Ok… So late last October, I was doing some research on Craigslist for a business I was promoting. Completely out of nowhere, I stumbled on an ad for a guy selling Craigslist Image Ads. I clicked through to his website and saw that he had done a shit ton of these things, so he was obviously making money. What’s more, they really looked pretty shitty, in my opinion.

Fascinated by this, the wheels in my head started clicking around and I started thinking about an easy way to whoop this dudes ass and take a big share of the pie. I came up with a solid strategy, but just one big hole – I didn’t have oodles of example ads to show, which I believe is likely this guy’s secret sauce in the first place – show off a ton of ads to make it looks like you’re doing a ton of business and “the man” when it comes to Craigslist ads.

So then it dawned on me – why not put up a gig on Fiverr and try to sell a few of these to get my portfolio beefed up, then flip and start crushing this guy in the real market.

So, I whipped up a gig, used a couple old landing pages I did as examples – they kinda looked like CL ads, and fired ‘er off. After a day or two, I got my first gig. I created a sweet and for this dude, delivered it, and he never responded.

Few more days went by and I got two more orders – had a nice back and forth with both guys, delivered both of their orders and got a couple positive feedback, and then it was off to the races.

I started picking up orders at a pretty quick pace. An average CL ad takes me 20-30 minutes to make. Now that’s an average – so it can be more in some cases, and sometimes I’ll get one knocked out real quick.

At any rate, things were going pretty well and I was thoroughly enjoying myself.  So much so that I decided to pop out another gig – to make 1 adjustment on any website. Now it’s pretty ambiguous, as an adjustment can be something really little like changing the copyright at the bottom of a page or something really big like fixing a bug.

But overall everything was going great and I easily rolled past $100 in earnings just knocking off gigs here and there in my free time.

It was going so good that the wheels in my head started spinning thinking of all the ways to scale this up and turn it into something super profitable.

As I went along, though, I started to notice some huge flaws in the process that actually make Fiverr extremely oppressive for professionals like me simply trying to offer a quality service for a hell of a good deal. As time went on, my visions of making big money on Fiverr started to dissipate, even as I continued to bank more and more completed gigs.

What I realized is while Fiverr goes out of their way to accommodate buyers and keep those orders flowing in, they do a terrible job of advocating for their sellers and providing a platform for them to do their job effectively.

Sellers Can’t Use HTML in Gig Descriptions

For me, this is a pretty big one. Not only is HTML not allowed, you can’t even use a line break! Now I can understand maybe what they were thinking here – not every Fiverr seller is going to be able to pimp out their listing the same way someone like me who is a front-end web developer (owner of Minnesota Web Design) would be able to. I think that is a fair argument up to a point, but looking at another similar successful company, eBay seems to suggest that people without development skills can figure out how to get along just peachy.

Why it’s a Problem

Aside from the fact that it’s just plain stupid, it actually makes it a lot harder to qualify potential customers before they place an order. When you can’t even put a line break in a block of copy, it makes the visitor FAR less likely to read through the entire listing carefully. As a result, they often miss extremely important instructions or details about the gig that would have stopped them from ordering.

Instead, they order, then realize there’s a problem, and you both have to mutually agree to end the sale, OR the burden is on the seller to clean up the mess however they see fit. This is a huge problem and actually kind of a joke that it still functions in the way it does.

Sellers Can’t Refuse Gigs/Buyers

Once someone has purchased a gig from you, regardless of what they want, you have a limited amount of time to either:

  1. Deliver the gig
  2. Request a mutual cancellation
  3. Automatically cancel but receive a negative feedback (I don’t even really count this as a legitimate option)

Why it’s a problem

In fairness, an overwhelming majority of the buyers I dealt with on Fiverr were extremely respectful, easy to deal with, and generally very grateful of the service they were receiving. Unfortunately, a few bad apples ruin the whole thing. See, there’s always got to be “that guy” who feels like since he paid $5, he is entitled to whatever he wants until he is completely satisfied, unconditionally.

I ran into several of these gems along the way, and the amount of hassle it takes to deal with them actually, for me, makes Fiverr un-viable for me as a platform for selling my services.

More on that later.

The second reason it’s a serious problem, besides the fact that there are some real pain-in-the-ass people out there, is that a good portion of the time, buyers will purchase a gig and:

  1. Only provide partial information needed to complete the gig
  2. Not provide any information needed to complete the gig
  3. Not have an understanding of what the gig is actually for (see #1)
  4. Never respond

If a buyer orders a gig and doesn’t have the information ready, or doesn’t understand what the deliverable is, that is a BIG PROBLEM, and it causes a lot of extra work for sellers at no consequence to buyers at all.

Here’s an example.

I got an order from a guy. Several days passed and he didn’t follow the post-order instructions or respond at all. So I sent him a message. Then he finally replied saying that he was going to be selling a website, wanted me to do an ad for him, and would get me the details – this reply also started the timer on the gig. After several more days, the guy still hadn’t responded. My gig went into Very Late status, which if you are a seller on Fiverr, you know is not good.

So I didn’t realize the negative ramifications at the time and just left it to sit there in my account on very late status for over a month. Then one day, I went into my account and realized I had received a negative feedback. Upon further inspection, I realized it was from this same douchebag – you see, once a gig is in very late status, the buyer has the option to cancel it and get a refund, and the seller automatically gets hit with a negative feedback. So this asshole probably ended up selling his site, completely forgot he ordered the gig when he logged into his Fiverr account over a month later saw that he could get a refund on the gig (he didn’t need it anymore anyway), and I get hit with a negative feedback.

So, I had to jump through some hoops with support to get the thing renewed. I had to waste my own time fixing the problem, and this dude got his $5 back and probably hasn’t thought twice about it since – and maybe has gone on to do the same thing to other sellers since then.

If there were an easy way to reject orders that haven’t followed the ordering instructions correctly, this all could have been easily avoided.

The feedback system is fundamentally flawed

So Fiverr has a feedback system that works a lot like eBay’s. Buyers and Sellers can leave feedback for each other after a transaction. On paper it makes perfect sense, right? I mean it should be an extremely useful tool for buyers to be able to pre-screen sellers and decide who to buy from…

Why it’s a problem

It’s not just a problem, it’s a disaster and makes it nearly impossible for professionals to be able to provide a service on there. Here’s why:

Buyers Don’t Always Understand the Feedback System and Use it Correctly

This is probably the least important reason why the system is flawed, but still an issue none the less. Let me illustrate this with an example.

I have a gig where I offer to make 1 adjustment on someone’s website. The buyer contacts me before buying, which is great, and asks me if I can help with his problem. He wants a Copyright statement added to the bottom of his home page. He also requested that he send me the HTML file, I make the change locally and then send back to him. No problem.

He orders the gig, I insert the code in the HTML file and send it back to him, and all is good.

Until a couple of weeks ago when I decided to log into my Fiverr account for shits and noticed a negative feedback. See the screenshot:

 

Here’s what happened – this idiot specifically said he wanted me to make the edit to the HTML file and send it back so he could upload. Then, as you can see by his negative review above, he obviously was unable to upload the file correctly (ASIDE: It is pretty easy to upload a simple HTML file if you know how, if you have no idea, you will likely get a similar result as above).

So I already foresaw this was going to happen, which is why you can see I told him I wasn’t able to browser test it and would be happy to adjust it if necessary. Of course this guy is so dense he doesn’t even know how to use the feedback system, and actually, gives me a negative review in the process of asking a question. Wow.

So now I get a negative feedback on a gig that was previously 100% rated, and with no recourse.

Of course I sent him a message that I would be more than happy to assist him, but during our original conversation prior to ordering, I noticed he was taking days/weeks in between responses, so this guy obviously isn’t logging in to Fiverr very often and chances are he may never even see my message, and he probably already got this fixed some other way since and no longer cares, so I’m stuck with a negative feedback on a previously perfectly rated gig. Nice, Fiverr.

Buyer’s feedback is irrelevant, difficult to even find, and doesn’t seem to impair their ability to use the site. 

For example, if I (as a seller) leave a negative feedback for a buyer because I thought he was rude or a pain in the ass, or whatever, chances are that nobody will ever see it.  However, if a buyer leaves a negative feedback for me, every potential customer is going to see that before they buy (if they even buy now that they have seen I have negative feedback).  So while a negative feedback has a huge potential impact on a seller, it has nearly none on a buyer.  Now say for example, if I, as a seller, had an option to reject orders from buyers with 75% or lower feedback ratings, that would maybe help to tilt the scales back to even.

If a Buyer decides he doesn’t like you, it only costs him $5 to screw you over.

Here is the absolute biggest flaw in the system. A buyer doesn’t really have anything to lose in giving out a negative feedback to a seller, except a measly $5. If you thought someone was a major asshole, and you only had to spend $5 to really screw them over, would you do it? My feeling is that a lot of people very likely would. 

This is best illustrated with an example.

I got a guy who placed an order with me for a craigslist ad very early on. I explicitly state in my gig that I offer one round of revisions on the ad. Of course, since I was dealing with “That Guy”, he was determined to push it to the absolute maximum he could get out of it – so overall I ended up putting in several rounds of text edits, changing font sizes, font colors, etc. All things that reasonably should have been easy to nail down pre-production and most people typically have no problems with. But “That Guy” thinks he knows everything and wants to see how his ideas look before he commits to them. So as a result, it ended up being a loss for me, but overall he was happy and left a nice review.

Then he came back a second time for 2 more ads. Same deal – rounds and rounds of revisions on things that he mostly should have already had nailed down when he provided the ad specs.

Again, I got them both finished. Then over the next month, he contacted me on several different occasions to make ADDITIONAL revisions to his ad – for example, he changed his email address, so being “That Guy” he figured it should be on me to continue to provide ongoing support for the $5 ad he bought for the REST OF MY LIFE.

Trying to be nice, and since it wasn’t that big of a deal, I kept my mouth shut and made the updates for him.

Then he came back AGAIN wanting a new ad – this time, he had a spark of creative GENIUS. He wanted to make one really big ad that was basically 2 of his previous ads in the same ad.

Now at this point, I knew this guy was a total pain in the ass. So I ignored his request.  Then he contacted me AGAIN about doing the ad. Again, I ignored. The 3rd time he contacted me, I finally asked him for more details about the ad. He didn’t fully answer my questions, so again, I did not respond. Then finally, the next time he asked, I agreed to do it – I mean simple enough, right? He basically specifically said he wanted 2 previous ads put next to each other in one big ad, so technically I figured it would be easy to do. So I took the order. The biggest mistake I made on Fiverr.

Here’s what happened.

I made the ad according to the instructions he gave me prior to starting. Including using 2 specific previous ads I had done for him.

I delivered the ad.

He responded with a list of 9 revisions to the ad – over half of which were TEXT REVISIONS to the existing text that he had told me to use from his previous ads.

I responded to him by saying that I was sorry he didn’t like the ad, but he requested too many revisions and way beyond what we had originally discussed, and I would be happy to offer him a refund since he wasn’t satisfied.

Then I had a change of heart and decided to make the revisions anyway since I had some time to spare. So I made the revisions exactly as he had requested and sent over the new mockup.

Then the following morning I woke up to find that he had replied to me again with another list of 8 NEW revisions – including revisions to his previous revisions.

At this point, I was seriously pissed. But I tried to bite my tongue as best I could. I wrote him a lengthy reply stating that I wasn’t willing to do any more work on the ad, and I also wasn’t interested in him ordering any more gigs to compensate for the additional rounds of revisions, because, frankly I thought he was a huge asshole and I didn’t want to work with him AT ALL, and I figured if he ordered additional gigs to compensate for the revisions, he would feel even more entitled to keep pushing it further. So I really just wanted to end it.

Of course, rather than accept my apology and accept a full refund, AND still have the ad I created for him, he got infuriated. He promptly replied that he had come to the conclusion that “I was not a professional”, and that he wanted me to know he would be leaving negative feedback for me, and he demanded the source files for the ad so “he could finish it himself” LOL.

Rather than getting into a pissing contest with this idiot, I instead requested a mutual cancellation, meaning he could get his money back, AND sent the following message along with it:

 

I was extremely pissed, so pissed that it pretty much ruined an entire day for me. But I still tried to take the high road and issue a sincere apology and extend an offer for a full refund.

Rather than accept the refund, take the complete ad that I already created for him for free, and spend his $5 with one of the MANY other sellers offering craigslist ads, he promptly left me the following negative feedback:

 

So to summarize, this asshole paid $5 – I created him an ad exactly matching his original specifications – then he asked me for a series of revisions which transformed the ad so much that it was actually completely different by the end of the first round of revisions – so by this time, he actually had 2 separate complete ads that he could freely start using on craigslist right away. On top of all that, he STILL left me a negative feedback, and the only thing he had to pay was $5.00.

My feedback rating prior to that was 100% overall and 100% on that Craigslist ad gig up until this point. Now my perfect feedback and gig rating was ruined because this guy just simply decided he didn’t like me and was happily willing to pay $5 to spite me.

He had no other reason NOT to accept my apology and offer to refund his money, other than pure spite.

So that right there is the most fundamental flaw with Fiverr, and the exact reason there aren’t more sellers with a professional skill level. 

As a seller, the buyer has you by the balls throughout the entire process, and you have no recourse. 

Now during my time on Fiverr, I did close to 100 Craigslist ads for clients. As I said before, most of the people I dealt with were actually awesome. There were a handful of people I ran into that were similar to the guy above, but in the other cases I was still able to work out a  reasonable solution without it resorting to a negative situation – if you’ve got any common sense, if someone is offering an unconditional money-back after you are unsatisfied with their service, you generally will want to take your money back and move on with your life – unless you are on Fiverr where their feedback system is so irreparably fucked that it makes more sense to pay the $5 to ruin someone else’s day.

So until that changes, I will not likely be back on Fiverr again. It was a fun experience, I made a little cash and I met some cool people, but a couple of bad apples can easily spoil the whole bunch.


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