Why I don’t worry about Fiverr Anymore

One of my friends works in advertising at a large New York-based agency. In a recent chat, the conversation eventually turned to sites like Fiverr. What he said next nearly made me do a spit take with my coffee

Fiverr? Yeah, I use them all the time.”

“You do?” I was astonished.

“Yeah, lots of people who will quickly whip up an image or record something on the cheap. Saved my life more than once, believe me.”

I was dumbfounded. “The stuff you make for work–?”

“Oh, sorry about that,” my friend started to explain. “We do use Fiverr, all the time. But people like you — real voice actors and graphic artists and stuff — you have nothing to worry about.”

“But…” I was at a loss. “What do you mean?”

Mad Men - Pitch session“Most people think advertising works like it did back in Mad Men or Bewitched or something. Yes, we still do pitch meetings, but no one shows up with drawings on poster paper. We’d get laughed out of the building.”

“So, Keynote or PowerPoint presentations?” I asked.

“No, that’s outdated too.” My friend continued, “If I show up at a pitch meeting with anything less than a full on video made in iMovie or something, I’d be dead.”

“So, how does Fiverr fit in?” I asked.

“Fiverr is where I get my filler. I don’t need it to be good. I just need it to stand in there while I sell the concept. In fact, if the art or the voice is too good, it actually detracts from what I am trying to do.”

It was starting to make sense. “So, you hire these people on the cheap and you throw away their work?”

“Every time.”

“You never hire them for a final job?” I asked.

“No. In fact, we keep a list of people that we’ve come across on sites like that.”

“To hire them again?”

“No. We need to make sure that we never hire anyone with a Fiverr profile for a real job.”

“Why?”

“A client once found a voice talent that we used on Fiverr. We didn’t know that she was on the site. The client felt that it cheapened their brand to be associated with anyone who would ‘whore themselves out that way.’ Their words, not mine.”

“So now you keep a blacklist?”

“Kind of,” my friend explained. “Here’s the point. That throwaway art and audio and stuff is enough for me to pitch the idea. If the agency moves forward with the concept, we look for real talent to do the real work. Why should I waste your time on a concept that may never turn into anything?”

“And this is a standard practice in your industry?”

“I think so. I mean, I know a lot of people who do the same thing all the time. So, don’t worry about sites like Fiverr. It’s filled with hacks, not artisans. We know quality. Our clients know quality. Quality costs a lot more than five bucks.”

I thought for a moment. “Outside advertising, do you think–?”

“Look, if someone believes in an idea, I mean really believes in it, there are so many ways for them to get the word out and raise real cash. The only people getting art and audio off of Fiverr for end products have absolutely no faith in their idea. You don’t want to be associated with ideas like that, do you?”

Again, I thought about it. Then, as I understood, I relaxed. “That makes sense. You’re right. Thank you.”

Thoughts

A quick bit of googling will reveal to you just how much of a hot button topic Fiverr has become in the voiceover community. So, I don’t feel obliged to retread that ground here.

It was interesting for me to hear an opinion from someone who works outside voiceover but has regular interactions with us on a professional level. It was reassuring to hear that people who traffic in ideas understand the value of what we do.

When I encounter someone trying to break into this business who has put up a page on Fiverr, I tend to tell them, “I think your voice is worth way more than that. You’re undervaluing yourself.” Unless they ask for clarification, I often leave it there.

What do you think?

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33 Replies to “Why I don’t worry about Fiverr Anymore”

  1. Thanks for introducing me to the concept of “throwaway art and audio.” It’s clear that the buyers aren’t expecting a high-quality product when shopping at Fiverr. It’s like the Dollar store. They get what they pay for, and it meets their needs.

    People will never make a living wage competing on price, because there’s always a sucker who’s willing to do it for less. Competing on value is much harder, because you actually have to deliver a product clients are willing to pay extra for.

    1. It was a truly eye-opening conversation for me, Paul. The really interesting thing for me to hear was that if the art/audio was “too good,” it could derail the conversation. A successful pitch needs to focus on the concept. According to my friend, if he gets questions about any of the talent at the end of a presentation, it can be the “kiss of death” for his idea.

      1. Yeah soooo good to hear. When I saw Fiverr I thought… its all really going to hell in a hand basket! Thx for sharing! Hopefully this will save union an other really excellent VO Artist from having to read 3-6 minutes of copy, edit out the breaths, and pops for a client with $150 bucks if you book it– and won’t even pay for ISDN studio time.

        1. The business is changing. And technology is at the root of many of the changes. But, no matter what, staying in business means treating oneself as a professional. And, Fiverr just isn’t professional.

      1. Yeah. I was going to ask, “Why not just record it yourself?” but the amount of money your friend makes in an hour is, I would assume, MUCH more than 5 dollars. So even if he banged it out himself, it’s still cheaper to go to Fiverrrr.

  2. A very important spotlight on the Fiverr debate, Steven. And it does reassure. The question that still echoes though is which sites are the right side of the ‘selling oneself short’ argument, particularly when setting out? My very first job (via Elance as it happens) was not lengthy or particularly complicated but it paid, ahem, $11. I have made large and determined strides since then, but I do wonder how I would have launched myself into the deep water without first learning to paddle.

    1. Hi Colin. My first jobs years ago were via oDesk. The first jobs were low paid, but they lead to repeat customers. So, those relationships paid well over time. I think the main difference between sites like Elance/oDesk and Fiverr is the fact that on most freelance sites, the rates are not front and center. I think it makes more sense to focus on what I do and how well I do it than to tell the world that I undervalue myself.

  3. Great to get some knowledge from the other side. I hope others use Fiver in the same manner and save the proper jobs for us pros!
    Nic

    1. I promise to ask about other P2P sites and post what he says. My instincts say there is a difference. It will be interesting to hear what he says though.

  4. Really interesting read. Not surprising that a site like that could be used for scratch tracks and the like. The black listing should be a wake-up call though for anyone who might have a “cheap” site in their back pocket as a dirty little secret.

  5. Really interesting, Steven. I think as artists, it’s always difficult to learn how to say “No.” I’m sure many of us, when we were starting out, accepted any job that came our way for the experience, the relationships and the (small) paycheck. But, as your career develops – having the luxury to say no and commit to the worth of your brand is very empowering. Thanks for sharing this perspective!

  6. Thank you for this great blog Steven. I think that it’s also a waste of energy to worry about what people are charging at the bottom. We all need to keep our focus on what we’re doing. I often say to people that it’s about knowing your worth and also where you are placed in the market, someone who buys Gucci is never going to by Primark and vice versa.

    1. Good points Rachael. Recently, when talking to a new person about their Fiverr page, it became clear that they agreed but they had no idea how to go about finding work without it. I gave them a few basic pointers and — they deleted their Fiverr profile. Maybe we need to spend more time publicizing the alternatives?

  7. Actually, this never occurred to me on the producer end, but it’s a good thought. If I don’t want to do the demo VO myself (and I think my time is worth much more that 5 bucks to spend half an hour voicing and editing a demo) I’ll have to look on Fiverr. I have, in the past, relied on talents that I employ regularly to do a demo every once in awhile, and generally they are happy to do so as I would not take advantage of them or ever use something they did without payment.

  8. Mmmmm….mixed thoughts on this, though mostly good. I’ll start with the bad for the sake of ending on a positive note.

    On the one hand, I wish that companies wouldn’t go to Fiverr *at all*, not even for pitch/concept projects that may never go anywhere. Regardless of how people feel about the union, they do indeed have a rate for “demo commercials”…in other words, just what the article is talking about: concept/pitch videos of commercials that may not even get made. That is a legitimate form of VO work. I’ve done work on a demo commercial for which I was paid union rates. So I’m not totally sure I buy the “if it’s too good, it’s distracting” statement. Clearly some companies want to hire legitimate, professional voice actors even for pitch videos.

    On the other hand, even at the union level, checks for demo commercials are pretty small, all things considered (as they should be, considering the commercial may not actually get made). So it’s not a *huge* loss when all is said and done. It’s certainly not nearly as bad as it would be if companies were using Fiverr VO talents as the talents to perform the final, finished VO.

    So, overall, good to hear!

    1. They are using Fiverr as an audio equivalent of “Clip Art.” It’s a placeholder. It’s a scratch track. Your demo commercial was probably not done for a spitball session. Your commercial was probably done for the client to review. He was talking about the level before that, when it was just colleagues, not clients, in the room.

  9. Interesting similarities between your comments and those of the “traditional publishing houses” when the ‘non-threat’ of independent publishing began.

    I wonder if the next Thurl Ravenscroft is already on Fivver, learning the craft and building a portfolio to one day start his own voice talent agency because he was blacklisted by the “legitimate” agencies.

    Interesting times, indeed.

      1. Hi Steven — I enjoyed the blog very much and I understand what you’re saying. I know it was addressed a bit in an earlier comment but what about someone who is just starting out. I don’t live in a major city although I’ve traveled to a larger market for a workshop. That’s not practical to do often. From my thinking, something like Fiverr or similar might be good for practice (even if it’s just giving someone clip art). My concern is the comment your friend made about the blacklist of anyone that’s done this type of work. How can people not living in huge markets get proper practice before making expensive demos to market themselves? Do you have any advice?

        1. Hi Chris. I understand the problem. If you were trying to become a plumber, or an electrician, I don’t think you would expect to get paid while training. I know that I wouldn’t hire a Fiverr person to fix the electricity or pipes in my home. Those industries have a very clear delineation marking what it means to be a professional. Ours doesn’t. You talk about traveling for trainings, so I know that you are trying to do the right thing. The pay-to-play sites are one option. But, we all know that those sites can’t be the totality of your business plan.

          At VO/Atlanta, David Goldberg gave a wonderful presentation that outlines how to go about finding clients directly. Here’s the link:

          Follow David’s advice. Lean on the expertise that you have developed outside VO to establish a specialty. And, market to that specialty.

  10. Thanks for this blog. I\’m brand new to the VO game and I considered using Fiverr as a stepping stone. I was looking for another good place to get experience but your blog convinced me otherwise. If I ever hope to make a full time career out of this I\’ll stick to elance/upwork for now, and look elsewhere.

  11. As a VO artist who makes a living between “real work” and “fiverr work” together I can tell you
    I have two separate identities.
    One is my given name on most voice sites, where I haul $1000+ jobs weekly or monthly.

    The other is on fiverr where I give I operate under a stage name and deliver a substantially less polished product with way less time investment per project, but more time spent overall.

    For the weeks when I don’t land those big fish, I’ll take my $200 USD/Day from fiverr.. and still deliver some of the most competitive quality stuff on there. – But with way more hassle and crappy clients and time spent overall.
    There are still some people on there who recognize quality, I will say.

    Fiverr is volume.
    Life is quality.

    Very interesting article!

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