A 28-year-old who went from earning the minimum wage to almost £8,000 overnight has revealed how she now makes a fortune – from writing and performing TV jingles.
Sarah Hughes, of Cinderford, Gloucestershire, was working as a cinema usherette on the basic rate when she came up with the idea to put her musical knowledge to good use.
She said she advertised her talents on freelance marketplace Fiverr six years ago and is now celebrating her windfall by buying her first property – a three bedroom house – with her husband, Gareth.
The trained musician, who has a degree in creative sound from Newport University in South Wales, said: “Not many jingle artists can play, sing and produce an entire jingle themselves.
“Because of my degree, that’s something that’s second nature to me now and I think that’s why I’ve done so well.”
Working for just three to four hours a day, four days a week, every jingle Sarah makes takes roughly 30 minutes, not including any revisions.
For that, she now charges an impressive £200 – up to £100 more if she pens the lyrics herself – bringing in as much as £7,700 a month, which if it remains consistent could mean earning £92,400 a year.
“I remember picking it up for the first time and feeling an instant connection with the strings,” she said of first picking up a guitar at the age of 12.
“For the next three years if I wasn’t playing the guitar, I was writing songs to play on it.”
Taking music at GCSE and A Level, she then took a creative sound degree, forming Toy Pop, a student band with an emphasis on using toy instruments, including the kazoo, maracas and a melodica, while she was at university.
“With toy instruments I found my niche,” she said. “I set up a band with some fellow classmates as part of my practical study and we’d play the instruments over a pre-recorded backing track we’d made.
“Then we’d start improvising or singing stuff we’d written ourselves. I guess, looking back, that was the starting point of my jingle career.”
Sarah, married her partner Gareth, a history graduate, in November last year in Chepstow, Monmouthshire, through mutual friends on a night out in her third year.
Graduating in 2012, she moved back to her hometown of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, but after eight months of struggling to find a job, she started working at her local cinema.
“After years of being told an academic career in music would land me nowhere, I suddenly found myself, as predicted, going nowhere,” she confessed.
Her saviour came in the form of Fiverr, an online digital marketplace that allows businesses and digital freelancers to connect across the globe.
After hearing about it through a friend, Sarah decided to start advertising her skills online.
“I knew there was quite a demand for cutesy, light-hearted instrumental pieces, so I started off by advertising 30 second instrumentals with toy instruments for £4 a pop,” she explained.
After saving £120 in her first month, Sarah used the funds to purchase a microphone that she could hook-up to her computer, enabling her to add vocals to her services.
Equipped with new technical gear she began charging £20 for a fully packaged jingle, with the requests soon coming in thick and fast.
“You’d be surprised how many people out there are looking for a jingle,” she said.
“It’s not just toy companies and children’s adverts. In fact, my biggest source of income for the first few months were podcasts and YouTube channels.”
As Sarah’s portfolio grew, so did her ratings on Fiverr, with her becoming a top trade seller in May 2013.
“After spending my entire education studying music, I couldn’t bring myself to apply for a bog-standard graduate scheme after leaving university,” she said.
“Everyone loves to tell arts students that their degrees will get them nowhere and I’m so glad that now I’ve managed to prove them wrong.
“I might not have imagined myself singing jingles for a living while I was locked up in my room playing guitar all those years ago, but I’m doing something I love day in day out and I couldn’t be happier!”
Along with commercial jingles, Sarah’s services include professional voiceovers, personalised ringtones and bespoke love songs.
“Everyone is looking for an alternative to a bunch of roses or some fancy chocolates when it comes to special occasions, such as Valentine’s day,” she explained.
“That’s why I started advertising personalised love songs on my profile too – and the rewards soon started to add up.”
Sending a love-themed jingle can cost between £15 and £40, depending on the amount of facts featured in the piece.
“I recently did a 50th wedding anniversary song for a client,” she said. “He sent in a list of things about his relationship and I sang it over a pre-made track so it’s a really quick turnaround.
“If people send photos in I’ll put together a slide show to tie it all together nicely, too.”
With jingles for big name brands like John Adams’ Tiny Tears doll and Styling Head under her belt, by January 2017 Sarah was earning up to £3,000 a month from her jingle-making.
“Hitting the £3,000 a month mark was a big deal for me,” she said.
“I finally felt like I was making a proper salary from the work I was doing after nearly five years establishing myself as an artist.”
Two years later, she was making up to £7,700 a month, working for just 15 to 20 hours a week.
“With my line of work you never know when the demand is going to fall and each month is different to the last,” she explained.
“It’s brilliant having the tools to make as much money as I have, but it is still freelance work and you need to make sure you have a contingency plan and factor in things like your tax bill.
“That being said, it feels great knowing that we’ve been able to save up so much money from doing something that I love.
“Even six years in, nothing quite beats the thrill of hearing one of my jingles being played on telly for the first time.”
Sarah and Gareth are preparing to move into the first home they have bought together by the end of the month after saving up a substantial deposit, without any help, before the age of 30.
“We’ve worked hard to get where we are right now, and I can’t wait to step through the doors of our new home.”