Like many college students, Zicklin undergraduate Arash Lahijani (BBA, ’24) decorates his room with inspiring quotations. His all-time favorite is courtesy of Albert Einstein: “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”
“Albert Einstein’s words have had a major impact on me,” Arash says. “This writing thing started because I am constantly looking to grow.”
By “this writing thing,” Arash is referring to his lucrative side hustle on Fiverr, where he’s earned over $60,000 writing hundreds of backstories for characters in Grand Theft Auto 5 Roleplay, an online, multiplayer computer version of the console game. Arash’s customers are would-be GTA 5 players, who are required to submit stories about their characters in order to get permission to play with certain users.
Arash, who appears on Fiverr as “Jimmycanwrite,” creates characters based on people he knows (he based an accountant character on his hardworking brother, a fellow Zicklin alumnus who started his own accounting firm), people he sees (a weatherman on TV), and even people he doesn’t see. “One time I heard a plane flying overhead and thought of a pilot character,” he offers.
As a statistics and quantitative modeling major, Arash is looking to go into quantitative finance — a completely different realm from his writing business. However, he says he gets his knack for storytelling from his passion for public speaking (he was class president in high school and founded the computer science club) and love of giving presentations. “You need a good hook to keep the audience engaged,” he explains. But what really differentiates him from the other Fiverr freelancers, he believes, are his interpersonal skills. “It’s not like I just turn in a story,” he says. “I make sure to stay in constant communication with each client, even joining a voice call with them to make sure all their needs are satisfied.”
Currently in his second year at the Zicklin School, Arash says his favorite classes so far have been business law (“Yafit Lev-Aretz is a great professor who always made sure to make class engaging even though it was online”) and Finance 3000 with Ezri Shechter: “Even though the class is at 7:30 p.m., when he walks in he brings so much energy that everyone sits up and listens with excitement.”
Does Arash have any advice for other students who might like to try video game story writing? “First I would say, don’t do something just because you see someone else making money from it,” he replies. “My advice would be to figure out what you’re good at and capitalize on it. Make the most of every opportunity because at the end of the day, that’s what matters.”
He adds, “Every opportunity is what you make of it. In my eyes, Baruch is a phenomenal college with great academics, great professors, and great programs. I don’t see myself anywhere else. It’s like my second home.”