Back in 2012, I was your average 18-year-old working a summer job before going off to college. I was a lifeguard making minimum wage, but I wanted to earn more money and do something I was passionate about.
Little did I know that by Googling “ways to make money online,” I’d find a new side project that would eventually become my career. My search turned up Fiverr, an online marketplace where freelancers can sell their services starting at $5 a pop. I saw someone had a “gig request” for a video of a person talking to the camera about what interests them.
My dad videotaped me a lot as a kid, and for fun in high school I’d made YouTube videos about beauty and fashion, so I was used to being in front of the camera. In 10 minutes, I created a one-minute video, submitted it and made my first $10 on the site. I was hooked.
Most people do Fiverr as a way to make money on the side, but for me, it snowballed into something more. I loved the flexibility, creativity and the income I was making so much that I decided to focus on it as my full-time career after graduating from college. Here’s how I grew my Fiverr “side gig” into a full-fledged business.
I Built Up My Client Base
I spent the remainder of that summer before college creating videos for Fiverr clients and building up my profile page, using my parents’ living room as a makeshift studio. When I went to college, I started out filming videos out of my dorm on my laptop, but eventually rented an office to create my own film studio. At the time, shelling out money for an office was a huge expense, but it helped improve the quality of my work. It paid off as I got more clients.
Also, when I was 18 and starting out, I had no customer service skills — it’s been a learning curve to build those. But as I did, former clients became repeat customers, and they referred me to people they knew. Or people will see one of my videos on a platform like Facebook, and I’ll get new clients that way. Ultimately, the better your reviews, and the more improvement you show, the likelier new clients will be to want to work with you.
I Expanded My Service Offerings
Today, I offer 10 different services, including spokesperson work, video editing, writing press releases and drafting video scripts. I base new services on what clients are requesting and teach myself the skills to do them. I’ll watch YouTube videos about editing programs, and I hire an editor if something requires more advanced techniques.
While I still offer $5 services, creating packages has helped my Fiverr business excel. For instance, I’ll charge different rates for writing a video script ($10, $30 and $140), so a client can pay accordingly based on how many words they need. They’ll also pay more for extras, like a one-day turnaround.
I Accepted the Challenges of the Freelance Life
One thing about freelancing is that your work varies. One week I could have 45 orders; another, 90 or more. I’d say I average about 50 orders and six hours of studio recording time per week.
Then there are the unexpected ways I spend time working. I can easily spend six hours a day messaging with clients or prospects. And because my clients are all over the world, communication can sometimes be difficult, between the time zones and cultural and language barriers.
I’m not going to lie — I’ve had some really awful days. Not everyone will like your work. They may not like my speech, outfit or hair. But I have coping strategies to get through the tough times: I remind myself that problems are solvable, and I get a good night’s sleep to start fresh the next day.
I do think I need to find a better work-life balance. I look at my phone constantly. My job is my main priority, so this can mean staying up late or not going out. I do try to take weekends off, though, to spend time with my boyfriend and friends.
I Invested in My Business — And Myself
When I was working on videos in college, my living expenses were low. But when I moved to Washington, D.C., after graduation, I knew I’d have to make more and produce higher-quality work to be able to afford a more expensive city. So the first thing I did was rent an office — it’s a tax write-off and pays for itself through my work.
My equipment generally lasts a long time, but I’ll know when to upgrade it based on people’s feedback. For instance, I invested in a new microphone when some people commented on my sound quality. I’m willing to admit mistakes and am open to hearing clients’ feedback.
One place I don’t have to shell out money for is marketing, which Fiverr handles. They do keep a 20% cut, but clients can tip us if they want, which can help make up for some of that cost.
I also think it’s important to invest your income not just back into your work, but for the future, too. Because freelancing is so unpredictable, I save a lot of my earnings, I max out my SEP IRA and I invest any extra money into the stock market. I also set aside 30% of my income for taxes.
I’m so excited and fortunate that I get paid to do something I love. My advice to others who want to grow their side business into a full-time business is to first get into an industry you really enjoy, because it’s going to take up *a lot* of your time. Secondly, be consistent and stick with it!