My Failed Attempt of Learning Android

October 24, 2017 Posted by Tyler Cruz

Back when I was new on Fiverr as a freelancer, I was trying to think of ideas for other gigs.

I used to do very novice-level programming back in the day, with languages such as Visual Basic and Perl (we’re talking about 2 decades ago now), and while I never learned anything beyond a very basic level, I did enjoy the logical thought process behind programming.

And since being a freelancer on Fiverr does not exactly require the highest skill, I thought I may be able to learn the basics of Android development to where I could offer said services and make some extra cash.

The Courses

I ended up taking a free course on Udacity for Android development which was taught by Google employees themselves. I was able to dedicate 100% of my time and focus on studying and I had not a single distraction to disturb me during that time, so I had no excuse not to learn anything. In fact, I ended up studying Android development for about 2.5 weeks, studying and practicing everyday for 6-7 hours. Continue reading →

Posted: October 24th, 2017 under Miscellaneous 24 Comments

My Brief Experience Hiring Virtual Assistants

October 21, 2017 Posted by Tyler Cruz

Back when I had my hands full juggling a lot of active websites, a number of people suggested that I hire a VA, or virtual assistant, to help me with menial tasks so that I could focus on the bigger picture.

Later on, when I got busy with affiliate marketing, people once again suggested the same thing – although at the time I was easily adamant against doing so as I didn’t want to reveal anything about my campaigns to anyone, let alone cheap assistants who would gladly sell my information to the highest bidder.

The thing is, I am a huge control freak because I am a perfectionist. I like things done my way, because then they will be done properly and at a very high standard. The problem with this is that I end up spending too much time on very small things instead of thinking bigger.

And so, I decided to finally pull the plug and give hiring a VA a chance.

Split Testing VA’s

In fact, I didn’t just hire one, but around 8 or so different VA’s through Fiverr. I knew that even though I would only hire those with good reviews and ratings that I would most likely not be happy with most of them, and so I wanted to hire a bunch at once to see how they compared.

I did this 1 year ago when I was working on promoting Votesy. The task I had them all do was scour the web for websites related to Votesy, make sure the sites met a certain criteria (recently updated, for example), find the contact information, and then e-mail the website owner or editor with a premade template I wrote for them, replacing a few key placeholders with the relevant information. I also had them e-mail from a webmail @votesy.com e-mail account so that I can make sure they actually were sending out the e-mails.

I had them log their results (the URL, contact information, date, etc.) so that I could keep track of their results and make sure other VA’s didn’t contact the same websites.

I had them do 40 contacts at a time, paying them a total of $20 each which works out to $0.50 per contact.

Unfortunately, this marketing attempt failed miserably – I had maybe 1 or 2 sites end up blogging about Votesy and/or linking back to us. The rest never even replied. I was just 1 in 40 would link or blog about Votesy, as it would then cost me only $20 for a linkback and exposure which is very good.

So my little contact scouring idea didn’t work, but how did the VA’s themselves perform?

How Did the Virtual Assistants Perform?

A reminder that I did screen the VA’s before hiring them, only hiring those that I felt had a good chance of completing the job well and who had good past reviews.

I understand that I am paying a very low rate at $0.50 per related contact e-mail harvested and sent out, but at the same time the job itself is quite easy and I did tell them that if they did well that I would consider paying them a higher rate in the future.

Unfortunately, overall I wasn’t very satisfied with the results (not factoring in how the e-mail marketing itself performed), namely for the following reasons:

  • Despite clearly stating what type of sites not to include, most of the VAs still included them anyway, such as sites that had not been updated in years, or unrelated sites such as women’s fashion websites (I can sort of see the link between Votesy and them, but they were not contacting community-oriented websites but sites such as Adidas for example!).
  • All of the VA’s were slow in delivering the results, most taking around a week. I had even given them various directories and lists of websites that they could use. It shouldn’t have taken then more than 2-3 days to deliver the results at most.
  • A couple of the VAs, after delivering the gig, didn’t want to do another batch.
  • Another 1 or 2 couldn’t complete it and cancelled/abandoned the order, and a couple were late in delivery.

Other than including some websites that didn’t fit my criteria, they were able to handle the job, but my point is that this was already a simple gig from the start yet I really only had 1 person do it properly, but she didn’t want to continue with more work afterwards.

Conclusion

Perhaps this is not a fair test though as it’s not a big enough of a sample to conclude anything about VA’s yet – perhaps they are just not good at this type of work.

I also only hired from Fiverr – I’ve heard that Filipino’s make good VA’s, for example. Perhaps if I hired a VA full-time at $800 a month I could get some good work done, but now that is not an option since I am poor, plus I wouldn’t have enough work to hire a VA full-time – I’d much rather hire VAs on a project basis instead of on an hourly basis.

Do any of you have some good recommendations on where to find quality virtual assistants? If you do, please share them in the comments here as I wouldn’t be the only one interested in knowing them!

Posted: October 21st, 2017 under Miscellaneous 32 Comments

Pros and Cons of Being a Freelancer on Fiverr

October 18, 2017 Posted by Tyler Cruz

I recently blogged about how I became a freelancer on Fiverr in an attempt to bring in some extra cash to pay the bills. I have been a seller on Fiverr for 1.5 years now and have earned just under $10,000 CAD during that time.

In this post, I will outline the major pros and cons of using Fiverr as a freelancer (seller), in case you’re thinking of joining but are still on the fence.

Hopefully this post can help sway your decision.

Cons

Fiverr’s 20% Commission

Fiverr takes a 20% cut out of each transaction, including tips. I personally feel that this is far too high, especially since they are already double-dipping by charging Buyer’s extra fees on their side as well. I feel it would be better if it was tiered so that higher transactions had a lower percentage cut or was capped. On a $50 order, you will only walk away with $40, which is substantial.

Low Income

Fiverr is called Fiverr for a reason, and that’s because most gigs are $5 (or at least start off at $5). So, after the 20% cut, you’re actually only making $4 per gig.

Even if your gig takes off and you become a level 1 or level 2 seller, the money you make will be amongst the lowest possible methods to earn money from your skill or service. Basically, you will likely not be paid what you “deserve”, or anywhere close to it.

At the Mercy of Fiverr

I am always uncomfortable when I am at the mercy of an overseeing entity like Fiverr. At any time, for any reason, they could decide to shut down my account and then suddenly all the hard work I had spent on building up the gig and clients is thrown out the window. Or, Fiverr itself could simply cease operations and shut down. Or they could decide to raise their commission rates to 30%. I just don’t like having to rely so much on another website.

No Contact Outside of Fiverr

Fiverr has an extremely strict policy about making contact outside of Fiverr. I can understand and even support this, but what it means is that while you are building up a good list of paying clients, you cannot market to them properly, and if you ever leave Fiverr, you’ll never be able to contact them again and take them with you.

Extremely Difficult to Get First Few Gigs

Unlike other crowdsource-based services such as Airbnb or Uber, it is extremely difficult to get a new gig started – nobody wants to take a chance on you when they could easily just hire another seller who has a proven track record with plenty of past glowing reviews.

It took me an entire 10 months before I saw any growth from my gig:

Buyers Can Be Frustrating to Work With

In my gig, I clearly state for buyers to contact me before placing an order, so that I can make sure I have time and the ability to do what they want, and that the price is right. Unfortunately, Fiverr has no option to enforce this, and so I’ll inevitably get buyers place orders, expecting me to deliver them the Mona Lisa for $5-$10. Or, they will place an order and provide no details.

In other cases, buyers will be slow to respond (taking a week at a time), speak poor English, or have you start their project before paying, only to switch to another seller later on.

Pros

Make Some Extra Money

I had listed “Low Income” as a con above, but I’ve listed making money as a pro here as well because the fact is that you can make a decent amount of income on the side.

Is it worth all the work you’re putting in? Are you being paid fairly? Most likely not, but it’s also money you would have otherwise not of had. Fiverr isn’t something you should aspire to work towards out of school, but it’s certainly a great resource if you have a skill and want to make some extra coin on the side.

I made $1,800 a couple of months ago in June 2017. This is not an insignificant amount.

Fiverr Will Send You Paying Customers

Getting paying clients is not easy. In fact, it’s extremely difficult.

Fiverr will send you paying clients left and right. It’s what they do. Are you being underpaid for your services? Most likely, but you’re also getting work.

At the end of the day, making 50% of what you “deserve” is still better than making 100% of nothing.

Tips are Common and Encouraged/Pushed by Fiverr

One perk to using Fiverr is that they encourage buyers to leave sellers a tip (since they will take a 20% commission of that too). Fortunately, buyers tend to tip quite often and are usually fairly generous. I’d estimate that around 60%-75% of my clients leave a tip, usually around the 20% mark. However, I’ve received plenty of large tips – we’re talking about tips upwards of $100.

This helps offset the 20% Fiverr commission.

Don’t Have to Bid to Get Clients

Unlike other freelance websites such as Guru or Upwork, you don’t have to spend your entire day bidding on potential projects (although you can if you want to; they have a marketplace for that). This is the sole reason I’m not a freelancer on those other sites! What a waste of time having to constantly beg for work and being forced to underbid yourself to try to “win” the chance to work.

With Fiverr, Buyers will come to you. You just sit back and wait for a notification e-mail to come in. Simple as that.

Conclusion

Fiverr has plenty of both cons and pros and it will really depend on your personal situation and preferences on whether Fiverr is a good fit for you or not.

You can make some decent side cash with it, but you will be underpaid for what you deliver. If you can handle that fact, then Fiverr can be a great source of extra cash.

Posted: October 18th, 2017 under Miscellaneous 9 Comments

So Just How Broke Did I Get?

October 15, 2017 Posted by Tyler Cruz

I don’t want to write this post. It’s really embarrassing, especially after having had been fairly successful with affiliate marketing and many things that came before that.

But it’s also true, and I have never told a lie on my blog and have always been very open and honest since my blog’s inception 12 years ago.

First, let me tell you how I’m doing now.

Things are still rough. After all, I’m still a homestay host and am still slaving away on Fiverr. It is a struggle to pay the bills and I have no personal savings.

But it was worse before – I at least have a bit of breathing room now in that income is now more or less balancing the living expenses, whereas before breaking even was nowhere in sight.

Here are some of examples of just how broke I got:

Almost Had to Borrow Money From My Parents

I am an extremely “proud” and independent person. I will never take a handout and will refuse help even if I need it and the person offering has no problem doing so.

For example, when I was first looking for an apartment to move out into when I was around 21, my aunt offered to rent me out her rental for 50% of the normal rent. I declined because I don’t like handouts or help from friends or family. I look at it as “cheating” and being a child.

In fact, even when I was still living at home at 19-20, I was paying my parents rent – my own choice – as I wanted to be an adult and didn’t want free handouts. I am the type of person who likes to earn things myself. That way, I can really enjoy things when things go well as I know that I did it all on my own.

I never received a cent from my parents since I stopped getting allowance around the age of 14 or 15 or so (when I got my first job). I never got a car at graduation, never had tuition paid for me, rent paid for me, or money given for a down payment (although I did have my parents temporarily sign as guarantors for my first apartment). My point is that for my whole life I did everything on my own and never got any monetary assistance from anyone – every cent I’ve ever had has always been a result of my own efforts.

And so when I reached the point to where I was so broke that I needed to borrow some money in order to pay the mortgage, bills, and get my eye surgery. I got myself a aqua comfort daily contact lenses to help ease my sight issues as immediate solution. I had considered asking my parents for a loan which was the absolute last thing I wanted to do. I never did get to that point, although they knew I was in financial troubles and did offer at one point.

Fortunately, so far I have not needed to ask my parents for a loan, but the very fact that I came close to having to even think about it is something that makes me feel very ashamed.

Almost Downsized House

My girlfriend and I very seriously considered selling our house to downsize to something much smaller and cheaper. We even looked at a lot of properties (online) and ran numbers, and I also contacted my realtor to get his input as well.

We never did this though as the inventory here is so low and the prices so high that we could not get anything “decent” (here’s a case of beggars being choosers). In addition, it is extremely expensive to move (sell, then buy) here so the very process of “moving” would cost well into the tens of thousands of dollars.

This was also a difficult thing to consider as purchasing this house was one of the highlights and accomplishments in my life as it is nice home and was earned by both my girlfriend and me from only our own efforts – no financial aid was given to us.

Took Out Some of My Retirement Savings

I had thought about this for a while, and finally pulled the plug and took out some of my RRSP (retirement savings) just 1 month ago in fact.

For years, I had put money into a retirement savings account on the 1st of every month. I never wanted to touch it until I actually needed it when I was gray and old, but the funny thing is that I ended up needing it now, and so it made sense to take it out. The bank warned me about taking it out, but what good is it to keep for another 35-40 years if I end up having to lose my house, etc.?

While I took  about $5,000 out, I still have quite a fair bit left in there. In addition, my accountant actually advised me against putting money into RRSP. The interest rates are so incredibly low that it doesn’t make much sense to do so, especially when I have two corporations; the main perk to having RRSPs in Canada is to defer the income tax on them, but since I have two corporations, it’s rather pointless to put money into RRSPs as I could just keep the money in the holding company.

Summary

So as you can see, things got very dire. There are a few things I’m leaving out too, mainly my quality of life. For example, I need to go to the optometrist to get my eyes checked and a new prescription, but I don’t have $1,000+ to shell out for new lenses and the check-up.

So I’m most certainly not out of trouble yet – I’m so very broke at the moment. But things were worse even just 4-5 months ago.

It’s a daily struggle, but it will just mean all that much more if I can get myself out of this mess and back up to making good money again. We shall see what happens.

The funny thing is, my net worth is extremely high for my age, but my income over the past few years has been next to nothing. So, now I’m looking into saving, especially now I have a thriving business. You can visit wecu.com/business-banking/ to know more.

Posted: October 15th, 2017 under Personal 15 Comments