Jeff: Hi, I’m Jeff Opdyke, and I am the editor of the Savvy Retiree, and I want to introduce you today to Alex Fasulo.
She’s a freelancer for Fivrr, which is a freelance site where I do a bit of a bit of work myself. And I sort of regularly reference in my weekends Savvy Retiree columns and some of the cover stories I write about. But Alex is more than just a freelancer on Fiverr.
She is a, quote, Fiverr millionaire. And she has literally earned more than a $1 million over the last several years on Fiverr, providing a variety of services as a writer for hire. And I know Alex only because I’m addicted to TikTok.
And I first came across her there, where she regularly updates viewers on how they, too, can follow her path to success as a freelancer on Fiverr or some of the other freelance websites that exist these days.
And I follow her there on TikTok too under @Alexfasulobiz so you can sort of follow her if you want to keep up with her exploits.
She does some funny things like dancing around and trying to get old men upset that she makes $32,000 dollars a month, which I thought was really quite funny.
The reason I wanted to bring Alex online is because she represents everything I regularly write about, and it’s namely the fact that you can earn a very good lifestyle and a very good income. It’s readily available to freelancers these days.
You just have to put in the effort. And clearly she has put in the effort and she’s doing it right. And I thought there was something that that people could learn from listening to her story.
So all that out of the way. I want to say thanks, Alex, for taking the time yet again to talk to me.
Alex: It’s all right. Thanks, Jeff.
Jeff: So just want to jump in really quickly with your background, because I know from watching you on TikTok that you are not you didn’t come to fiber in the freelance world as a, you know, sort of freelance writer. You didn’t come out of the newspaper business, the magazine business.
You came it from a completely different angle.
Alex: Yeah, I accidentally arrived at it by quitting a job that I had recently taken in New York City. I only lasted four weeks. I hated it so much. And when I quit it, I had to kind of get creative to pay my rent. And at the same time, I have been editing on Fiverr.
I wasn’t taking it very seriously, though. It was just like a way to make some petty cash on the side. So when I quit that job, I was like, I have nothing to lose right now.
And I had previously been writing press releases. So I was like, I guess maybe I can offer that on the site. I’m already editing out and maybe I can write press releases for people. So I open that service up and I’m pretty sure within a few days I had some interest in it. And that was when I started to get hooked, when I realized that there was a whole world out there, I was about to explore.
Jeff: How long does it take to get that first gig? I know that’s a really open ended random question because it could take one hour to 40 days. But the point I’m trying to get to is that I know a lot of people, when they sign up for some of these freelance sites, they get frustrated that on the first day they don’t have a thousand dollars coming in or one hundred dollars or whatever their number is.
I know when I first started doing Fiverr myself right after the COVID crisis began
I began to freelance script editing for screenplays and stuff. The first gig didn’t really happen for maybe a week or two. And it seems to me that some of it is you have to wait.
You have to you have to get that first gig. And then once you get that first gig, it sort of opens everything up because you get a review and people start saying, OK, he’s reputable. So how long did it actually take for you to really get a gig and begin to see an income stream flowing in?
Alex: It’s hard for me to say because like when I first started, I was editing. So when I decided to start writing on their full time, I already had about 50 or 100 five star reviews.
So naturally when I opened up the press release gig, it got going pretty quickly. But I mean I could go based off of the people who write to me on TicTok every day. And I would say on average it can take one week to get your first order.
I think people who come at it with a very impatient mindset, it’s never going to work because there is definitely a lot of waiting involved. A lot of patience needs to be involved with this. But I would say to people, why just sign up on one freelancing site?
If you are in such a hurry, why don’t you sign up on four of them? I signed up to Upwork at the time.
I started doing private social media management for people on the side because I didn’t want to put all of my stress on Fiverr. It just ended up becoming pretty much my full time job because of how much traffic I had on there.
So I would say to people like, wait a week and if you still don’t have any interest it means there something wrong with your profile, with how you’re presenting your gig or how you’re pricing it?
Jeff: When you say when you started doing press releases, you already had a bunch of five star reviews.
Where did those five star reviews come from? You were doing something sort of partial part time prior to going full time?
Alex: Yeah, for a year I was offering proofreading and editing like a flat rate, $5. Like sometimes I’d be editing a paragraph, sometimes 10 pages for people. And I was 21 at the time and I thought it was great because I was working another job.
So, you know, I see these people who kind of have this mindset of like, well, I’m worth more than that. I’m like, but in the beginning you really have to just kind of take that out of your head and kind of humble yourself a little bit, I think is part of this whole process.
And that’s definitely what we do. A lot of people out of it is what you’re willing to do to make it work. It’s definitely a long term type of thing.
Jeff: That is a really interesting point that I think a lot of people struggle with. But I’ve heard at conferences I speak at is that you were talking about earning $5 or $10 for a gig.
And most people think, well, I’m worth more than that. I was a doctor. I was making $150 an hour. I want to write at $100 an hour and it just doesn’t work like that.
Alex: No, it’s like you have to pay your dues with everything, from apprenticing as a tattoo artist to becoming a chef in a kitchen, you don’t just walk in at 22 and you’re like, oh, OK, you’re the chef. It’s like you have to earn your keep. And on Fiverr and these freelancing sites, it’s all about your reviews.
That’s, that’s it. Your reviews and your ranking, but your ranking can be determined by your reviews.
So on Fiverr advanced from level one to level two, there’s a certain amount of time you have to be on there. There’s a certain amount of reviews you need to get. So it’s like you have to provide the social proof to these buyers because they want to know if they can trust you or not.
So if you have zero reviews of anything, of course, they’re a little like, oh, is this is this person going to give me a good product?
A lot of the times are like, is this person going to scam me or are they actually in another country? And they’re claiming they can speak English.
So, you know, the social proof is huge and you have to wait your turn almost to get your social proof going. But then once you do, it’s all it’s all up to you that there’s definitely room for everyone.
I see on TicTok, dozens of people every day tell me, like, oh, I made a $1,000 this week. I just started last month. I’m like, jeez, I don’t even have that growth. So that’s awesome.
Jeff: What was your goal when you left your job and you said, I’m going to try and go freelance full time, did you have a financial goal in mind that would make you feel like you were succeeding at it and you would stick with it for a while?
Alex: No, I really just wanted to pay my rent. I had just moved to New York City a few months prior, so I just really didn’t want to be that person who had to move back home.
I’m from upstate New York and like a very small village technically. So I didn’t want to be like, oh, Alex lasted three months in New York City, what a loser or whatever.
So I was like, I just need to make my rent and my expenses here and then I don’t have to leave.
So I was like, that was my first goal. And then once I kind of discovered that I was going to be able to do that, I never really had a goal in mind. It was more so always about the challenge of what can I advance to this level?
What can I hit this and this revenue each day? Like, it was always like a little game. I was playing with myself, but I never in the back of my head was I thinking, I want to make one hundred, I want to make two hundred. Was more about the chase of it.
Jeff: How long did it take for you to realize I can actually make a go of this, I’m going to make enough money to cover my rent.
Alex: It’s funny because I wish I could go back in time. At the time, I had no idea I’d be doing podcasts about this. So sometimes it’s hard for me to remember. But I just remember I started doing it at the end of December 2015 and I’m pretty sure it was February, March 2016.
So about three months later I remember just kind of sitting at my laptop because I had so many orders actually I was like not sleeping and you know, it all hit really quick and I had to learn, I had to raise my prices because some gigs like it kind of got crazy. And that’s when I remember I was doing that. I was I was just smiling.
I was in my apartment. And I was like, wow. Like, what have I stumbled on here? Like, this is crazy. You know, I had a feeling it was going to definitely take on a mind of its own.
Jeff: People won’t believe when you say you’re a Fiverr millionaire. They don’t believe that there’s that kind of money to be made in the freelance world as a writer, but you have literally made more than a $1 million. Let me preface this by saying, Alex is making as much as thirty, $32,000 a month these days and she’s on track to, I think, three $300,000 in income this year, is that correct?
Alex: Yeah. Last year it was $350,000.
I think this year may even be $400,000. And that’s partially due to COVID, which we can talk about, which is crazy. But yeah, people hate really hard on this.
They definitely don’t believe it, even though I have like I have Press, CNBC, Yahoo Finance, Forbes, I like they wouldn’t be publishing my story if it was fake. But still I’ll still send the article to people and they still will not believe it. And I think that’s because in their head, maybe they think that Fiverr is still based on $5, obviously the name Fiverr. But I’m like, if you took two seconds to go on fiber, you would see that’s not the case at all.
There’s people charging $5 to $500 dollars per gig. It’s absolutely possible. And I always say to people, there are seven figure Fiverr earners per year. Like they get all upset that I make $350,000, $400,000 and there are people on there who make over a million per year.
So I’m not even at the top. I’m sure I’m in a small class. Maybe there’s 20 of us or so doing this, but there’s a solid five people above me who make even more than me. So I don’t know why it’s so hard for people to understand that it’s possible.
Maybe it’s because in the beginning it’s not. So they probably only stick around for a year and see that all this isn’t possible. But they don’t realize if you stick around for six years, it’s a lot changes on there and you progress through.
The ranking system of returning buyers is 50% of my business now because I’ve been on there so long. I have so many people who just buy from me every day now, but that that took years to get those people.
Jeff: You mentioned COVID. And it was a question I wanted to ask you is how has it changed? Because I started writing back in March that as it was emerging that this whole idea of cubicle culture in America was dead, that we’re going to go to a much more remote worker, freelance worker based economy going forward.
But I’m curious how you how it is played through to you because you are so active on Fiverr. Did you did you see an increase in business or did you see sort of a consolidation of people sort of moving away and holding back on their spending habits?
Alex: It has been crazy. I thought my business was going to slow down. I thought if people were having issues monetarily, the last thing they’re going to be spending their money on is writing.
They’re going to be buying groceries instead. But what I saw happening by the end of March, early April, is that so many of these panicked businesses were pivoting online that weren’t previously online.
And this forced it, obviously, because they can’t have the foot traffic and everything anymore. So they were more than willing to drop $200, $300, $400 to have great writing on their website, press releases, blogs. So my business exploded and it was crazy.
From March to June, I did not leave. I went to my mom’s home because New York was not safe at the time. So I didn’t leave my mom’s home literally for like three months because I had so much business going in that I couldn’t believe it. Not not that there was even anywhere to go because everything was closed. But it’s been a crazy year. It’s been a successful year, which is really weird because it’s been great and a lot of other ways. So that’s why I want to share that with people. If they think, oh, business is dead or I’m never gonna have a job again, cubicle life is dead. It’s like, yeah, cubicle life might be dead, but the online world of freelancing is very alive and there’s definitely a lot of room for people in it.
Jeff: How do you manage when you say your business has doubled? And I know what it’s like to be a writer, I’ve been a writer for 30 years, or whatever it’s been. And I know there’s only so many words you can crank out of your head on a daily basis and you’ve got so many hours in the day. How do you manage a doubling of your business as a writer? What does a typical Alex they look like?
Alex: Definitely some burnout at times. It always depends for me, because right now it’s freezing cold in New York and it’s now no, I can no longer go sit outside and do anything. So I always I follow the seasons with, like, how much work I can do. So from like a March to June, I really have no problem cranking out like 10 hours of writing every day because there’s nothing else to go do. It’s not warm out, come June once it gets warm out. I definitely like to push away a little bit on it and slow everything down. But what’s really nice is that the buyers stop buying or they slow down in the summer too, because they are also sitting out at the pool. So it’s kind of nice that it always slows in December with Christmas. And I was like that because I wanted to slow, too. So I mean, I would say I want to. When my business doubled in the spring, I was working anywhere from eight to 12 hours each day. I didn’t mind it. It was there’s something else to do.
So, yeah, I mean, I don’t know. I always try waking up early so that I can get started by like 7:30 a.m. and then build breaks into the day because any writer knows you can’t go really for more than I think, even like three hours maybe. I like that mark, I need to just like take a break for a second. You can’t just do it all day, so I’ll start early and build in breaks and pretty much not until like 8 p.m. But I’ll take I’ll have an hour here, an hour here. So I’m not like dying over here.
Jeff: How do you manage weekends? Because, you know, as I mentioned to you, when I’m editing screenplays and it’s a 120 pages or whatever it is, and I get it on a Friday and I’ve got a three day deadline to put to work every Saturday and Sunday, how do you manage a weekend so that you’re not just twenty four, seven, seven days a week?
Alex: I do two things for that. If somebody places an order on a Thursday or Friday, I use the extension timer to just push it off to Monday or I take on a little bit of work every weekend. So today I have about two hours of work to do. So I allow a few orders to trickle in and then some of the bigger ones, I’ll send the extension timer for Monday, or if they message me privately, when you create a custom gig, you can choose the timeline you want. So if someone’s writing to me on a Thursday or Friday, I’ll turn into three days and tell them I’ll say, OK, I’m going to deliver this on Monday. I take some days off and every single time they’re like, Yeah, that’s totally fine. That’s very normal.
Jeff: So you earn tens of thousands of dollars a month. It’s not just one gig of a press release. Right? You have multiple gigs. How many different gigs do you have and which ones of those gigs tend to bring in the largest paycheck for you think do you think?
Alex: I have 13 at this point, which is crazy. I could have up to 20, but I don’t think I could handle having up to 20, which is also funny. My most popular gigs are writing blogs, writing website content. When I say that people don’t know what that means, I’m writing the text you see on a homepage or the about us page and that that kind of writing and e-books are huge. I opened my e-book gig last year and it definitely increased my income by a lot because you can charge a lot for an e-book. It’s not a little blog anymore. If it’s a10,000 word e-book, you know, I charge $1,000 for that. Granted, it takes two days, but sometimes it’s nice to have those bigger projects because one e-book would be the same as if someone had to book 10 blogs for me. So I end up making more money with it. But those three are super popular. Other things I offer are like product descriptions, app store descriptions, like the text you see when you’re shopping in the App Store, editing travel blogs. Crowdfunding campaign text I do for people like what you see on Indiegogo, or GoFundMe. I always like to help those people out. I was kind of donating back to their campaign because I feel bad.
Jeff: And to be clear, when you’re talking about e-books, you’re not you’re not writing grandma’s history of life in Poughkeepsie. You’re writing e-books that a dentist gives away to bring in clients or something like that, right?
Jeff: I will do these nonfiction topics that people are going to use as lead magnets. So if it’s a health coach, they want an e-book 10 superfoods to help you lose weight or if it’s a personal finance person, they want 15 ways to improve your credit. And it’s things that I can look up for them. But I do always make them send me the chapter topics because I’m also like, listen, this is a lot of work over here, so you need to help me a teeny bit. You need to give me your chapter topics because I want you to also like what I’m writing, too. I won’t do anything if I’ve had people be like, OK, can you write my memoir? Can you write a book about my mom that passed away? And I’m like, no, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that that happened to you, but I’m not doing the personal stuff. I like to keep it like business nonfiction stuff.
Jeff: What is the piece of advice that people need to get started in this? Because I know that’s a stickler for a lot of people to say what is my first step? And I, I try to tell people I think the first step is really just going and sort of creating your profile on Fiverr, or Upwork wherever you want to do it on. You are far more successful at this than I am so what is what is your first step?
Alex: I just tell people to just do it, because I think a lot of people will wait way too long, they put way too much, this needs to be perfect into their head. And they don’t realize that the best thing they could be doing is just actually doing it. So if they want to start being a copywriter, ask your mom, dad, brother, friend, hey, can I write a blog for your business? They’re going to say yes. Getting that practice in is the most important part, and it will help you get over your fears and lack of confidence with that. So I was say, people just got started. I mean, just sign up, make your profile. You have literally nothing to lose. That’s what I did. I just I just winged it. I just I didn’t have a special guy next to me telling me what to do. I just met and I would say explore a bunch of different freelancing sites. You don’t just have to use Fiverr. There’s like 15 of them. I know a lot of people who prefer Upwork even, so there’s so many options out there. I would say there is nothing like just actually doing it.
Jeff: What makes a good profile? I think that is an issue that I’ve heard people talk to me about personally, because they just want to go on there and they sort of list everything almost like they’re doing a resume. Like, I went to school here and I did this and I did that. And it may not even be relevant to the gig. So what makes in your mind a really strong profile for people?
Alex: I really think the most important thing at the end of the day is you have to realize people are superficial and they’re busy and everything. I really think it comes down to how clearly people can tell that you are who you say you are on your profile, which means pictures of yourself. It doesn’t matter what you look like. They’re not hiring you for how attractive you are. They just want to know that you’re not going to scam them with. A lot of people are scared of that.
So I think the most important thing is a high resolution profile picture of yourself that a professional photographer took, where it’s up-close. You’re like making eye contact or smiling.
Then on your gig images, no matter what your sell editing a picture of yourself into every single image, a different one of yourself, so that when people land on your profile because they immediately see these pictures, they go, OK, there’s seven different pictures of this person.
I can tell they are real. They’re not lying to me and I can trust them. And I really think that’s like hands down the most important thing.
The rest of the profiles, like a LinkedIn profile, just fill it out. It’s like don’t skip over it, fill it out nicely. But I really think the imagery is everything on there because people are, you know, today. What is it like? The average attention spans down to seven seconds and used to be like 21 seconds, 100 years ago. You know, people are like just filtering through things. I mean, look at TikTok. It’s like seven second videos. So, you know, if they land on your profile and don’t know who you are or any of it, they’re like, OK, they leave.
Jeff: So how do you know what to charge? I do the screenwriting stuff and I went to UCLA. So I have the background in screenwriting. And when I first got involved with this, as I was saying, I’m doing 100 page scripts and I realized at some point, you know, earning, what, 19 cents an hour and I just underpriced myself so dramatically early on. And I’ve moved the prices up to feel a little better about what I’m doing. But how did you come to the point of going from $5 for a game or $10 to where you are now, where you’re earning $50 to a $150 to $1,000 or whatever it is per gig? How do you determine that pricing?
Alex: I really based it off of the level that you’re ranked out on Fiverr. So they have a ranking system, new level, level one, level two top level, and then they also have a completely separate little platform for Fiverr Pro, which I have now. And you have to apply separately for that. It’s supposed to be like the top 1% of the platform. So every level that I advanced to, I would go look at my closest competitor.
I would look at people who have 200, 300, 400 reviews, meaning they’re doing well. And I would just average what they were charging for myself. I never like went higher than that, but I never went lower than that. And I tend to drift towards the lower end of the pricing spectrum, that’s just me. But I would I would increase it with my level changes.
I don’t increase my prices often. I wait like a year before I do it, because I’ll have people say to me, you know, when can I when can I? I’m like, I’d say maybe every six months. But you also have to keep in mind you don’t want to scare away all your current buyers either before you’re worth more yet. So say, you know, if you’re at $10 right now, you won’t be doing that for a month. Why don’t you give it a few months and before you do $15 before you do $20. I’ve always been kind of slow with it.
Jeff: Can you explain Fiverr Pro for just a second in terms of what that means for the trust level that buyers might have as well as the income, and the prices you can charge per gig?
Alex: Fiverr Pro, since it’s the top 1% of their platform, they launched in 2017 as an effort to kind of get away from their bargain branding that had gone on with them, they today still are definitely like desperately trying to get away from that. So Fiverr Pro, it’s like this little black badge that you get on your profile that basically tells these people Fiverr has determined that you are the top 1% of talent on the platform, which means you are worth more money than the other sellers. And they prefer, I think, for like pricing psychology that you start at $100 per gig minimum, and they really prefer you charge even more because it’s that feeling of like walking into a designer store and you see the person that’s $2,200, it might not actually be worth $2,200. But when you see it, in your head, you’re like, oh wow, that’s a nice purse. That’s basically Fiverr. So it’s like the designer version.
Jeff: I will wrap this up by asking sort of a more holistic question about lifestyle, the fact that you went from charging $5 or $10 and now you are a Fiverr millionaire and you’re making large six figure incomes that most people would really sort of love to have. How has it changed our lifestyle, if at all?
Alex: It’s always funny when people ask me this, I feel like in a really weird way, it still hasn’t hit me, if that even makes sense. Maybe it’s because of my age. I’m the same. I save a lot of my money. I donate more of it. I help myself to a nicer dinner here and there. But I wouldn’t really say that my life has changed all that much. I think it will. In a couple of years, I’d like to buy a home and I’ll probably buy a very large and nice home and that will be lovely. But until then, I still just live like a 27 year old female in Brooklyn. I think it’s important to kind of, I don’t know, not get full of yourself with it. So I don’t care. I try not to care about it because I’m like then I’d become insufferable.
Jeff: So I imagine you feel more of a financial security, particularly in a moment like this when we’re going through sort of a pandemic economic crisis.
Alex: Yeah, exactly, and being a freelancer or entrepreneur, there’s no financial security, that’s one of the tradeoffs, the stress of it. So I feel really blessed about this because since I’m saving so much of it, I’m at a position now where if I shut down tomorrow, I’d be OK for years. And that’s an amazing thing that most entrepreneurs don’t ever know the feeling of. And it definitely has given me security to explore a bunch of other things I want to get started on. So that’s definitely the best part about it.
Jeff: OK, I appreciate your time, Alex. Thanks so much for everything.
Alex: Thanks for having me on. Bye bye.