I saw an article in a newsletter titled, ‘Fiverr: it’s bad, guys — it’s bad.’
As a designer myself and someone who helps to steer people away from this platform, I just had to click and give it a read.
The author, Geoffrey Bunting, is right: It’s bad.
His argument takes a deep dive, investigating the platform’s messaging, the way it treats its workers, the impact on its customers, and its ultimate impact on the value of design as a whole.
To sum it up, “…in the pursuit of profit and haste Fiverr leaves all its users behind.”
The author goes on to say that you get what you pay for.
I’d like to extend his conclusion to say — and what you (don’t) pay for hurts you and the worker. It’s time we talk about how underpaying for things hurts someone other than ourselves.
But, My Budget is Small…
I get that. Believe me, I do. I started my own company with $1,000 and have bootstrapped it all the way.
As a result, financial resources (or the lack thereof) have always been top of mind. Platforms like Fiverr — as well as the underpriced freelancer — play right into that barrier and my related anxiety by prostrating that they are more affordable than my other options.
Then they omit that the deliverables won’t be of the same quality or reliability as the higher-priced options.
How could they be? I know that I have to cut back on what I do and how I do it to reign in my costs so I can offer my services at a lower price. But I also know the line and decline projects that don’t allow me to pay my people fairly or deliver a product that provides tangible value to my client.
Alas Fiverr, as an example, actively neglects to moderate its users. See their terms and conditions: “Fiverr does not check user uploaded/created content for violations of copyright or other rights.”
Does this dichotomy mean there isn’t price variation for any given product or service? Absolutely not. There’s a valid range for everything. But if you see a significant dropoff, question what you’re getting. You could spend what little capital you have to get something that doesn’t cut the mustard.
Did you win? Likely not.
And You’re Not the Only One Who Lost
Especially now, when so much is uncertain, and budgets are restricted, we must understand that when we underpay for a product or service, there’s a human being on the other side that’s negatively impacted by that choice.
That person needs to keep their own lights on for themselves or for themselves and their family. They should not have to succumb to an endless hamster wheel, or worse working themselves into depression for next to nothing as Fievrr’s ill-fated “in doers we trust” campaign” seemed to advocate.
We all must look in the mirror and acknowledge that these platforms, desperate freelancers, and struggling indie agencies wouldn’t be in this position if we ourselves weren’t so fond of the cheap option.
We can and need to do better.
Leaders Must Break Up with Sexy-Cheap
As the leader of your organization or someone with enough agency to be making purchase decisions, you have the opportunity to think differently.
Valuing your people must extend beyond your direct hires to anyone with whom you contract.
As a business owner, I take paying my people fairly incredibly seriously. In fact, we operate on a collective model, which means they name their rate for each project, and I always probe to make sure it’s a number they feel properly values their time and talents.
Beyond that, I treat anyone I contract with — from my lawyer to my coach and anyone in between — with the same respect. I refuse to ask people to donate their time or do it on the cheap. If that means I need to save up or pay for their advice only and do the work myself, so be it.
Being valued is something you gain a unique appreciation for as a business owner. When I started my career, it was hard to command a fair wage. I did what I had to do to build my credibility and my portfolio so I could change that, but the lessons I learned remained.
I need to be able to take care of myself. I need to be able to pay my people at a rate that allows them to do the same. We all deserve that dignity.
What’s more, we all reap the benefits when we invest in each other. I can do my best work for my clients. My team is enabled and engaged in doing the same. You, the client, get the quality, reliable results that will provide actual value to move your proverbial needle.
At the end of the day, anything less devalues all of us and leaves us all behind.