You Should Sell Your Work on Fiverr – A Freelancer’s Dilemma

Blog Title: the pros and cons of selling templates

Today I’m going to talk about something most entrepreneurs can relate to: trying to convince others of the value of your work.  And, more importantly, convincing yourself.

Lately I’ve had a couple of kind and well-meaning clients suggest I sell my work on Etsy or Fiverr.  They’ve had a couple of great purchases there and you can sell a lot of stuff through those sites because they’re popular, which is fantastic!  But here’s the problem: similar designs on Etsy are $15 or $10.  On Fiverr things are sold for only $5.

The Problem with Fiverr (and Etsy)

In theory this is great for the customer.  Why pay more if you don’t have to?  But as a designer, how on earth can I justify hours of my time for $5 or even $15?  If I want to have enough money to live somewhere and eat food every day, I really can’t.

And my customers can’t afford it either.  My clients come to me expecting custom design.  Something unique, designed for their specific projects and needs.  If I were to charge Etsy or Fiverr prices, I’d be scrambling to get everything done as quickly as possible and the quality of work I’d be churning out would be atrocious, or I’d have to resort to using templated designs with minimal alterations per customer.

I don’t want to be a “good enough” designer and the small business clients I’ve had in the past haven’t wanted to settle for “good enough” either.  They’ve all been inspiring and inspired people with a vision for their service and their own customers.  I have yet to have a client who asked me to “throw something together real quick – quality doesn’t matter.” I know graphic design isn’t the only field suffering from this phenomenon.  This article from describes how entrepreneurs, especially women, consistently undercharge for their services.  Part of the cause is undervaluing our work, or self esteem issues.  And part of it is the comparison to assembly-line style competition.

One of the tips in the article is to see what competitors are charging to get an idea of your own value.  So you might think all graphic design should be priced at a similar rate to Etsy or Fiverr.  But here’s the real difference: it’s not a template.

If someone is looking for a template, then yes, it should be fairly inexpensive.  That designer will resell it over and over again until the full value of their work has been realized.  BUT if a customer is looking for a unique design that won’t be resold to all their competitors, that’s a totally different product.

Another Example: Zumba Fitness Studio

With all the free videos on YouTube, a zumba instructor might think that in order to compete she has to charge pennies.  BUT a YouTube video doesn’t have nearly the impact of being in a studio with flashing lights, catchy music, and the enthusiasm of the instructor and your peers around you.  Plus a video can’t correct your form or demonstrate a move you’re struggling with.  It’s an entirely different service.

Accepting this means accepting that not every person is your target market.  In the case of graphic design, there are a ton of people out there who just need some thing quick and cute for a birthday party.  And that’s fine!  I totally understand why you’d want a template for that.  But it’s not what I do and I’m not going to drive myself insane trying to compete with template prices.

The Zumba studio’s clients are not the people who want a quick workout for a cost of next-to-nothing.  Their clients are the people who crave an active, enthusiastic community to participate in.  Not everyone has the time or desire to attend regular classes, but for some of us, that’s all that keeps us going.  And both of those things are ok!  But you can’t cater to everyone or, as the article put it, “You can’t be all things to all people.”

I think the best thing I ever did was accept that fact.  So now, when I recognize that someone isn’t my ideal client, I gently let them know that my prices are higher than Etsy’s, the reason for it, and that it’s ok if the services I provide aren’t the perfect solution for them.

It doesn’t even have to be an unpleasant conversation.  I had 2 recently.  One potential client decided that she really was more in need of a template, and the other saw the added value of a custom design and decided to go with me despite the higher cost.  Both made the right decision for their design needs and I felt nothing but relief that no one would be unhappy with the results.

I’ve got another post planned to discuss crowd sourcing in more detail, but I’ll leave this post with some commandments for my fellow entrepreneurs:

  1. Know your worth
  2. Charge accordingly
  3. Don’t feel bad when your business isn’t the right solution for someone.  Your ideal customers are out there and will see your value.

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