Sunday, March 13, 2016

Fiverr - The Ugly, the Bad and the Good

So, news is, after being active on some freelancer sites for a while, I've ended up on Fiverr as well. I won't just moan about their features, but try to go through the experiences with the site as an IT/networking guy.

The primary concern that people have with the site is the fee they charge: 20% from the freelancer, and another ~10% from the client, which is less publicized. Now, it doesn't quite add up to 30%, as folks like to quote it, as strictly speaking they charge the client $5.5 for the job (gig), and you get $4, so they keep $1.5. Now, calculator says, $1.5 is 27.27% of $5.5, but details. Anyway, it's a fair bit higher as the 10% on Upwork or the 8.some% of Elance (soon to be gone). As Upwork charges flat fees for taking your money out, I expected Fiverr to be at least free on that part, which it is not, but at least it's cheaper.

Fiverr was designed with two things in mind: tiny ($5) jobs and creative professions. This is proving to be a major restraint on their growth to other sectors, and they're adding exceptions to the $5 base price as well.

Designing a -not necessarily good, original or legally safe- logo for a fiver seems like a reasonable job (I've used it, I've received an okay logo, which I don't think is a copyright timebomb), but for IT it's kinda hard to come up with a unit of work for this amount. With my average freelance rate, that's about 12 minutes of my time. And it's not timed, paid after-the-fact, like Upwork, but you have to give an offer for a final value. So you'd either tell the client that 'This will take 2 hours, please but 10 of my gigs as 12 mins is the timing unit', which sounds a bit funny, and you can't refund if you ended up doing it quicker, or you try to give a quote for the full work and hope it'll cover it. Trouble is, most clients don't even know exactly what they want (not news to us), so you can only hope you won't work a lot more for the agreed price, or overcharge them, or just give a too high offer and they bail.

Also, during the offer phase, there's potentially a lot of back-and-forth, typically consulting-level discussion while scoping out the project. Now, lots of messages/emails are nothing new, but it can be hard not to start asking for money for the level of support provided before even an offer is made, let alone accepted.

Extras can increase the price to a point, but in some parts it can feel like you're taking the client as a hostage during the upsell process: "Sure, you've paid $5 for the logo design. Oh, you actually want to receive it (in vector format)? That's another $10 please!" It was written in the terms of the guy, but still feels a bit weird.

Communication: Fiverr explicitly forbids direct communication between client and freelancer, and the messaging system displays a red warning on words like 'phone', 'mail', 'skype' or the @ symbol. Okay, we got it, revenue protection. For creatives, this may work, but I simply can't work on the device of the client without some communication tool like skype, teamviewer, remote desktop or anything. Basically it's impossible to do these tasks with this constraint, so it just gets disregarded.

To sum it up so far, I've worked a fair number of hours for a fairly low amount of $, due to unforeseen issues with projects, client jumping the gun and ordering the base gig and wanting me to save the world, but we live and learn.

The good: okay, so why am I still on the site? For a ridiculously simple thing, that's not even a feature, but the basic concept of the site: the clients are looking for a gig to buy. Yes, that is a big difference. Consider the daily routine on Upwork: check new job postings, filter interesting ones, filter out jokers, filter out too low priced ones, filter out cheap buyers, research remaining jobs, write an original proposal to each. Massive time-sink. Potentially worth it if you find good, stable, paying clients, but still. On Fiverr, the buyer will contact you if he/she wants something. You might not get contacted, but no time wasted. The buyer might buy from somebody else still, but at least you have a foot in the door, and so far it was fairly rare that somebody requested an offer and bought from someone else. And you don't need shiny 'cover letters', just to stand out, you can immediately concentrate on the actual details of the gig, give an offer and see if it works for the buyer.

I don't think the 'Gig economy changed his life and bought a yacht from Fiverr money' will apply to me, I work for a lot less than usual on the platform, but at least it's not wasting too much of my time, for which I'll stay for a while.