Fiverr is a picture-perfect example for the new thriving gig economy. While some people complain about those business models over and over again, others are making an enviable living on platforms like Fiverr and use it for building a personal brand, in addition.
Attracted by benefits like being able to work remotely wherever you want or choosing new projects and clients independently, I thought a lot about starting my own freelancing business as a web designer / web developer. However, I haven’t done it so far for several reasons but I wanted to test it anyway without going all in and quitting my current job.
Therefore, I started my Fiverr business as a side project besides my regular job. Within the last 3 months, I have been working for several clients —and completed 7 projects in total. In this time, I learned quite a lot about how gig economy platforms like Fiverr work and what it takes to succeed there, even though the period wasn’t that long.
In this article, I want to share with you 3 lessons the gig economy taught me. So if you have sometimes thought about starting a business on Fiverr as well, this might be helpful for you.
1 — Don’t underestimate fees
Prices on Fiverr always look compelling — as long as we see them in a buyer’s perspective. Once you switch to the seller side of this platform, things can change dramatically. While prices are quite low on Fiverr in general, fees squeeze your earnings additionally. Of course, we all know that Fiverr is not acting as a charity organization and that they want to make some money as well — but I just want to emphasize that you should keep their fee system in mind before starting a business in this gig economy platform. For instance, Fiverr takes a fee of 20% for each order —this means that you would only earn $80 out of an initially very appealing looking $100 order. Furthermore, you probably have things like withdrawal fees and taxes on top which have to be deducted as well.
All in all, selling on Fiverr means that you have to accept that a huge share of your earnings goes into someone’s others pocket. Definitely, something you must be aware of before starting.
2 — Gigs can squeeze your creativity
Gigs can be defined as short-term engagements on particular projects. And that’s all that it is about. You really should take this literally. As I mentioned earlier, I finished 7 projects in 3 months — mainly projects where I created static websites or made minor Wordpress tweaks for clients. But there are also services like logo design where you most likely finish 7 projects just within a few days.
Over time, this can be really exhausting for your creativity. You always have to dive into new projects, new topics, and new design concepts — often on a daily basis. Maybe, this sounds compelling for you, but for me, it wasn’t. I really noticed how my motivation to create new astonishing designs and layouts faded away from project to project.
Though, the issue here is that the project size itself gets smaller and smaller but the creative and conceptional effort you have to invest in each project doesn’t — at least not in proportion to it. This really squeezes your creativity from time to time and made me occasionally feel unproductive and unsatisfied.
3 — Algorithms over everything
In the end, your success on Fiverr depends heavily on the fact whether their algorithms like you or not. The role of a platform business is to orchestrate supply and demand and to make sure that it enables the best matching interactions for both sides of the market. However, the amount of supply, meaning the offered services on Fiverr, can be frightening sometimes— especially when you are just starting off your business there. For instance, the logo design section includes over 80,000 services. How do you want to stick out of this gigantic mass? The answer is simple: You have to make friends with their algorithms in order to rank high in search results.
For achieving that friendship, you can do several things like reducing prices, identifying niche services, and begging for good recommendations. But in general, there are two major ways to gain leverage: irresistible prices or a great trust mark in terms of excellent ratings. Since the latter requires an existing presence on the platform, we can only make use of the price as our leverage in the first step.
And this puts you in a very bad situation in my opinion. Being highly dependent on such algorithms can get your prices down easily — just as a sacrifice for more visibility on the platform. Even though, you might gain more trust through first recommendations of your first projects. There will be always new competitors which enter the market and make use of low prices as their leverage. I think, only a few top sellers can really escape those price pressures we often see in the gig economy.
Overall, being part of the Fiverr seller community was a nice experience. Even though I have been working only for 3 months part-time as a freelance web designer, I learned a lot about this industry and Fiverr as a gig economy platform. In my opinion, platforms like Fiverr can be a great opportunity for freelancers to land new projects quickly. This makes it especially useful for new freelancers who want to try out if this type of business is something they can do for a living or not. Register, create a gig and finish a few first projects — it’s as simple like this. So go ahead if you ever thought about giving this freelance thing a chance.
However in my case, due to small project sizes, the fast pace on the platform itself and a rather price-sensitive customer audience, I wouldn’t strive for a full-time Fiverr freelancing career though — but that’s something you might have to figure out for yourself.