This 26-year-old quit her engineering job to pursue her side hustle full-time—and brought in $170,000 in one year – CNBC

This 26-year-old quit her engineering job to pursue her side hustle full-time—and brought in $170,000 in one year – CNBC

I first heard the word “entrepreneur” when I was in college, where I studied biomedical engineering. I never thought I’d actually become one.

But in 2018, when I began my engineering career at age 23, I found that writing Packs Light, the travel blog I started in college, was what I most looked forward to each day. I realized then that I wanted to travel the world and create content for a living.

So, I moved slowly and strategically from working as a full-time engineer to now a full-time content creator. And I’ve found a lot of success.

It started as a hobby

I wasn’t making any money off of Packs Light at first. But in 2018, it brought in $2,000 through a few small social media campaigns. The following year, I made close to $8,000.

In February 2020, after saving money and coming up with a plan, I quit my $69,000-per-year engineering job to work full-time as a blogger and consultant. Last year, my gross income from Packs Light was over $170,000.

My brand and social audience have grown a lot since 2018. Today, I have 252,000 followers on TikTok and 50,000 followers on Instagram. I’ve already secured $30,000 in deals for January alone, and my hope is to double or even triple my 2021 earnings by the end of this year.

Gabby Beckford

Photo: Gabby Beckford

From a full-time job and side hustles to a 6-figure business

Thanks to scholarships and grants, I was able to graduate from college debt-free. To feel secure about leaving my job, I needed to save at least $15,000 (for startup expenses and an emergency fund).

I took on side hustles doing virtual recruiting, dog-sitting, freelance writing and social media managing for extra cash. I also lived at home with my parents — then with roommates — to save on rent.

When I wasn’t working any of those jobs, I created a catalog of articles and social media posts to grow the Packs Light audience. During my commute to work, I’d “write” blog posts using a voice-to-text app. I spent lunch breaks interviewing young travelers to feature in Packs Light’s “Young Travelers Network” series.

I also expressed interest in traveling more for my job. On my work trips, I’d use my food stipend to try local Black-owned restaurants or unique pop-ups to feature on my blog.

Securing partnerships was essential to monetizing Packs Lights. So in 2018, I began reaching out to brands to find out what they were looking for in an influencer partnership. Then, I’d pitch them based on their answers. This is still my strategy for finding partnerships.

For example,, an online travel agency, was looking for influencers with an American audience who would buy their tours and activities. Even though its top-selling activities were in the U.S., I pitched a campaign to market their activities in Mexico City, where I was based at the time.

I conducted an interest survey from my followers and presented research showing how Mexico was booming a top travel spot for Americans. Our campaign ended up being a success.

How I grew my income</…….


Digital nomads