One of the places I turned to for ‘odd jobs’ that I either didn’t have the skill or the software to do myself was Fiverr. This was such an odd experience that I feel Fiverr is worth a quick look by itself before I talk about individual experiences with sellers. Fiverr is a freelance marketplace with quite a diverse offering. On there you can find ghostwriters, editors, beta-readers, all sorts of artists and graphic designers, copywriters, etc. ad nauseum.
The premise of Fiverr is that you can get any job done for a fiver: $5US. Now, of course, that doesn’t mean literally anything costs a fiver but it does mean that the pricing is structured around a $5 gig. Gigs can work as building blocks so, for example, a proofreader might offer to read 1000 words as a single gig. If you need 50,000 words you buy 50 gigs. To this cost Fiverr will add a minimum $2 service fee. For a basic $5 gig, this means you will pay $7 -plus currency conversion fees if you’re not from the US-, $12 for two gigs, $17 for three etc. After a certain point, the service fee starts to increase slightly.
Back to the $5 gig, if you did the maths above, the seller will get $4. This is really, really cheap for anything. If you think about some of the guys on there, let’s say a graphic designer, with reasonable hardware, their own insurance, no holiday or sick pay and expensive software licences I wouldn’t be surprised if they had to pull in $20 per hour to kind-of make their income equivalent to working as an employee on a low-average wage in a rich country like the USA or anywhere in Western Europe. On that basis, $4 would buy you 12 minutes. That means by the time they receive your enquiry, answer a couple of questions and read your brief they’ve already maxed out their budget. Due to this and reality in general Fiverr now allows established sellers to offer 'premium' gigs at a higher cost, still in multiples of $5 of course.
This odd pricing system and buyer expectation of low cost has led to some rather specific behaviour from freelancers. I found a lot of sellers who use the ‘razor and blades’ business model: Sell the base product (razor handle) very cheaply to get customers in, then sell the upgrades and consumables you need to use it (blades) for a good profit and make your money there. Cover design? $15. Print-ready .pdf file so you can use this commercially? Well, that’ll be an extra $40 please. There are positives and negatives for both parties here. As a buyer, I was able to check sellers out or get simple concepts or trial pieces done for virtually no risk before deciding whether to upgrade and get a finished product. The negative is of course that if I bought the cheap option (which included the bulk of the work), giving myself the option to upgrade later then the seller might have been less motivated to produce a good product than if I’d paid everything up-front.
Overall it’s worth a look as long as you understand the above and don’t mistake it for some magical marketplace where you will get a million-dollar product for $5. In the next post, I’m going to be putting up a few tips for commissioning work on Fiverr.