videos.
One time a video I made about Catriona Gray went mega-viral, like 6,000,000 views viral, and I was able to make $6,000 from a video that took me 3 hours to create.
I’ve Evolved Three Times, And I’ll Evolve More
I went from freelancer to blogger to vlogger. I’ve evolved as a creator on three separate occasions and I’ll probably evolve more.
As I’ve “diversified,” I’ve made more and more money. Writing has always been the most profitable thing for me to do, though.
And guess what? I’m always going to look ahead at new opportunities and take them on, too. With every evolution, I make a new income stream. Maybe I’ll start a physical business here in the Philippines. Perhaps I’ll create a digital media company.
Maybe I’ll start a group project with some friends. I know what’s worked for me, though: constant evolution and creative expression. That formula will carry me into the future, and help me pay off the remainder of my student loans, eventually. It can work for you too, even if your loans are as crazy as $300K.