If the economy is transforming into a “gig” or “contract” economy, where are companies going to hire these freelancers?
Platforms like Fiverr and Upwork offer networks of freelancers to fulfill a company’s needs, from short-term web development to creative services and more.
Now, Fiverr is launching a public relations category where solo PR pros can sell their services to prospective clients.
It’s not alone, though. Upwork offers categories like “Public Relations Freelancers” and “Web content freelancers.” Another popular freelance site, Toptal, offers categories like design and project management.
The unconventional professional scenario has both ardent advocates and leery skeptics.
The pros for pros
Fiverr’s global head of communications, Siobhan Aalders, says the platform is a good fit for a PR practitioner—at any career stage—who’s looking for a new challenge.
“There are a variety of Pro Public Relations sellers on the platform who bring a wide range of experience, skills and industry sectors to the platform,” she says. “Some come from a more corporate background or have worked within the entertainment, tech and financial industries, while others have started their own agencies. Whether they want to do freelance work full time or part time, each Pro seller is carefully vetted and must go through a rigorous application process to be accepted at the Pro level.”
Why promote your services on a platform like Fiverr, which will take a cut of your profits, instead of marketing yourself and building your own relationships? For PR pros who don’t want to deal with the some of the hassles that come with entrepreneurship, a platform like Fiverr could be a good fit.
“One of the most time-consuming parts of being a Freelancer PR professional is finding and pitching for work, which doesn’t guarantee a job,” explains Aalders. “With Fiverr’s Public Relations Pro Category, work will come to the professional, meaning their work time is spent making them money.”
Kate Dwyer, a PR pro based in Syracuse, New York, says the platform lets her avoid tasks she hates.
“On the administrative side, Fiverr handles all the payment details, tracks the order status, provides online tools as well as customer support if there are issues,” she says. “In other words, I get to do what I am great at, and Fiverr handles the stuff I dread.”
How PR pros get involved
Adam Nelson, founder of Workhouse PR and a Fiverr verified pro, says he came to the platform looking to hire creative talent and ended up offering his own services on the site.
“As the Public Relations Pro category came to life, Fiverr inquired if I would be interested in becoming a top-quality, handpicked professional,” says Nelson.
Dwyer says what drew her to partnering with a freelance platform was an abrupt career change.
“I had just found out that my job was being relocated to another city,” she says. “I was really worried about my next step and didn’t have a plan. It’s not easy in a town the size of Syracuse to find a role that demands my experience at the salary level I was earning.”
Lucky for her, her husband read a CNBC article about Fiverr’s opportunities for freelancers. “I signed up that day,” she says.
No small potatoes
The gig economy seems to be on the rise with reports that highly skilled freelancers now make significant contributions to their economies, and some states are passing laws to codify such work and protect workers.
The Freelance Economic Impact report uncovered that in the top 25 markets for this type of work, the population grew by 14% (from 2011-2016), their revenue grew by 19%, and they have contributed over $135 billion to their local economies (between 1 and 2% of GDP depending on the market.)
Fiverr says all kinds of clients can be found on its platform—not just the small-dollar shoppers that helped give the platform its name.
“All Fiverr sellers work with businesses of all sizes, across all industries,” says Aalders. “They have the opportunity to work with tech startups, lifestyle or fashion brands, or even bitcoin companies, multiple industries use the platform.”
The platform has also received a boost as big names joined the sellers on its marketplace.
“Fiverr has on-boarded incredible Pro talent from across the world, including iconic logo designer Rob Janoff, musician and producer Wyclef Jean, as well as photographers, book editors, and many more across the globe,” says Aalders. “In 2018 alone, our Pro marketplace experienced 400% growth and expanded to nearly 50% of the categories of the larger Fiverr marketplace.”
Not for everyone
Freelancing on these platforms isn’t a good fit for everyone.
“If you are not entrepreneurial in spirit, the world of freelancing could become a source of anxiety for the unprepared,” says Nelson. “That would most certainly be a downside.”
The work isn’t as fun and flexible as it might seem from the outside, either.
“While I can, in theory, work a flexible schedule, I honestly work regular business hours and then some, plus weekends,” says Dwyer. “But again, that is my choice.”
Freelancing also requires nerves of steel.
“I find it exhilarating, and it helps keep my writing sharp and broadens my perspective,” says Dwyer. “I’ve learned about cryptocurrency, cannabis, hip hop, the UN Climate Action agenda and all sorts of topics. I also thrive in uncertainty, so opening my queue every morning to see what’s there, is something I look forward to. That freaks a lot of people out.”
Others have complained in online blogs that the reward isn’t always worth the work on platforms like Fiverr.
One writer wrote on Medium about his experience selling writing services on the site:
Personally, Fiverr hasn’t worked out great. This is mostly because I simply don’t have the extra time right now to churn out more content and sit around waiting for/promoting orders. Between my full-time job, writing on Medium, building a portfolio, maintaining a relatively strict fitness routine, researching other side hustles, and learning as much as I can, the value on Fiverr hasn’t equaled the time spent.
Still, the benefits will outweigh the costs for some PR pros.
“I think it elevates the industry,” says Dwyer. “Entrepreneurs and small businesses that cannot yet afford to hire in-house talent or an agency can still get first-rate PR services and start to understand the value of PR. Then later, they are more apt to make a long-term commitment to add PR staff or a dedicated PR agency.”
She also suggests that agencies and in-house teams looking for overflow might want to check out Fiverr’s listings.
“Fiverr PR Pro freelancers also lend support to in-house teams at large companies that are overstretched, have burning deadlines and need top talent with a click,” she says. “Likewise, PR agencies are tapping into Fiverr to supplement their teams with qualified professionals.”
What you will need
Thinking about joining the ranks of Fiverr’s freelance army?
“Be clear in the dedication of your delivery,” says Nelson. “Sharpen your communication commitment, as you may be working with those who have never embarked upon a public relations partnership before, and they may be unaware of the basic tenets of service.”
He also advises would-be freelancers, “Multitask like a master.”
Dwyer highly recommends becoming a “Pro seller” or getting some third-party validation from the platform.
“Becoming a Pro seller has been a huge boost to my sales. Buyers look for the Pro label if they want a higher level of experience and strategic input,” she says. “When they see results, then you have yourself a return customer. Those customers, in turn, write reviews, and that gets you more work.”