Freelance writers are finding more and more ways to make a living online, from posting ads on Craigslist to finding clients through bid sites like Elance and oDesk. There is another player that has been making waves, attracting a large volume of writers and clients alike. Fiverr.com has been heralded as the vanguard of the gig economy, the evolution of the way that a career is defined. It is a playground of experimentation where talent can post gigs that range from the most professional imaginable to intolerably silly tasks that every existed. What do they all have in common? You can get them for five dollars.
Writers have had a high degree of success on Fiverr.com, and I have enjoyed moderate success myself. I have worked gigs that I created and ordered gigs from the extraordinary talent that makes a home on the site. Overall, I came to the conclusion that the experience as a buyer was much more splendid than the experience of the seller. Even so, it is possible for a freelance writer to profit greatly from the experience of working gigs on Fiverr.
What Fiverr does right
There is a lot to love about Fiverr. Even its most stalwart detractors have to admit that it is a fun site. From the point of view of the customer, it is the only place where you are equally able to get a birthday greeting from a pirate or a picture of your face sculpted out of peanut butter and jelly. Truly, the gigs are limited only by the imagination and - perhaps - common decency. For a writer, you can offer gigs for whatever you would like to do: writing, editing, proofreading, critiquing, ghostwriting, etc. If you have a service that you think you can perform for the low, low price of 5 dollars they have a place for you. Given enough orders, you just may be able to make a career out of it.
One of the things that Fiverr does right is that it puts the ball in your hands and takes the haggle out of the process. If you believe that five dollars merits only 100 words of your writing, there is bound to be someone out there that agrees with you. As you complete more and more gigs, you actually earn the ability to attach more gig extras to the original 5 dollar price tag. You can add upgrades to your services in up to 20 dollar increments, allowing clients to pay for rush orders or longer content. Writing a corporate bio for 65 or 100 dollars is sure preferable to the 5 dollars you started out charging.
Fiverr is a beautifully designed site and it is incredibly easy to use. It is simple to create great looking ads for your services. They can be a little picky about what images you use for your gigs, but there are legal reasons for this. When it comes time to get paid, Fiverr pays relatively quickly. You request a payout and it is only a few days until it is paid directly to your Paypal account. More on that later, but once funds are available they are quick to withdraw. Fiverr is a great place to go if you don't have any other assignments going. If you would like to advertise your services for free and don't mind the structured approach to how much you can be paid, it can be a great alternative to bid sites or content mills.
Fiverr clearly wants you to succeed in your career. They promote your gigs and offer you free business cards to help promote your fledgeling business. They are one of the few sites who have realized that it is in their best interests to do so. the more gigs you book, the more money they make.
What Fiverr can improve upon
When griping about Fiverr it is always going to be about money. As I said above the site pays quickly once funds are available, but it can take a long time after you have completed a gig for that to happen. It rots in a status called "pending clearance." Having bought gigs myself, I know that you have to pay upfront. So why is this delay necessary? You have done the work, the client paid before you started and they have approved it. This has to go. I don't care what the problem is, they need to figure it out.
The most common financial complaint against Fiverr is that they keep a dollar, or rather 20% of every transaction. Some have said that Fiverr is misnamed because of this fact, but that is just the cost of doing business and is very clearly stated up front as a condition of working there. It is much higher than its competition on bid sites and even outpaces the commission that many content mills keep. What really sticks in the craw of many freelancers is that once you withdraw your funds from Paypal you get hit again when Paypal takes their cut. Suddenly your 5 buck gig has shrivelled into $3.92. This is not acceptable. When I get paid by Interact Media, Copify, or Textbroker I get every damn penny that they release as payment. If there is a fee from Paypal, those companies take care of it on their end. Fiverr is doing brisk business. It reflects poorly on them that they would nickel and dime the very workers that they depend upon for their survival.
Writers are at a terrible disadvantage on Fiverr when it comes to showing potential clients portfolios of your work. While artists are permitted to link to their Flickr and performing artists can link to Youtube, writers trying to display their online portfolios are likely to be cracked down on by the Fiverr police. Any attempt to link to anything that may reveal contact information or link to any social media other than the ones above are shut down. This limits you to tiny amounts of writing samples on your profile page or within your gig. This puts Fiverr in the same camp as many internet content mills that remain unreasonably afraid of people doing business off site. They still don't realize that their biggest selling point is that they are a reliable intermediary for payments, a service that freelancers sorely need to protect them from unscrupulous clients - and vice versa.
A great place to book a gig, but much room for improvement
I have enjoyed my time writing for Fiverr. I have to admit that I did "ragequit" at one point because it does not allow you to refuse orders. I was being hammered by clients who would cancel and ask for refunds after I had already done their tasks... and then order again! I cannot hold that against Fiverr because you find these individuals everywhere and Fiverr recently upgraded the seller's ability to rate their experience with clients. This, surprisingly, has both buyers and sellers up in arms and a July 1st general strike is being planned. The truth is that the longer Fiverr is around the more these problems get addressed. I have found the ability to vacation my account very handy when I am working on higher-paying work and don't have time for gigs. Overall, I believe in Fiverr as an experiment and it is clear that it can be an avenue for success for creative and driven individuals. Taking the good with the bad, it earns three stars. It is unfortunate, because with just a few more changed it might have been worth five.