As I mentioned in my $3k Challenge update, I have been starting to make some money using Fiverr. For those not familiar, Fiverr is a website that lets sellers offer small “gigs” in exchange for $5. Higher rates sellers have the option of selling more complex gigs for multiples of $5.
As Outlier Model once noted, Fiverr should actually be called Fourer, because they take a 20% cut on all gigs. That’s not so noticeable as a big deal for the bread and butter $5 gigs, but when you start getting into the higher valued gigs, they take the same 20%. A dollar is not so bad, but five bucks out of a $25 gig? Kind of ridiculous.
But if you aren’t careful as a seller, it can be very easy to find yourself working gigs that take much more time then they are worth. While I don’t believe that time has an intrinsic, actual monetary value, there comes a point where you are letting buyers take advantage of you.
Outlier Model writes basic, quick 250 word posts for $5. That apparently takes him about 15 minutes. As such, his rate is $20/hour (or really, $16/hr). For the speed that he can pump out those posts, it is worth it for him.
Since my side business is e-publishing, I have several Fiverr gigs related to that. For $5 I will take your manuscript of under $20 pages and convert it to epub or Kindle formats. Based on the work that people have been requesting of me, I’ve also started a new gig to fix formatting errors in existing epub books (Kindle files are compiled and it would take several extra steps to fix errors inside one). If you have a short guide you want to convert to an ebook, or having an existing one with some issues, you can check out my Fiverr page.
Why most Fiverr ebook gigs are a waste of money
I limit my conversion gigs to 20 pages for one simple reason: time. I know how other Fiverr sellers work. They take the file and plug it into Calibre to convert it. It takes them 5 minutes. Since they aren’t doing any actual work, they don’t care how long your manuscript is.
But since they aren’t doing any actual work, they also aren’t doing any quality control. Calibre probably does the better job of converting files than other machine converters, but it isn’t perfect. I’ve written before about my distaste for machine converters. As programmers will tell you, garbage in-garbage out. And Microsoft Word, the most popular word processing software on the planet, produces a lot of hidden formatting garbage. I once received a Word document that contained 118 different styles.
In an ebook, or other HTML document, each style needs to be defined in CSS. Each additional style means anywhere between 1 and 50 lines of code. All that extra code means larger file sizes. Larger file sizes mean higher fees charged to ebook sellers on Amazon.
Besides, if you are going to trust a machine converter, why pay somebody to do it for you? Not only is Calibre free software, but Kindle Direct Publishing, Kobo Writing Life, and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press all accept Word document files to machine convert on their servers. If you are going to gamble, I don’t see any reason to pay somebody to gamble for you.
That’s why every ebook that I format and convert, I do my hand. I have tools that automate some of the processes, but I check every page of every file. I READ every book I’m contracted to convert. So every book, when I’m done is correct. You won’t get any emails complaining the text is broken on page 14.
How to Lose Money on Fiverr as a Buyer
In light of what I just wrote, it’s pretty obvious that a quick way of loosing money as a Fiverr buyer is ordering a gig where the seller does a slapdash job with no quality control. If the cover doesn’t show up, there’s random blank pages, or your bullets turn into stars half way through, they aren’t going to see that. But if you then sell it, your readers will.
The same is going to be true of any gig where something is going to be done by machines with no oversight. Simply put, Fiverr is no place to go for jobs that are going to take time and care. If you do use Fiverr for something like that, you are going to wind up hiring somebody else to fix those problems. I know, because I’ve been that guy you hired.
How to Lose Money on Fiverr as a Seller
That’s why I limit my gigs to 20 pages. I can format and convert a 20 page file in half an hour. That gives me a rate of $8 per hour. Not great, but acceptable.
Trying too hard
On the flip side, for those of us that care and take pride in their work, it is easy to get caught up in a project and put an excessive amount of time into it. On the Yakezie blog, Sydney once admitted that when she started blogging, she would put 10-15 hours into each blog post. It’s hard enough to make blogging worth all the time and effort you put into it, but at that rate, each post would have to generate hundreds of dollars of income.
Last week, I had a client who needed some work done on their ebook. The cover wasn’t showing and there was a blank page between the first and second pages. No problem. Those fixes took 5 minutes. That’s an average rate of $48/hr. Not bad at all! Where the problem came in was that I noticed numerous formatting errors throughout the book. I spent an hour merging 8 different styles of bulleted lists. Suddenly, my time clock is up to an hour for four measly bucks. That’s not even minimum wage!
Of course, the problems didn’t end there. The client couldn’t download the file. It was getting corrupted in the transfer. After trying several different possible fixes, I finally found a work-around that technically violated Fiverr’s terms of service my linking to an outside website where I temporarily hosted the client’s file. Problem solved and I deleted the outside file. But I spent another hour working towards that resolution. In the end, I spent 2 hours to earn $4. Forget regular minimum wage, that’s not even minimum wage for waiting tables! Plus I don’t make tips!
Are Buyers sneaky or do they just not read?
I have had to cancel 2 gigs in just this month. I state very clearly in my gig descriptions that I only take manuscripts 20 pages or less (I do format longer works through my SEAM Publishing platform, but I can’t advertise that on Fiverr). What was worse, one of the buyers I had previously completed a gig for! Yet he still submitted a 180 page file to format from scratch.
As it is, my Fiverr gigs are at a discount compared to my regular e-publishing rates. For a 20 page ebook, I would normally charge $15. For 150 pages, my normal rate is $95. No way, I’ll discount myself by 95%. You can get away with that for a virtual product, but not a service. Anyone want to work for Depression-era wages? I don’t!
And then 3 days later, another buyer ordered a gig to convert his book. The page tally for this one was 180 pages. In both cases, I blindly assumed that buyers would read the description and follow directions. I opened the file and got to work… and then noticed the page length. Between these 2 gigs, I wasted about 15 minutes doing work I ultimately deleted.
On top of that, I also had to spend time canceling the gigs and writing out an answer as to why I was canceling. Of course, canceling a Fiverr gig doesn’t come without risk. If the buyer objects to the cancellation, you will have to complete the work or receive a negative rating. If that had happened, I could have probably appealed the decision by emailing Fiverr’s customer support and explaining the buyer’s failure to abide by my terms, but that would have been even more time and effort.
Do you use Fiverr as a seller? Ever paid for work that you then had to pay to have fixed?