What five bucks will get you on Fiverr

Earlier this year, I built a new website through which I planned to publish the contents of my book, Money for Something, for free. After finishing the site, I found myself feeling unsatisfied with a couple of things.

The problems

First, was the lack of a header graphic or logo that was consistent with the illustrations I’d had designed for the book back in the day. As you can see, the sans-serif “Money for Something” there in the header doesn’t look very good:

The second thing I wasn’t happy about was the illegible avatar I’d created for the book’s Twitter account.

Rolling the dice at Fiverr

Although these issues did bother me, I didn’t feel like spending a whole lot of money to fix them, and so they’ve sat there unaddressed for a while. A few days ago, though, a friend told me about the online marketplace called Fiverr, where you can get seemingly anything done for $5.

Now, my normal go-to freelance market is Upwork, but I decided to roll the dice with Fiverr, thinking the worst that can happen is that I lose five bucks!

I wrote up a brief job description, supported by some annotated Skitches, and posted them to Fiverr:

  1. Create an illustrated wordmark header for the website, using the words “Money for Something”, with a constrained height of 55px.
  2. Create an avatar suitable for Twitter. I would need that the designer proposes a concept for this, as I don’t have any good ideas. I just know that “Money for Something” doesn’t fit in an avatar.

Within an hour, I had a basket full of responses, mostly from people from developing countries, whose bios contained spelling and grammatical errors.

Then there was this one:

An engineering student from Holland, designo_ is a Level 1 Seller—whatever that is, but sounds good—with a decently written bio, 30 great reviews, and willing to do all my work for five bucks! So I clicked the “Hire” button, made my payment, and waited with optimistic anticipation.

My optimism was short-lived, though, when this came through—obviously not written by the same person who wrote the bio:

Sir what you want in header (text) ? Also can you send me sample of avatar image or elaborate it a little more.

It seems I’ve hooked up with someone pretending to be a cute Dutch engineering student. At this point, I’m feeling like I’m out $5, and I replied:

First, it’s clear that you are not from Holland. I live in Europe, and I am very familiar with how the Dutch write in English, and your’s is definitely not that. You have misrepresented yourself, and I imagine that is against the terms and conditions of the Fiverr platform.

To which I received the following:

Dear Buyer let me clearify you basically we are a group of designers. I did’t misrepresented myself I never do. Also i am a professional designer soon you will know. I will represent you design but want to make it perfect so that you love it when you see as you mentioned earlier i can ask question about design. So kindly explain about avatar i will be thank ful

As suspected, I’m not working with a “Dutch engineering student”, but rather “a group of designers”. (Later, designo_ admitted to being from Sri Lanka, and claimed to be a “friend” of the Dutch girl.) Ok, whatever, I get the deceptive strategy. My payment’s been made so let’s see what they can do. I reiterate what I want:

  1. I want you to look at the URL that I specified in my design brief, and design a “Money for Something” wordmark, that is consistent with the design style of the illustrations in my book. This is the header graphic. It should be 55px in vertical height, and the width can be variable.
  2. For the avatar, I don’t know what it should look like. That’s why I’m hiring a designer. I want you to look at the book website, look at the illustrations in the book. look at what I’m currently using as an avatar, think about why it doesn’t work (I explained it in my brief), and then use your creativity to come up with a solution.

The next morning, I received this:

Hi there kindly see these designs and let me know if you need any change or modification if you like kindly give me 5+ rating and nice review ilove to accept your tip thank you

So my faithful, five-star-rating and tip-seeking fake-Dutch designer has provided me with the following two concepts for the header graphic—presented here at their original size:

Heavy sigh.

  1. In a height-constrained, variable-width context, you obviously don’t want to stack the words.
  2. Neither of these are hand-lettered designs; rather, they were produced using some script font. You can tell by the identical letter “e” in Money and Something.

I moved on from there to review the proposed Twitter avatar, which I present to you now, dear reader, in all its glory. Get ready for it:

YES! Exactly what I was after—a man with a combo smile and mustache, holding a briefcase and standing next to a ginormous lightbulb with some dollar signs swimming around his head. Hard to imagine anything more deeply capturing the essence of my book.

And so ends our relationship with Fiverr, and in particular with designo_, the fake-Dutch designer. I guess it wasn’t a complete loss, as the smile on my face seeing that avatar for the first time was worth something.

On to Upwork

At this point, I was invested in the design problem and didn’t want to give up. So it was off to Upwork, where I posted my job specification.

A while later, a number of proposals came in. One in particular from Ukrainian Dmitry was brilliantly composed, and pointed to some previous artwork that was similar in style to what I was looking for. Cost-wise, it was about what I would pay locally here in town, but I still considered it “economical” in the sense that I was likely getting to access much higher talent.

After exchanging a few messages with Dmitry, I hired him—and what a difference! A few hours later, some thoughtful hand-drawn concept sketches arrived:

I liked where this was going. We chatted about the options, and chose to continue exploring number five. Late in the afternoon, Dmitry sent over the next draft which, for me, was good enough to be final.

Dmitry finished up, delivered all the vector files, and I integrated them all this afternoon. The Money for Something site looks better, and I don’t cringe any more when I look at the Twitter feed!

Lesson learned

My experiment seems to confirm that—no big surprise—five bucks probably won’t get you too far on Fiverr. On the other hand, my work with Dmitry on Upwork adds to a long-running experience of getting quality work from that particular marketplace.

Agree? Disagree? What do you think?