Fiverr for cover design: yea or nay?
June 1, 2014 9:17 AM   Subscribe

The designer who normally does my ebook covers is no longer working out. Creating my own covers is not an option for me given my current lack of design chops. Some members of my writing group suggested Fiverr as the go-to place for covers. Looking around there it seems there are some decent "gigs" that would serve my needs. However, I have some questions about Fiverr itself and about the possible knock-on effects of using Fiverr for graphic design.

First question, and the more important one to me: is Fiverr legitimate and safe to use? It's plastered all over the site that it's safe and secure, but if I was running the electronic equivalent of a sweat shop I too would claim to be safe and secure. Not that I'm saying Fiverr is bad, just that their own say-so is not a compelling reason to trust them.

Second question: by paying someone five bucks (+ extras for the add on stuff I want) for graphic design work, am I devaluing the work of graphic designers? Or am I actually participating in a new marketplace that allows skilled people to connect with clients without a bunch of the overhead that traditional markets have? Basically, am I hurting graphic designers as a group by hiring a graphic designer who chooses to offer their services through Fiverr?

Third and final question: have you used Fiverr for design services of any sort? Were you satisfied with the process? Were you satisfied with the end product?
posted by Sternmeyer to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Second question: by paying someone five bucks (+ extras for the add on stuff I want) for graphic design work, am I devaluing the work of graphic designers

Your profile indicates you're a programmer in Canada, a nation where the lowest hourly wage is in Alberta, at $9.95 an hour.

Ask yourself this: What sort of professional work would you being willing to do for $5? 'Cause you're not just insulting and debasing graphic designers here, but pretty much everyone who fought for people to have a living wage along with a 40 hour work week that allows days off.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:27 AM on June 1, 2014 [13 favorites]

I haven't used Fiverr for design work, but my attitude would be that it's not that morally problematic. It's not spec work, like those contest-oriented design sites. As long as designers aren't doing work they don't get paid for and you can take with you, I don't think you're a bad person to use it. It's up to the designers to decide if it devalues their work. If they're spending more than 15 minutes on a $5 job, then they're making a non-minimum wage but I think that's basically on them.

This is a lot of thought to go into such a small purchase. If you have any concerns at all just do it and figure it's really not costing you much. If you have to do it a few times then you can feel less badly about devaluing design work.

Re: Brandon's comment, this seems to me to fall on a continuum that goes from: unpaid internship -> spec design work -> freelance design -> full time staff design. Just because this isn't as good as a minimum wage full time job doesn't mean we should reject it entirely! Designers have done far worse in the past to get a leg up and I think everyone's eyes are open about what this really is.
posted by heresiarch at 9:39 AM on June 1, 2014

Interesting point Brandon Blatcher, but I feel that my use of Fiverr would not have the effects you describe:
  • Fiverr is a voluntary marketplace that sellers choose to participate in, and everyone is on the same page as far as the terms
  • While the base service offered is priced at $5, my own service would include options that rise the price to at least 35$ per cover
I should have mentioned that I was not actually going to be paying the base rate due to my need for extras like same day service, spine+ back cover and the like. Do most people pay the bare minimum $5?

@heresiarch: Individually the purchases are small but I buy a lot of covers.
posted by Sternmeyer at 9:47 AM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I forgot to mention in my reply that I am asking about Fiverr as a whole having detrimental effects, not so much my individual use of it, as I would be paying what I feel is a fair price for a one-off cover. Done threadsitting, for real.
posted by Sternmeyer at 9:48 AM on June 1, 2014

I'm with Brandon Blatcher here. How much would you be willing to write for $5? For $35 with a same-day turnaround? How long does it take for you to write something, and how long does the average layperson assume it takes for you to write something? How much did your old designer charge, and what was their turnaround time? People often underestimate how much actual work goes into projects like this; if it feels like you're getting a bargain, you're underpaying.

If you end up paying a fair price for good work, the least you could do is recommend the actual designer and not Fiverr. People hear "Fiverr" and assume you paid $5, not whatever you really paid, and that does devalue design work.

I don't think the fact that people are voluntarily participating means that it's totally okay. People voluntarily participate in unpaid internships and work "for exposure," too.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:01 AM on June 1, 2014

I haven't been on for a while - because every single project was unusable. A couple people didn't submit anything at all. I think that at least one was upgraded and quality was no better. It was really shockingly bad - the piece should have taken a couple minutes.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 11:20 AM on June 1, 2014

As far as Fiverr, I would consider the originality of the material offered, and how likely it is you could develop a continuing working relationship. You might find that bartering with a designer might work for the latter, or working with a local professional.

I have not used Fiverr, but have hired people through similar sites. I think the pros who use Fiverr as a loss leader, selling a very basic item and getting a more professional price for professional services (add ones), are doing what I once did on EBay, with my loss leader items leading to expensive items. There are also people doing Fiverr work overseas for whom $5 is a lot of money. You have to prioritize what and who you care about more.
posted by mitschlag at 1:09 PM on June 1, 2014

Why not pop it up on the Metafilter job board?
posted by zadcat at 3:46 PM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, it is a legitimate site. The worker receives $4 after the various fees. I agree there are some gigs on the site that seem like a virtual Sweat Shop (or Virtual Assistant-like), but I never bought one of those so I can't comment.

I have used Fiverr about a dozen times. Eight of those gigs were extremely automated or something that a child could have managed. For those, $4 was a fair payment.

Four separate times, the gig-doer suggested we complete the transaction offsite by email. The price quoted was fair for the work I received (a flyer, some small graphics for a newsletter, etc.). In those cases, I paid the person with Paypal and can continue to deal with them directly. For instance, two years ago I found a German university student (or maybe recent grad?) who continues to do some small coding work.

Obviously evaluate for yourself, but I don't think anyone is getting squeezed too hard by gigging through Fiverr. As someone said about loss leaders, people seem to do the simple/pre-chewed things on Fiverr and take anything slightly custom offsite. It is kind of like buying something on eBay where they tuck their business card (or a "coupon" for their website) into the box.
posted by 99percentfake at 4:09 PM on June 1, 2014

Whenever I see a piece of craft at a local market going for less than I imagine it should, I do a mental calculation: How many of these bowls would they have to sell in order to make a living wage? For €20k per annum? €35k?

Obviously these things can be side gigs, but it's useful in gauging how sustainable a product or service it. A person taking a fiver for your ebook cover would—leaving all taxes etc aside—have to design 4000 ebook covers a year, or just over ten per day to make $20,000. Continuous, unbroken work.

An article worth reading on this subject is Pixel & Dimed, which gives some insight into the days of people trying to make fair money in a gig economy.

Fiverr is most definitely safe for you. Its moral legitimacy is a matter of opinion. And if you think $5 is a fair price for a one-off cover, then my answer to that question is going to be very different from yours.
posted by distorte at 1:20 AM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

For $5 or $35 you'll get mostly very amateurish work. For better work you could run a contest on a site like Crowdspring.
posted by Dansaman at 7:38 AM on June 2, 2014

You might be interested in this overview of getting a logo from Fiverr.

I am a graphic designer, and I don't really view the people doing this kind of work as competition. Not to be too much of a snob, but there's still going to be chefs in a world of fast food.

Also on sites like this copyright infringement, plagiarism and plain old theft are pretty common. You might not get exclusive rights to the design either which would make pursuing copyright infringements very difficult if not impossible. Even worse, if the "designer" you paid ends up selling you ripped off work and then you get sued!
posted by fontophilic at 10:23 AM on June 23, 2014

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