The gig economy is growing faster than ever, and freelancing is one of the best ways to take your career on the road. In this episode, serial entrepreneur Alex Fasulo, shares how she made over a million dollars as a freelance writer on Fiverr. We discuss strategies to succeed on freelance platforms, lifestyle tips to get into the right hustle mindset, and how to branch out into more businesses from a successful foundation.
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The following is an extremely summarized version extracted from the transcript of the full conversation. I strongly recommend listening to the podcast for all the valuable insights. You will also hear more detailed and contextualized stories from the guest(s), as well as pointers from me in a two-way conversation.
Hi Alex! Although most people know you as the Fiverr girl, you’re actually a very self driven entrepreneur that is running multiple different businesses. Tell us about that, and also about yourself.
I guess I’m what you would call a serial entrepreneur, because I am always working on 10, 12 different projects at the same time beyond just doing Fiverr. And I obsessed over Fiverr the last five, six years, it’s obviously paid off for me. I get bored very easily, so I ended up doing all of these different crazy things. I run a business with my mom called campfire trailers where we take horse trailers and flip them into mobile bars. I have my own mobile app called IPOP, which is a trending photo map app. I have my own personal brand. I have my bookstore online courses.
I’m always exploring different businesses, and actually recently very much looking into residual income that can kind of generate a certain base of income each month for me, not so that I could retire because I never really actually want to retire. That’s definitely at the top of my list.
I think I think that’s where the Internet has changed everything because one person now can run five different internet businesses. Whereas in the past, you know, you would just have your one business, that’s all you could do.
What do you think are the pros and cons of using Fiverr versus building a website and trying to do sales and source clients?
Fiverr gets me more leads than I could ever get on my own. So when I log onto Fiverr, every day about 20 people have messaged me that night seeking out my services. But I haven’t been able to replicate that on my own, with my own LinkedIn or email. I’m trying to match it but I just can’t. The leads that Fiverr gives me, you can’t compare to it. So Fiverr takes 20% and Fiverr, in a way is the boss of you still, which any classic type A entrepreneur person doesn’t like having a boss. Which is why I am actually exploring getting my own leads. I don’t want to forever be the Fiverr girl, even though I am the Fiverr girl, and I’m proud of it. But I don’t want to forever be that. I’m putting in a lot of work right now to actually find my own leads.
The differences on Fiverr, it’s easier in the way you sign up. The leads can start coming in immediately. To go find the leads on your own, you have to put in time, you have to set up systems, you have to figure out what works and what doesn’t work. But in the end, you’re not losing 20%. So that’s kind of the trade off. I think it’s a fair one. I think it’s fair that Fiverr takes 20% because they do get you your leads. They’re working as your marketing department. That’s just the trade off with it.
What are you doing to put your eggs into more baskets in terms of your writing business?
I’m actually freelance on Shopify, they have a closed marketplace. And actually, Wednesday this week, I’m speaking to a guy who does email automation. And I’m going to sign up with him and have him start reaching out to email lists to get me my own personal clients. And I’m also going to start doing it on LinkedIn and through Instagram DM. So I’m going to have email, LinkedIn, and Instagram, hopefully bringing me high paying leads. I don’t want to have to go for the volume where I need 10 a day. I’d rather find three of them that need 100 blogs a month or something like a big order.
I’m starting doing that because Fiverr again, it’s been great, but I want to start branching out and maybe grow my own personal business that’s not necessarily affiliated with Fiverr. It’s just smart to not be reliant on one thing you know, that’s a scary place to be in. And I always tell people starting out freelancing, “Don’t just do one site. Try Upwork try Fiverr try Freelancer try a bunch.”
When is a good time to raise your prices?
I always tell the people I help that there’s two times, two signs, you should do it. Fiverr has a ranking system. When you advance a rank, like if you go from level one to level two or level two to top level, you can justify a price increase because Fiverr has promoted you, in essence. And the other time is I’ll have people say to me, you know, I’m working 16 hours a day, I’m turning work away, you know, my profile has blown up so big, I don’t know what to do, I’m turning work away. And I always say to people never turn work away.
So if that is happening, I’ll say to people raise your prices, but not dramatically. you don’t want to startle your people, I say if anything, do very subtle price raises like $5 at a time, nobody will notice. And next thing you know, you do at $5, six months later, $5, you know, six months later, next thing, you know, you’re making, you know, double what you were making, and the client doesn’t even really notice. Obviously, it is a case by case basis. I don’t want people to come and say, “Oh, I raised my prices, and I lost all my business.” That’s why I say raise them very gradually and small, like small raise amounts, because you don’t want to send all your returning clients out the door. Some of them might drop off, but you’ll get new ones, it’s all part of the process.
I had a big jump in my pricing, because I went from level two to Fiverr Pro, top 1% of the platform. And I went from charging $25 for something to $100, which is insane. I got a lot of angry messages from buyers, when they saw that their $25 package is now $100. They were like, “who do you think you are? Are you kidding me?” And I was like, Listen, I don’t know what to tell you Fiverr pro starts at 100. But since then I’ve gotten all brand new clients that come in on a $100 price point. So I understand that fear. But if your quality work is increasing, then you’re always going to have a buyer who’s willing to pay for it. But don’t scare your buyers if you don’t have to, don’t do a massive increase for no reason.
Talk to us about your mindset and how that transition went for you.
It was funny because I didn’t really have a choice of how it went because Fiverr said hey, if you’re gonna be part of this program, you’re gonna have to increase your prices a lot . It goes into the marketing, if you’re the top 1% of our platform, we want your price to reflect that. It’s like, if you go into a store and you see a $10 lamp and an $85 lamp, you’re just gonna assume the $85 lamp is higher quality. It might not actually always be the case, but you’re gonna assume it.
I just went in full steam ahead. I lost most of my older clients. But the people who are on the platform looking for that top 1%, they’re out of a really rich Corporation, or they have a ton of money. They then see me and buy from me. They want to tell their friends, “Oh, I used Fiverr Pro.” It’s all that same buying psychology. So if you have a fear that you’ll never have new clients. I get that fear. But don’t let it stop you because it didn’t stop me. And now I’m at a point where I’m obviously making way more money than if I had hung around $25.
What’s your secret to time management?
It’s waking up early everyday, no matter what, even if you’re out late the night before. Duty calls. It’s following the same schedule, even if you’re travelling, like it’s no days off, it’s actually quite boring stuff.
It’s being a very disciplined and focused person, and actually realizing that there’s nothing sexy about time management at all. And there’s nothing sexy really about being an entrepreneur or freelancer. You’re still at your computer busting your ass like the same way you would be in an office place.
So it’s just classic stuff, like I’ll turn my phone over, or I’ll take a break around noon. I make sure I eat fruits and vegetables, things that are will help me stay alert. When it comes to time management, there’s no time to make up a reason why you’re not focused one day. It’s waking up and committing yourself to being focused no matter what.
How do you stay focused when you’re writing, and then switch your mind to other tasks in other businesses?
It’s a good question. I segment my day out where first thing when I wake up until about right now actually is writing business time and nothing else. So it’s all about Fiverr, getting my own leads, growing my writing team every day. And then lunchtime hits, I’ll eat some lunch, maybe workout a little go for a walk. And then in the afternoon, I’ll segue from writer- writer to photography, videography, filming Tick Tock social media.
So let’s jump into the media side of my brain from like two to five. And then at five, I’ll go back to the writer brain for like another hour or two to close up the day. I’m my most focused, my most intensely focused in the morning, which is why I do my hardest work, my writing in the morning. So like by now I’m done with my writing for the day. And my brain isn’t as focused in the afternoon, but it’s still able to do creative stuff, like film or take pictures, because that’s not as taxing on my brain as writing. So I’ll kind of my natural focus, because I think some people are more focused at night.
Are you still doing all the writing yourself?
So starting, last year, like 2018 was when my work started to become too much for just me. So in 2019, I started working with one other writer. And then 2020 I actually brought on one more, so it’s me and two other writers. I actually think I need a third now. I have my app guy, two writers, two virtual assistants and my guy who edits my podcast, so the team is growing. I use them all in like an independent contractor arrangement. So they’re kind of like my freelancers that freelance for me, but it works out. And I’m sure I’ll add a few more this year even.
Looking at the people that I know, especially digital nomads entrepreneurs, we are working a lot more than the normal office hours sometimes. What’s your situation like?
I feel like what people don’t get from the digital nomad life is that yes, you are travelling, and yes, you are seeing really amazing things. But well, yeah, what you just said is, you’re often working overtime for it. Because if you’re not working, you know that work isn’t going anywhere. It’s still waiting for you. So if you decide to take a four hour break in the afternoon to go hike in the Rocky Mountains, that’s great, but you’re gonna have to do that four hours of work you miss when you get back to your room. But I think it blends work and play a lot. There’s not really a work life balance, and you have to be okay with that. Because, you know, you can play as you go, but you also need to work as you go. And you might have to work all day Sunday, you might have to work Saturday morning, because you want to take Monday off to go do something local.
Like if you’re on a hike. You know, you might have to answer an email while you’re on the hike. So, it’s like I think it’s romanticized and it is a great thing and a really cool thing and I think it’s awesome, you’re travelling all the time it is great but you’re working really hard too, really hard. Same thing with influencers I feel like influencers get a bad rep. And I think people think it’s, these girls sitting around doing nothing, you know, be like oh, bring me a fruit bowl, but it’s like I’ve seen the behind the scenes of it and those people are busting their asses still and they’re taking 5000 pictures before they get the one and it’s not glamorous, you’re sweating are yelling at each other like you know nothing is as it seems ever. It’s all marketing.
How do you balance between work and travel?
Well I have a hotspot on my phone that was huge. To be able to bring the internet with me, I think is really important. I mean, because I have a team now if I’m going to be flying all day, like I was last week, when I went to Utah, in advance, I’ll just outsource more of my work to my team. That’s kind of how I’ll handle travelling. I’ll just rely more on them than I normally do. And I’ll usually give them a heads up like, Hey, guys, you know, for four days, I’m going to be doing this. So I’m going to be outsourcing more work to you than normal. Is that okay with you?
So it’ll be kind of a system like that, where if one of them tells me like, hey, in June, I’m getting married. So for this whole week, like I can’t do anything, and I’ll be like, No problem. Thank you for telling me that. Because then I’ll know going into that week, I’ll have more work than normal. So it’s kind of just like an ecosystem where, if I know that I’m going to be, it’s an intense travel day, I’ll kind of hand more of it off than normal.
How’s your travel style? Where do you usually go? And what kind of things do you usually do?
Um, all of it? You know, I feel like I’m getting more anti city and more outside of city fun. I’ve lived in New York, I’ve been in Miami, I’ve been in LA I’ve been in all the big cities. So I feel like for right now in the US, I’m having fun exploring all it’s lesser travelled parts of the country. And that’s just kind of been my focus, because I’m 28 now, and I’m less into partying and drinking stuff than I was like six years ago, and I was 22. I was like, Oh, I want to go to Reykjavik and Tokyo and all these places, and I want to party and go to the clubs. And now I don’t really want to do that anymore as much. So I’m happier waking up early and like going to find a really cool hike with a waterfall. So right now, like yeah, nature and like less city focused.
You’re transiting from being a freelancer to building a personal brand. What are the challenges that you face along the way?
It’s funny, I was actually talking with some girls I have in a group on Instagram this morning. And the challenge I’m having right now is taking what I have, this brand and almost finding a way to make it even more universal. Because I want more people to want to join in on it naturally. All this time, I’ve been the Fiverr girl, the freelance Fiverr girl. And I’m kind of working to figure out a newer, more umbrella brand, which is like the remote work girl or like the girl helps you quit your job, like something that’s way more applicable to like everyone. So it’s kind of scary finding a new brand that includes that but other things too, and finding how to word it so that it resonates with people. I’m currently trying to figure that out right now.
Tell us more about the mindset to have when you want to put yourself out there as a content creator.
I guess I’m just at a place where I recognize that anytime you apply yourself at anything and put yourself out there, you’re going to get negative feedback. Because people are going to be jealous and they wish they could do it too, so they’re going to be triggered by it. And so be it, I’m going to just be authentic and be myself. And now I’m in a place when people write really mean things where I can actually just laugh because I recognize it really doesn’t have anything to do with me. It’s conjuring up something in them that they hate or that they’re sad that they can’t pursue their dreams or whatever it is. So I really just don’t take it personally anymore. And I have fun sometimes, in the comments. Sometimes I like to make jokes and have a sense of humor. So I’ll make a joke back to someone’s nasty comment.
How do you make yourself stand out as a freelancer or freelance writer?
I always say to people, the first thing I say to them is to get the idea of saturation out of their head, because there is no such thing if you wake up and bust your ass. You’re asked to commit yourself to being the best. There’s always room for you if you’re gonna work your ass off. So I’ll say to them first, you know, you have to have that conversation with yourself. Are you willing to tell yourself that saturation doesn’t exist and do your best? And then if they’re like, Yes, I am. I’m like, Okay, so now you’ll make it to the next step here, online on freelancing sites, you need to build trust with buyers.
So the quickest way to do that was to do I say things, have professional photos taken of you with eye contact, smiling, and plaster them all over your freelancing profile because that builds trust. That tells people you’re not lying or not saying you are someone you’re not. And it just helps us to see other human beings to connect with them. So plaster your image around everything, you don’t care if you’re shy, they’re not, you know, you’re not modelling here, you’re just showing people like I am who I say I am.
Now, to help with that trust, people want to see examples of your work. So if you don’t have a portfolio, do free work for people and make a portfolio, you know, you need to have examples of your work to show buyers. You can’t expect them to just go on a whim and go, this person’s never done an order in their life, let’s see how this goes. You’re gonna wait a lot longer to get your first line if you do that. And when that happens, when all those things come together, people will review you. And the third step, and they’re gonna leave you the best review that they can leave because you’ve gone above and beyond for them. You’ve won their trust, they like you, they’re gonna leave you a five star review.
That’s social proof. And then the next person who comes along, they’re gonna see that five star review, they might not even need a sample of your work anymore. They’re gonna trust you because the first person is vouching for you.
So it becomes this cycle that kind of speeds up more and more and more. And it all starts by understanding that these people need to trust you. So whatever questions they ask you answer them, be open, be honest, don’t lie about yourself. You don’t need to lie. No one’s asking you to say, Oh, I’m the CEO of this this and this, they know you’re not. And that’s okay. Be transparent. Show them examples. Be willing to work with them.
Just do it. You know, a lot of people talk about it for a year. I’m like, You wasted a year. Just do it. Don’t be scared. So many people are so scared today. I’m like, there’s nothing to be scared about. You’re not buying a house. Just do it. I give them the little path they need to get moving.
What’s the worst that could happen?