CNBC make it 2024-04-12 02:00:54

26-year-old works 20 minutes a day—and brings in $462,000 a year from his Etsy side hustle

This story is part of CNBC Make It’s Six-Figure Side Hustle series, where people with lucrative side hustles break down the routines and habits they’ve used to make money on top of their full-time jobs. Got a story to tell? Let us know! Email us at

Francisco Rivera doesn’t even like candles — but he brings in six figures per year selling them on Etsy.

In February 2023, Rivera was living in Orlando, Florida and working part-time for online tutoring company Outschool. Demand dropped when after-school activities resumed post-Covid, so he started looking for more income elsewhere.

He found a YouTube video about print-on-demand side hustles, where sellers create designs for products like T-shirts or mugs. They list their designs on marketplaces like Etsy or Amazon, and when a customer places an order, a manufacturer prints the design onto the product and ships it out.

For his product, Rivera chose neutral-colored organic candles with “witty” labels, he says. He creates his designs on Canva, lists them on Etsy and uses a service called Printify to connect with manufacturers.

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His Etsy shop brought in approximately $462,000 in sales last year, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It — enough for him to quit his tutoring job in December 2023. (Rivera says he’d prefer not to name his shop, to prevent potential copycats.)

About 30% to 50% of each sale is profit, Rivera estimates. His expenses include Etsy fees, nearly $55,000 last year, and money he spends on marketing and Printify’s services.

Often, he works only 20 minutes per day, he says. Some days, he works extra: up to two hours, researching trends and designing new candle labels. With the rest of his time, he’s pursuing a music career, he adds.

“I’m making more than I ever have, doing less than I ever have,” says Rivera, 26.

Here, Rivera discusses the side hustle advice he thinks actually works, the biggest downside to his print-on-demand gig and why — despite his distaste for them — he chose to sell candles.

CNBC Make It: Do you think your side hustle is replicable?

Rivera: Absolutely. The beauty of the [print-on-demand] model is it’s so low-risk. It’s $0.20 to list something on Etsy. I borrow someone else’s Canva account, but the Pro version costs $120.

I don’t think I’m special — I just work hard. There’s value in time and value in flexibility. I would take a pay cut if it still allowed me to do what I’m doing [outside of my Etsy shop].

There are so many people I know who are interested in this, but just can’t start. I always say: If you have a 9-to-5, you’re putting in work and you already are consistent. You just have to channel that consistency toward something else.

A lot of print-on-demand businesses sell items like T-shirts or mugs. Why did you choose candles?

I’m not super passionate about selling candles. I’m actually allergic to them.

But at the time, candles were a newer category in print-on-demand. After scouring YouTube and Printify’s product catalog, I liked the idea of coming up with witty phrases to put on a product, and I noticed a lot of people were already selling apparel and mugs.

It felt like there was more opportunity with candles. They make great gifts, a lot of people buy candles on Etsy and people who had funny candle shops typically went viral within a year.

What’s the biggest downside to your side hustle?

The biggest downside of this side hustle is copycats — people who use the exact same phrases or very similar designs. They see bestselling candles, replicate them and then skip [to the top of search results]. I have to file copyright infringement, and it’s a mess.

Etsy is very secretive about its algorithm [for search results]. You can revise things, like the images on your listing or use different words on your product descriptions.

I don’t find a huge amount of success changing those things, so I would rather focus on pushing out new candles.

Can you share a piece of side hustle advice that you think is overrated?  

A lot of people recommend sales analytic tools that show you demand versus competition [customer searches for your product versus similar products].

I’m not fully convinced they help. Instead, I’d tell people it’s important to not be married to your creativity. If there’s a design in your shop you really like, but it’s not really getting the results you want, cut it.

Research what other products are selling well. Put your own spin on it.

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62-year-old started her business with $1,000—now it brings in $25M/year: ‘I just had to do this’

Deryl McKissack’s career is a culmination of effort from five generations.

The 62-year-old is the president and CEO of McKissack & McKissack, the Washington, D.C.-based construction management and design firm behind some of today’s most recognizable buildings — from building the Smithsonian African American Museum of History and Culture to repairing the Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson memorials.

The firm’s legacy dates back to her great-great grandfather Moses, a skilled brick maker who originally came to the U.S. as a slave in 1790. His skills were passed down and cultivated from generation to generation, prompting two of his grandsons to create a construction company in Tennessee, also called McKissack & McKissack.

That company remains in the family, now based in New York and run by McKissack’s twin sister Cheryl. “My father always took us [to] job sites, took us to the office. We talked about it around the table,” says McKissack. “It was always a very integral part of our family.”

Motivated by a desire to strike out on her own, and to see more Black women CEOs in the construction industry, McKissack withdrew $1,000 from her savings account and launched her company in 1990. Today, it brings in between $25 million and $30 million per year, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It, and manages $15 billion in projects with offices in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and Baltimore.

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“I remember in college, there were probably three women in my class, and my twin sister was one of them. So it’s very rare that women are in this industry, but we’re excelling,” McKissack says.

‘I had this burning passion … that I just had to do this’

McKissack left an engineering job with a six-figure salary to launch her company, and quickly learned that even with a Howard University civil engineering degree and relevant work experience, attracting clients was difficult.

Lugging an old projector around, she presented slides of work she’d done for family members to help “sell my wares.” She placed a job ad in the Washington Post, and hired an employee.

“It was touch and go because I didn’t have a bank that believed in me,” says McKissack. “It took me five years to get my first $10,000 line of credit. I probably went to 11 banks that told me ‘no’ … [but] I had this burning passion on the inside that I just had to do this, and it was going to work out for me.”

She used her networking skills to land her company’s first project: doing interior work at her alma mater. She and her lone employee did all the work themselves, with McKissack putting in 80 hours of labor per week, she says.

One successful job led to another, and McKissack built a portfolio of work to show prospective clients. She applied for jobs as a federal contractor, getting her foot in the door to work on construction projects at the White House and U.S. Treasury building. Larger federal projects followed.

McKissack only paid herself $7,200 her first year in business, she says. Her second, $18,000. She finally paid herself a $100,000 salary after roughly ten years, she adds, prioritizing paying her employees over herself along the way.

“I’m extremely proud of where we are and the projects that we’ve done … the impact that we’ve had in people’s lives,” says McKissack.

‘I haven’t made it until more Black [people] have made it’

The global construction industry is projected to be worth $13.9 trillion by 2037, according to a 2023 report from market research firm Oxford Economics. Yet women still make up only 1.4% of construction CEOs worldwide, and Black women account for a fraction of that.

Despite the identical company names, McKissack and her sister do run separate businesses — but they’ve collaborated on several projects, and often “trade notes” with each other, she says.

“We lean on each other in challenging times. And it’s great to have an identical twin that is doing the same thing that I’m doing in a bigger city like New York,” she says. “The challenges that she faces are different from mine, but they’re similar. So it’s good to have someone to talk to.”

A healthy support system is rare for most Black and women construction executives, largely because so few of them exist, McKissack says. Last year, she founded AEC Unites, a nonprofit that provides professional opportunities for Black talent in the architecture, engineering and construction industry.

“I haven’t made it until more Blacks and more women have made it,” she says, adding: “Once more people that look like me are in the industry and they’re dominating in parts of this industry, then I can sit back and say, ‘We’ve made it.’”

One of them, she hopes, will be her daughter — a bioengineering student at New York University who could become the sixth generation of McKissacks in the construction industry.

“I tell her all the time that all roads lead to McKissack,” she says. “And I don’t care how she gets there.”

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The 3 biggest red flags hiring managers look for in resumes, according to new research

If you use artificial intelligence to write your resume — or get a bit too creative with the design — you could be hurting your chances of landing a job. 

The biggest red flag hiring managers look for in job candidates is an AI-generated resume, according to new research from Resume Genius, which surveyed 625 hiring managers across the U.S. Other resume faux pas include poor formatting and typos.

Here are the three biggest resume red flags that could cost you a job offer, and how to avoid them, according to a hiring expert:

AI-generated resumes 

More than half (53%) of hiring managers say they have reservations about resumes that include AI-generated content, with 20% calling it a “critical issue” that might prevent them from hiring someone.

“It’s extremely important that your resume is a truthful, authentic reflection of the skills and experience you bring to the table,” says Michelle Reisdorf, district director at recruitment firm Robert Half. “If you use AI to write a resume for you in minutes, it tells me you didn’t put a lot of time and thought into applying to my job.”

Reisdorf, who has worked in recruiting and hiring for over 30 years, still encourages jobseekers to use AI to review and edit their resume — but says you should write the first draft.

“AI is great for proofreading and enhancing what you’ve already written, but it’s not a one-stop shop to generate the perfect resume,” she adds. “Recruiters will be able to tell if you’re not including specific details from your past jobs or writing in a personal, human voice.”

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Frequent job-hopping

Similarly, resumes showing a pattern of frequent job-hopping make 50% of hiring managers hesitant to move forward with a candidate, Resume Genius found. 

This red flag is trickier to avoid: If you’ve switched jobs a lot, you can’t lie about your employment history. Plus, hiring managers have different definitions of what constitutes excessive job-hopping. 

For some, it might be changing jobs every 1-2 years, while others would argue it’s a shorter timeframe (opting to move after less than a year). 

You don’t have to explain every time you switched roles, “as most recruiters aren’t looking for that on the first pass,” Reisdorf says. “They want to know if you have the skills and the experience to do the job well — your past experiences and commitment to work are usually saved for the interview.”

If you have several short stints on your resume, however, Reisdorf recommends including a brief context (1-2 sentences) of your job changes elsewhere on your application. 

“Most online applications will have text fields for additional comments or ‘reasons for leaving’ after you upload your resume,” she explains. “That’s a good place to acknowledge any job-hopping without drawing too much attention to it.”

Otherwise, save any explanations of your career choices for the interview.

Poor formatting

Another red flag hiring managers look out for on resumes is poor formatting, whether it’s a disorganized layout, using an obscure font or simply forgetting to spell-check. 

Reisdorf says clean, simple resumes are the most effective as they’re easy for anyone to read and understand. That means using a basic black font, trimming it to one page and having clearly labeled, organized sections. 

Put simply, you want a recruiter’s attention to be focused on your accomplishments — not a bold typeface choice or cluttered layout. 

Proofreading for any spelling or grammar mistakes before submitting your resume is important, too, Reisdorf says, because it shows your potential employer that you’re detail-oriented and conscientious. 

“Ultimately, you want the hiring manager to focus on you, as the candidate, versus the mistakes on your resume,” says Reisdorf. “Your resume should make them excited to interview and, hopefully, hire you.”

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People almost always get this simple math problem wrong: Can you solve it?

The question goes: “A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?”

Is your knee-jerk response that the ball costs 10 cents? That is a common answer, but also an incorrect one.

If the ball costs 10 cents, then the bat would cost $1.10, which would bring the total to $1.20. The correct answer is the ball costs 5 cents and the bat $1.05. 

This question is part of the Cognitive Reflection Test, CRT, which was first described in 2005 by psychologist Shane Frederick. Frederick wanted to examine how people fight, or don’t fight, their intuitive thinking.

The original test contained two additional questions:

  • If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?
  • In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake?

Research about whether the test measures cognitive ability, or intelligence, has been mixed. 

However, why so many people get it wrong is due to a psychological trap we all fall into sometimes. This same psychological trap can hinder our ability to make sound decisions.

Why so many people get this math problem wrong 

We think in two distinct ways: Psychologists refer to these cognitive processes as System 1 and System 2. System 1 is your initial reaction, which is often made quickly and without reflection. System 2 is when you use conscious thought and effort. Daniel Kahneman popularized this idea in his bestselling book “Thinking, Fast and Slow.”

For System 2 to kick in, you must realize that System 1 did not produce the right answer. 

For some people, the intuitive answer is the ball costs 10 cents. In order to come to the correct answer, you need to realize that System 1 didn’t work, and assess the problem again. 

Giving people another chance to solve a problem, though, doesn’t automatically mean they will get it right.

Even when given two chances, many people remain loyal to their knee-jerk answer, according to a recent study. In the experiment, researchers gave participants 50 versions of the bat-and-ball problem.

Participants had to first give their System 1 answer, or their initial hunch, and then were allowed to give a System 2 answer, which was supposed to be more thought-through.

“Results showed that both people’s first hunches and the responses they gave after deliberation predominantly remained biased from start to finish,” the study reads. “But in the rare cases in which participants did learn to correct themselves, they immediately managed to apply the solution strategy and gave a correct hunch on the subsequent problems.” 

While making decisions, it’s important to not always go with your hunch. Re-evaluate your choice, even if your intuition is telling you that you made the right one, and reflect on whether you are actually analyzing the problem or just looking for the easiest answer.

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The No. 1 way to combat loneliness: ‘It was one of the best things that ever happened to me’

Almost one-third, 30%, of Americans say they have experienced feelings of loneliness once a week during the last year, according to a January 2024 poll by the American Psychiatric Association. And 10% say they feel lonely every day.

In a recent conversation, professor and researcher Brené Brown and Belgium American psychotherapist Esther Perel identified a possible culprit for these feelings of isolation: social media.

“When I went off social media for a year, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” says Brown, who hosts the podcast “Unlocking Us.”

Being off Instagram and Twitter made her better able to invest in real life conversations.

“If we believe that time and energy and focus are finite, when you live in that world online something is going to give in your real life,” Brown says.

‘Modern loneliness masks as hype-connectivity’

Americans are split on whether social media helps or hinders us in making deep connections, according to the APA survey.

Almost 70% say social media is “beneficial for forming and maintaining relationships,” but only 54% say these connections are meaningful and 46% say they are superficial.

For many people, online connections can present like substantive friendships when they are not, says Perel, who hosts the podcast “Where Should We Begin?”

“Modern loneliness masks as hype-connectivity,” Perel says. “It’s not about being physically alone, but about being misunderstood, unseen, rejected, ostracized, all of that.”

It’s not about being physically alone, but about being misunderstood, unseen, rejected, ostracized, all of that.
Esther Perel

People end up having dozens of conversations on Twitter and Instagram, but no one to listen to their anxieties or challenges, a phenomenon Perel calls “artificial intimacy.”

“Artificial intimacy are all the experiences that we currently have that are pseudo-experiences,” she says. “They should give us the feeling of something real but they don’t. I am talking to you about something deeply personal and you’re answering me, ‘uh-huh, uh-huh.’ And I should be feeling connected, open, vulnerable, but […] you’re not present and I’m feeling a certain kind of loneliness.”

‘It’s an amazing thing how many people are going to spend the night at home’

If you’ve experienced more feelings of loneliness or isolation lately, getting off social media can help. But, you also have to refocus some of that energy into making plans, Perel told Dan Harris on his podcast “Ten Percent Happier.”

The quickest way to reduce loneliness and increase your happiness is to ask a friend to do something today.

“People may often be busy three weeks before but they’re not busy the day of,” Perel says. “It’s an amazing thing how many people are going to spend the night at home.”

If you don’t know who to call, Perel suggests to Harris asking yourself a few questions:

  • Who do you owe a phone call to?
  • Who do you owe an apology to?
  • Who do you want to go on a walk with?

After giving up social media, Brown was able to dedicate more time to those with whom she had deeper relationships.

“I had so much more energy for connections with people that would hold my hair back if I was sick and throwing up, would talk to me about my mom’s dementia journey, would feed my dog,” Brown says.

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