You may notice that I don’t write a lot of articles in the “Marketing” category, here on Digital Image Magazine. There’s a reason for that: it’s hard to come up with good, solid ways to earn money as an artist. I don’t want to recommend something to my readers if it’s not worthwhile. But it’s not always easy to tell when something is a good idea, and when it’s a terrible one. For instance, just this morning, I learned about a website called Fiverr. Fiverr has only been around since March 2010, but it’s already ranked in the top 300 websites in the world! That’s pretty amazing. Apparently, Fiverr’s got something a lot of people are interested in. What could it be?
Fiverr is a site that allows you to buy or sell services and products for five dollars. Payment is via PayPal, and Fiverr takes a small amount out of the five bucks, as does PayPal. What you’re left with is three dollars and change. And for that not-quite-four-dollars, people are offering all kinds of things. Need someone to sing Happy Birthday in Chinese? Write a blog post mentioning you? Draw your ad on their face and take a picture? Fiverr is where you can hire someone for five bucks to do these and many, many more things even more bizarre and strange.
At first, this just seemed sort of odd and funny. But then I started noticing that people were willing to do artwork for not-quite-four-dollars. Photo retouching. Poster design. Digital painting. Web graphics. CD cover design.
For five bucks.
I checked out blogs and such to see what the buzz was about Fiverr, and surprisingly, most see it as a positive thing. Some artists and writers claim that it’s a good way to build a portfolio, to get your foot in the door, and so forth. But to see artists offering their services for next to nothing does not sit well with me. I can’t help but think it’s a sign of the times, the bad economy, and the scarcity of good-paying jobs. It seems innocent enough, perhaps. While you’re waiting for the economy to pick up, why not pick up a few bucks on Fivver? But perhaps this state of affairs is actually contributing to the employment problem. After all, why should employers hire well-paid professionals when they can get a logo designed for five bucks?
For artists and other creative professionals, Fiverr is the end result of a process begun by Elance, Guru and others which have freelancers racing each other to the bottom, in hope of snagging a gig. According to MSN’s Money column,
Since the start of the recession, the number of freelancers listing their services through online contracting site Elance tripled to 700,000; CrowdSpring has more than 61,000 graphic artists and writers competing for work by submitting finished projects on spec. Yes, thanks to today’s fantastically abundant labor supply and technology that has American freelancers competing directly with their Third World counterparts, anyone can hire decent talent for less than the minimum wage.
Catch that last part? “Less than the minimum wage.” In other words, the Internet now makes it possible for professionals to compete against each other, fighting tooth and nail, for the dubious honor of making less per hour than a greeter at Walmart. Personally, I believe we are in for a long, hard economic recovery, from what many are calling the Second Great Depression. Unemployed workers aren’t out on the streets, as they were in the 1930’s, so the true situation is not as visible as it was then. Instead, the unemployed are at home, in front of their computers, bidding against each other for every dime.
Okay, that was not the sort of article you’ve come to expect on this site. But I thought it was an issue worth raising. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts and stories. Have you had experiences trying to get work online? What’s your opinion of Fiverr and it’s many clones (there are many copycat sites like Fiverr)?
- Marketing: How to Price Your Work
- Marketing: A Review of Online Portfolio Sites
- Marketing: A Review of Fine Art America
- Marketing: Standing Out in the Digital Crowd – Part Two
- Marketing: Where to Sell Prints of Your Work Online
- Resources: Photoshop CS5 and other cool new stuff
- Show Your Stuff: Getting Your Work Online