What Is Fiverr?
Fiverr is a marketplace that started in 2010 that supposedly offers quality gigs from qualified sellers and professionals. The starting price? $5 as the name suggests. But of course, like mother always told us, you get what you paid for. Fiverr touts itself as a makretplace for freelancers to be able to widen their reach and increase their clientele base and experience, and for buyers to purchase short gigs with good turnaround. The reality is far less than spectacular.
In reality, Fiverr is a game where only Fiverr wins. Why do I say so? Because I’ve been active with Fiverr for the past year as both a seller and a buyer. Let me tell you why I will never sell or buy on Fiverr ever again, and why you shouldn’t either.
How does Fiverr Work?
You start off on Fiverr for two reasons: either you need a quick job done, like a quick article written, or a quick design made for your company and business OR you want to make a quick buck as a side gig and you think to yourself, “hey, I’m pretty okay at this, right? Let me see if anyone would like to pay me to do it for them.”
Sign-up is easy. The entire interface is actually quite pleasant and professional-looking. That makes sense. Fiverr is professional — at taking people’s money and not protecting either sellers or buyers. They have to put up a professional front. Otherwise, their whole scheme will be exposed for what it is. Fiverr does not take any responsibility, by the way, for the interaction between seller and buyer. I’m sure there are many black hat practices being done on Fiverr, especially in the realm of SEO and accounting work. But I digress, back to the Fiverr experience.
After you sign-up, you can engage on the platform either as a seller or a buyer. As a buyer, you search key terms of what you want. For example “logo design”, and you’ll soon be faced with a bunch of people from all over the world claiming that they will be the best expert, the best professional, the most experienced, the most trustworthy —- and that they’ll do the best job at your desired task.
Only for $5? Not really. Most prices are based on a tier-model, meaning that they’ll offer 3 differing variations or levels of the same job, with different price points. The practice that was encouraged on Fiverr by sellers was to place a very entry, partial job as the lowest tier and a very expensive one as the highest tier, to encourage people to purchase the middle, more modest-looking choice. This was necessary to do because Fiverr takes a whopping 20% of the commission and a 20% of any tip you receive. On the consumer’s side, Fiverr charges them a service fee. So on both sides, who wins? Only Fiverr. Who is left with less money than they deserve? Legitimate freelancers. Who is left with the high possibility of crappy service and having burned their money away? The legitimate clients.
My Experience as a Fiverr Seller and Buyer
And that’s what I did. I pretended to be a logo designer, a graphic artist, a digital marketing content manager, an SEO specialist, a copywriter, a data analyst, an infographic maker, a website designer, and much more —- Because most of the tasks that people were asking about weren’t difficult ones. If these buyers had more time on their hands, or were more tech-savvy, I’m sure they could’ve done it on their own. But for one reason or another, they thought paying some Pakistani person on Fiverr with limited English would get the job done sufficiently.
It was easy for me to land gigs because I was based in the U.S. and fluent in English — which are big selling factors on Fiverr. Most of Fiverr’s sellers are based out of the U.S., with a large chunk of them coming from Middle Eastern countries such as Iran, Pakistan, and some areas in Asia such as India and the Philippines.
The Unethical Nature of Fiverr
Don’t get me wrong here. The country of origin of the sellers isn’t the issue. The crappy work done by some of these sellers and the unethical tasks asked by some buyers aren’t even the biggest issues with Fiverr. There will always be crooks and cheats in any marketplace, who try to game the system or con some innocent customer out of their money.
The issue is that Fiverr takes no responsibility for any theft, fraud, or other illegal activities that were done from buyer-to-seller, or seller-to-buyer. Fiverr also has taken zero action to get rid of illegal activities and services sold through its marketplace, such as selling and buying social media accounts that violate said platforms’ policies. At least other marketplaces that connect buyers to sellers offer some protection (eBay’s Buyer Protection, anyone?)
I realized the huge ethical issue of this after encountering several sellers on Fiverr that used the opportunity to try to 1) hijack my entire website and hosting service account, 2) inundate my website with spam and porn links, 3) sell me a bunch of articles that were supposed to be blog posts for my company’s website that were direct copy-pasted (a.k.a. plagiarized) from various sources — including my own competitors and Wikipedia. If you are copying from Wikipedia, you have to take a good, hard look at the mirror and ask yourself: am I still in middle school?
Fiverr Does Nothing to Protect Buyers or Legitimate Sellers
First Event: Website Hijacked
When I encountered problem #1, I contacted Fiverr support and their response was that the best they could do was ask the seller to refund the cost of the gig. But how does that account for months worth of time that I invested into building up and growing the website? What about the original content that was on there? What about the SEO work that we meticulously did over months to build up the site’s ranking and authority? What about the hundreds of business cards that proudly donned our website’s name — all now useless? Should we call our clients and say, “Oh, I’m sorry, but may we have our business cards back? We just need to quickly white-out something?”
Fiverr’s response: Sorry, there is nothing else that we can do for this case.
That’s it. No suspension or penalty on the seller’s part. Nothing but a small sorry and my money given back.
Second Event: Website Overrun by Spam
When I encountered a website developer that overran my personal blog site with spam and porn links, I contacted Fiverr again. No surprise —- their response was the same as previous. Except this time, I wasn’t going to just let this die. I argued with customer support that they need to protect other buyers by banning or suspending the seller. I sent them screenshot after screenshot, trying to build strong evidence for my request.
Fiverr’s response? “This case has already been closed.”
Third Event: Plagiarized Articles
When I encountered the third issue of plagiarism, Fiverr’s response was very muted. That they cannot take responsibility for the quality of the gigs purchased through Fiverr and that it is up to the client or buyer to approve or deny the work that is submitted. I wonder what percentage of the Fiverr marketplace is filled with people who take the very lazy way out and just spin some articles and sell them at high cost to unsuspecting companies and businesses.
By the third time this happened, I was enraged. I was messaging back and forth with the seller about the unethical work that he did and how I did not think it was right that he is selling so-called “original articles” to unsuspecting clients and then arguing stubbornly that they are original.
His response? The seller reported me on Fiverr for “bullying”.
I told you those who plagiarize from Wikipedia should be asking themselves if they’re 12.
Fiverr kindly notified me that my account had received complaints for behavior that went against their policies and I was asked to stop harassing sellers outside of the Fiverr platform.
Exposing Fiverr’s Fake Facade:
One bad customer service event might be a fluke. Two might be an unlucky streak of being matched to some unhappy representatives. But three times and being accused of policy violation when I was the one that wronged?
How did such a terrible platform have such good social clout online? Fiverr does its very best to present itself as a clean marketplace of honest, good freelancers and businesses. Their recent launch of Fiverr Pro was an effort to brand itself as a provider of high-quality freelance work. Some Fiverr gigs range into the hundreds, a significant departure of the namesake “five dollar” gigs that Fiverr started with.
But working with a Fiverr pro seller doesn’t mean much for the consumer, and doesn’t change anything about Fiverr’s terrible lack of responsibility and protection for its clients. Fiverr accepts people into their Fiverr pro program, with only a simple resume check, a short application, and some quick interview questions. They are eager to get many people approved as Fiverr pros, so that as these “pros” charge for larger-cost gigs, Fiverr can make more profit. (Refer to the section on “How Fiverr Works” about Fiverr’s commission rates.)
How can someone who is not a fluent English speaker and doesn’t know a single thing about grammar be a Fiverr pro writer? How can someone who has a history of being banned from Fiverr be registered on there as a Fiverr pro website builder? Mind-boggling.
It’s time to expose Fiverr for what it is: a game played by Fiverr to make money off of everyone. From the innocent clients to the badly-intentioned seller, the only one who is conning everyone is Fiverr themselves. And that’s something to raise alarms about.