Empowering the Freelance Economy

Is Fiverr losing its human touch?

When does digital convenience become a pleasure and when does it become a pain? We look into the latest offerings and Trustpilot ratings of freelancer gig marketplace, Fiverr.

Fiverr, an Israel-based online marketplace for freelancer gigs with operations in markets including the UK and US, launched its Fiverr Business platform this week. With a slick video advert to entice us in, Freelance Informer thought it would have a peek to see what it was all about.

Always thinking from a freelancer’s point of view, we had to look first into what freelancers (sellers) and companies (buyers) have been saying about their Fiverr experiences on Trustpilot.  After seeing the findings we were stumped. Reviews sometimes have to be taken with a grain of salt, but with two extremes between Excellent (56%) and combination of Bad and Poor (33%), we had to read into what was working and what was not.

The skinny on Fiverr

For those that are not familiar with Fiverr, freelancers are paid by the project, not by the hour. Fiverr takes $1 for every $5 a freelancer makes or 20%. You can select a currency equivalent for your own market, i.e. pounds sterling, Canadian dollar, etc. when listing your freelancer project fee. But Fiverr’s currency is the US dollar. You will have to pay for your profile, but if done right this could pay off since this is your first impression to potential clients. There are varied prices for packages based on the profile you choose. The platform works over a messaging service, so that all correspondence, tasks, requests are logged.

By working through a messaging platform there are pros and cons. The pros being personal details, such as phone numbers and email addresses are kept confidential for both parties. However, sometimes things fall through the cracks. In a recent Trustpilot review, one customer wrote that a seller that they had never worked with sent them a Whatsapp message encouraging them to use them for a project rather than another Fiverr seller. Desperate? Or very keen to get new business, either way, any contact outside of the platform has to be pre-agreed and is generally taboo as per Fiverr’s terms and conditions.

Since Fiverr takes a cut of each ‘job’, it is in their interest to keep all Fiverr communication logged and within the messaging platform. This set up works if both parties respond in ample time if a project is time-sensitive. If not, it can be frustrating. Sometimes you just want to chat for two minutes rather than write a mini novella over messaging. This is the current set up. It works both ways. Freelancers may not want a client calling them into the late hours of the evening and vice versa.

Grey areas

Then there is the matter of freelancers receiving seemingly multiple requests and changes for a project, completing those requests and related tasks and then the customer cancelling at the very last minute and Fiverr taking the side of the customer over the seller. This is the grey area of Fiverr for freelancers. There is also the matter of a seasoned Fiverr seller with a 5-star rating suddenly seeing their profile pushed to the bottom of the batch out of the blue. This last example, according to one Trustpilot reviewer of Fiverr, is ‘Manual Intervention of Gig Search Ordering’. In this one instance, according to the review, the seller was told that sometimes Fiverr will do a manual review of its sellers and take them off orders or push them back in the searches if they receive complaints and those complaints do not match the metrics of the seller on Fiverr. Wait? Aren’t metrics unbiased?

The disgruntled Fiverr seller in this same case reportedly was told through communication to that take up advertising to boost their profile in the search. This is in the public domain on Trustpilot, make of it what you will.

Freelancers considering Fiverr should be aware that advertising does play a part in a freelancer’s exposure to customers. Advertising is also part of this 10-year-old-company’s revenues (see Fiverr’s financial highlights below).

Promoted Gigs

Fiverr’s ‘Promoted Gigs’ is a paid advertising tool that enables you to promote your Gigs on Fiverr. “With Promoted Gigs, you can push your Gig to prime locations in category pages and search results, gain more visibility, and get more orders,” according to the Fiverr help page.

The ad’s display is based on an auction between sellers and depends on the price you’re willing to pay for each ad click (bid). You’ll pay a fee only when buyers click on your ad, according to Fiverr’s site.

So, what is the consensus over Fiverr providing a more personal service to freelancers (sellers) – their bread and butter? They could do better. They could be more upfront or transparent on their manual review or ‘manual intervention’ the latter of which has been denied by several accounts as per the Trustpilot review. No seller ticket request should, however, be ignored or closed manually without providing truthful feedback and assistance.

Back to Business

Now back to that Fiverr Business platform. This has been designed for corporate teams and departments to collaborate with each other while managing projects with freelance talent and will be subscription-based for those corporates. The concept fits very well with the mass onset of remote working for corporations, startups and freelancers since the start of the pandemic in March. Fiverr even conducted a survey of over 2,000 businesses globally, 52% of which said they are allocating more budget to freelance services. This is a boon for freelancers.

The fact that freelancers or agency teams of freelancers can use the Fiverr Business platform and its multiple add-ons, such as budgeting, etc., is a bonus. There is a word of warning, however, for freelancers using the Fiverr Business platform and that is that it will be separate from the main Fiverr site – that means while your level and ratings stay the same on Fiverr, you may have to be patient until a Fiverr Business customer sees your profile. That may mean more ad spend initially. That is a freelancer’s prerogative.

The other warning is that business platform customers will be larger organisations and as such may have more complex projects. Freelancers must ensure that briefs are tight and clear so that they know what they are getting into. Large corporate clients will have lots of cooks in the kitchen so to speak, that could mean lots of different opinions and last-minute changes. If you have already worked with corporates then you may be more apt to ensure everyone is on the same page. You will know which questions to ask.

A corporate client could push their weight around, rightly or wrongly, with the freelancer not having a voice, and not being compensated for their work, even partially. This is a risk many freelancers take on board, but when you only have digital non-verbal communication to handle genuine concerns about your livelihood, rather than a person at the end of the phone, you realise that great digital business concepts, such as Fiverr, still need a human touch.

Fiverr’s latest financial Second Quarter 2020 Financial Highlights:

– Revenue in the second quarter of 2020 was $47.1 million, an increase of 82% year over year.
– Active buyers as of June 30, 2020, grew to 2.8 million, compared to 2.2 million as of June 30, 2019, an increase of 28% year over year.
– Spend per buyer as of June 30, 2020, reached $184, compared to $157 as of June 30, 2019, an increase of 18% year over year.
– Take rate for the twelve months ended June 30, 2020, was 27.0%, up from 26.4% for the twelve months ended June 30, 2019, an increase of 60 basis points year over year.

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