How a 26-Year-Old Turned His Side Hustle Into a 7-Figure Venture

  • Cody Berman, 26, is a real estate investor and entrepreneur who became a millionaire last year.
  • Berman said that digital products are great for passive income and “infinitely scalable.”
  • He said real estate is lucrative, but it’s a lot more work than digital products.

When Cody Berman, 26, graduated from college four years ago, he landed a high-paying job in commercial real estate finance. He stayed in that position for just seven months before deciding to start his own business and sell digital products — including ebooks, digital downloads for things like planners and calendars that are also printable, and online courses on how to creates passive income streams.

When he quit his job, Berman was only making between $1,200 and $1,500 a month from his digital product sideline and other freelance work.

“People thought I was crazy,” Berman said. “They told me I would make an effort to go back.”

In the end, it paid off: According to insider-reviewed documents, Berman has netted over $1.3 million in net revenue from its digital products year-to-date.

That income gave him the flexibility to venture in other directions, and Berman has since invested in real estate in both Massachusetts and Connecticut. He currently owns 13 properties: 11 of which are used as long-term rentals and two properties that he has listed as short-term rentals on Airbnb, according to insider-reviewed documents.

Berman has been a millionaire since last year. In addition to equity in its properties, Berman has over $550,000 invested in the stock market, according to insider-reviewed documents.

Berman said he doesn’t share his story because he wants to brag about his success — he just wants other young people to understand that what he was able to do isn’t impossible or preposterous.

“Once you learn about it and realize that people are actually doing it, you can’t unlearn it,” Berman said. “It almost makes you resent your job more than if you didn’t know people become financially independent before 30.”

He said what really pushed him over the edge was learning about other people’s success stories at CampFI in 2018, an annual retreat for followers of the FIRE movement who want to connect with other like-minded professionals.

“I met real people – normal people – who had become financially independent before the age of 30,” adding that this personal experience opened him to the idea and realization that it was possible to achieve that lifestyle. “That just started a fire underneath me.”

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Afterward, he said that he believed there was no reason why he couldn’t make it happen and resolved to achieve financial independence as soon as possible.

In addition to the fellowship and encouragement with other people within the FIRE movement, Berman said there are three factors that have helped him achieve the financial success he has today.

He saved a $50,000 nest egg before quitting his job

The amount of cash you should have saved before deciding to quit your job will depend almost entirely on individual needs, Berman says. After committing to living a relatively frugal life to achieve financial independence, Berman only needed to save about $50,000 before he felt well enough to quit his job four years ago.

He concedes, however, that this is no small sum for a recent college graduate. Berman had a few factors that helped him: he had no student loans, he lived at home while working full-time, he received a signing bonus for his company job, and his base salary was relatively high for a young college graduate.

One of the reasons Berman didn’t have to take out a student loan is because he applied for many, many small grants that added up over time.

“I created about five to six sample essays that I would easily adapt to the grant at hand,” Berman said. “In the end I applied for a total of 100 to 150 scholarships and ended up getting eight of them.”

With those eight grants, Berman was able to reduce his college bill to a monthly payment of $1,000, which he shared with his parents. Working during his school days also helped start Berman’s nest egg.

“And I went to a school that cost $30,000 a year,” Berman said. “So I saved a lot with this scholarship application template.”

After he started working in commercial real estate, he saved the $10,000 signing bonus he was offered and decided to live very frugally, saving 85 to 90% of his income, he estimates, from his job.

“My rent was $350 and then it was free because I moved back home,” Berman said. “I was still driving the same car that I had already paid off and buying the cheapest groceries. I rarely went to bars or restaurants.”

Berman described those 7 months as “an absolute must” but said being able to retire from a 9-to-5 job so early in his career was well worth it.

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Digital merchandising can be very lucrative as it is “infinitely scalable”.

What Berman emphasizes most about digital merchandising is that it’s lucrative because it’s “infinitely scalable.” Its digital goods are just that — downloadable products like books and courses — as opposed to drop shipping, where a physical product is ordered by a customer and shipped by a third party.

When Berman freelanced, he said that trading his time on clients’ projects was a one-on-one drudgery and that it was a very active form of income.

His digital products, on the other hand, resulted in something of a financial avalanche for Berman, who was suddenly earning a lot of money passively.

This is mainly because with the right understanding of keyword search and how to present your products in front of consumers, you can continue to grow your digital merchandising business without having to create anything new.

Berman said he likes to think of it as a musician playing in a concert hall.

“If you’re a musician, you can play in front of one person or in front of 10,000 people – it’s not extra work. They play the same songs, only now they reach a much larger audience,” he said. “This is how digital products work. It doesn’t matter how many people buy the thing – all you have to do is create the thing and then try to get it in front of as many people as possible.”

Berman works with a business partner on its digital products and shares the profits. According to the documents Berman sent to Insider, he and his partner make just over $100,000 a month on average, with some reaching as much as $180,000 in monthly earnings.

For Berman as an individual, this typically translates into a monthly income of between $50,000 and $60,000 from his digital products and dropshipping alone. He said his income has nearly doubled every year for the past three years as a result of this business.

“I’m just playing the same songs to more and more people if that makes sense,” he added.

He built a 13-door real estate portfolio to increase his passive income

Another thing driving Berman even more revenue is its real estate portfolio, which now includes 11 long-term rentals and two Airbnbs.

Many of Berman’s properties are multi-family and are primarily located in Massachusetts, where Berman currently resides. He also owns a three-family home in nearby Connecticut.

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He first got involved with real estate investments in 2020. One thing he says about real estate is that it can be very, very lucrative for people trying to achieve financial independence early on, but it requires “a lot of upfront work.” ”

This includes setting up systems, doing bookkeeping, screening tenants and making sure all services to the properties such as garbage collection and utilities are working.

“But once you’ve got everything in place, it only takes a couple of hours a month to manage them, which is really cool,” Berman said.

One of the issues Berman had in building his real estate portfolio was the fact that he’s self-employed, which isn’t typically viewed favorably by mortgage lenders.

Originally, Berman had an inclination to delve into FHA loans as well as other home buying methods (e.g., “house hacking”), but encountered many obstacles due to his unique source of income. His properties were all considered investment properties for which he had to deposit 20% of the purchase price in cash.

“The largest down payment was $80,000,” Berman said, but added that the property has appreciated greatly in value since his purchase. In addition to smart planning and hard work, short-term success in real estate usually requires a combination of good timing and good luck.

The only downside Berman sees with real estate is that he had to go through quite a bit of debt to get all of his properties. He told Insider that while he has “about $400,000 to $450,000” in total equity, he also has about $700,000 in debt related to his properties.

However, he said he has made profits from his properties and that Airbnbs are particularly lucrative. According to documents he provided to Insiders, Berman made $11,000 from Airbnb in September alone.

“Renter screening is really important,” he added, referring to his long-term rentals, but adding that it’s just as important for the landlord to treat his tenants well as he would expect tenants to treat them treat property.

“You have to be a good landlord,” Berman said. “I think landlords sometimes get a bad rap for not repairing their properties. If things fall apart, you obviously won’t have a good relationship with your tenant. So make yourself a nice place to live and be a people. These are people who live in your houses.”


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