Steady Stories

How to Hustle Your Way to 9-5 Independence

Liz Knueven knows a lot about cars.

Old ones. New ones. She can spot a model as it rolls by. She can figure out how to get an old clunker running, and wax up a hood until it’s shiny and bright — skills she learned in her youth while tinkering in the garage with her dad. A space her bio says was bigger than the family’s Cincinnati home.

Her personal favorites? A 1928 Ford Model A and bright red 1955 Thunderbird.

Now 22 and living in Seattle, Kneuven has turned that automobile affection into a career as a freelance writer specializing in all things cars.

It’s a gig-based career strategy Knueven didn’t plan for while studying writing at the Savannah College of Design. At the time, her dreams were focused on long-form magazine writing.

“But opportunities weren’t panning out,” she said. “So I thought, ‘I’ll make my own’.”

Kneuven moved back to Ohio and took a marketing job working for a car dealership. She quickly found the YouTube scripts and SEO advertising content she was writing wouldn’t satisfy her for long.

So she started to side-hustle her way into a stream of freelance assignments by combing job boards and taking every kind of writing job she could get.

“Basically I would take my laptop and work on my lunch break or do interviews in my car,” she said. “Then I’d come home and work till two or three a.m.”

In less than a year, Knueven had cultivated enough content writing work that she was able to earn at least, or more, than the $15 per hour the dealership paid.

That’s when she cut the 9-to-5 cord.

“It’s awesome,” said Knueven, who describes herself as self-motivated. “I feel really lucky.”

Hard work and talent have been critical to Knueven’s success, but more importantly she found a niche. Female writers who focus on the automobile industry are few and far between and editors were receptive to the different voice Knueven offers.

“I always say, do one thing and do it well,” she said. “I may not get 100 percent of the jobs, but 100 percent of the jobs I get are right for me.”

Almost a year into full time freelancing, Knueven has a stable of steady clients — from CreditKarma, to TireBuyer and CARFAX— and has expanded her writing to include finance and culture pieces.

When friends who want to follow their own passions away from the 9-t0-5 ask for advice, Knueven offers up this guidance: Know how much money you need to live, understand the financial obligations that come with self-employment, like paying taxes, and save, save, save.

Kneuven said she had roughly $10,000 banked before she made the leap to working for herself — enough to fund her move from Ohio to Washington state and provide a cushion for the financial ups and downs that come with gig work.

There are days, Knueven admits, she misses the stability of a paycheck that magically appeared in her bank account every two weeks, but for now, the advantages outweigh any concerns.

“I like the freedom that I have. I like the autonomy,” Knueven said. “It would be hard for me to go back.”