6 Months of Selling Web Development Services on Fiverr

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What is Fiverr?

Fiverr is a platform for freelancers to sell their services. Be it painting, writing, or in my case, web development.

Why I started freelancing on Fiverr

Back in April, I decided that I had to do something about not getting any new clients. I was very focused on local businesses at the time and then Covid-19 hit the world.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, I'd been having a hard time getting new clients. I realized that it wouldn't get any easier since the pandemic had a significant effect on the income of local businesses.

My experience

Fiverr has been a mixed bag for me. On one hand, I am amazed by how easy it is to get new clients. But on the other hand, there have quite a few problems.

The good parts

Getting clients

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The greatest benefit of using Fiverr is, as I mentioned, how easy it is to get new clients. Although, it took about a month after creating my account before I got my first buyer. After that, the messages started consistently rolling in.

Managing clients

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Fiverr also acts as a kind of CRM. Instead of managing multiple clients over email, you must use their inbox feature. I really do mean MUST, which actually is kind of a problem. I'll talk more about this later.

It lets you see each buyer's name along with a profile picture, and the most recent conversations always appear at the top of the list.

It is also possible to assign tags to different buyers. I've used this to mark unpleasant or toxic buyers with a "danger" tag to avoid accepting new orders from those people.

The bad parts

Bookkeeping

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The first problem that arose for me was how to properly keep books on income from Fiverr. I contacted both the Swedish Tax Agency and then Fiverr themselves for advice. Both of them directed me to the other. I still have not received a proper answer.

The problem is that I'm selling services to both people and businesses from around the world. The books should be handled differently depending on whether the buyer is located inside the EU or outside, and whether they are an individual or a business.

The normal thing to do would be to ask the client for their name and place of residence and issue an invoice. It is unfortunately against Fiverr's ToS to ask for personal information.

What I've ended up doing is register income from Fiverr as a lump sum. Every time I withdraw, I create a new record in the books and handle it as a sale to Fiverr International.

If anyone has any advice regarding bookkeeping on income from Fiverr, feel free to reach out.

Increasing rates

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I started on Fiverr with the lowest possible pricing, $5. I had no reviews on the site at the time and thought it best to start as cheap as possible. I thought it would be fine to increase my pricing over time.

It turns out that buyers on Fiverr expect a ridiculously low price, no matter how complex the task is. This is probably because of the competitive nature of Fiverr. Many sellers offer the same or similar services and many of them set the pricing as low as possible.

As an example: A person wanted a simple blog and gave me a site to take inspiration from. They were willing to pay $10. So... I delivered a site worth way more than that, and the buyer thought I was ripping them off. The reason was that I didn't include all the features in the reference site.

Seller levels

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Okay, so seller levels aren't inherently a bad thing. They actually help you gain buyers as a seller. Having a higher seller level not only provides you with benefits such as more gigs and shorter holding times on earnings, but they also increase trust.

Now... I reached the first seller level pretty quickly and then I lost it even quicker. Your statistics determine if you're going to gain or lose a level or stay on the same level. I lost my level after having an 88% out of 90% completion rate.

This had to do with a buyer changing their mind. I won't go into details but the short story is, the buyer accepted one price and deadline and then changed their mind and wanted another price and deadline. We ended up canceling the order and they accepted a new one immediately.

This was annoying for two reasons:

  1. This was my only order that month. I had been working on a larger project which and didn't take on new orders at the time. It was a bit of an emergency for the buyer, so I felt like I had to do it.
  2. I lost a level even though I completed the work associated with the canceled order.

I contacted the support regarding this. As I suspected, they couldn't do anything.

Lock-in

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One of Fiverr's goals is to prevent buyers and sellers from being scammed. A key way they do that is through disallowing people from communicating outside Fiverr. That includes video calls and emails.

So getting a face to face with clients is a bit difficult, and extending the business relationship outside Fiverr is not an option.

If the first contact is made through Fiverr we'll both get banned if we want to continue working together on other projects outside of the platform. This really locks you into Fiverr and prevents creative business agreements.

I can, for example, not offer to handle a buyer's hosting or a long-running maintenance contract because Fiverr does not support recurring payments of that nature.

This is a particularly big problem because I believe recurring payments are the key to making freelancing sustainable in the long run.

Conclusion

Fiverr is great for getting clients, but actually making a living is incredibly hard due to the competitiveness of the platform. 🎩 Hat's off to anyone who's managed. I am trying to move off of Fiverr, but that is also proving difficult.

Now... I didn't write this to stop you from freelancing on Fiverr, I just wanted to share my experience and pain points regarding the platform.

Despite every negative thing I've said, Fiverr really does bring in clients and that is the most important part of doing freelance work. If you don't have clients, you have nothing.

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