I’m Not a Fan of Fiverr, but My Reasons May Surprise You
As a freelancer, I have to hustle to make my way in the world. When my existing clients don’t have any work for me, I would love to be able to turn to a magical marketplace with an infinite pool of clients. As a matter of fact, I did look into selling my services on Fiverr a while back, but after doing some digging into the way the site works, their terms of service, and some of the other designers, I decided that was not the place for me to conduct business.
Yes, I have skin in this game.
Some people may think I come into this with an obvious bias. I have to agree that the part of me that knows the worth of my work is upset by a company telling consumers that I am overcharging. That my work has little value. Roberto Blake does an excellent job describing my personal feelings about Fiverr and its place in the world.
However, my personal feelings are not the reason I would like to discuss Fiverr and why I am wary of sending someone there to purchase design services.
Disclaimer: Let me preface this by saying that I don’t think Fiverr is out to intentionally cause harm. I’m also sure that there must be Sellers on Fiverr who are legitimate business people. It is my opinion that the way Fiverr works opens doors to potential risks that are not as likely when you work with an experienced professional designer.
Fiverr calls themself, “the world’s largest marketplace for services.” If you already know about Fiverr, I’m willing to bet you’ve seen the same targeted ads that I’ve seen on social media. I originally thought it was a great idea. A place where people could go to search for someone else to do the projects they need done. I thought it was great for designers and even better for small businesses. After some research, I’m not so sure anymore.
I know that small business owners can be strapped for cash, but their time is also extremely limited. Running your own business can be a 24/7 endeavor, so you probably don’t have time to find your own designer who can create your logo, or design your website, or put together your menu. It may seem like the answer to all of your prayers when you see something like this Fiverr ad online:
Not only does it say you can get “quality design work for just $5,” but it also implies that paying $100 for a logo is too much money. I can absolutely see how convincing this is. If an entire site is full of designers who are willing to take $5 for their work, then other designers are obviously trying to rip people off.
Does Fiverr really save you money?
What this ad doesn’t tell you is that paying for a logo on Fiverr is rarely a five dollar transaction. Five dollars is—according to Fiverr—just “a popular starting price” for services. Sellers (people providing services) can choose their own starting prices for their services.
Because Fiverr is a business, they understandably take a cut from both ends of every transaction. Buyers (people purchasing services) are, “…subject to a processing fee, $1 on purchases up to and including $20 and 5% on purchases above $20.” Sellers get to keep 80% of the money they make for the jobs (or “Gigs”) they complete. Most designers on Fiverr provide bare minimum, rough-draft-quality, logos for that five dollar price and charge extra via the site’s “Gig Extras” feature for higher resolution images or different file types.
In the case of the Gig you see above, the Seller is charging $20 extra for commercial use of the item being purchased. That means if this designer creates a logo for you, you can only legally sell something featuring that logo if you purchase the extended commercial license.
DevMarketer’s “Jacurtis” goes a little further with his explanation:
Another extra that is common is the extended license. If you intend to make money off a project that uses artwork done by the designer you will probably need a commercial license. This is annoying to say the least that the artwork done for the initial $5 does not include this license. This means you don’t entirely own what you paid the seller to do for you. There is definitely something wrong about this, but I suppose it could be justified that Fiverr is for personal projects generally and those would technically not need an extended license. But in all practicality you will ultimately need this.
So, do you really get a logo your business can immediately use for $5? Probably not. Could it save you money? It might. But it could take longer than you thought and require more research than you expect.
Does Fiverr really save you time?
People say time is money for a reason and no one knows that better than small business owners. Any time you have to take away from running the day-to-day operations of your business can cost you money. So, if you are looking to Fiverr for your creative design needs, be prepared to do some research before you choose your designer.
Fiverr is a buyer beware environment. It is up to you to look into the designers you like to make sure they are who they say they are and can do what they say they can do. This can be tough on a site like Fiverr because there appear to be many examples of people misrepresenting who they are and what they can do. These are just a few of the articles I found that give cause for concern:
- What I’ve Learned About Fiverr – A blogger/writer/English teacher discovered that someone was using her picture to sell services like writing term papers and other homework assignments.
- Portfolio of theft: GravityArt – Seller “GravityArt” is exposed for using other designers’ work in his portfolio.
- Fiverr continues to be awful. Doubles down. – A search of Fiverr designers finds several designers who have clearly taken images from stock photo sites and claim it is their own original work.
- The $5 Logo – A designer decides to find out if the $5 logo claim is too good to be true by posing as a company looking for a logo and is contacted by more “designers” trying to pass off stock images as original work.
How can you be sure that you own the design you paid for?
Unfortunately, you won’t know if the design you receive is original until after you have paid and the Seller sends you the file (that is why looking into the designer is such an important step). After seeing the Fiverr ad on Facebook and wondering how they protect their Buyers from fraud, I asked them in a comment on the ad. I had to ask multiple times before they responded. A screenshot of the conversation is below:
Miki Hickel I’ll ask again. Who owns the copyrights to the logos? How do you make sure that your designers aren’t stealing images from the internet and passing them off as their own work? Real designers create original images that can be used in ways that won’t get small business owners sued.
Fiverr Buyers are granted all rights for the delivered work, unless otherwise specified by the seller on their Gig page. More information on copyright is here: http://bit.ly/1ifihqD. There’s a lot of information there, but let us know if this does not answer your question.
Note: This response was partially copied and pasted from the Overview section of Fiverr’s Terms of Service. You can read the the whole thing here.
Miki Hickel You market to people who don’t understand copyright issues. What I want to know is are you willing to protect them when one of your designers creates something that violates copyright” Your own site says designers are essentially on the honor system:
“Can Fiverr determine copyright ownership?
No. As a global platform operating in 196 countries featuring 100% User Generated Content (UGC), Fiverr isn’t able to mediate rights ownership disputes. Per our Terms of Service and Intellectual Property Policy, we promptly remove any content reported to be infringing subject to sufficient proof, and remove repeat infringers.”
Fiverr If that link doesn’t help clarify for you the protections/rights, you can always create a ticket which may get diverted to the legal team if necessary. If you have problems with copyrights or any issue with a seller regarding that contact CS for resolution. Thanks.
So, if Fiverr doesn’t check the work of their Sellers, how can you protect yourself? After you pay and get the file from the Seller, I suggest doing a reverse image search. Just like the guys on the MTV show Catfish do to find out if someone is pretending to be someone they are not on the internet.
Why do you have to do so much research?
What I learned from my Facebook interaction with Fiverr is that they claim no responsibility for the content on their site because they classify it as User Generated Content (UGC). UGC is information published on a website by the site’s users rather than the owners of the website. Sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Wikipedia are all UGC sites. Why is this term so important that it’s an acronym? The answer to that is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
The DMCA was signed into law October 29, 1998. This is the act that established who owned the rights to what on the internet (and a lot more complicated copyright issues). There is a section of the DMCA (section 512) that protects online service providers from liability if their users violate copyright without them knowing. This allows sites like Facebook and Fiverr to operate without having to actively watch what their users are publishing as long as they have documented procedures about notifying people when they violate copyright and removing the offending content.
So, Fiverr’s hands-off strategy when it comes to what their users are selling is a means of protecting the company from having to take responsibility for violations. Here are some other examples of services that people provide on Fiverr that are legally questionable:
- A Competitor Bought 200 1-Star Reviews For Our Facebook Page – Here’s Our Story – A Jeweler in the Boston area noticed that their star rating on Facebook took a serious nose dive over the course of a weekend. They discovered that a competing business paid someone on Fiverr to give them hundreds of one-star reviews.
- Amazon Sues 1,114 Fake Reviewers On Fiverr – People were offering to post five-star reviews on products on Amazon. Amazon went after the Sellers, and Fiverr assisted in removing those services/Sellers, but only after the fraudulent reviews were already posted.
- Buy Watermark-Related Services Starting at $5 – This is not an article. This is a link to an actual page on Fiverr where you will find many Sellers openly offering to remove watermarks from images that obviously belong to other people because they added watermarks in order to protect their work.
Why am I telling you this?
I’ve worked with many small businesses over the years, and I am fiercely loyal to them even after they no longer need my services. I feel like the people who need Fiverr’s services the most, people like my clients, could also be the most harmed by the way the business is run. It can be an excellent resource or a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
You may not think it is a big deal if your logo looks like someone else’s. You might think no one will notice. But small businesses do get sued for stuff like this.
You shouldn’t have to become an expert in copyright law to get a logo made to represent you and your life’s work. That’s what good designers do. A salon in the Seattle area, Tart Beauty Studio, was recently sued by Tarte Cosmetics for trademark infringement. You can see the story from the local news below:
Once you have established your brand, and your customers know you by that brand, do you really want to have to start over? Do you want to have to pay the legal fees to establish that you have the right to use your logo or design with the knowledge that Fiverr has zero obligation to protect you? According to KING5’s story, the salon owner, “…estimates it would cost close to $10,000 to change the salon’s name, her business license, signage, business cards, and website.” I want people to be fully informed about the potential problems before they use a Fiverr designer to design something so important for them.
What are your other options?
There are other sites that can connect you with freelance designers who will work with you on price. I don’t have experience with any of them so I can’t say any one of them is better than another. I will suggest working with the sites who do some sort of vetting of their designers or the work they do. Mylogodesigner.com reviews the design services offered on their site. Envato Studio is an Australian based site that selects qualified designers from a pool of applicants. Freelancer.com allows you to post your project, take bids from freelance designers, and pay when the project is complete. Or you can try posting your work on Craigslist to meet a designer in your area.
What is the advantage of working with a local designer?
You do not get to build an on-going relationship with your Fiverr designer outside of the Fiverr site as it is a violation of the Fiverr’s rules. Fiverr says in a blog post from June 21, 2013 that, “For your protection, any contact information exchanged in order to reach a buyer or seller outside of the Fiverr platform violates our Terms of Service.” If you need to purchase a different file format of your logo for your business needs down the road, you have to do it through Fiverr. If you do business outside of the Fiverr platform, Fiverr can block you from accessing the site without warning.
Brad Gosse, a Fiverr seller, describes when this happened to him in his article, I Was Banned By Fiverr.com. Fiverr blocked his account locking him out of the site and held on to the money he had earned for a “safety period.” Stories like this are common online. So, you may be working with a designer on the Fiverr site, and one day they just disappear for violating the Terms of Service. That leaves you starting over with another designer.
A local designer is not limited in how they can communicate with you. They know your area, they have a better knowledge of your audience than someone on the other side of the world. They can meet with you face to face to get to know you and your business better than if you just describe it to them in writing.
You can also get to know your designer. You can learn their design aesthetic and their creative process so you know how to tell them what you want in the most efficient way. You can figure out how much education they have in design best practices, color theory, typography. You may know some of the designer’s other clients and be able to speak with them about the work the designer did. You can build a relationship with them and make them your designer who will work with you for years in support of your business.
It may cost more than Fiverr, but you will have a designer who is invested in you and your success.