Seven years ago, Jennifer Shealey was working as a project administrator for a tile company — but it wasn't a job she was passionate about.
"Things weren't working out," says Shealey, now 42. "I wanted to grow, and as an LGBTQ minority female, I was often overlooked for promotions and upper management roles. At times, I felt the need to dumb myself down in order to be heard."
Shealey was also getting her master's in management and hoped to leave her job and instead work from home. So, Shealey searched the internet for other opportunities and found freelancer platform Fiverr in 2014.
"It hit me, and I was like, 'Wow, could this be something that I could leave that sucky job that I had [for]?'" she says.
Shealey created a Fiverr account, and as a side hustle, started offering digital marketing services, like designing social media ads, for entrepreneurs. (Prior to receiving her master's, Shealey earned her bachelor's in graphic design.)
Then in 2015, Shealey unexpectedly lost her full-time job. At first, Shealey had to work two part-time jobs plus her Fiverr gigs to stay afloat.
But after a few years, "I was basically making more with Fiverr than I was with those two jobs together," she says. That's when Shealey turned her side hustle into her full-time gig out of her home in Melbourne, Florida.
"I lost my job, and I was all in on Fiverr," she says. "It was actually a blessing in disguise."
Since Shealey started on the platform, she has made over $366,000 in sales, and "in the last couple of years, I've been hitting six figures, so I don't find myself slowing down," she says.
Here are a few lessons Shealey learned along the way.
In working in an industry she wasn't excited about, "a very valuable lesson I've learned on this journey is to stay true to your passion and your goals," Shealey said.
Now working in marketing and graphic design, "the money comes because it's my passion," she said.
And once you've found your passion, Shealey recommends to "just start."
"I think that's what gets people tripped up, especially because we're constantly on social media and we're looking for this perfection and you don't need perfection," she said. "You just need heart and a vision."
If there are naysayers who are preventing you to start, "kick them out," she said. "You've got to get rid of the weeds or you're not going to grow."
Using a freelancer platform has been especially helpful, Shealey says.
"When you have a platform like Fiverr or any of these types of platforms that help freelancers, you can basically plug yourself in," she says. "They've got it all set up – I don't have to worry about my website online and all that other stuff. I don't have to deal with all that. I just I'm running my own ship."
Fiverr, for example, helps market your business as it's a well-known platform and drives customers to its site, she says, which is a great boost for those who do not yet have a following.
"You don't have to know anybody. I didn't know anybody. I just logged in and I created a username," Shealey says.
Now, Shealey is one of the top rated sellers on the platform.
When first starting to offer marketing services on Fiverr, Shealey would design Facebook advertisements for her customers and charge as low as $5.
"Some people might find that silly starting out, like, 'Why would you do that?' Well, sometimes you have to do what you got to do to put your name out there," she says.
Shealey offered low rates to start, but over the past seven years, progressively increased her pricing. Now, her work costs anywhere from $20 to $125, depending on the type of advertisement and how much work it takes, among other things.
"I could probably double that and still be fine, but I try to be mindful of the marketplace and where people are at in the marketplace because I do like to help everyday people," she says. "That's how I structure my pricing."
During the pandemic, Shealey's business has grown as entrepreneurs moved their shops online.
"On a professional level, in terms of my money, I'm doing way more work than I did in 2020. I'm quite shocked about it. But I seize the opportunity because I'm not sure what the future is going to hold at this point," she said. "Right now, people are trying to build their businesses, so I'm making services available to them."
It may take time to achieve success on Fiverr or any freelancer platform, Shealey says, but stay patient.
"I just wouldn't give up. I didn't see a huge return in the first three years, and I was busy working other part-time jobs. But, I just wouldn't lose heart," she says.
In 2020, Shealey made over $106,000 in sales, and this year so far, she has made over $45,000 in sales.
"All I wanted to do was pay my rent and to get food in my mouth and to pay my bills. And that's powerful," Shealey say. "Now, I don't have to think about all that. I can think about my future."