A career as a freelancer is a dream for many Americans. The ability to earn money without the constraints of a typical workplace, such as a 9-to-5 work schedule or managers breathing down your neck, is a life that many would consider a luxury.
There were nearly 57 million freelancers in the U.S. in 2018, according to Upwork’s annual Freelancing in America survey. That’s up from 53 million in 2014, and the workforce is expected to keep growing well into the future as the gig economy continues to thrive.
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Fiverr: An Overview
Created in 2010, Fiverr is a platform that allows freelancers to post their services for sale to the public in one aggregated place. The name comes from the company’s original mission, which was to have services starting at just five dollars.
Freelancers on the site can now charge what they want up to either $5,000 or $10,000 for custom offers, depending on the individual seller’s level. However, to keep an element of the original mission, the price still has to be a multiple of $5.
The Benefits of Fiverr
You can buy nearly any service on Fiverr, as long as it’s legal to do so. For example, type the phrase “birthday message” into the search bar, and you’ll find dozens of posts of people willing to wish any friend or family member of your choosing a happy birthday in nearly any way imaginable.
This includes one post advertising a birthday greeting from everyone’s favorite transformer Optimus Prime and another one in which a man you’ve probably never met will sing happy birthday to you from the comfort of his own shower.
But Fiverr isn’t just for fun and games. You can also get things like logos for your business and search engine optimization (SEO) for your website. It is a truly useful place to look for people to do things that you yourself don’t know how to do.
One big caveat to Fiverr is that for important projects like financial or legal consultation, Fiverr doesn’t have any system in place to verify credentials. For instance, anyone could claim that he’s a lawyer in his profile or in a service listing. This goes for anything on Fiverr, so read reviews, look at professional platforms like LinkedIn, and do your research to ensure trustworthiness before clicking “buy.”
That said, there are protections in place for both freelancers and customers if things go awry.
Fiverr has a resolution center at your disposal if for some reason there’s an issue with your order. As an added protection, freelancers don’t get paid until you approve the work that they’ve done for you.
With more than three million gigs listed on the website, Fiverr is one of the largest freelancer platforms in the world.
But how does Fiverr stack up? I ranked it against other freelance platforms using an easy-to-follow rating system so you can see for yourself. I’ve given the services scores of one (worst) to three (best) for each of four categories: bang for your buck, ease of use, customer service, and reputation. I then added the four individual scores together for the a given freelance platform's overall scores.
Bang for Your Buck: 1.5
Fiverr charges no upfront fees for freelancers to use the platform. Instead, freelancers make 80 percent of what they price their jobs at.
As a customer purchasing services, you pay a $2 service fee on purchases of up to $40, and then a five percent fee on purchases over $40. These are higher than Upwork’s fees for both freelancers and customers.
Ease of Use: 3
If you’ve used any other online store, you can buy a service on Fiverr. Its online marketplace is a breeze. It makes getting a logo for your business or having somebody make a promotional video as easy as buying a pair of shoes on Amazon. As such, this freelance platform gets a perfect score in this category.
Customer Service: 1
Fiverr customer service is only reachable through their “Contact Us” portal, which requires you to wait 24 to 48 hours for a response. I couldn’t find any sort of phone number or support email for direct access to their customer service team.
Fiverr, Inc. has an F rating by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The biggest complaint I saw was that Fiverr was allegedly falsely shutting down accounts due to violations of their terms of service when people went to retrieve their orders.
Almost all of the BBB complaints I read had the status of “resolved” or “answered,” though. So at least it’s good to know that Fiverr is taking steps to resolve these claims.
Fiverr is a great service. Its main draw is obviously the price of its services. With most things starting at just $5, it’s easy to get drawn in.
But Fiverr's lackluster customer service and somewhat worse-for-wear reputation certainly leave some things to be desired.
The pro version of the platform is great. However, you have to keep in mind that you’re dealing with the same company as the regular Fiverr site, so you get some of the same issues, just a more polished version.
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Fiverr Pro Review
Fortunately, Fiverr listened to user complaints about user reputability and launched Fiverr Pro in mid-2017. This is an offshoot of Fiverr that allows professionals to list their services separately from the rest of Fiverr. If you want to be listed on Fiverr Pro, you must undergo a strict application process.
Only one percent of Fiverr Pro applicants are accepted, according to Fiverr Pro’s about page. In the application process, they verify things like your higher education credentials and professional licenses, as well as previous experience and portfolios. Only certain categories are available on Fiverr Pro right now, but they’re adding more regularly.
The two notable missing categories on Fiverr Pro that caught my eye on the regular Fiverr platform are financial and legal consulting. One might guess that these are absent because their credentials are more important to verify, so it’s harder to get approved.
This makes me question the integrity of the freelancers listed in these categories on the regular Fiverr site. I would hate to purchase legal services on the platform from someone who has no history practicing or studying law.
Obviously, with all that work that Fiverr puts into verifying the people who qualify for the Pro platform, these freelancers generally set their prices much higher than what you would find on the original Fiverr platform for similar — albeit likely lower quality — work. The lowest fees I saw on Fiverr Pro started at $100.
Fiverr Pro shares the same ratings, issues, and overall score as the regular Fiverr site. It also has the same disputes center, and the percentages taken for freelancers and customers alike are also the same.
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Upwork’s target audience is similar to Fiverr Pro, although its roots go much farther back. Upwork was originally Elance, which launched in 1999 and eventually morphed its way into Upwork as a full company rebrand in 2015.
How It Works
Upwork is slightly different from Fiverr and Fiverr Pro. It can work one of two ways.
As a freelancer, you first need to be approved for the platform. Then you can create a profile, where you list your skills and hourly rate. From there, someone who needs a project done can contact you and work out the details of what they need you to do.
On the other side, as a consumer, you can create a job posting for the task that you need done. This would contain the relative skills and qualifications of the person you’re looking for, what you’re willing to pay, and how long the job would take. For example, if you need somebody to do web design work, you create a job post with what you want, list the necessary skills as web and graphic design, and write that you’re willing to pay (for example) $25 an hour.
Like Fiverr Pro, there is an application process to create a profile or apply for a job.
From the number of categories and postings, I would bet a handsome sum that Upwork’s application acceptance rate is much higher than one percent. This presents some of the same concerns as the regular Fiverr site when it comes to reputability and verification of things like college degrees or professional licenses.
Upwork’s structure puts the responsibility of checking a person’s credentials slightly more into the hands of the person hiring.
This makes some sense, since the site resembles a traditional job board like Indeed or Monster.
The platform's disputes process is very similar to Fiverr's. The company holds funds in escrow until the job is approved by the customer. For any other issues, you can always visit the help center to file a dispute or contact customer service for more help.
Upwork is the largest freelance platform in the world, with over 3 million jobs posted every year, adding up to more than $1 billion in total transactions for freelancers.
Bang for Your Buck: 2
Upwork charges a 2.75 percent fee on top of what you pay for your services from your freelancer.
If you're a freelancer, Upwork charges you 20 percent of your listing price or hourly rate up to $500. Between $500 and $10,000 they take 10 percent, and above $10,000 they take five percent. The rates for customers aren’t great, but the rates for freelancers are better than Fiverr Pro’s flat 20 percent fee. This balance out the score.
Ease of Use: 2
Upwork takes a little getting used to. Going between Fiverr and Upwork is a little jarring. The best way to use Upwork is to think about it as a job board (rather than as a marketplace), since that’s really how it operates.
Customer Service: 3
Upwork’s customer service team is available to reach 24/7 through the help portal, live chat, or phone support. They list direct numbers to their corporate offices, as well, so they’re certainly not afraid to talk to their customers.
Upwork has a BBB rating of A+ and receives overall positive reviews from both freelancers and customers.
Overall Score: 10
Overall, I really like Upwork. It’s not perfect, but the fact that it’s the elder of the two companies certainly shows. Upwork has clearly had quite a bit more time than Fiverr to perfect both its customer service and its fee structures.
Upwork vs. Fiverr vs. Fiverr Pro: Choosing the Best Freelance Platform
As I always say, which service is the best really depends on what you’re looking for. All three of these freelance platforms have unique offerings. Although they may serve similar purposes, they vary greatly in terms of pricing, interface, and the quality of the work.
If you’re looking to get real professional work done for your business or career, and you’re not pinching pennies, I would go with Fiverr Pro. The site’s strict application process and attention to detail when vetting freelancers ranks it above the competition. Although the services are more expensive, you get peace-of-mind that not all of the other platforms offer.
If you’re looking for something fun for an event like a birthday, or if you want some tasks done on the cheap, Fiverr is your best option. With services starting at just $5, it’s a great platform for people who need just a little boost with a business or some short blurbs written for a brochure. Fiverr is the king when it comes to services on the cheap.
Upwork is a unique beast all on its own. The platform’s profile system, which allows customers to reach out individually for quotes, is something that’s available on the other sites, but that isn’t easy to find. Upwork is also perfect for someone who wants to get something done, but who wants people to come to them rather than needing to sift through hundreds of potential candidates and reach out to each one.
Whether you’re a freelancer looking for work or a consumer looking for help, each three of these services can stand on its own. As the market for freelancers grows, so will these platforms. If you haven’t heard of them before today, you sure will in the future.