I Paid Off Almost $50,000 of Debt By Side-Hustling on Fiverr


This story is by Joel Young, as told to Marianne Hayes.

Fiverr is an online platform that connects freelancers and buyers, with popular categories including graphic design, digital marketing, programming and more. In-depth services like whiteboard animation go for about $25, while quick photo retouching falls in the $5 range.

While Joel’s story is impressive, no two sellers are alike and earnings can vary widely. Fiverr also takes a 20 percent cut of each job sold.

Six years ago, my job moved my family from Cincinnati to South Florida, where the cost of living is significantly higher. We lived off my modest pastor salary—which sat well under $100,000—while my wife Jenna stayed home with our two toddlers.

Our rent was double our old mortgage, and necessities like groceries and gas were considerably more expensive. We’d also moved with a $12,000 car loan and $25,000 of personal loans and credit card debt, thanks to a period of unsteady income. And in 2012, we got hit with $10,000 of unexpected medical bills.

The day we tallied it all up—realizing we were nearly $50,000 in debt—was our wake-up call. If we didn’t reverse course, debt would eventually swallow us.

So we started looking for ways to wipe out our debt.

Around that time, I was tasked with outsourcing some creative work for my church. Someone suggested Fiverr, where I easily found someone to produce videos and do voiceover work.

That’s when Jenna encouraged me to try freelancing on Fiverr myself. I was no “voiceover artist,” but had plenty of public speaking experience as a pastor. As a former musician, I even had a recording mic.

So I created a profile, in hopes of making $100. To make it worth my while, I made $5 for about one minute of voiceover work. Surprisingly, I ended up booking $400 that first month, all of which went toward debt. (That said, Fiverr can be tough to break into. When you’re starting out, your services are cheaper than experienced sellers’. But it’s all about the hustle.)

I was hooked.

When I made a personal video for my profile to better advertise my services, I ended up finding clients who wanted me to create videos for them, too. So I began selling video editing and on-camera spokesman services, using programs like iMovie and GarageBand. I loved the creative outlet and opportunity to sharpen my skills.

At first, I worked on Fiverr gigs, which I completed in anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours—for an hour or more a night. But as things took off, I started putting in four to five hours, and my sale price soared to $25-$35. I ended up grossing $35,000 the first year, throwing all of the post-tax income toward debt. Six months later—18 months after starting—we were completely debt-free!

After that, I funneled all the extra income to savings.

By July 2014, I was routinely working six or seven hours a day. So I quit my job to concentrate on the six-figure business I’d created.

This wasn’t easy; my heart was—and is—devoted to the church. But I knew it would give us more freedom and stability. For example, being location-independent meant we could move back to Cincinnati, and earning more allowed us to be more generous at church, where I still volunteer.

Once we topped off our emergency fund, we moved home.

My business has grown more than 100 percent in revenue every year.

Earning multiple times my old salary has opened so many doors: We were able to buy a larger piece of land and really enjoy country living. And we’re even in the process of adopting a third child.

Today my Fiverr gigs, usually for animation or video production, sell for $300-$500. My clients value quality work—and my five-star reputation means I can demand those higher rates.

My advice for people interested in Fiverr is that there’s no substitution for hard work. Persistence is key, and it might take years to earn a sustainable income. So diversify your efforts across multiple channels. Fiverr only represents about 50 percent of my business now—the other half comes from direct relationships grown through referrals and marketing efforts, like my YouTube channel.

Again, it’s all about the hustle.