Fiverr: The Creative’s Friend or Foe?

Fiverr is an online freelance marketplace that has been on the scene since 2010.  It’s one of the many “e-lancing” platforms that enable creatives to offer their services to a worldwide client base.  Users can buy or sell services, such as designing a business card, recording a voice-over, editing an intro video, or building a website.

Here’s the hook – every service is offered at a starting price of just $5.

Or at least that’s what you’ve heard.

In the past, services, or “gigs” as Fiverr calls them, had to start at $5, and the price would go up from there, depending on the length or complexity of the project.   But as of November 2015, Fiverr has given sellers the option to offer “packages,” which can be set at whatever price points the seller deems fair.

Sellers have a profile page, much like an Etsy storefront, that shows what services they offer.  There’s also a “Buyer Requests” page where people can post what they are looking for, and sellers can bid on the project.  This gives the seller the power to go after projects, rather than just waiting for buyers to find their page.

Sounds good, right?  Yet, Googling “Fiverr Reviews” turns up a mix of opinions towards the service.

I have been a Fiverr seller since October, just before the roll-out of “packages.”  Though I have not started offering packages yet, and am still offering gigs that start at $5 (and usually end up being a lot higher, based on what the client wants), I have seen a return on my investment of time.  Most of the projects I take on can be completed in a few days, and I only take on the work I have time for.  It’s almost like a passive income.

“How can it possibly be worth it to do a project for only $5?” you ask.

Many Fiverr sellers do template-based work to make their $5 work feasible.  By creating templates, such as for motion graphics or business cards, you can provide semi-custom work for clients on a short turn-around and at minimum cost.  Some sellers are very creative in how they make this work.  For the buyer who wants something custom and unique, you can charge more.  Another way is by limiting the length or depth of the product that is offered at the $5 price point.  If you do Photoshop touch-ups, maybe $5 will only get the client 1 or 2 images.  If they want more, you can charge more.

But sometimes buyers come to Fiverr with high expectations and a small budget.   Microscopic.  You have to be very clear when you offer a quote or describe your services – what is and is not included.  Especially be clear about changes and revisions.  It’s best to be up front about how many revision drafts you will do, so that you and the buyer both know what to expect.  As the adage goes, you get what you pay for.  This is not to say you should sacrifice quality, but rather, be fair to yourself and to the client when you quote a price, know what your time is worth, and realistically judge how much time it will take to produce what the client wants.

Now what about the downsides?

Fiverr is free to join, but it takes a whopping 20% of your earnings.  That’s about as bad as Uncle Sam.  While it’s not ideal, it is the cost of doing business through Fiverr.  To me, it’s still worth it.  Fiverr provides a funnel to direct the right clients to my services, which is something I wouldn’t automatically have on my own.

The trick, then, is to distinguish my services and my ratings from the many others who offer the same types of things.  You do this with eye-catching images, clear and easy-to-read descriptions of your services, and of course, good examples of your work.  Customers can leave reviews about sellers (and sellers can leave reviews for customers too).  Better ratings = higher rankings.  You are also tracked on your response time to messages and your ability to deliver orders on time.   Good marks on all these points make you look more attractive to potential clients.  When you get hired for a gig, put forth your best effort and treat each client – even the $5 clients – like they are your most important customer.

I’d venture to say that the majority of transactions on Fiverr are honest and reputable.  However, in the “Buyer Requests” section, (where customers can post what type of project they need done, and sellers can bid on them), there are some sketch-sounding requests.  Such as, “For $5 I want 10,000 American likes on my Facebook page.  By tomorrow.”  Or, “I will pay for 50 positive reviews on Amazon.”  Or this questionable request: “I need a .gov email address.”  And I love this one: “I need someone to remove a watermark from an image.”  (That watermark is there for a reason, buddy!)  The fact that sellers are actually bidding on these types of requests suggests that some of the transactions on Fiverr aren’t exactly, er, on-the-level.

Before accepting or bidding on a project, ask questions and be leery of anything that doesn’t sound right.  Especially beware of anything that could get you, as the creator, into trouble with copyright issues.  Often clients aren’t aware of these issues, and will think it’s perfectly fine to use a Michael Jackson song for their family vacation video that they’re going to post all over Facebook.  (Educate them, tactfully.)

In creative field, where jobs stability is never guaranteed, it’s smart to have multiple income streams.  For me, Fiverr is another income stream, into which I can invest however much time I want.  Some people even make a full-time living from Fiverr.  Like any full-time job, doing this would require a lot of work, and being a full-time freelancer isn’t for the faint of heart.  But it’s exciting to live in a time of disruptive innovation, when companies like Etsy, Handmade at Amazon, and Fiverr are making it possible for more of us to earn a living by creating.

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