This 38-Year-Old Has Made Nearly $500,000 Selling Raps on Fiverr: ‘I Never Want to Stop Writing'

Courtesy Michael Burton

For rapper Mike Burton, writing's the thing.

"I never want to stop writing," he tells CNBC Make It. Burton makes a living selling one-of-a-kind raps on freelancer site Fiverr. He's brought in nearly $500,000 from the gig altogether.

"I love writing for artists. I love writing songs for companies, for businesses," he says of some of the commissions he's gotten. He's also written personalized love songs, birthday songs and songs for podcasts and YouTube channels.

Burton, 38, grew up in Houston, Texas, and got a degree in communications from the University of Houston in 2013. Throughout and after college, he worked a series of jobs at fast food joints and call centers, always making time for writing on the side.

Having seen that people offer customized rapping as a service on Fiverr, Burton decided he'd try offering it himself in 2015. But his first request put him off the gig: "Make a song about how it's okay to listen to Eminem," asked the client.

"That sounds like a term paper," he says he thought. "Not a rap." So he deleted his account.

A year later, in 2016, he decided he'd give it another go, charging $5 for a 30-second verse. Slowly, the requests started pouring in. By December 2016, when he was let go from his final call center job, Burton had brought in thousands from the site, and decided to give it a full-time go.

These days, he brings in up to about $9,000 per month from Fiverr. His packages go for as much as $560.

Burton loves helping people express themselves through rap. "I'm acting 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 certain lines he won't cross. "Anything with violence, anything with cursing, profanity," he's not interested in.

"I don't want that sludge in my system," he says.

When it comes to his creative process, Burton gives himself a lot of breaks between songwriting. When he's driving, for example, he doesn't listen to the radio. "I heard someone say music is not the sounds, it's the silence in between the sounds," he says, adding that, "it comes from letting things cook, cook inside you. So you can only see what's cooking when you're silent."

He also finds himself thinking about beats when he's shut his laptop for the day. Playing with his 2-year-old son, "I'm listening to the rhythm on Mickey Mouse," he says. "I'm like, 'Oh, those drums kind of go hard, you know?'"

Ultimately, it's making music for himself that gives him the juice to create for others. There have been moments in the past when he's burnt out and brushed aside that kind of creativity. "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'll have no energy for anyone else if I don't make my own stuff," he says.

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