This rapper made almost $500,000 on Fiverr

For rapper Mike Burton, writing is the most important thing.

“I never want to stop writing,” he told CNBC Make It. Burton makes a living selling one-off raps on indie site Fiverr. It grossed nearly $500,000 from the gig in total.

“I love writing for artists. I love writing songs for companies, for companies,” he says of some of the commissions he’s received. He has also written personalized love songs, birthday songs, and songs for podcasts and YouTube channels.

Burton, 38, grew up in Houston, Texas, and graduated with a degree in communications from the University of Houston in 2013. During and after college, he worked a series of jobs in fast food restaurants and call centers, always taking the time to write on the side.

Seeing that people were offering personalized rap as a service on Fiverr, Burton decided he would try offering it himself in 2015. But his first request dissuaded him from the gig: “Make a song about the makes it good to listen to Eminem,” the client asked.

“That looks like an essay,” he said thinking. “Not a rap.” So he deleted his account.

A year later, in 2016, he decided to try again, charging $5 for a 30-second verse. Slowly, the requests started pouring in. By December 2016, when he was laid off from his last call center job, Burton had brought thousands of people from the site and decided to focus on it full-time.

These days, he brings in up to around $9,000 a month from Fiverr. Its packages cost up to $560.

Burton enjoys helping people express themselves through rap. “I act as a conduit for your ideas,” he says of his approach. And he can write a verse in as little as 30 minutes. But there are some lines he won’t cross. “Anything that contains violence, anything that contains swear words, rudeness”, does not interest him.

“I don’t want that sludge in my system,” he says.

When it comes to his creative process, Burton takes a lot of breaks between songwriting. When he drives, for example, he does not listen to the radio. “I heard someone say that music isn’t sounds, it’s the silence between sounds,” he says, adding that “it comes from letting things bake, bake in inside of you. So you can only see what is brewing when you are silent.”

He also finds himself thinking about the beats when he closes his laptop for the day. Playing with his 2-year-old son, “I listen to the beat of Mickey Mouse,” he says. “I’m like, ‘Oh, those drums are kinda hard, you know?'”

In the end, it’s making music for himself that gives him the desire to create for others. There have been times in the past where he’s burned out and pushed that kind of creativity away. “I start running out of ideas for people” when that happens, he says.

He releases original tracks under his stage name, Keybeaux, on platforms like Spotify. “I won’t have energy for anyone else if I don’t do my own stuff,” he says.

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