An interview with Michael-John Wolfe, a freelancer who makes a living through Fiverr and has a perfect five star rating on the site. Hear his inspiring success story.
What did you do before you started freelancing?
I had my own limo service here in Colorado. I was driving clients to and from DIA (Denver International Airport). I drove a Town Car and I was basically miserable. I was driving up to 12 hours a day, never saw my family and was constantly in traffic and stressing out and I was dreaming of ways to make money online, but it didn’t really seem realistic to me.
Initially, I didn’t know what to do. I was looking for ways to make money and I saw people doing book reviews. I chose my screen name: bookreviewstew, which I wish I could change now. I wasn’t planning on doing spokesperson stuff. So I tried out book reviews and no one ordered. And then Fiverr got rid of book reviews. I guess they were biased because people were just giving good reviews for money without even reading the book.
Then I noticed one day when I was just browsing the site that some guy was doing spokesperson videos. So I put up an ad to make testimonials and be a spokesperson. Got my first order. I was filming the orders at 4:00 in the morning before my limo runs and I was exhausted. I was trying to film these orders and I had no set. I just had my phone and a couple of rudimentary lights that I bought at Target, and the production quality was horrible. It was pretty bad to start off.
So how did business start taking off?
I basically learned on my own. I don’t have any history in video production. I was an actor in L.A. for seven years. When I was on set I always watched what the gaffers and the grips and lighting guys were doing, and from that experience I put together my own little set in my basement. I bought a green screen. I taught myself how to key out the green screen from the background. I then got a boom microphone over my head and a better HD camera. I kept adding to my stuff and my quality kept slowly getting better and better. And then I was able to raise my rates from five dollars a gig to $10 to $20. And now my highest rate is up to $245 for a 400 word gig. I can now do two gigs and make $500 in a day, which is just a blessing.
How long does it take you to do a gig?
Typically to film a 300 word job takes me maybe half an hour film; the editing, maybe an hour. So not that long, really. After I saw that I was able to support myself on my own through videos, I closed the limo service. I stopped driving and I started working from home and then I added more gigs. If you look at my Fiverr profile I have a doctor gig, construction worker gig, fitness gig, chef gig, etc. I was really out of shape when I was driving the limo. I was constantly eating fast food on the road. Now that I’m home it’s given me the ability to go the gym and work out, so I have a fitness gig where I offer my before and after photo from when I’ve transformed from really out of shape to really in shape.
The main thing I like is the freedom. I highly recommend anyone who wants to work at home to not just quit your job, but whenever you have free time, pursue as much as you can because when you do finally find something and you’re able to reap the rewards of a full time home job where you don’t have a boss to answer to and you don’t have anybody sweating you. I’m the boss, the producer, the actor, the director. It’s just a great feeling. I’m not saying that to brag. I’m just saying that believe me, I tried everything. I wrote and sold 60 Kindle books online. I had a little bit of money coming in, but not enough to survive.
I had a website about making money online: residualsandroyalties.com and everything was okay, but it was just a little bit of side money. Nothing was able to support me until I found Fiverr.
Any tips you can share with people who want to try Fiverr?
A couple of things: the main thing is customer service. People really judge you on your star rating and if you’re a new seller and you have five gigs and a three star rating, you’re not going to get any orders after people have seen that you’ve had two or three bad ratings.
I’ve had over, I think, 3000 orders. I have one four star review and the rest of my reviews are all five stars. It’s just crucial to keep that rating good. If someone’s going to give you a bad rating you need to find out why and ask them: “Hey, I made this product for you or produced for you and you gave me one star, tell me what I can do better and make any changes you need to get that five star rating.” Rating also affects how you rank in the system. Say you’re a graphic designer and you’re making logos for people, and you have two bad reviews – you’re not going to show up high in the search results.
Fiver takes a few things into consideration when ranking you. One is your rating. Two is your response time, so if someone emails you and says “I need a logo for my pet sitting company” and you don’t reply for 24 hours, the people who reply in one hour are going to be ranked higher than you.
The main tip I’d have is keep a five star rating and keep a good response rate. And definitely have a video on your gig. Even if you’re not a video producer, have a video that shows what you offer people who watch your video and listen to what you have to offer, rather than just see a picture.
Have you faced any struggles in the process?
I didn’t realize I was actually producing a video for a smear campaign against him. I didn’t know who he was or if someone was playing a prank on him. I just did the video because I do so many of these and never had a problem.
This was covered by Bloomberg, the Economist and multiple news outlets asking me about my video. I recently had to change the description on my newscast, which now says “No political or religious newscasts or fake news. I was basically making fake news for someone and I didn’t want to, so be careful what you produce.
Is this what you’re going to continue doing or do you have any different plans for the future?
Here, I’m at home. Somebody watches my video and they either order or they don’t. I don’t have to convince anybody through an audition to cast me. They just simply go on the site and pick the actor they want. They can pick all different types of people. There’s no jumping through hoops trying to convince someone to cast me. They can just watch my videos and see what I’m capable of producing and then they want to cast me.
It’s actually better than Hollywood. Even though I don’t make as much as a Hollywood actor, I wouldn’t trade this lifestyle for my Hollywood lifestyle. And I am starting to make more. This January I made $10,000 for the month from Fiverr alone, which is just incredible. This past June I made $4,500 on a really slow month. So it goes up and down – you can never count on a consistent income. I might make four thousand one month, ten thousand the next two. You’ve got to put money away when you have good months for the leaner months. Because you don’t know if know if you’re going to get three orders one day or no orders at all.
What’s the number one tip you’d offer to someone who is starting out?
Don’t quit your nine to five job until you’re sure your freelancing job can support you and your family, or whatever your needs are.
How to get started on Fiverr
Check out the start selling page on Fiverr and make your first gig!
You can also view Mike’s profile here: bookreviewstew to see how the pros do it.
If you’re a Fiverr seller we’d love to hear your experience.
Disclosure: these are referral links. I get a bonus if you sign up and buy something on Fiverr. This post comes from a genuine appreciation of Mike’s awesomeness and I hope you gained something from this.