- Alexandra Fasulo’s first online gig was freelance editing and writing on Fiverr.
- As demand for her began to grow, she hired other freelancers to take on the work.
- As her social media platforms grew, she leveraged traffic to sell ebooks and online courses.
Alexandra Fasulo quit her job in tech PR in December 2015 after just four weeks, deciding that an office environment wasn’t for her.
At the time, she had just signed a lease on an apartment in Brooklyn, had bills to pay, and had no savings. Panicked, she turned to the first thing she could think of that would earn her money: online freelancing.
Now she makes as much in a month as she would’ve in an entire year at her old job, according to a personal profit-loss statement viewed by Insider.
The same day Fasulo quit, she signed into an old Fiverr account and began posting offers on the freelancing marketplace to do writing gigs for as little as $5. She was willing to edit anything, she said, including text messages. By the next morning, she had requests to write press releases and edit blogs.
She began to obsessively accept these tasks because they were her only income stream. In January 2016, her first full month of freelancing, she said she made about $1,000, nowhere near being able to cover her bills.
But she continued working and eventually finished off 2016 making $38,000, slightly the same as what her paycheck would have been if she stayed at her job. The year after, she doubled her income to $68,000, she said.
“There were some days it was 14, 16-hour days, eight hours on Saturday, four hours on Sunday, no days off,” Fasulo said. “And the thing is, I wasn’t unhappy about it.”
Even though the long hours were tiring, she was content because she felt free. Fiverr had a feature that allowed clients to book her for jobs without her needing to approve them. This meant she was collecting gigs while she was sleeping.
“This thing would happen where I’d go to bed and I’d wake up and somebody would book 18 blogs and I would just go, ‘oh my God’,” Fasulo said.
She continued, “So at times, I would pause the gigs because I’d be like, I can’t do all this work. And then I was thinking to myself, this is so dumb that I’m pausing my business. Why don’t I just get more help?”
Fasulo hired her first freelancer at the end of 2018. Over the years, she’s added more help to serve the growing demand. Today, she has six paid freelancers working with her, while her friend manages the contracts. The amount of work for each freelancer fluctuates and is based on the amount of work coming in and their availability. This means it can range from one to 12 hour days for each freelancer, she said. But for Fasulo, this gig has become passive.
Over the years, her income steadily increased and she found more ways of tapping into various income streams. Her largest one still comes from Fiverr.
One way she achieved this was as demand for freelancing work grew, Fasulo would post to Instagram stories that she’s hiring. The posts would include specific steps for applying, such as what to put in the email’s subject line and what to attach. This helped her determine which of the applicants followed the instructions.
Those that passed the first round, and had adequate work samples and credentials, would be given two live orders to see how they performed.
“I compensate them regardless of if I hire them or not. I also give them a delivery time and see how quickly they can get the work done. Anyone who delivers after the due time is automatically removed,” Fasulo told Insider in an email.
Those that pass all of these rounds are offered an opportunity on the team and they get a breakdown of pricing. Some of them will drop off in the following weeks if they find the work is too demanding, she added. Right now, there are six writers on rotation who have been there for a few months.
Between eight income streams, Fasulo’s net income for 2021 was $404,684, backing out expenses — mainly from contract labor — amounting to $107,792, her P&L statement showed.
Most of the streams require minimal maintenance and include outsourced gigs for writing and copy editing, online courses, and ebooks. Multiple of these took effort to create but now bring in passive income. Her efforts also include brand partnerships that take about five to seven hours a week to create videos and Instagram stories for affiliate marketing which requires some time to set up posts and ad links, and Google Adsense that runs on her website and YouTube channel.
Fasulo detailed for Insider the top income streams she’s identified and capitalized upon as she’s built her six-figure freelance-contracting operation.
6 online income streams to consider
Fasulo’s biggest income stream comes from the very first online gig she took, which was freelance writing. Her success doing this led to her present situation, which sees her managing a slate of freelancers who contribute content for her various endeavors.
If you’re just starting out as a writer, Fasulo recommends creating profiles on a few different platforms, including Fiverr, Upwork, Contra, Legiit, and even a LinkedIn service page.
One of the first things you should do is post clear photos of yourself, maybe even videos, Fasulo noted. You’ll want to get potential clients’ attention and earn their trust. You do this by showing who you are.
Additionally, study the profiles of top performers who are doing what you want to do, she added. Whether they are graphic designers, writers, editors, or even dress up as a clown and make greeting videos, you’ll want to see how they set up their profiles.
Figure out what they’re doing well, how they word their services, what they charge, and even view their portfolio samples, she added.
The second income stream Fasulo tried out and which she recommends is writing an ebook. This was an easy transition for her since she had done it for other clients in the past. However, she didn’t think of writing one for herself until she garnered public attention from an article CNBC wrote about her in late June of 2018.
“It garnered like so much attention in my social media accounts,” Fasulo said. “I did not predict or was prepared for it and I had realized in that moment, like how silly it was I didn’t have a single product to sell to all these people that wanted to know more about me.”
The article about how she made six figures in six months off Fiverr brought visitors to her Instagram page, which at the time, only had about 1,000 followers. In a short period, it grew to more than 10,000 followers. Today, her Instagram has more than 153,000 followers.
A month later she created an ebook on how to freelance on Fiverr. It was about 8,000 words and it took her two weeks to write. During that time, she shut out the world and postponed any plans until she completed the book.
“I just wrote it in a Word document. I didn’t use any fancy software, didn’t really know what I was doing, but I just knew I had to get something out there,” Fasulo said. ”
She used a free service, Canva, to design the cover. She then hired an editor on Fiverr for $45 to give it a second set of eyes. Her mom then gave it another read. Fasulo initially uploaded it on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform, which offers 60% to 40% commission on sales for paperback, minus printing costs, according to Kindle’s paperback royalties. For ebooks, the author can get anywhere from 35% to 70%, according to Kindle’s ebook royalties.
So she uploaded the ebook to her own website where 100% of the commission would go to her. However, moving it to your own platform also means you are responsible for bringing in traffic, Fasulo added.
During the first month, she recalls selling a few hundred ebooks on Amazon.
She keeps a paperback version of the original ebook on Amazon for $7.99 along with a few other ebooks she has since published about freelancing and working from home. Some are free on Amazon and others are priced at $2.99.
“Obviously I put work into setting it up like you do with any passive income stream, but that was really a first taste of, like, waking up and I made $20 while I was asleep,” Fasulo said. “And I was like, whoa, this is cool. This is a lot different than freelance writing.”
If you don’t already have a large following to market to, Fasulo recommends hiring a freelancer who specializes in Amazon SEO so that your book ranks high. Another option is offering a free ebook. She’s seen people do both.
“That’s how they’ll start to collect emails,” Fasulo said. “And then after six months, if you have 500 emails collected because you gave something away for free, they’ll do an ebook for $5 and market it to their email list, and I’ve seen both work for people.”
Brand partnerships were another income stream that unexpectedly came her way — and she recommends considering it if you’re able to generate a large enough following.
TikTok pivoted Fasulo to this income stream. She downloaded the app in 2020 and posted her first video of her and friends having fun at a Greek restaurant. The next morning she woke up to 30,000 views on it, she said. The number surprised her.
So she began to take it seriously and posted about freelancing, how to be a digital nomad, and her lifestyle. In April of 2020, one video went viral, getting 1.8 million views, skyrocketing her account to about 50,000 followers.
“That was when the brand deals started. And that was when I filmed my online courses and launched them in October of 2020,” Fasulo said.
People began to ask questions about how to achieve the earnings and lifestyle she had. So Fasulo began making videos answering the questions. By the end of 2020, she had 260,000 TikTok followers. Today, those followers have grown to 686,000.
When she reached 40,000 to 50,000 followers, one to two brands a month began to contact her. The very first offers she got were considered trade deals, which meant she didn’t get paid but kept the product in exchange for mentioning it in one of her videos. They were things like hair clips, a coat, and a laptop charger.
But even when she began making money, Fasulo said she was undercharging. At first, payouts were minimal, about $100 to post a video and she could keep the product.
By 2021, brands that provide services such as payment systems to freelancers began to reach out to her. One company offered her $1,500 for three Instagram stories, one TikTok video, and one Instagram video. At this point, she had 36,000 followers on Instagram and 280,000 on TikTok. In hindsight, Fasulo felt she was still underpaid.
“I do want to say, so much has changed in the last two years though, that if you have 40,000 or 50,000 on TikTok, now brands aren’t trading with you anymore, you can charge $500 and they’ll pay it,” Fasulo said.
This happened because creators and influencers began to publicly share how much they were getting paid by different brands. The transparency helped other creators know what to charge.
“If you want to be an influencer, if you want to make money off of social media, you should start with one app and one app only,” Fasulo said. “And it’s TikTok because the organic reach you get on TikTok is like 100 times better than Facebook, Instagram, any of them.”
When starting off, Fasulo recommends posting three to five times a day. Although that sounds overwhelming, TikTok is an organic app, which means you don’t need to edit or enhance each video. Some of the most viral content on the app is unedited. Once your TikTok gets going, you can drive traffic to other, including Instagram and YouTube.
Fasulo added that shocking and controversial content helps videos go viral.
Affiliate marketing was something she tagged on after brands began to contact her. Companies would also provide her with a link back to the product. For every sale made through that, she would receive a commission. She currently has many links but admits that she hasn’t been actively using them as much as she should.
If someone doesn’t have a big follower base but they want to try affiliate marketing, Fasulo recommends making Pinterest pins and pasting links to them. The platform is similar to TikTok in the sense that it has a large reach.
“I have 17,600 followers on Pinterest, which is very small compared to my other apps, but it shows me here I have 4.1 million monthly views,” Fasulo said. “The engagement on Pinterest is just through the roof right now. If you want to sell anything, definitely go take it to Pinterest.”
Online courses are another income stream Fasulo had not thought of until her TikTok went viral. A course creator out of Utah saw one of her videos and offered to work with her.
“He had a whole team set up and over the course of two weeks we made three online courses,” Fasulo said. “I have never worked harder in my life, honestly for two weeks in a row. Then I left, I went home. He edited them for three to four months and then they went live in October 2020.
The courses, which teach people how to start and scale on Fiverr, how to copyright, how to monetize TikTok, and how to get PR for your business, now sit on a website called Mentor Camp. Profits for the courses are split 50/50 between her and the creator.
“It’s like you put in a lot of work to film the course, but then after that, the course could essentially make me money for the rest of my life,” Fasulo said.
There are many creators who make their own courses on platforms like Udemy, SkillShare, and LinkedIn Learning, she noted. These platforms are easy to use. SkillShare is the one she hears creators are using the most.
Google AdSense was another source of income that organically came along as she continued to grow her online presence. This is a Google service that places ads on your website or YouTube channel in the form of texts, images, or videos.
Anyone who has a website, blog, or YouTube channel that brings in a certain amount of traffic can utilize this stream. Commissions vary depending on the niche. And Google reserves the right to approve whether they will give the creator access to the service.