Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fiverr - what would you do for $5?

As an experiment recently, I've been using fiverr to test out the lower end of the e-book market. It's a really neat idea: you offer to do small jobs (called gigs) for $5. The site takes a buck, leaving you with $4.

Now, let's get some perspective. $5 isn't exactly a lot of money. It's what you pay someone to park your car for you - not the parking fee, just the tip. It's the price of a latte or a glass of cheap wine. It's less than an hour at minimum wage. (Florida's minimum wage is $7.21.) In other words, these are the sort of jobs you expect to spend a short time on.

When it works, fiverr works well. I've done a bunch of short e-book conversions for people - the kind of thing that take me 15 minutes with the tools I have. I do a 15-minute training course where I show them how to upload books to the Amazon Kindle store. I do another one where I take them through the options on how to convert e-books. They're easy little jobs I can do on the side, and they're really useful to people who can't get going without a bit of help. It's also helped me get a good understanding of a different segment of the e-book market.

Where fiverr doesn't work is that too many of the buyers expect far too much from it. Some of the jobs I've been asked to do would take me, quite literally, days, and often they seem to want to enter into contractual negotiations that would be more appropriate for a six-figure contract.

For example, I make it clear that the conversion services I offer cover short, simple books only (max 20 pages, text only, I require Word format, I do not upload the book, and you get either Kindle or ePub format). Here's a typical request:

"My book is just over 450 pages, fully illustrated, in PDF format. I require Kindle and Nook versions, and I need you to upload it to Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo, priced $19.99. I will also require a notarized warranty from you that in the event of any defects you will fully reimburse anyone who has purchased the book from me. If I do a second edition, will this be included in the original price?"


For five freakin' bucks?

And you expect me to pay a lawyer out of that as well?

Did you even read the terms?

One that really made me laugh was a guy who sent me a 10-page questionnaire to "assess my suitability for the gig". Just filling in the damn thing would have taken me two or three hours. I can't help wondering how long he spent coming up with all the questions to make sure he was going to get best value for his $5.

Sadly, I guess about 50% of the requests I get are equally ridiculous. A glance down the "gigs wanted" section shows a similar level of expectation permeating fiverr. "Design and build my corporate website and set up the customer database." "Create me a 15-minute animated video using 3DS Max." "Record my novel as an audiobook." "Conduct a telephone poll of 1000 people." "Create a series of 25 5-minute training videos."

I know the economy's in a bad way, but honestly, people need to keep some sense of proportion! We're helping out for tips here, not providing full professional services. Frankly, it's insulting. I'd rather be asked to do it pro bono than be offered five bucks. I'd still decline, but at least that way we wouldn't be pretending that this was a serious commercial transaction.

On balance fiverr's a good service, as long as you can avoid the time-wasters. I've had some nice clients, and it's actually been a pleasure helping them out, particularly for the tiny gigs that aren't worth doing "professionally". It's not really a business, but it's not charity either - it's more as if the clients are just giving you five bucks to say thank you.


Phil said...

haha totally agree, there are three types of clients on fiverr those that are decent, those that are generating material for clients from hell and those that want their name on your tits

Rottman said...

I actually never heard about them till a client of mine sent me the fiverr facebook page and asked me to maybe try and order a few short videos from there to promote his site. Overall it's a really really cool service, you can buy amazing videos, photos etc' for almost nothing!