Working My Way Through Grad School, $5 at a Time


The first time I read about Fiverr was through an article on The Penny Hoarder. I was a month and a half out of undergrad, graduate school was looming, and I was desperate for just about any type of job, even ones that would only pay me $5.

I made an account and kept my profile open waiting eagerly for orders. I figured that I would be getting a gig within minutes of posting my profile and the jobs I offer. There were no messages and no offers until the end of March when I finally looked at some of the top sellers profiles and tried to emulate how organized their profiles were.

A day later I finally received my first gig.

Someone wanted me to write a review for a product on Amazon and I quickly jumped on the opportunity. A day later, I was offered another gig to post another review online, but only $10 dollars in a few days wasn’t going to cut it, so I looked at some of the other writing jobs and posted up a gig for editing writing and essays. The initial essay editing gig lead to frustrated haggling over prices and arguing with customers that I couldn’t edit their 4,000 word essay for only $5. I had to constantly remind those potential customers that my rates were $5 for every 1000 words.

I also found myself arguing with customers on Fiverr and explaining that I didn’t write essays for others, I only annotated and edited them.

I eventually changed my rates to $5 for 500 words and it eventually discouraged more potential customers from asking for amazingly cheap rates. I was also forced to turn my gig descriptions into bullet points with highlights and bold lettering so that I wouldn’t have to get into another long-winded argument with a disgruntled customer who demanded I write an entire dissertation for pocket change.

The only time that I regretted not going for the super cheap side jobs was whenever I was short a few dollars at the supermarket, or whenever I couldn’t afford lunch.

About a month and a half into being a Fiverr seller, a customer offered to give me an extra $20 on top of the word count for his four-page essay if I was available to edit his work in less than 2 hours. Other customers had usually given me a day or two to fix their essays and get back to them with a draft. I would usually make about $15-$20 with those jobs. But that particular gig made me run out of my friend’s house at 9:45 so that I could proofread and annotated an essay before midnight and netted me a little bit under $40.

A few days later another student messaged me because he needed someone to edit his last minute book report. His document was only about 500 words and I was paid $15.

Soon after that second last minute job, I switched my editing gig to “I will edit your last minute essay for $5.” I kept the usual word count rate, but gave customers the option of having their essays edited in a day for an extra $10. For an extra $20 dollars, I would have essays edited in 12 hours or less.

The set up has ensured that I make a decent amount of money on even quick gigs. But it also leaves me scrambling to organize my schedule whenever I wake up to a Fiverr notification. On several occasions, I’ve had to work on an essay during a lunch break at my internship. Other times I’ve gotten started on price negotiations during breakfast or while walking to the gym for an early morning workout.

Once, I saw a notification for Fiverr on my phone for editing an essay, but I was at an all day electronic music festival and didn’t have enough service on my phone until I made it home at midnight. At that point, I had a last minute essay due in less than 10 hours and had to wake up before 7:00 on a Sunday after a long weekend of raving in order to avoid being late.

I finished editing quickly and sent my work out an hour before deadline and was awarded $50 for my efforts. Thanks to the stellar reviews on last minute essays like that one, I’ve been able to score a few more high-paying jobs that are easily done in a few hours or less.

Working on random last minute gigs has also taught me to section off parts of a particular gig. I’ve increased my chances of getting a decent paying gig by adding on extras on top of the word count. Apart from charging extra for expedited deadlines, I have the option of including annotations along with edits and various links on grammar and different formatting like APA and MLA style.

I also made a separate gig where I look up sources and send links to students who might be too busy to finish their own research. That has gotten me extra gigs and even students asking me to proofread the essay I helped them research and outline.

Despite having some success in making over $100 each month on Fiverr, some users have claimed to make their fulltime income from the website. Some featured sellers have made over $2,000 a month for their gigs. I doubt that I’ll get to that level, and I’m not sure that I want to make my living editing various papers when I should be sleeping or preparing for an early morning class.

It’s been difficult and tiring, but I owe Fiverr and all its reasonable buyers. They have kept me in metro card and seltzer water money and probably will until the end of graduate school.


Angely Mercado has made $1000 so far via Fiverr. She is a native New Yorker, a sometimes writer, and a full-time journalism grad student at the CUNY School of Journalism whose work can be found in Gothamist, Curbed NY, Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, XO Jane, Bitch Magazine and more. Share ideas with Angely on Twitter, especially if they involve freelancing and awesome literature. 



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