Growth & Customers

A stressed skincare side hustler with a full-time £50k tech job

In this edition of the Money Diaries, we see what this busy tech professional by day, skincare entrepreneur by night, spends in a week.

Money Diaries header

Welcome to The Money Diaries with Sage, where we dive into the finances of business owners and discover how they deal with money matters on a daily basis.

We’re asking entrepreneurs how they’re managing their finances over a seven-day period, to give you a picture of what incomes and outgoings really look like from their perspective. 

Today is the turn of a skincare side hustler who’s juggling a busy IT job on a full-time basis.

And make sure you check out Reader’s Response at the end of this article, where accountant and best-selling author Carl Reader reveals his thoughts and shares some top tips for our entrepreneur.

Here’s what we cover in this article:

Meet our entrepreneur and check out their Money Diary

Final thoughts on the week

Reader’s Response

Meet our entrepreneur and check out their Money Diary

  • Industry: Online natural skincare retailer.
  • How long you have been an entrepreneur? 17 years.
  • Day job: I work for a tech startup.
  • Location: London.
  • Salary: Salary from business, £0. Salary from day job, £50k.
  • Household: I live alone in a flat in Kent.

Money Diaries day 1

Day 1 – Monday

Opening balance at the start of the week: £9,722.13

I went to bed with a lot of things on the brain, and I slept terribly last night. I hope I don’t pay for that later.

With a demanding full-time job (we’ll call it Project J) as well as the business to run (Project B), it’s sometimes tricky juggling everything during the week and trying to work in parallel.

I give all my staff Mondays off, which gives me space to plan the week and try to get ahead of things.

I decided to try and work from home as much as possible for the next few weeks to keep unnecessary spending down.

Petrol prices are through the roof, so I’m not moving my car unless I have to.

I went out to buy a coffee and decided that it would be better to buy some coffee beans and get 15 cups for the price of one.

I had a couple of early wins on Monday morning with three investors I’ve been trying to pin down agreeing to meet me later this week and one next week.

This is great because I’m hoping they can either add to the round or push me in the direction of another angel who will.

Fingers crossed.

The company I work for is also five days from launching the business. It’s been a demanding couple of weeks and now it’s all hands on deck to get everything ready for launch.

With quite an important role in that business I’ve ended up working until 9pm tonight. I’m shattered.

Hopefully a heavy sleep is in store.

No major spending today other than a bag of (what turned out to be terrible-tasting) supermarket coffee for £4.60. I’ll need to rectify that later in the week.

Raw material replenishment for one of our products came to £1,165.75.

Money earned: £2,541.68

Money spent: £1,170.35

Money Diaries day 2

Day 2 – Tuesday

Tuesday morning and I slept like a log last night. Good start – or so I thought.

Project B (Skincare side hustle)

I woke up to two emails that I didn’t really need.

We sell our products in over 100 stores across the country. We typically partner with independent stores because payment terms are more reasonable, and we get the opportunity to have a direct relationship with the owners.

One of our largest partners stores in Scotland emailed to let me know that they are going out of business.

They’ve really felt the hit of the pandemic and now with the fuel prices and sensitivity in the market they can’t sustain the business anymore.

Terrible news for them, for us, and for the market as a whole, because I feel like it’s indicative of what’s to come this year.

Project J (Day job)

This broken project is turning out to be an absolute nightmare.

It’s 4pm and I just realised I’ve only had a cup of coffee and a banana all day.

Time to hydrate and refuel.

Project B (Skincare side hustle)

Yesterday in my planning session, I realised there is a gap in my website offering and I need to get some custom development done to help bring up my AOV (Average Order Value).

I had a meeting with my developers in Vietnam and they can do the work in two days.

Working with them saves me a lot of money but it means there is less room for interpretation. I need to be extremely explicit about the development work which is demanding.

The upside is I get the work done for $200 instead of $2,000.

We produce all products in-house to maintain consistency and keep the business lean. My production team is on site today making products.

Everything is running pretty smoothly there.

The second email I got this morning was from the fulfilment centre we use to pack and ship all of our products.

They too are suffering the pinch of the climate and have had to remove the credit facility for all customers.

This means my account is now in arrears and needs to be cleared.

This is going to really mess with my cash flow this month.

I screamed a few unpleasant words at the computer. I don’t think it cared very much and now my neighbours probably think I’m nuts.

8pm. It’s been a solid 14-hour stint and my back has had enough. I decide to go for a walk to get some fresh air.

Dinner is going to be instant ramen. I can’t muster up the energy to cook or chew anything else.

The upside is I spent a total of £0 today on personal items. Lots of software costs have come out today. Google, Deputy, Web Hosting.

It never feels good finishing the day in net negative.

Money spent: £3,410.45

Money earned: £842.40

Money Diaries day 3

Day 3 – Wednesday

Wednesday morning and I can’t put my delicate and refined palate through another day of this terrible coffee.

I’m up and out to go and get some better coffee beans.

I head to one of the ‘more upmarket’ supermarkets and grab a few bags of their best beans. £6 for a bag is still a bargain so I grab two.

Oh, and some freshly squeezed orange juice because I couldn’t resist. Oh, and some seeded bagels.

And this is how things get out of hand.

I rush out before I pick up anything else I don’t need.

Project J (Day job)

In the 9am meeting, I was informed that my project fix needs to be ready for the testers by close of play today.

I think I’m going to have to turn off my Slack notifications if I’m to finish this work.

Stress is an understatement. I hand off a few pieces of work, meet with my line manager and go dark on Slack.

Headphones on.

Time to get busy.

Project B (Skincare side hustle)

A number of notifications have come through on Instagram. We’re being tagged a lot in something. I’d normally ignore it but I’m curious.

I open Instagram and it’s bad news.

One of our biggest stores in London is closing down. We’ve been tagged by customers asking where they are going to get our products.

It’s a great sign that customers care that much.

It’s a terrible sign because that’s two in a week.

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Project J (Day job)

I’ve cracked it.

A stray piece of code has been causing this whole problem and I’ve found it. Now it’s just time to rebuild the 45 pages with the new fix.

Project B (Skincare side hustle)

I received an invoice from my copywriter. It’s large.

She is worth it but it’s more money in the ‘out’ column this week.

My executive assistant based in the Philippines has been suffering from an extended bout of asthma attacks over the past two weeks.

She has asked for a couple of days off to rest.

Of course, her health is the most important thing, but it means I need to pick up the slack for a couple of days. I’m not sure where I’m going to find the time to be honest.

Project J (Day job)

I’ve decided to bring in a colleague in to help me churn out these 45 pages.

I made a Loom video (screen recording tool) showing how to do the fix and we split the work in half. We get it finished and delivered by 3pm.

3:30pm and I’ve done it again.

No break. No breakfast. No lunch.

I really can’t live on coffee alone, so I stop to make some baked beans and vegan sausages with some of those lovely bagels I bought this morning.

Project B (Skincare side hustle)

The two major retailers going out of business this week has made me realise that we’re really vulnerable in this area.

That’s four this quarter.

I need a back up plan.

I jot down a few ideas about how I can get into more stores. I have meeting with my head of sales and we devise a plan. It means I need to do more development work on my website though.

Luckily, I can do this part of the work, so it’ll cost £0 in cash but it’s a lot of my time.

5pm and a purchase order from one of our stores comes in. Some good news finally.

5:30pm, it’s the first of my three investor meetings.

This investor is one I’m quite familiar with as we’ve been in contact for over 18 months. He’s never been in the position to invest and still isn’t.

The deal isn’t quite right for him at the moment as he wants to focus on tech.

He’s super helpful though and promises to give me three introductions by email after the call.

I did some research. One of the companies looks really good, one I won’t qualify for, and one has invested recently in my direct competitor.

I’ll get the deck reworked and fire it over to him at some point this week. Hopefully something comes from it.

A day of goods and bads. I’m exhausted. 00:31 and It’s probably time for bed.

Total spend: £17 in breakfast food but it will last me the rest of the week.

Money earned: £ 6,513.63

Money spent: £ 685.90

Money Diaries day 4

Day 4 – Thursday

Thursday morning starts with coffee and a full breakfast.

New day, new me.

Well not really, but I decide I need to fuel better for the day ahead. All items from the pantry so £0 spent. Win.

7am. A good friend has asked me for a consultation on his business. This is something I do often.

Speaking with other founders to help them flesh out their ideas.

He wants to start selling his products on Amazon.

We speak about the pros and cons and I give him some general ideas about other things he and his business partners could do to retain customers.

Project B (Skincare side hustle)

Thursdays are 1:1 days with my team, so I spend the rest of the morning before I have to clock on with Project J planning those meetings.

Project J (Day job)

T-2 days until launch.

Our 9am meeting goes well, and things are looking good. My fix was accepted by the testers and so it’s on to the next issue.

Stress levels are pretty low for most of us now because most of the work is done.

This is great because it means I can spend a little more time on Project B today.

Project B (Skincare side hustle)

I have another investor meeting tonight that I need to prep for. I don’t know this investor so it’s always a little more nerve racking.

I’ll deal with that later.

I also clear the arrears for the fulfilment centre to get our account back in good standing and pay the invoice for my copywriter.

Every month, we run a giveaway to get new people interested in our brand.

Our giveaway ended last night so we send out packages to competition winners.

I also write an email to the losers to try and encourage them to try our products at a discount.

35% open rate and 4% of the list converted (i.e. made a purchase after opening the email). I’m happy with that so I’ll start to plan the next giveaway.

Another good-sized purchase order has come through today which is great news.

A purchase order, or PO, is basically a document a seller receives from a buyer detailing the types, quantities, and prices of the product or service they’ve ordered.

Anyway, this means we’ll need to grab some more raw materials from my suppliers. In one hand and out the other.

New project (we’ll call this Project C)

Yes! A project C. A new project offer has come on my plate.

A company based in Boston Massachusetts has asked me to do some consulting work for them.

It’s a pretty good gig that’ll hopefully only require two to four hours of my time per week. The pay is really good, and I don’t think I can turn it down.

I tell the CEO that I’ll think about it and come back to him on Friday night.

Project B (Skincare side hustle)

The investor meeting is a bomb. A bit of a waste of time.

I don’t think they were ever interested in the product, and he probably took the meeting with me as a favour to the person who introduced me.

I really wish he hadn’t.

It would have saved us both some time. Doesn’t he know that I’m busy?!

Anyway, no worries. It’s all part of the game.

I’m not cooking tonight and I’m not not-eating for another night. I decide to blow the budget and order a delivery.

A whopping £18 spent.

It was worth it, although my body mass index probably doesn’t agree.

Time to get down working on this new part of my website.

As part of the development, I need to get a new designer in the team. I head to a few freelancer sites like Upwork and to put a few ads up.

2:31am and I’m still sitting here. This is hard.

I’m 85% done with the new section but something is not working properly. I’m not a good enough coder to really unpack this.

I am going to have to bring somebody in to help.

I’m going to bed. £18 spent on delicious fatty food.

The rest was a mixture of office rent, apartment rent, vehicle hire purchase, insurance, and a huge stock replenishment of stock so we can fulfil the large order that came in today.

Money earned: £7,461.47

Money spent: £5,486.24

Money Diaries day 5

Day 5 – Friday

Project B (Skincare side hustle)

6:22am and I can’t sleep.

I know I can fix this with fresh eyes. It’s only been four hours, but I decide to get up and tackle the website again.

I make a breakthough. I’m 98% there.

A big win because the developer will now only cost me about an hour to get it over the line.

I grab a vat of coffee and get prepared for my 9am meeting.

Project J (Day job)

Last day before launch. 9am and the morning meeting is another good one. Nothing really on my plate now. It means I get to work on Project B.

Project B (Skincare side hustle)

I spend most of the day filtering through Upwork and

There is no candidate that I like. I’m going to have to rewrite this job post and see if I can be more specific.

Maybe I’ll try Fiverr, another similar site.

My team are on fixed flexi-hours that they’re allowed to use in whatever way they wish. This usually means they work from Tuesday to Friday but occasionally the workload is high and they finish on Thursday.

This is really good for me today because it means I can work uninterrupted.

Project C (Consulting job)

I start designing the solution for this new project so I can present it to the CEO tonight.

It’s a huge overhaul of their email and sales flow, and hopefully it will automate the sales process a little more, which should bring in some revenue for the business.

Project J (Day job)

We’re down to the last few hours of the work day and the CEO schedules a check-in meeting every two hours to ensure everything is covered before the weekend.

Project C (Consulting job)

The workflow solution I’ve designed looks good.

Meeting at 9pm tonight.

Project B (Skincare side hustle)

I have a huge face-to-face investor meeting next week and I need to make an impression.

I decide to drive to our workshop to prepare custom packages for each investor. It’s about 30 minutes from home so not too bad but it does mean my no petrol rule is going out the window.

It’s only the second time I’ve used any petrol this week so I shouldn’t grumble.

The workshop is next to my favourite fish and chips shop. I can’t resist.

Medium cod and chips please. Extra onion vinegar. Oh, and can of Coke. I might as well go full fat if I’m going to do it at all. £11.10 and again totally worth it.

Project C (Consulting job)

The American CEO loves my idea. I’m going to take on this project and flesh out the project over the next two weeks.

This is great news although I’m not quite sure where I’m going to find the time.

Money out today was 100% on one of my freelancers.

Money earned: £271.34

Money spent: £569.10

Money Diaries day 6

Day 6 – Saturday

Project B (Skincare side hustle)

Saturdays are always light workdays.

I spent the morning finishing off the website issue I had. It’s at 99% now and I can push it live on Monday. I’ll fix the 1% in the next week or so.

I’m moving home next weekend, so I will spend the rest of the day packing up the flat.

My girlfriend comes over and we go to dinner and grab a few fancy cocktails in a local bar.

Dinner: £41

Cocktails: £45

She gets dinner and I get the drinks.

Online sales account for all income today. Saturdays are typically slow and today is no different.

Money spent: £45

Money earned: £473.89

Money Diaries day 7

Day 7 – Sunday

A full rest day today.

I spend the morning packing up the flat and the afternoon walking by the beach and relaxing. I’ve got a busy week next week.

A ceremonial chips and mushy peas were needed.

That’s three fatty meals this week. I think I’m going to have to have an intervention. £2.20 chips + £1.60 mushy peas. Total spend today: £3.80

Money earned: £42.60

Money spent: £3.80

Closing balance at the end of the week: £16,498.30

Final thoughts on the week

My final thoughts are that I spend a lot of time juggling the two gigs.

Looking at the money this closely every day made me think more about our customer acquisition costs and following the data more.

I realised that I need to get a data analyst on the team as soon as possible to help us flesh out the data so we can follow the money in a better way.

I also realised that we’re pretty reliant on about 10% of the stores that have good volume.

The others are not worth the energy as their value to the business isn’t high enough. Looking at this in more detail kicked me into gear to make a massive change in our sales strategy.

Also, petrol is really, really expensive. Not driving my car this week saved me at least a full tank of petrol, which at the moment is about £125.

It’s probably time to go electric.

I was really disciplined with money this week and the only unexpected thing that cropped up was having to clear our fulfilment centre (essentially a packing warehouse) fees.

That was a big hit and we’d have ended up with a much better balance if that didn’t happen.

If I could give advice to any founder or entrepreneur, it would be to follow the data.

By looking more closely at the data this week I’ve had a number of new insights. Both financially and in a more general business sense.

Reader’s Response

And to wrap up… what are Carl Reader’s thoughts on the financial habits of our skincare side hustler?

Check out the video below to find out…