And turned writing from a side hustle into my main gig
In July 2018, an article that would change my life fell into my lap. Er, my Facebook feed, I mean. A CNBC article featured Alex Fasulo, a 20-something entrepreneur that quit her full-time job and was now making six figures as a freelance copywriter writing on Fiverr. And I was floored. And my first thought before I even got done reading it was, I can do that.
I knew what Fiverr was but hadn’t explored it much prior to that day in mid-July. But after reading that article, I opened up Fiverr and got to work. And within three hours, my profile was set up and I launched with three gigs.
Then I waited… I only waited a few days, snagging my first orders within the first week of opening my digital doors for business. And those first orders were the fulfillment of a lifelong dream that would take me to today, earning six figures in part-time hours as a freelance copywriter.
So let me tell you more about my journey and how I earned $168k in 2022 as a freelance copywriter in part-time hours.
A slightly edited version of my dream
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer and was really good at it. I was a voracious reader and voluminous writer, most of it very bad poems.
I proudly proclaimed I wanted to be a writer — until I didn’t. And that didn’t come from the naysayers. They were adults who started to scoff at me and say, “Writers don’t make money.” And it deterred me. So I didn’t become a writer.
Long story short, I went off to college majoring in molecular biology and genetics, because hey, there would be money in that. I failed my first year of college miserably. Changed my major 3434 times. And then I circled back around to my first love, English.
My Love for English
I declared my English major, got my BA and MA. I eventually toiled over my Ph.D. and got that, too.
Got a great job at a university, made good money, and stuck with that until I was 41 in 2022. And then I quit, thanks to my writing.
I’m officially a writer, I proudly thought at 41. Though the type of writing I was doing is quite different than what I imagined as a child.
As a child, I imagined being a poet. Or a famous novelist. The stereotypical paths many who aspire to write probably dream for themselves.
And that’s definitely NOT what I’m doing today.
But I’m still a writer. And a good one. And people pay me well for it.
Today I’m a freelance copywriter. I didn’t know, of course, what a copywriter was until I was in college, and I never really gave it much thought until I came across the CNBC article.
But here we are. And I’m damn glad I did it.
Building my writing empire while working for someone else
I started my freelance copywriting business in July 2018. Worked it around my busy full-time job as a university program director for four years before quitting my job. I could have done it sooner, but I’m cautious.
Most weekdays, I’d put in about 1–2 hours of work on my business after work. I’d do a bit more on the weekends. But I told myself I’d keep it to around 15 hours or fewer a week to keep my sanity in check while still working a full-time job.
And I was able to grow my business this way. Most of my business came and still comes from Fiverr, and I slowly and steadily grew my business so I didn’t burn myself out. I was comfortable and pretty quickly grew my business to consistent $3,500 months with a few $5,000 months sprinkled in there working under 15 hours a week.
Something Changed Mid-way
Then the pandemic hit, and I thrived working from home. And I didn’t want to go back full-time after our university finally went back to normal operations and work schedules in fall of 2022.
So in the summer of 2021, I got to work. I grew my business from about $3,500 a month in July 2021 to topping $10k in January 2022. I did it without working over 20 hours a week. And then I kept growing, earning multiple five figures regularly. I just became more intentional and focused with my time and energy and raised my prices to where they needed to be. And it paid off.
I finally decided to pull the plug on full-time employment for someone else in July 2022. So since then, freelance copywriting has been my main source of income, though I have other streams of income as well. And in 2022, my freelance copywriting alone made me $168k, all in part-time hours.
What I offer
The majority of that income was earned on Fiverr, though I have some clients I’ve gotten off of LinkedIn. I’m expanding my efforts in 2023 and finishing up my website and engaging in other streams of income related to my freelancing business, like coaching and courses.
But here are the main services I offer as a copywriter that earned me that $168k, ranked from highest-earning categories to lowest:
- Website Copy
- Press Releases
- Editing and Proofreading
- Social Media Copy
- Email Copy
I also get some other types of writing requests, like scripts for ads or videos, white papers, and presentations. I pretty much take on any type of writing request. The categories above are just the ones that I currently advertise on my Fiverr account and that I get the most orders in.
What I write
I also don’t niche my services. I’ll write on pretty much any topic in any industry.
Even though copywriting is now my main gig, I still don’t do it full-time. I typically work 20 hours or fewer per week on client writing and am able to earn a healthy six-figure income. I’m a fast and efficient writer for the most part, so I can knock off quite a few projects in a matter of a few hours. That gives me time to do other things, including working on expanding my business into new territories, which include content creation, digital printables, courses, and coaching programs.
My gig prices are on the higher end of the spectrum for copywriters on Fiverr. I do think there is a misconception that you can’t make money on Fiverr, but it’s exactly that, a misconception. But there are drawbacks, and you generally can command higher prices working off the platform. My prices are higher for clients who find me off the platform. It’s just the nature of how Fiverr works and is perceived in general.
I also am a one-person operation. Some six-figure Fiverr sellers outsource work. I may need to start outsourcing work as my business continues to grow, but in 2022 I didn’t outsource, and I’m still not in 2023.
Some of my categories I’d like to grow in, like my blogs category. Blogs are simple for me to write and don’t take much time at all. And I enjoy them. So it’s an area I need and wants to expand in.
Advice on growing your side hustle while working for someone else
If you’re looking to grow your side hustle into your main gig while working full-time, here’s my best advice:
- Keep your why in mind. Why is growing this important to you? What would it mean? Visualize and articulate your why. And refer to it often. It will keep you motivated.
- Treat your business like a business. I can’t stress this enough. You must be consistent. Set regular business hours that you’ll hold yourself to, even if it’s 30 minutes a day. This momentum and seriousness are crucial.
- Continually set and reassess goals. Goal setting is powerful. Engage in it regularly and assess if you’re reaching your goals. There is so much research behind the power of goal setting — and writing it down matters. Goal setting was crucial in growing my business.
- Find an organizational system that works for you. Finding a way to organize your time and business is critical. There are a lot of free and paid tools out there. Some are complex, and some are simple (think Asana, Monday, Slack, Notion, and more). Do you know what I use predominantly? Excel sheets and my Notes app on my phone. Yep. If I bring on a team, I’ll likely need a more sophisticated system, but simplicity works for me right now.
- Start small and scale as your time and income allow. I started my freelance copywriting business with $0. I launched on Fiverr, which you can start on for free (here’s my getting started on Fiverr guide if you’re interested). Find ways that are free or low cost to build your business instead of dumping a bunch of money into websites, marketing, etc. until you know your idea works and people will buy into it. Now that I’m making good money, I’m investing more into those things.
- Find a network of like-minded people. You will need advice and emotional support along the way. Sometimes your family and friends won’t understand your journey. Find local and online networking groups. You’ll be thankful you did.
Sometimes I look back on my journey and kick myself for not growing sooner. Because based on the demand for my services, I could have. But I can’t dwell on it. I can only take what I’ve learned and move forward.
And know that if you’re a freelancer, and especially a freelance copywriter, there is space for you to get paid well for your craft. Don’t let naysayers or self-doubt hold you back.
Dr. Kelly Westeen is sharing stories to inspire humans to chase their dreams
Audacious dream, storyteller, CEO, do-gooder, cat connoisseur I’ve been a writer and storyteller all my life and just…www.buymeacoffee.com