If you’re looking for novelty “gigs,” Fiverr is your place. On their home page some of their current featured services are “I will sing Happy birthday to you in Welsh, wearing only a thong and wooly hat for $5″ and “I will make a 30 second, HD video of myself dancing in spandex with a custom happy birthday message for $5.” What’s even funnier is that these are not only featured services, but they’re top rated sellers. Fiverr proved that the on-demand freelance marketplace model can work… even with the silliest of offerings. I love the Fiverr concept, but you have to know what you’re looking for. But is Fiverr a scam? Well, Fiverr as a company who facilitates transactions between buyers and sellers, as far as I can tell they’ve done zero wrong. They’ve grown exponentially since launch, now boasting over 2,000,000 services and have raised more than $20M in venture capital from known investors. I have zero worries about Fiverr being a scam, not paying sellers, etc. But that doesn’t mean that their aren’t scammers. Like with any other freelance marketplace, Elance, oDesk, etc. you don’t have to worry about the company, you have to worry about the buyers and sellers who choose to use the platform. I’ve ordered many services, and can offer my two cents as an experience buyer and seller:
Behind all the fun and flash of Fiverr, there are business services that will offer you articles, promote your service to 100,000 Facebook Fans and build backlinks for you for only $5. Here’s what you really get:
Articles: Old content that runs through software to change a few adjectives to pass through “copyscape,” or barely readable articles from a content farm in India (but of course they’ll mention that they’re from the US, graduated with a masters in English and are the current editor for the NYTimes). Or if you browse offers in any black hat forum, or just Google “$1 articles,” you’ll see people selling articles for $1. There are people that will buy those articles and resell them on Fiverr for a “profit.” I use the quotes because after Fiverr’s cut you’re only making $3, but multiply that by 1000 and some kid rocking the black hat found an easy way to make $3,000. I’ve tried my luck first hand, the articles I received weren’t even worthy of publishing.
Social Media Promotion: Tried it, they’re usually from parody accounts with low value or from accounts with fake followers. I used one guy who built a decent legit following (even for a parody account), but he knew if he were promoting crap that those followers would soon unfollow, so he started every paid tweet with the @ symbol. If you’re unfamiliar with Twitter, tweets that start with the @ symbol won’t be shown in your timeline. Anyone that complained, they’d get a refund. No negative review, no harm done. The black hat business continues…
Don’t believe me? A quick Google search for “Fiverr Review” and you’ll find similar stories. Such as this one from WarriorForum user Marty S.:
[Title:] 968 positive reviews, 0 negative = FAKE fiverr claims.
The provider who made me realize this actually admitted to me that he gets about 20% refunds, even though his provider score shows ZERO negative reviews. I mean realistically, even the best services in any market have dissatisfied customers, so seeing a big fat ZERO is herewith suspect to me.
Backlinks: Like the other services, you aren’t paying for someone’s time, rather an automated service. Backlink schemes on Fiverr are automated from software, not only are they not beneficial… but can actually harm your business. Again, I learned first hand. I tested even the most innocuous tactics on an old blog with little benefit, then when Google Penguin and Panda hit, the site spiraled in the SERPS, with website traffic trailing right behind.
When it comes to Fiverr, you’re looking at a world of hurt if you’re expecting quality work. Let me revise that statement a bit – there is a huge hill that you have to climb to find someone who’s anywhere remotely what you’re looking for. With that said, Fiverr will continue to grow, alongside their business services, because you’ll seldom find an abundance of negative reviews on a gig. Why? Because even if a seller delivers subpar work, you’ll rationalize it as, “What can I expect for $5?” Even when I did leave a negative review, it’s usually met with an offer from the seller to refund their money in exchange for removing the review. Win/Win for the Buyer and Seller. A loss for all future buyers.
Update: With the recent launch of V2 of Fiverr, I’m actually happy that they’re allowing sellers to make more money. Intrigued by this, I started selling myself to get a better understanding of their business model. It should be noted that new sellers cannot sell for more that $5, which I feel is a great approach. My goal was to become a “level one” seller opening up “gig extras.” I did it in about a month with a fairly generous gig offering (which will remain anonymous) for a whopping $4 each. My thoughts are as follows:
- Don’t sell your time. If you’re selling your time how much do you really expect to make? The people who make money on Fiverr have built systems and software to accomplish requested tasks almost effortlessly.
- Remain Anonymous. As per Fiverr’s Terms of Service: ”To protect our users’ privacy, user identities should be kept anonymous. Requesting or providing Email addresses, Skype/IM usernames, telephone numbers or any other personal contact details (other than your name) is not permitted.” If you’re seller, you love this. Zero recourse, you can do what you want and no one will ever know. It’s one of the reasons why Fiverr has become an extremely popular black hat SEO market.
- Up-sell. You’re not making much $4 at a time, but if can show value, that’s an excellent opportunity to up-sell. Granted, most buyers on Fiverr are shopping for price, you could still potentially find someone willing to sign on long term with you.
Owning a consulting agency of my own, I know that you have to explore multiple channels to find high quality clients. If you want to sell your time on Fiverr, I think you’re limiting yourself. If you want to build a black hat system on Fiverr I think you could do well. But if you want to build a brand, I don’t think you can do that on Fiverr.