In November 2015, Alex Fasulo had been living in New York City for about a month. One morning, she left her apartment in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, got on the subway and headed to her public relations job. After getting off the subway, she just kept walking.
“The day I quit my job, I felt a funny sense of rebellious freedom that I never felt in my life because I hated that job so much,” Fasulo, now 25, tells CNBC Make It.
She went to four museums that day. But soon the reality of what she had done — and a sense of panic — set in.
“I felt, ‘Oh my gosh, here I am adulting, and I can’t do it.'” It was the fear of failure, she says.
That night, Fasulo logged onto her account on the freelance platform Fiverr. In January 2015, while Fasulo was living in Albany, New York and working at the New York State Assembly fresh out of college, she had signed up for the platform. Fasulo’s mom told her about the site and Fasulo thought it would be a cool way to earn a little extra cash for new clothes or dining out. She offered editing services for articles and blog posts, priced at $5 a pop. At the time, Fasulo devoted only one to two hours a week to her side hustle, bringing in around $100 to $200 per month.
But now after quitting her job, Fasulo didn't just want some extra cash; she needed money to live.
So Fasulo listed nine new $5 services, including press-release writing, which she had experience with from her previous job. She figured why not give it a shot.
The next morning, Fasulo logged on to her account and was utterly shocked at what she saw. It was literal overnight success. The press-release gig took off. She woke up to seven, eight, nine orders rolling in at a time.
“The next morning, seeing that, I was elated,” Fasulo says. “I remember calling my mom, and I was so happy. And I still remember the first day that came when I made $100 in one day from writing, I think I cried. I couldn’t believe that something like that could happen for me, where I could work from home and make my own schedule, and still make that kind of money. And it happened so quick.”
One month later, Fasulo was making enough money from Fiverr to cover her rent and living expenses.
In February of 2016, "I remember actually still seeing the number 35, 'you have 35 orders, for my writing,’" Fasulo says. “And I remember it happened so fast, that I almost wasn’t equipped with the time management skills yet. I was still young and just adjusting to this new lifestyle. So I remember kind of being almost a little freaked by it.”
That year, Fasulo raked in $33,000 from Fiverr, slowly raising her rates to about $15 a gig. In 2017, she grossed $81,000, thanks to the launch of Fiverr Pro, a tier of the platform for which sellers have to be approved, promising “serious business buyers and elite peers," the site states.
Now, Fiverr Pro has pushed Fasulo into six-figure territory; so far this year, she’s made $151,000 from her writing services on Fiverr, and in total she’s completed 4,800 orders on the site. Her Fiverr profile boasts 3,175 reviews with an average rating of five stars.
Fasulo typically works Monday through Friday, for about nine hours every day and sometimes a few hours over the weekend. She typically takes on larger projects, with each gig priced at $100. She’s a quick writer and tackles about six or seven orders per day, ranging from press releases to blog posts, but website content creation is her real money-maker. She works with big-name brands and just edited her first book last month.
“I had one person in the [British] royal family — they would not disclose their identity for obvious reasons — they had me edit their pretty petty text messages they were sending their boyfriend. Just crazy stuff,” Fasulo says of past writing gigs. “I’ve had to edit some pretty high-up political documents for people.
"One of the beauties of Fiverr, though, is the anonymity, so I don’t know who exactly these people were, and I think that’s why they like Fiverr.” On its site, Fiverr says that, "to protect our users' privacy, user identities are kept anonymous," and notes that if it's necessary to exchange personal information, it has to be done within the order page.
Though she holds a degree in political science from the State University of New York, Fasulo says she always had a feeling she would end up writing in some way, but did not think entrepreneurship would be her career path. Now she loves it.
Being able to set her own hours and schedule, Fasulo says, has “totally revolutionized her life.” As an avid traveler, she can globe-trot as much as she wants (recent trips include Mexico and California), not having to abide by a 9-to-5 schedule or work from an office.
The money has also been a game-changer. In Albany, she was making $2,200 per month, and then took a pay cut for the job in public relations in New York City. Now, she’s making more than she ever could have imagined.
“The newfound financial success still feels so new to me. I don’t even know what to do with the money,” Fasulo says. "That sounds really silly, but I call up my mom and I’m like, ‘What should I do with this money?’ A lot of it is sitting in my bank account, I’m definitely a saver, so I don’t blow it or anything like that.”
Her new income, though, has enabled Fasulo to move from her Buschwick apartment into what she calls her “dream apartment” in Brooklyn Heights. Looking at the sun streaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows, Fasulo says she can’t help but smile.
“When I first moved [to New York City], I lived in really crummy apartments because I had no money,” she says. “So to finally be living in this nice apartment blows my mind when I wake up every day, like, 'Oh my gosh, I have an elevator and I can see the sun.'”
Fasulo has become a sort of unofficial advocate for Fiverr and entrepreneurship. She does a little show on her Instagram called #FreelanceFriday, helping people get started on the platform and offering up tips and tricks. When friends of hers in the city lose their job and are scrambling to pay rent, she helps them get started on the site, just like she did years ago.
“I never, ever, ever, ever would have imagined that Fiverr would have provided the lifestyle that I can now afford to live. If you had asked me that, I would say absolutely not,” Fasulo says. “Did I think that it could help me meet my Bushwick rent and buy food? Yeah, I definitely knew I could get that from it. But I had no idea that Pro was going to launch, that people would pay what they pay for my product. I would’ve have said you’re crazy.”
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