After extensively looking at some of Fiverr's biggest cons last week, let's swing back to something positive. Any experience, good or bad, is pointless if you don't learn something from it. Fiverr has helped me make great strides as a writer and as a freelancer by forcing me to write and forcing me to deal with clients.
I started writing on Fiverr as a side-side hustle. It was in a time when I was open to trying just about anything, and I figured writing wouldn't be too hard for me. I'd done it for years in school after all. I never imagined writing would become my main source of income, or that something like Fiverr would lead me to finding actual clients who paid actual money. With that in mind, here are the 3 most important things I learned from Fiverr.
It's All About Value
This seems like a no brainer; if you want people to pay for your service, it has to fill some kind of need. But it seems to me that this is a very basic and thoroughly narrow view of the word "value." This is especially true when you're on a platform full of freelancers ready to do the exact same thing you're offering to do, many of them willing to do it for less. One of the first things I had to learn on Fiverr was how to stand out from everyone else. It was to offer more value, more bang for the client's buck. Now when you're on a a site that already encourages undercharging for your services, it seems like a bit much. Why should you give more value when you're already not charging enough? Because you're on the platform. And if you're there, you want business.
Undercharging's always been a fault of mine, and it still is. I don't think very highly of my work, even when I've got dozens of thoroughly satisfied clients. It seems weird that people are willing to pay actual money for my words, even though many of them have. Since I was already willing to write up to 500 words for five bucks (that's about a cent a word), giving even more words for that amount didn't seem like the right play. Worse than providing value, it would make it seem like what I was already providing wasn't worth much. I found the real way I could provide value almost by accident.
I didn't think too much of it. I was setting up my gigs, and one of the boxes you check off asks how many revisions you're providing for free. In my mind, one seemed normal. I didn't want someone getting stuck with a piece of writing that wasn't exactly what they wanted. I was starting out, and it felt fair to allow clients to give me feedback on things I wrote that they didn't like. I didn't realize until recently how much of a value powerhouse that is. And here's why. First, and most obvious, I'm showing that I'm willing to do a bit more work for your money than my competitors. Second, I'm open to criticism and feedback, I'll never deliver something that you'll feel stuck with. I want it to fit your needs just as much as you do. And finally, it helps foster a relationship. I'm learning how vital relationships are to business and how important it is to turn new clients into repeat business. This seemingly tiny thing, one free revision, gives that much more value.
The Customer Isn't Always Right
This is where I have to disagree with my training from my call centre days. The customer is not always right. It's a mindset that might work for fast food chains and retail stores, but it doesn't work for a freelancer. Now on the surface, I know this seems to contradict my previous point of giving more value. And I'm not telling you I learned to be a dick to my clients. What I'm saying is you need to set your boundaries and not allow them to be crossed. Work in the arts is already disrespected so readily. Artists are expected to draw for free, designers are expected to do their job for the exposure, and writers don't fare much better. Be ready to stand up for yourself on the things that matter.
Another aspect to this is having a clear idea of what you will and will not do. This is personal to every freelancer, but in my case it's been important to make these things clear. Practical example: I've had people reach out to me on Fiverr to leave fake reviews for their products on amazon. It's technically writing, and I'd be getting paid for it, but it just felt wrong. It's probably silly to some, but it was a line for me. For others, something I did over the summer would have been a line they wouldn't cross. Essentially, I was paid to write a 23 page novella. An erotic novella. An erotic novella that involved pregnant women, a machine that changes people's size, and nazi imagery. I was a ghostwriter on this, obviously, but this novella is floating around on some dark corner of the internet with my words in it. I don't really know yet if I should have set this as a boundary. Writing a novella over a period of ten days during the summer was an interesting experience. Just thinking about it now makes me think I should do that again (writing novellas, not the pregnant nazi lady porn).
Anyway, figure out your boundaries and be ready to enforce them.
The Packaging Matters
In my mind, the "packaging" is everything that goes around the work you do that isn't the actual work. If you're a writer like me, it's all the other things you do as part of your job that aren't writing. It's corresponding with clients via email, marketing your services, properly formatting the things you publish, and more. When you're in the arts, it's too easy to get enamored by the work itself and forget about the rest. I do this often. I hate re-reading and editing what I write. Most of these blog posts are written in one go, and I'll usually find a typo or some other glaring mistake 10 minutes after I post something. I can get away with it here because I want this blog to feel real, I don't want any filters. I can't get away with that when I'm writing copy for a client's website.
In his commencement address at Philadelphia's University of the Arts, Neil Gaiman mentioned three crucial aspects of a good freelancer. Their work is good, they are easy to get along with, and they deliver their work on time. He followed this up by saying that having two out of these three is fine. People will tolerate your bad attitude if you deliver great work on time. They'll accept lesser work if you're easy to get along with and you're always on time. If you're a great person and you do great work, they'll forgive a bit of lateness.
Perfectionist that I am, I've always wanted all three. Fiverr makes a huge deal about delivering work on time, so it's not like I had any leeway there. I have a love-hate relationship with my work, so that pretty much leaves being easy to get along with. Coming from a customer service background, the importance of this has always been at the back of my mind. I've never disrespected a client or called them names (even the difficult ones). I've kept all my communications with them professional, and I make a strong effort to communicate clearly. This has saved me tons of time (no back and forth emails trying to figure out what a client wants) and I think has done wonders for my brand on the platform.
Of course, that's not all there is. One of the biggest steps I took was working on the overall brand of my Fiverr gigs. I used to have very basic pictures that were essentially placeholders overstaying their welcome. It didn't give too great of an impression. So I spent one afternoon in photoshop to try and create an overarching brand, some kind of visual identity to set my work apart. While I didn't have a good idea as to where my visual identity was going, it didn't take too much work. And I got more orders after redesigning my gigs than I did before. All that to say making things look good has its place (which is why getting a proper logo is so expensive
For all its cons, Fiverr has been a powerful learning experience over this past year. I don't think it's quite taught me everything it's got yet, but I'm still strongly considering leaving the platform. My musings on that will be public knowledge next week.