How to be financially independent before college without getting lucky‽‽

This blog is one of the few special posts I have been writing on Mixster in the ongoing pandemic of 2020 before I start my next adventure (Got a Job!) In these crazy times of social distancing, isolation and Ramayana, I rediscovered writing to be something that keeps me calm and composed. I have been looking back at my journey that started with chasing after a piece of paper that would certify that I am a Bachelor of Technology to now being financially independent and content with who I am. Well here I am spilling the beans and documenting my 4 year journey.

One of the first pieces of advice I read about wealth creation, money, business and getting rich in general is from the man himself, Naval Ravikant. We will be referring to his extremely famous tweetstorm he sent in May 2018 about how to get rich without getting lucky. This blog post is one of the most extensive, detailed pieces I have ever written about experiences and failures I hold dear in my life. Much like this post. Time to get started on some wealth creation!


If you are into listening podcasts instead, then check this out!

Okay break’s over, let’s start with this post already!

Let’s begin with what Financial Independence means to me?

I have 2 very different definitions of this concept. The first type of financial independence involves you being completely responsible for your expenses. You are responsible for your daily needs, transportation, bills. Whatever incidentals there are, you deal with that. Generally, coming in to picture when you are in college living off on the pocket money you are getting. A basic “hand to mouth” way of life.

The second type of financial independence being where you no longer need to work to cover your daily expenses. You have a constant stream of revenue coming in. Your assets work for you while you sleep. Generally, this is where we all want to be. Living the good life in retirement. You have enough savings and investments to support yourself and your family.

Considering my age and experience, I want to focus on the first type of financial independence. With folks being in college. I have 3 stages for it.

Saving & Investing money that you receive from parents

  • I didn’t want to do this, but I felt it would be helpful to at least share my perspective on money management.

Earning money & learning skills from investment made

  • Getting over imposter Syndrome.
  • Finding your Specific Knowledge.
  • Start by Getting a Part-Time Job Instead why not find some part-time work
  • Freelancing the RIGHT way
  • Starting your own initiative (Like Mixster) or join someone else’s?

Maintaining your wealth and automating revenue streams

  • Dealing with Emergencies (Micro & Macro)
  • Working out investments.
  • Understanding Insurance policies and thinking long term.
  • Other financial banter.

$ whoami to tell you about getting independent, financially?

Hello, I am Vipul@vipulgupta2048 all over the web. I am a 21 year old full-time student like you, pursuing my UG in CSE. Professionally, I am an OSS documentarian and run my own docs initiative called Mixster. For more, read my Linkedin or Man behind Mixster.

During mid 2019, I took a “hiatus” to focus on myself to grow my wealth and skills. Over time, as I worked on myself as my network and Mixster became instrumental in helping me become financially independent. I work full-time as a software developer and run my side hustle with a team of 10 on documentation projects and fun stuff. I am yet to be completely independent (at the time of writing this) but I love to share my journey, the mistakes I made and especially what worked out for me.

Why am I writing this?

I ran a poll asking folks, about becoming financially independent before college. The tons of replies and responses I got from that motivated me to write this piece! Turns out everyone just want to be independent & lead a better life. Who knew 🤭 !


! Disclaimer First !

  1. While researching, I read several post about this topic which are written while keeping US’s parental scenario in mind. Naturally, what we have it in South Asia is widely different. Will not be going deeper into that.
  2. I will be sharing what worked for me, as did others mentioned in the blog. Not an expert, and not teaching. Happy to help. As always.
  3. The road to gaining financial freedom is a long one to fruition. No matter what form it takes. You can’t expect to just read this, wake up and be de-attached to everything your parents provide you. I had to say this at least once in this article…

[Step 0] A small step for you, but one giant leap in being independent from your parents

I feel everyone already knows this. But, still. You start getting some semblance of freedom in your life from the time you have been receiving pocket money. Most of us spend it all. Some of us save it. And, almost none of us invests it.

Start your day 0 by making a clean, honest budget. Mapping out and track your expenses for the month. Keep a check on how much you save each month and optimize where you can. Make long term goals of how much you would like to save and where would you like to invest that money. Keep the goals small and achievable. I would advise on investing money in yourself. Get yourself hardware that you would need, a course to learn new skills or even a conference or workshop ticket to start building your network.

Here’s what I did!

I maintained a functional budget from the very start. I guess, my family has a thing for teaching money management from the start. Reckless at first, I learned from my mistakes. Saved up some money. Little Vipul bought a ticket to PyDelhi Conf back in 2017, and later went to MIT on his own. A great decision which lead to many life changing experiences and meeting some incredible people.


[Step 1] Introspection into what you are good at & how to start getting paid for it, the RIGHT way!

Great, so you have saved up some money, invested in growing your skills in some way. You are halfway through college and want to go for an internship, start something of your own, open a business maybe or even take an alternative route. There are a lot of options to go from here. Usually in this second step of getting financially independent. Your focus should not be on making money, but actually creating wealth. This part is all about introspecting what you are good at and how you can sell that particular skill in a way that people like to buy it from you.

Before we start, let’s get you over your Imposter Syndrome!

When you first start, you might feel you are not good enough to get paid for the work you do. You might not get a lot of interest or the attention from folks when you are starting and that leads to demotivation. I am here to tell you, it happens with everyone and that’s okay. Starting up something new is tough and it’s nothing to be demotivated by. Hence, your first task should be to get rid of your Imposter Syndrome. Here’s a video that I like to start with.

People who know me know how much I love Ted-ED!

What helped me!

I think getting my first gig helped me alot to get over my Imposter Syndrome. My first work project came from someone noticing my work in open-source, and wanted to check if I can write about their product. This was the first time someone organically reached out to me by just seeing my work. This was a major boost.


Finding your “Specific Knowledge”


Next, find something that you are good at, something you are passionate about. Something that you can sell. Without that none of this works. Be careful if you are taking inspiration from other folks working in your field. Things might have worked out for them, doesn’t mean it will work out for you too. The grass always looks greener, on the other side. Leave the glitter and glamour behind. Instead, focus on their journey and gain useful insights from that. Finding what Specific knowledge you can have and growing that is quite essential to the process.


Start by Getting a Part-Time Job Instead why not find some part-time work


This is one of the most trivial pieces of advice that you would often get, and something that I don’t recommend at all in Indian contexts is to get a part-time job. An internship or part-time role that actually helps you to learn pushes you to grow, and harness new skills are what I think is worth spending your time on. At ALiAS Kickstarter, one of the first things we help folks to realise is to not chase after certificates and titles. This is one place which helped me become better both personally and professionally, in the long run. Go build projects, participate in hackathons or level up your skills to participate in open-source programs. Opportunities are endless.

Once you have done your fair share of projects to showcase on a portfolio, or built a half-decent GitHub profile, or even worked in an internship to show work experience. Try getting part-time work instead of yet another internship in the winters. As Naval rightly says here,


You won’t be independent until you own a piece of the asset yourself. How you sell yourself to get the work is something I would leave entirely to you. For me, I built and used my network that I was growing organically through meetups and indirectly through Twitter and Instagram. (Never liked Linkedin) You could try freelancing as well, but keep your expectations to a minimum. Grow small, sell big and scale up with each project you take up.


Freelancing the RIGHT way

Ashish Jha

Google Summer of Code ’19 | Conversational Design Engineer, Experienced freelancer and a great guy to talk with tells his views on freelancing the RIGHT way.


“I think it is very important for someone just starting in freelance to pick a niche domain with relatively less competition” This helps in maximizing chances of landing a project and helps you overcome your imposter syndrome. Later, you can price yourself right and go for bigger projects.

“Without a strong portfolio or reviews of work undertaken on that specific platform, no matter how good you are, there are minimal chances that you’ll be approached for work. Start low with the pricing, deliver above and beyond the scope, get some good reviews and gradually start increasing the price to an optimum level.”

He also adds “As and when the competition increases in this said “niche” domain as well, you won’t have to worry because you already have enough credentials to back your pricing and earn new projects.”


Starting your own initiative (Like Mixster) or join someone else’s?

Starting your own gig is risky. But, good business partners working on a great idea as a team along with several factors mitigate that risk. Joker says, If you are good at something, why do it for free. I agree and further add, If you are great at something, why not scale up and do it with a team. The absolute worst that could happen from this is you would fail and end up learning a ton about the growing idea, building MVP’s, running and sustaining a business. Which is not bad in my book. Take a risk, don’t look back.

Okay, so what if you don’t have an idea? See your seniors, peers or mentors working on their own startups or exciting new ventures. Offer your skills and join them instead of envying them and following their footsteps. Again, you won’t earn your freedom if you don’t have a piece of the business you own. Jump into ideas that you like or people’s vision that you believe in.

Seeing the growth of Letstream over the years!
My friend, Ayush started college as a skilled developer with a vision to build Letstream. Hustling through the years, Letstream has delivered over 40+ projects, consulted for over 2000+ hours and earned way more than salaries of some people who got placed. This only goes on to show if your idea is good and you are committed. Nothing is impossible.


Building your own Network & Brand

According to the 2019 Harvard Business Review report on recruiting, 48% of all jobs vacancies in tech are filled through referrals. Surprisingly, referrals account for 7% of all the people that apply for a role. Reading those lines again, you realize how important building your own network and brand is. These 2 things would help you in getting a role and selling your profile whether it’s for a full-time role or part-time contract work. Having a dependable network of people to help you through your journey makes the path to financial independence a lot easier.

Tanay Pratap

Developer, Teacher, Technical Speaker. Tanay apart from his full-time work helps students get the RIGHT mentorship through the many initiatives he runs. I literally could go on and on about his work but …


What I love about him is his motivation to help people selflessly. His work has created and connected this huge network of extremely talented people who are willing to learn, grow and collaborate together. Taking in the bigger picture, one can actually realise that being financially independent is not just about money or status. But, it’s all about how you are gaining wealth and contributing towards your own personal brand. The brand that people trust, the brand that helps you access more opportunities, the brand that sells. After all, everything in the end comes down to this. As Tanay so rightfully mentions about being Gradiot! We are all Gradiots after all.

“If you are good at something, build a project, write a blog, do a podcast, give a talk. Thinking about the virus won’t help your future or your career! Take the first step!. Thank you Tanay for all that you work for. Folks, check out his Instagram, and Twitter for all the motivational posts and infographics that he shares.


“Pursue something you are curious about, arrive at something that adds value to people and later, monetise it.”

Following this approach, Arya Murali (@aryacmurali) tells us about the sea of alternatives waiting to be discovered to grow your wealth and in turn help you become financially independent. Something about her, she was financially independent through college with the WeTech Qualcomm Scholarship. She started her own podcast, founded Rethink, has written over 150+ blogs, and now, writing her ebook while running The Godmothers project. Currently, she work as the director of partnerships at Almabase.

Arya Murali

I suggest creators can start with sites like Patreon, Buymeacoffee or even GitHub Sponsors for folks to contribute, support and sponsor if they like your work. This helps in opening up more revenue streams for yourself.


Side Hustles that you can try out!

  • Creating add-ons, plugins and extensions for applications like GSuite, Chrome and more. Later, charging fee for the premium version. Honey started out as an add-on, which Paypal bought for 4 billion dollars (That’s 9 zeroes)
  • If your skill is in writing, one can start writing kindle ebooks – Learn something new? write about it & sell it for 1-5$. Not bad, if the content is liked by the public.
  • Starting out a Youtube channel (extremely competitive), but if your content is great and you follow through on it. We all know how that turns out. Considering folks now make millions of it.
  • The list is virtually endless over, what you can do. But it all revolves around a key concept Pursue something you are curious about, arrive at something that adds value to people and later, monetise it.

She ends the conversation, on the note by saying “To make money instead of trying too hard to do something innovative, try finding the value in the product/service you are offering your potential customers. The business model can come later.”


[Step 2] Maintaining your wealth & automating revenue streams!

This is a big picture step.

Say you have become financially independent. You followed everything we talked about above. You have done it!. Or say you got a full-time high paying job after college and you are financially independent of your parents now. How would you ensure you stay that way? Like most sane people in business, you plan for it.

Whatever money that is left after your budget making exercise. Use that to plan for emergencies. You plan for investments. You plan for your assets. You plan for micro stuff like death and for macro stuff like an oncoming global recession due to a pandemic. The only downside of being financially independent is that now you have to deal with things your parents would have dealt for you. It’s your turn to rise up to the challenge.

To be honest, I will leave this on a “To be continued”, I feel I am still working on my plan. I do basic savings, some investments, insurances and automated much of the side-hustle work that I do. Here’s what I do. But, just the other day I was attending a seminar on “Preparing for Financial Emergencies in times like this” and damn it shook me to the core. So, if you are someone who can write about this or know someone who can. Please connect him with me! I will be more than happy for another collaboration. Till then, keep up the hustle folks. I really hope this offered you some insight into your path forward.

Closing Notes

Well, that’s about it. This post took a lot of time, effort, research and procrastination to boil all the information down to really useful bits. Hope you like this read. I hope this somewhat helped you in what you wanted to know. I will be updating this post with other people’s opinions and views on the same as this goes on. So, if you like to see yourself here or make a point that I haven’t covered before. Hit me up down in the comments!

I hope I was able to give you all a solid base to start your own journey towards being independent. No matter what form it takes. I am happy to help if you have some more questions. I will be really proud if after reading through this at least one of you will stop, think and start towards a better path. If you didn’t like the post, let me know how I can improve.

In the end, what’s the point of being Financially Independent anyway?

I mean, this is like someone asking who is Harvey Specter after watching all seasons of Suits. Well, for me the point of all this was …

Thanks to all the wonderful people, I disturbed and asked for quotes this week. They took time off their work to contribute to this article and I love each and everyone for doing that.

Also, subscribe to Mixster for some amazing articles that are coming soon about state of hiring, remote work as I start my new adventures! If you are new here, take a look around what exactly is Mixster. If you are sharing this, and please do tag me by @vipulgupta2048, I love to repost your stories, posts, whatever FB calls sharing these days. Go nuts.

As always, live in the mix, folks!

6 comments

    1. Thanks for reading, Sarthak and your warm comments. Hope this helped you out in some way! I always felt that no one actually talks about this at length and in a constructive way. We are often left to form our own path.

      I was lucky to have great friends, strong community and even better mentors to make something out of it for the 4 years of college. I just hope to “Pay it forward” and help other folks out anyway I can!

      Like

  1. Very well-written Vipul! Taking the first step is the biggest challenge, and I think you have planted the seed to start thinking about financial independence in college.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey! thank you so much. You know, this really means a lot. I am content that you got some insight from it as you start on your journey for financial independence. For any queries regarding the same, be sure to schedule an appointment.

      Like

  2. Thanks for writing such a wonderful article. This has inspired me to start trying to become financially independent. This article has given me significant insight into how I should start and what are the options available to me.

    Thank you for writing such a wonderful article.

    Liked by 1 person

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