Fiverr is a website where you can buy and sell cheap micro-jobs, called “gigs“. The lowest price must be $5 US. You can of course add other packages and extras, for more expensive jobs. But the site is still largely for cheap gigs.
Just for fun, and to eventually extend my online portfolio, I became a seller on Fiverr few weeks ago. I hardly took off yet, but I can say I already had some interesting experience there with some clients (and potential clients), worth mentioning here.
How Fiverr Works
On Fiverr you truly need, more than anything else, 5-star reviews. Anything less can damage your profile, sometimes for good, with no possibility to recover. You cannot ask your customers for reviews, and many of them don’t leave any.
Another similar site for freelancers, called Upwork, runs in a very similar way. The only main difference is you bid for services potential customers ask for. And they are usually priced more. One single customer that leaves you a bad rating and a bad review can damage your whole profile and your chance to ever recover, as most customers select only people with top reviews.
This thing alone made me reconsider how much time are these sites actually worth. There are enough people making good money there, and they can be used for an additional source of revenue.
But one single bad apple to ruin ALL your business out of nothing? Way too much risk, when you consider the alternatives. I had my own part of a few bad jobs or contracts in my three decades of professional life, and I am talking about deals worth thousands of dollars and more. However, none of them prevented me from moving on to another more satisfactory position.
What Work Recognition Truly Looks Like
My first buyer on Fiverr contacted me first to help him recover a database file. I had such a cheap gig and, just because I needed such a customer for that job, I offered him to do it for almost nothing, for the minimum price. Yes, $5. When you think about, the difference between $5 and even $30 or a bit more (I have doubts he would have accepted more) is not too much. It was more essential to me, as a new seller on Fiverr, to get a boost.
He sent me the files and I was honestly afraid at some point I could not deliver. I took a super-cheap $5 job and I was emotionally involved more than in my past contracts worth thousands of dollars. It was a very old database that looked like Firebird or InterBase. It couldn’t be opened by a Firebird client such as FlameRobin, I was getting an error.
Question was what if the file was damaged for good, and nobody on Earth could recover it? It’s still sad to go back to the client with such a negative feedback, no matter what.
I googled for more info about the specific error message and found out it was a possibility this was an old version 1.5 Firebird database. I was so lucky to also find and download a free tool, to convert it to a newer acceptable 2.5 version.
Cannot described how happy I was when, going back to FlameRobin and trying again on the converted file, I saw the table names suddenly appearing before my eyes.
Then everything else was easy. I saved all table data into CSV files, as the client wanted it to be available for Excel. But I also gave him the recovered database, with proper instructions how to use it, just in case.
The client was so happy, he left me not just one nice $5 review, but also a tip several times the price of my original gig. And later on he also bought an additional gig I suggested, with automatic data model diagrams for his database.
My joy may sound silly, I know, as we talk here about a $5 gig, and even a cheap burger at McDonald’s costs more. What I found rather interesting and rewarding is that the price does not actually matter. It was only the thrill of the experience itself, on both sides I think. Because the client also said how surprised he was when I over-delivered, and not just once:
For the past few years, I created and sold online my own software applications. And I received some similar recognition from clients and potential clients, by email. I must say it felt good.
What saddens me is I didn’t get the same good feeling lately at many of my last high paying jobs. Not because I didn’t do a good job, because I was still getting the usual tap on the back and good annual performance review. But there is so much pressure and there are many politics in lots of companies today, that the environment becomes toxic.
You often have to look elsewhere for some true simple genuine good feelings…
When to Let It Go
Another interesting experience, also on Fiverr, was when some guy asked me to do some web scraping from some site. Like many other sellers out there, I offer a gig that starts at $5 for a trivial web scraping task, and adds up packages and extras for more complex requirements.
I’ve seen from start this guy was looking for a rather complex task, but to pay almost …nothing. And for the same price he expected me to come up daily with 50 records extracted from that site, including additional resources.
For the same reasons as before, and just to build-up some portfolio and reputation, I offered to do as he said, for just $5. And to send him also the C# or Python script, to run it himself.
However, when I got the actual link to the site, I’ve seen the work was truly complex and time-consuming. I still did it more for myself, to get used to the challenge. But I was waiting too much for this client’s feedback. And he was not clear at all with how many records he expected me to scrape for him in fact.
I changed my final offer to $50 at the end (as he didn’t order the gig yet, we were just debating), but he came up with “sorry, I don’t have the budget”. And “could you do just that: …”, where “just that” was actually everything he required before, nothing less.
I knew I had to let it go, and here is my message: when things become too confusing from some client’s part (bad communication, unsure on his requirements, too much negotiation for just …$5), it’s simply not worth it. I could have delivered everything to him, no technical problem here. Where the problem was is this guy left me feel that he doesn’t really know to appreciate someone’s hard work.
It was not personal, not about me and not about this gig in particular. It was about people, and some of them are how they are, but for you they could be unreliable. When for this simple task and extra-cheap gig I had to talk so much, it was the risk to deliver this properly and still have a lot of back and forth afterwords. And, cerise on top, to also finally get a bad review, because the client was clearly creating doubts on how much he actually appreciates what someone does for him basically for free.
More then anything else, you do not need on Fiverr unreliable clients. Such clients could hurt you the most with one single bad review. And one type of potentially unreliable clients are those who don’t properly know what they want. Or come up with a long list of requirements, and do not have the decency to make them clear even when you make it all for just $5.