Carrie French earns about $125,000 annually writing product descriptions. Beau Vallis earns a similar amount remixing music. The one thing both have in common? Fiverr, a $5 side hustle platform that increasingly delivers six-figure incomes to freelancers.

“It’s been very lucrative,” says Vallis, who first posted a digital profile on Fiverr in 2015. “You don’t have to do any marketing. You wake up and there are your jobs.”

At a time when freelancers who work for other gig economy giants, like Uber and Lyft, say that the legacy companies are becoming increasingly exploitative, Fiverr has gone in the opposite direction. The site boosted its customer service staff; cut its fees; and created special designations for “pros.” While Fiverr once urged freelancers to list their services for just $5, “pros” are compelled to charge more.

Six-figure incomes

It’s all part of a strategy to make Fiverr the go-to network for both freelancers and customers in a rapidly evolving freelance marketplace, says Gali Arnon, the platform’s chief marketing officer.

“The platform has evolved tremendously and so has the marketplace,” Arnon says. “We started with $5 because it was a way of eliminating the risk of buying digital services [to help customers adapt]. Today, you can find services on our platform that cost thousands of dollars.”

While not all freelancers earn six-figure incomes on Fiverr, an increasing number say they can easily earn a living wage. Some say that their biggest problem is turning off — or down — the work spigot when they need a break.

“I have to buffer clients by going into out-of-office mode,” says Vallis.

Unique features

Freelancers who work with Fiverr say the platform has certain advantages that are hard to find elsewhere. First of all, it’s a broad-interest platform where you can post your availability to provide almost any legal service, including some off-beat ones, like reading Tarot cards or casting spells.

You also are in complete control over your pricing and the limitations of your offer. For instance, you might create advertising jingles for $25 each. However, for that price, you can stipulate that the jingle will have 25 words or less. And the buyer only gets one revision, if they don’t like it. 

If the buyer wants additional revisions– or more words — there’s an additional charge. In fact, the site suggests that freelancers create three separate “packages” — basic, standard and premium. You may want to charge a small amount for the basic package, since it could be a loss-leader to develop a loyal clientele. But Fiverr encourages you to charge more for the more inclusive packages. You spell out precisely what’s included in each package and can offer a menu of extras for additional fees. 

Transparent process

The idea is to make purchases so transparent that clients can buy without having to talk, much less negotiate, with the seller, says Arnon.

Importantly, too, the funds for every job are put in escrow when the gig is ordered. As long as the freelancer delivers what was promised, they don’t have to worry about getting paid. Although it’s rare when a client finds some sneaky way to avoid payment, French says she’s had thousands paid by Fiverr’s payment guarantees over the eight year period she’s worked through the site.

Fiverr pays for its service by charging freelancers a 20% commission on every booking. 

No auditions or bidding

In addition, freelancers on other sites say that a lot of their time is taken up by project bidding and providing work samples to potential buyers. That doesn’t happen at Fiverr. Clients view your profile, reviews and the work samples that you’ve already posted. There is no negotiation, auditioning or bidding before purchase.

Melissa Harlow, a voice-over artist, says this is the primary reason she stopped freelancing through Upwork, VoiceCrafters and Voice123.

“To get one job, you’d end up doing 50 auditions,” she says. “On Fiverr, if the client likes your work, they buy. If they don’t, they move on.”

Getting noticed

That said, with thousands of freelancers from 160 countries offering more than 500 services on Fiverr, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Harlow says it took eight months before her Fiverr profile started drawing work. Now, she earns $40,000 to $50,000 annually, working part-time.

Vallis says it took him roughly two years before he got regular work.

Fiverr’s management understands the difficulty freelancers have with getting noticed, Arnon says. So the site has a number of initiatives to help. These include tutorials that explain the system’s algorithms and the activities that can help you get noticed.

There’s also a team dedicated to helping platform newbies, she says. If you, for instance, do great work, you might earn a “rising star” badge. Have years of experience in your field? You can apply to be a “Pro” seller, she says.

That puts your resume in front of a Fiverr team, who will evaluate your work and determine whether you qualify to be a premium freelancer. If so, they’ll slap a “Pro” designation on your profile. This signals to clients that you do premium work and must be paid a premium price.

However, freelancers also need to pay good attention to the site’s advice. Make sure you include a good photo and a complete resume that highlights your skills. If the site offers to post three videos and multiple samples of your work, don’t leave any of those slots empty, French advises. The more complete your profile, the more visible it becomes to potential clients.  

Nagging concerns

However, the site also has some nagging issues that continue to bedevil sellers. Specifically, freelancers are rated on the number of jobs they’ve accepted; the number they’ve completed on time; and customer reviews, among other things. Failing to deliver, delivering late, cancelling orders, or getting bad reviews can kill your business and even get you booted from the platform.

Some customers know this and use the knowledge to pressure freelancers into doing more work for less money.

Consider Vallis, a Grammy nominated mixer who has worked with Pharrell Williams and Beyonce. He charges for mixing music by the “stem.” Each stem consists of a single sound  — the drums, guitar or vocals, for example.

His basic package offers to mix four stems for $25. His premium packages mix 10 stems or more. He’s had buyers pay $25 for the basic package and expect him to mix as many 60 stems. And, yet, he’s reluctant to cancel these orders for fear of marring his unblemished record.

“I have perfect stats. 100% of sales completed and delivered on time,” he says.

So what does he do when someone pays for a basic mix, but expects a premium job? He does the job anyway, but asks them to “do it differently next time.” They don’t always, he admits. But good buyers outnumber the bad so Vallis writes it off as a cost of doing business.

Customer blackmail

French says she’s had customers threaten bad reviews if she won’t cut her rates or provide some work for free. Her strategy for dealing with this is to solely communicate in writing through the platform.

In every message, she reminds clients to read her FAQs, so they know what’s included and what’s not. If a client insists on giving her a bad review because she refused to provide more than what they bought, she takes it up with customer service.

“For every one bad experience, there are four where the platform has protected me,” she says. “Customer service has really backed me up.”

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