When former musician Joel Young needed a voice-over for a video project at church in 2013, he hired a professional.
“I thought, this is pretty cool,” he tells Business Insider. “This lady does these for $5 to $10 apiece — and my wife said, ‘Well you’ve got a recording mic. You know how to do this stuff. Why don’t you do it and make extra money?'”
Young, who was working as a minister at the time and trying to pay off $50,000 worth of medical bills, credit card debt, and a car loan, did just that. He turned to Fiverr, a site that lets people pay others for tasks outside their expertise, and created a page for his voice-over services.
Within one month, he made $400 doing voice-over gigs for $5 each.
“After my first month, I started to level up, and the way that you advertise your services on Fiverr is by putting a video on your page,” the father of two explains. “I then had people who saw my video and said, ‘I don’t want a voice-over. I want you to make a video for me,’ and I created a whole new gig just for videos.”
Most of the videos he creates are to advertise a product or service for individuals, but he’s also done training videos for big companies like BJ’s, Home Depot, and the NCAA.
Over the course of one year, he made $34,000 shooting videos — in the corner of his bedroom, with an iPhone and IKEA lamp. “That was all I had,” he says. “I had people emailing me asking what kind of equipment I use. It wasn’t until I’d been doing it for about a year when I went out and upgraded my camera gear.”
After 18 months, he and his wife were completely debt-free. “I basically made enough money with my full-time job for us to run our house, so there wasn’t much left over,” he explains. “We cut our spending a little bit, but it was all freelancing that paid off the debt.”
What started as a solution to climb out of debt evolved into a lucrative career. It was the summer of 2014 when he realised he was making more money freelancing than he had been as a minister, and his side business officially took over as his full-time job.
“I think what separates me from others is my high quality of work, my great communication, and my reliability,” he says. “You need to be willing to go the extra mile to serve your customers. Never over-promise, and always exceed expectations. More than half of all my clients buy from me again at some point because they know they will get the same great quality every time.”
Today, 32-year-old Young works about 10 hours a day, six days a week, earning $18,000-$23,000 a month doing voice-overs, testimonial videos, and explainer animation videos. His wife has also started helping with the business to lighten the load.
Besides the consistent revenue, a major perk of freelancing is being able to set his own schedule and spend more time with family, he says: “I have the freedom to say, ‘OK, I’m done with work for the rest of the afternoon and I’ll get another couple of hours in after my kids go to sleep.’ It’s a way for me to be able to do things like coach my kids’ baseball team and be here when they wake up in the morning and go to sleep.”
Young’s newfound financial freedom has also opened up opportunities that weren’t possible before: “We had always talked about adopting a child, but we could never do it because an adoption costs $30,000 or $40,000 — and that’s on the low end. We now have the money to do that and are on the verge of being placed in the system to be matched with a kid.”
What does he advise people who want to follow a similar career path?
“Do what you already know what to do,” he says. “The reality is, you don’t have to do something so unique that no one else is doing. There are always going to be a thousand other people doing exactly what you’re doing — you just have to differentiate yourself by the way you serve people, by the quality of your service, and your level of communication.”
Also, you don’t need money to make money, he says:
I was very intent on never borrowing money to do any of this. I spent my whole first year making money on an iPhone and didn’t buy expensive camera gear until I had made enough to pay for it with cash. Look around at what you have, and what you can do, and figure out a way to offer that to people. You don’t need to go out and spend money to get started.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.