I’ll never forget the thrill of signing up for Fiverr and watching my first few sales trickle in. I’m a slightly stir crazy writer who likes to mix things up, so working with so many different people was instantly addicting.
As a travel addict, I also loved the freedom of location independent tasks popping up in my inbox, along with some extra cash lighting up on my phone as I sipped margaritas on the beach between writing sessions.
Kind of awesome, right?
On top of that, the simple content-oriented tasks I was whipping up for pocket change were a breeze… so it felt like a fun game.
After a couple of weeks, as earnings and orders started racking up, I knew the rapid-fire stream of new gigs was keeping me sharp and helping me upgrade my on-the-fly problem solving skills.
For a while, everything was peachy.
I woke up to a fresh batch of Fiverr orders each morning, plowed through them, exchanged glowing feedback, and saw the number on my revenue page tick up another few bucks.
Fast forward a few months, however, not long after earning over 1k from small gigs and up-sells, Krystal and I both decided to deactivate our accounts for good.
So what’s the deal with Fiverr anyway?
In case you’re not familiar with Fiverr, it’s a service-focused online marketplace that allows potential clients to browse thousands of “gigs” that start at a baseline price of $5.
Gigs range from voice-over acting to graphic design to copywriting and beyond.
Let’s say you happen to need someone to run around a Central American jungle wearing your brand’s logo on a cardboard sign… you’ll find someone who can do that on Fiverr.
If you need an entire eBook written or want your fortune told, you’ll find people willing to do that, too.
For clients, this is a freaking dream, as long as they’re willing to wade through plenty of iffy service providers to find the talent they’re looking for.
For service providers of all kinds, this can also be a good deal—despite the fact that Fiverr shaves your profits once when you receive them and again when you transfer them to your bank.
The trick is to offer simple and quick services for the base price of $5 or up-sell with package deals, such as shortening the deadline or adding to the word count for a price increase.
I found it pretty easy to get rolling on Fiverr with some bright, eye-catching cover graphics and packages that appealed to my target customer.
Is Fiverr always the wrong choice?
I’d like to disclaim that if you’re just getting started as a writer, this particular marketplace might still be an awesome place to hone your skills.
Fiverr isn’t 100% evil.
I wouldn’t completely blacklist any website that has helped me make some extra cash with my writing, and I don’t think it’s a bad approach for everyone.
So, if you’d like to give it a shot, here are some of my best tips for killing it on Fiverr. You just have to know when you’re literally too good for that racket and jump ship, and for that you’ll have to keep reading!
Now, let’s get into this breakup business.
Why we’re breaking up with Fiverr
We’ll get the most important problem out of the way first.
If you’re familiar with Seth Godin, you may know that he frequently preaches: a race to the bottom is a race to nowhere.
“There’s always the opportunity to cut a corner, sacrifice lifestyle quality and suck it up as we race to grab a little more market share.
But the problem with the race to the bottom is that you might win.
You might make a few more bucks for now, but not for long and not with pride. Someone will always find a way to be cheaper or more brutal than you.
The race to the top makes more sense to me. The race to the top is focused on design and respect and dignity and guts and innovation and sustainability and yes, generosity when it might be easier to be selfish. (..) The race to the top is the long-term path with the desirable outcome.” (Seth’s blog)
When it comes to freelancing, Fiverr is the ultimate race to the bottom. You can accurately think of this website as the Walmart of freelance services: cheap, fast, mass market focused.
Whatever you do, however awesome your services are, you’ll find someone on that website that will do more than you, faster than you, cheaper than you.
You still get the option to delight clients, over-deliver and be a gem in a sea of crap, but how much of that can you actually afford to do when you’re making such a small return on each order?
This isn’t about ego, it’s about making a living
As Ren Ventura highlights on the Engage WP blog, “If you have a potential buyer email you 10 times asking all sorts of questions about your gig and you spend an hour in all responding to the person, congratulations, you’ve just worked for exactly half the minimum wage in the United States before you’ve even started.”
Competing with cheap and fast labor isn’t an option if you want to make some real money—which you do.
Up-selling clients and pitching package deals does get you further, as do repeat clients, but at the end of the day, you need to remember who your audience is on this kind of website.
The people searching for gigs are literally arriving in waves, enchanted by the promise of the lowest possible rates for creative work.
They don’t want to pay a premium.
What are you hoping to accomplish on a site that’s designed for people who don’t want to pay you what you’re worth?
That, by the way, leads us nicely into our next point.
Fiverr says creative work is “a rip off”
This one really creams my corn, friends.
Fiverr has actually run ads on Facebook that aim to convince small business owners they don’t need to pay any more than $5 for quality design work.
“Put an end to being ripped off,” reads one ad. “Get quality design work for just $5 on Fiverr. 2.5 million+ people have already discovered the best way to get design help without paying ridiculous prices!”
But if you’ve ever ordered yourself a logo for $5, you know what kind of results you get.
It’s usually pretty sad.
Those “ridiculous prices” may not be fun to pay when you’re bootstrapping your small business or trying to save money for a budget-obsessed boss, but if you’re serious about the quality of your end product, hiring a professional is not a luxury. It’s a must.
Fiverr has blatantly stated that they don’t believe creative work should be invested in. After all, they’ve rounded up a group of people who are willing to do anything for rock bottom prices!
Again, what can you—a creative professional—hope to accomplish in that kind of environment?
Fiverr doesn’t like you
As a creative service provider on Fiverr, you’ll quickly catch on to the fact that the entire site is designed to serve the clients and shove the rest of us to the back burner.
When you’ve both purchased gigs from other people and offered them, you’ll see what I mean.
Everything about the Fiverr experience is catered to the people spending money on cheap creative labor. Service providers aren’t allowed to contact potential clients within the site until a potential client has contacted them first.
Unless “vacation mode” is switched on, you can’t control whether you’d like to accept a project. Orders come in per the whims of clients and the only way you can back out is if you request to cancel.
Even then, a client can reject your request, cancel the order, and slap you with an instant 1 star review.
Red, bold-faced warnings will pop up if you so much as type the word “email” in a message. Fiverr loves to remind you that communicating outside of their platform is a violation of the ToS and will result in your profile being scrapped.
You won’t even be able to publish a gig that mentions a social media platform (not your username, just the mere mention of the platform) more than twice.
Customer service will bend over backwards to assist someone who is spending those big bucks (ha!) on services, but will brush off service providers in a “get back in your corner!” sort of way.
One customer service rep spelled my name completely wrong and told me I was being “irresponsible” when I refused to complete a project after a client wrote an offensive, obnoxious email to me after I suggested we modify our project timeline.
Because of this we-don’t-care-about-creative-people atmosphere, you may find that clients don’t treat you that well.
Fiverr takes a commission
It goes without saying that offering simple, quick services is the only way to go when you’re gunning for pocket change.
(You can make more than $5 per gig, but when you’re just getting started, you may find that the vast majority of your sales are $5. This will change once you get some feedback and people begin to buy with more confidence, but let’s start at the beginning.)
So you’ve created a few gigs that only take 15 minutes or so, and you’re ready to list them and start getting clients.
Do you think you’re actually making a clean $5 off of that simple service you’re offering?
Fiverr shaves $1 off of each $5 gig you sell, and then puts your money into an account that can’t even be accessed for 14 days. Once you’re ready to transfer money out of Fiverr, you’ll face additional fees to do so (and additional fees on top of that if you opt to use PayPal to withdraw).
This means for every $5 you make, you only end up seeing about $3.50 of it. That’s barely enough for a cup of coffee.
Fiverr can be kind of shady
This is not a universal statement about the site, but it’s still important.
You’ll find plenty of good, honest people seeking out cheap creative solutions to their problems, but that super low price tag also attracts shady clients.
In one scenario, I had a repeat client for my Etsy product description gig—by far my most popular service—who sent me links to vastly different Etsy shops each time he ordered.
He told me he owned all of these shops and needed me to rewrite product copy for each.
I probably should have caught on sooner, but I tend to see the best in people. Eventually I realized he was replicating products from different shops and needed me to overhaul existing product copy and make it “unique” so he could use it elsewhere.
When I realized this was happening, I got pissed. I couldn’t necessarily prove it was happening, but it was clear as day to me.
The worst part was, I had no way to reject his gigs. You can’t choose who you receive orders from, as I mentioned above.
That was the last straw for me. I didn’t want to be a part of this cheap-and-fast marketplace that, apart from everything else, made it so easy for people to do shady things like that.
In the end, it just wasn’t worth it
As a seasoned copywriter and content producer, there’s no reason for me to hang around on Fiverr.
I wanted to give it a shot, because I love a challenge. Once the fun game turned into a frustrating part of my daily schedule with minuscule ROI, however, I knew it was time to close up shop.
I’m sure more sites like Fiverr will pop up—there are already a few! I’ll steer clear of them, though, and continue to encourage my writing peers to reach high, know their value, set their own rates, and stick to marketplaces that emphasize the creative experience as much as the client experience.
Meanwhile, feel free to have fun with Fiverr and see if it’s for you.
You can cancel your account at any time, as long as you’ve withdrawn all of your funds, so there’s nothing stopping you from taking your own notes. Be sure to check out my tips for making money on Fiverr, and drop a comment below if you have your own opinion to share.
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Opening image via Kaboom Pics.