Are Students better off freelancing through Fiverr or independently?
For years, I believed that other designers and I would be better off avoiding Fiverr. Like most of the design community, I had a pretty big prejudice built up around the platform. I shared the sentiment that it degrades designers and the industry by promoting cheap work, lowering prices for creative work, and exploiting freelancers.
I had learned that you are supposed to get freelance clients by following more traditional means, through building relationships and developing an online portfolio. Two things I had been striving to do from the start of my journey with design. My first digital design project was a 30-day logo design challenge.
It was great for getting me started on the right track. It enabled me to create consistently, be a part of a community, and provide content for social media posts. I completed the challenge, interacted with other designers doing the challenge, researched, and posted on every social media site that could be relevant. This approach continued with the 36daysoftype, and now my own logo designs.
When I started, I had little experience, and with that little confidence in building work-related relationships. I had to push myself to go out and make connections. A year later, when I began university, I was taking every opportunity that came my way – Talking with university and guest lecturers, joining societies, joining design events and going to networking events.
Distributing your work and taking opportunities to connect with others are essential parts of freelance. Still, if you are not creating high-quality work that solves a problem, then you are not valuable to businesses. It was with this mindset, and a determination to be the best I can, that I put my all into each piece. Learning as much as I could within and outside of university and seeking feedback wherever possible.
Despite going all out for two years with the goal of establishing myself as a freelancer, only two small projects had come my way.
Getting started with Fiverr
It was at this point that a friend told me about someone who had some success freelancing on Fiverr, and recommended I give it a go. I still had my prejudices. But with little success using other options, I thought, why not. I was after the chance to create branding and designs that would get used, to share what I had learned in a more meaningful way, to create work that would help someone achieve their ambitions.
Leveraging my understanding of branding, I positioned myself as an experienced designer who was starting out on the platform to earn some extra money. I analysed successful Fiverr gigs to get an idea of what worked, and with a portfolio of designs already created, I was ready to go within a day.
I found that Fiverr took a lot of the problems with freelance out of the equation. I had learned to expect problems including complications with defining a project’s scope and goals, with asking clients to pay 50% of the fees upfront, and with communication issues. And that no matter the precautions were taken, inevitably something would go wrong, projects fall through and additional work required to satisfy a client.
Fiverr provides a planform that eliminates or minimises these problems. You could say it makes freelancing safe, especially for those who don’t know how to navigate the problems that come with it. A platform where the money is held in advance by an independent party, where requirements and expectations are clearly defined, where there are tools for precise feedback, and where a project can only be canceled mutually or if requirements are not met.
In short, the site doesn’t simply provide exposure; it provides a place for freelancers to work without needing legal and financial expertise, without the worries of not being paid for your time.
Why I refer potential clients to Fiverr
My first projects came in just a couple of weeks after setting up my profile on Fiverr, and from there I have had a steady stream to the point where I have now had over 25 successful projects. All this experience has provided a lot of learning and enough earnings to sustain me.
The new additions of freelance work and client testimonials to my online portfolio have prompted potential clients to contact me through other platforms. Something that might surprise you is that I refer these new inquiries to my gigs on Fiverr.
One reason is the incentives Fiverr has for referrals, offering discounts to first-time buyers and rewards to designers, or a more recent offer of taking no commission when certain links are used. But these aren’t the only reasons I do it.
I do it because I’ve found that the platform takes a lot of stress off both the client and me, with everything clearly defined, payment managed by an impartial mediator, and other elements like legal work and finances are taken care of.
All this is not to say Fiverr doesn’t have its negatives, giving buyers good quality, inexpensive work is the concept behind the site, which puts pressure on sellers to complete projects quickly while keeping clients happy. As a seller, you can become reliant on the site for work, subjecting yourself to the whim of the Fiverr team and the algorithm Fiverr uses to rank your gigs.
Anything that lowers your rank, for example, not completing a project, or getting a bad testimonial, can have a significant effect on your livelihood, putting the buyer firmly in the position of power. And there are posts about buyers bullying sellers to provide more deliverables and little being done by the Fiverr support team.
My point is these are things that are encountered and should be accounted for when freelancing on or off Fiverr. Off of Fiverr, buyers will threaten to leave a bad review or say that they will dissuade others they know. Websites and social media posts are ranked based on algorithms.
Delivering above expectations and producing work that stands out is what every designer should do.
Why Fiverr has its place in the Industry
From my experience, Fiverr has a platform the enables safe and straightforward paid freelance work, something that is far from the norm for student – Providing an environment that is great for learning and practicing freelance that most wouldn’t be able to get otherwise.
This isn’t to say the site has no negatives. It promotes cheap work, resulting in a reliance on its algorithm, and has much room to improve the support for its sellers.
But independent freelancing is often similar or worse, which is why I believe students are better off freelancing through Fiverr than independently, and that it is a viable option for professionals charging up to £1000.
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