About 2 years ago I discovered Fiverr. For me, it was such a treasure trove of great resources. I had just retired and wanted to start a side hustle to add some income. My biggest problem was that I had a steep learning curve about how to run an eCommerce empire. Of course, it wasn’t an empire yet, but that was the dream. A friend let me know about Fiverr and that I could find some of the technical help that I needed.
I jumped in with both feet as there was so much that I needed help with and there were so many gigs available that were affordable. SEO, WP help, graphics, Pinterest, ad management, you name it I was able to help supplement my skills. Of course, while most of my experiences were good, there were a few common threads that just bugged me. I always try to leave a positive rating and review because that is one of the main things a potential customer looks at that before they hire a gig. These common business practices just bugged me and really prevented me from leaving that 5-star review.
Before I jump into the items that would keep you from getting that 5-star review, let’s make sure that we are on the same page, and that we are starting off together. First, you have the basic skills to do the job. No matter how many insights I give you, if you can’t meet the customer’s requirements and do the job, my tips won’t help.
While there is often a desire to do extra for the client so that they will rate you well and if possible, be a repeat customer, be careful not to go outside of what you agreed upon. I have hired a gig to help me with SEO and the contractor decided he would surprise me with a new theme that looked better and some premium plugins. All this was well-intentioned but the impact was completely the opposite. Since he never asked, he was unaware that I run several sites, and keeping the same themes and plugins makes it easier for me to maintain. Secondly, what looks good is different for each individual. For me, the changes “looked better” looked very bad to me and did not fit my customer base.
Second, in addition to having the skills, you are giving it your best effort and are being honest about the finished product. If you promise a tenfold increase in sales and the site doesn’t get any sales, well then, your likelihood of a good review is nonexistent. Recognize that sometimes mistakes are made. Own your own mistakes and don’t put it on the other person, especially if it was a misunderstanding. See Communications below!
At the heart of many otherwise poor rating is culture. It is obvious on the surface yet we seem to forget that different parts of the world do business differently. I’ve lived and worked in both Europe and Africa and I can tell you that I was always amazed how different locations could be even though they were geographically close, culturally, they were light years apart. Remember, as you read this, even though I am well-traveled, I still look at things through an American set of eyes.
Once when I was in Khartoum, Sudan, I had to meet an official to get some papers approved. The official told me to come by anytime and he would take care of it for me. So, once I had some free time, I went to his office. I asked his secretary if could get my paperwork signed and she said yes and I was shown to a waiting room. A couple of hours later I asked again if I could see the official and was again told yes.
Unfortunately, not understanding the culture, I did not pick up on the subtle hints that in reality, the official could help me but not now. Come to find out he was out of town and would not be back for several days. The culture was such that it would have been very bad for the secretary to give me bad news. She expected me to understand her hints and I was expecting a direct statement about his whereabouts. That lesson only cost me nine hours!
I have spent a few years as an adjunct professor teaching communications. One of the key items in communications theory is that the sender of the message is responsible for the message getting through correctly. In other words, you have to adjust how you say or do things so that the listener or customer in this case understands what you mean. Don’t expect the customer to adjust to you!
So often we find ourselves looking at our intentions and the impact that the words had on the person. Our first reaction is to blame the other person for misunderstanding us when in fact the responsibility lies with us. Did we take time to understand how the other person does business? In public speaking we are told to know our audiences, the same is true when working on Fiverr. Understand who your customer is and adjust to their cultural norms.
Another thing to remember is that the same word may mean something completely different to the person hearing the words. Back when I was in the army, I was stationed in Germany in a small village. We didn’t have housing options so we were encouraged to live off base which was what I did, in a small village on the edge farming and a forest.
The British were having some exercises with their tanks in the area just in the forest outside of my village. I met one of their soldiers and was invited to join them that night after they finished up for the day. After a nice meal of steak and kidney pudding (an acquired taste!), we sat down around a campfire and shared stories. We were talking about waffles (British slang for rambling) which had me baffled when the guy next to me slapped my knee and said that it was such a great evening when you can have a fag around the fire.
At that point I didn’t hear anything else as I was trying to figure out what my host’s intentions were all about. Seems words have 2 meanings. We both spoke English but the meanings we assigned to the words were vastly different. To an American, a fag is synonymous with a homosexual whereas to a Brit it is a cigarette. Vastly different meanings.
Some words just have a lot of meanings even within the same culture. If you heard me say /ɹoʊz/ which can be spelled rows, rose, roes yet pronounced the same, what am I talking about? This particular word has at least eight meanings that I can think of, How many can you think of?
3 phrases to avoid
So you understand that you have to do the job and do it well and that you have to think about the customer when you discuss things, so now what? Here are three things to just avoid, don’t ask, don’t mention, just don’t
What’s your budget?
Americans in general don’t share their budgets with the folks they are negotiating with. If we hear that question, we think whatever I tell them they will charge that amount so they can take all the money they can on the project.
Part of the problem here is that as a buyer, I know about what the value of a service is here in the United States, but not in your country. Just because the internet makes borders almost extinct, the reality is that we live in very different worlds. Sure if you hear what I make in a year, I may seem rich to you. I saw this in Africa often, folks were looking for a handout because they saw us spending money that they could not imagine.
For example, in Juba, South Sudan, I would often eat out every night, a practice I could not do here at home. Because even though I worked for an NGO I only made $30,000 USD per year which in US terms is not much. I could buy dinner out because it was about $2 USD at a local restaurant. That same dinner at home would cost me about $20 USD. The other thing to keep in mind is that the average South Sudanese makes only $30 USD a month. Sure I understand why I looked rich, but in reverse, why would I pay a month’s salary for something just because I was an American in your country?
If we take that example to Fiverr, are you charging a fair price to your countrymen or do your prices go higher when dealing with an American? The moment you ask what is your budget, we often feel like you want to charge extra because you think we can afford it.
We are back to intent and impact. You may just want to make sure you don’t charge too much, but the impact is, well, very differnet.
So how do you get around this? Make your packages realistic. You have three levels, so price your services fairly. If you get asked for a custom order, name your price. Say something like, your package fits between options one and two, so lets say halfway between the two. Americans have no problem paying a fair price especially if they understand why. You know what it takes to get the job done, so don’t be afraid to name your price. If it is off our budget, we can start talking from there.
Don’t worry/trust me
Intention vs impact again. I get that you don’t want folks to worry and that they can count on you to do a good job, but the second you say “don’t worry”, most Americans will start to worry. Why are they telling me that? What do they have planned? We often will imagine a businessman that is going to sell us good looking car with no engine. Instead of instilling a sense of trust, the impact is to increase worry.
A better approach may be to give them realistic expectations. Something along the lines of, “Thank you for the requirements, this is very doable in by next Friday, if anything comes up, I will let you know” This causes me to relax because I know when to expect things, at least a general affirmation that you know what I want and a promise to let me know if there are any issues. This is perfect, no need for more.
Don’t ask for a tip
In general, tips are a way to show appreciation for a job well done. Tipping is also a very normal thing Americans do routinely, not to mention that Fiverr automatically will ask on your behalf. Two things that will hinder your tips and ratings are when you expect a tip and if you appear greedy. The phrase entitlement is often used to describe an attitude that says I deserve this just because I am here doing the work. This gets away from the idea that a tip is a reward for good work rather than an expectation. If you believe the price you change is not enough without a tip, then adjust your prices.
There are times when I simply can not afford a tip. Maybe the project was more than I expected or more often than not it was something that needed immediate attention that I had not budgeted for. If you are doing good work for me, then you will get repeat business from me which will put more money in your pocket than a tip might have done.
The second thing that happens if you ask for a tip is that you appear greedy. This is a trait that will turn off many people. Even if you are the best programmer out there, if you come across as greedy, then nobody will want to work with you.
In order to score those five star ratings, some things you can not control, but if you avoid those three items in this piece and try to adjust your communication to see things from your customer’s perspective, I believe that you will start to see those five star rating become more frequent. Best of luck.
Jay Fernandez is CEO of 4 Hat LLC, an eCommerce company with 19 different sites. Prior to starting his own company, Jay had over 30 years in corporate America including sitting on the executive team of several companies. In addition, both as a volunteer or in paid positions, he has worked or lived in nearly 40 countries.