When 30-year-old Charvee Buch launched a business selling cleaning wipes online in February, she and her doctor husband Vishaal planned to use the proceeds to fund a free family health clinic in Los Angeles.
Then the coronavirus hit.
While starting a cleaning wipes business as the pandemic took off might seem like a goldmine, the Buchs' product is organic, biodegradable and anti-bacterial, but also non-alcoholic. That means it does not meet the CDC's criteria for sanitizing products recommended to prevent the spread of coronavirus (which the company tells customers).
Needless to say, sales for The Wellnus Company got off to a slow start. But the experience did give Buch another idea for a side hustle — one that has already earned her over $4,500 in extra income in just four months.
In March, she started offering web design services on freelancer marketplace Fiverr.
Buch, who built the site for Wellnus after teaching herself web design online, thought, "there's got to be other small businesses out there that don't have the funds to invest in a website," she tells CNBC Make It.
She was right. With so many small businesses forced to pivot to an online business model to reach customers stuck at home, Buch's web design services took off.
Her first client reached out less than two days after she started offering her services on Fiverr, and she's already designed websites for over 30 others, she says.
"I was very surprised," Buch says. "From a person who has no experience within that field, I did not expect anything."
Buch, who has a 16-month-old daughter and runs The Wellnus Company with her husband, spends about 20 hours a week on Fiverr projects. Her services start at $30 to design a logo for a business. "I do a basic landing page design for $50. And then, depending on the needs of a full website design, I start at $150," she says.
In preparing to launch Wellnus, Buch spent much of 2019 learning everything she could about building an e-commerce website.
"I spent six months just researching, researching, researching," she says. That included finding a manufacturer to make their cleaning wipes as well as learning about shipping rates and the basics of designing a website through Shopify (the e-commerce website that offers free design templates for businesses looking to build their own websites).
Hiring a web designer can cost thousands of dollars, money that, for the Buchs, could otherwise go toward the free clinic. So Buch did the work herself.
"I learned the ins and outs of Shopify, learned everything I possibly could, and designed our own website," says Buch. "I got that up and running. I figured out everything to do with designing a website."
With some web designers who specialize in building Shopify websites advertising rates anywhere from $800 to $1,250 on Fiverr, Buch felt there might be small business owners looking for more affordable options.
Buch prices herself "at the lower end of website designers on Fiverr," she says, and is flexible when it comes to customizing her rates, depending on clients' budgetary constraints.
Buch has received inquiries from small business owners from the fashion and beauty industries as well as health and wellness and even medical businesses, like telehealth, she says.
"I've had orders from Australia, [U.S.], [the Palestinian territories], India and New Zealand," Buch says. "So it's been really interesting to see my clientele from these different countries, and you can see that same trend of them scrambling to try and get online."
Already Buch has worked with a range of entrepreneurs from an 18-year-old looking to launch an online fashion boutique to a woman in Illinois who has had a brick-and-mortar scrapbooking materials store for 20 years, but never needed an online presence until the coronavirus pandemic forced her to close up shop, Buch says.
She says she tries to provide multifaceted support to her clients, drawing from her own experience building her company's online presence. For some of her clients, the process of moving their businesses online could prove overwhelming, so Buch advises them to "take everything one step at a time."
That can include walking her clients through the ins and outs of managing the shipping of their products to customers, as well as establishing a social media presence for their businesses.
"I'm not any expert of marketing by any means," Buch says. "I'm still learning the whole process. But it is important to have a social media presence." So she helps her clients start their own Instagram and Facebook pages for their businesses.
And once her work on a website is done, Buch leaves her clients with reference documents that lay out instructions for what they need to do when adding new products or otherwise updating their websites in the future.
Because she's coming into her side-hustle as an entrepreneur who recently had to build her own online business, Buch says it's important for her "to provide empathy and then you want to provide them the tools to be successful."
"Designing a website is kind of like putting puzzle pieces together," she says. "It's not as easy for everybody. I took some time to actually learn it, but I knew that there might be other businesses struggling out there."