Revelations From Burning Out as a Freelancer

I’ve finally got to the point where freelancing is far more stress than it is reasonably worth putting up with. However, I’ve also got to the point where I realize it is all my fault. My prices are too low, and for the most part, the quality of my buyers reflect this.

The most recent buyer horror show in my Fiverr inbox, concerns two different buyers who both ordered video work from me last year.

The first ordered a video in January 2018. They were 100% happy and left a 5-star review. Recently, though, they have messaged me to let me know they need a revision. Of course, it’s not a revision. The buyer has a new script which isn’t just different, its 1,000+ words long. It also reads like it has been written by a child, and after reading it twice, I still can’t make heads nor tales of what it tries to get across.

Buyer number two ordered a video in September last year. They too have decided they need a revision. Their banding has changed, their script has changed, and the app they use to promote their business has changed. Since I made a video showcasing their app, this means the whole thing needs reworking.

Now, I’m not a pushover, nor is it even possible to cram a 1,000+ word script into a 1-minute video (which currently has approx 50 words of text in lower thirds throughout.) In this case, I have pointed out to both buyers, that their revision request is not a revision request. I have also pointed out what is and is not possible, and that they will need to place new orders for what are in no uncertain terms, two new videos.

The response? Sheer horror at my nerve. (My videos cost $60.)

As politely as I have been able to, I have, therefore, told each buyer to clear off.

It is not just video clients, though. I’ve ended up putting Legiit in perpetual vacation mode. If I get one more buyer like my last one, I’m going to literally shoot myself. They ordered a 500-word article. They got an 800-word article. Then they asked me to optimize it for Yoast, told me it wasn’t ‘Australian’ enough, and warned me that they would be expecting better going forward.

That was my third buyer in a row on Legiit who was fully on-board with the ’I’m to talk down to you like you are dirt’ freelancer client attitude. However, that mentality isn’t limited to Legiit.

On Fiverr for the past 5-years, I have had a regular buyer who orders at least once a week. When they do, they never haggle about price. They also send a spreadsheet outlining their brief and act altogether charming. That was until recently.

About a month ago, this buyer started ordering from my basic $15 gig, before requesting up to 1,000 words of content. (Previously, they would place 2 x $20 orders for this amount of work).

I assumed this was an oversight. However, they also stared reducing their brief for each project to single obscure statements like "This is for a hardwood floor company."

After delivering their last order, they responded with a dispute screaming at me "WE DON’T INSTALL HARDWOOD FLOORS. WE MAKE THEM."

It then became clear that the person ordering from me now, is not the same person who used to. Either he has been replaced by a co-worker in the same company (they are an SEO Agency), or they have been possessed by Satan. In this case, and after a last "I’m going to be sneaky and just pay what I want order," I’ve just canceled and blocked them.

I do not work online to put up with this :poop:.

Thankfully, during my recent tribulations, I’ve relaunched my blog. In doing so, I’ve come to a quite striking revelation. Namely, there is no such thing as a less than $60 blog post.

My objective with my site is to have every post be expertly optimized for SEO and readability. In short, this means:

  • Aiming for an at least 50-60 Flesch–Kincaid readability score
  • Precisely formatting SEO titles, meta descriptions, etc
  • Finding free media to add to posts (preferably video)
  • Spending more time on more intuitive keyword searches

And generally trying to tweak everything for speed by compressing images etc.

The time it takes to do all of the above, equates to what would be approximately $60 in paid labor. - If that is, I was getting paid. On top of that, my experience as a freelancer has taught me very clearly, that setting prices lower while attempting to deliver work of comparable quality, is completely counter productive.

  • Even with an expertly SEO optimized blog post, must buyers in the $5 - $30 price bracket wouldn’t know how to make use of work produced
  • The majority of my budget clients have awful wesites and/or awful business ideas which are simply never going to go anywhere
  • Clients who expect more for less, have way beyond reasonable expectations and severe attitude problems

At present, I am lucky enough to have some clients who pay non-budget rates. However, it is not reasonably possible to cater for both budget and mid-range clients.

  • Almost every budget order takes more time due to buyers being more trigger happy with revision buttons, often to request more work FOC
  • Delays caused by budget buyers and even having to communicate with Mr. and Mrs, ’I need a revision on a year old order’ set me back and force me to rush or spend less time on more meaningful orders
  • The sheer amount of stress caused by having to try and blast 4 or 5 $15 articles out a day, is unhealthy, counterproductive, and after almost 8-years, has made me regret ever even thinking about quitting my real life career.

So, what is the solution?

At present, I’m not sure. Obviously, I intend to raise prices. However, I may quit freelancing as I am at present altogether. In an ideal world, I would like to write in a paid capacity for a single website or two on a daily basis, Alternatively, I may just switch to reselling a host of services like a lot of the best selling sellers on Fiverr seem to be doing. Or I might go into flogging template affiliate marketing blogs, in a similar way to how a seller on Fiverr makes $100K a year selling template Shopify stores.

As a final note, I’d also suggest that anyone thinking about starting to freelance at a budget price point, doesn’t freelance in the first place.

You get stuck there, it wears you down, and you end up hating the world. Go high, or go home. If it doesn’t work out, start all over again. Then start all over again if you have to a second or third time. In the long-term, any other strategy will just see your ‘career’ stagnate and become something you regret embarking on.

Look, you’re a good writer, you’re way better at SEO gimgams than I am (shh - don’t tell anyone), and you can and should bump your prices right up to FU levels that make all this pond scum clear off. Sure, you get less orders, but you also get way more money. My top tip to remember when thinking this isn’t going to work argh is that new buyers will have no idea that all your past gigs cost $100 or whatever less. I’m sure you know how to smooth talk and BS if they do question (and they’re not clients you want anyway). Also, with fat budgets, it’s a lot easier to overdeliver (I overdeliver to everyone now - something I note many pros do not, from their reviews).

Look, just give it a go. But depending on how tight money is, make sure you’ve got a secondary less stressful source of income before doing it. I had the high prices practically forced on me, but I can look back at the lean periods and say it was worth it… but I did have savings to keep me comfortable while griping.

And always, always, kick the :poop:holes out your inbox. Or should that be :peach:holes? Same thing, really. You get the idea. I have no opinion about reselling, but they’re generally a lot nicer if they pay you a lot more too, probably because everyone’s getting a nice, big fat slice of whatever pie there is.

Alternatively, have you considered a career as an internet marketing spiv? The secret seems to be getting in one of the top dogs favor, having them promote you to their list of 100,000 thirsty buyers, and then presumably acting like a vassal with multiple OTOs for their awful big ticket to foist on your modest list of even greener newbies who haven’t figured out that making money online in IM basically means selling :poop: to greedy/stupid/unaware people.

Anyway, that’s my rambling advice. You should probably take a break from it all first so you can consider your options without feeling embattled in the thick of it though. I guess that does depend on your finances though, but it could be a good thinky-time investment in your future with a little sacrifice now.

IDK. I’m not up for burning through savings on a gamble. I’m happy just limiting my work now while trying to figure out how to keep my regulars. My running theory is that since all my gigs are exiled to the last search pages anyway, I’ve got nothing to lose by keeping two budget gigs but revamping and upping the prices on the others.

I’m kind of bored of the writing lark, though TBH. I’d much rather set up some kind of new all in one, "I will create your blog (website and initial content) for $500 a pop" than flog individual articles. Or something like that.

Another pipe dream I have is to apply to a few crypto sites looking for writers, It kind of makes sense given I live in Malta where a lot of big developers are based and a lot of conferences are always on the go.

That just means creating a whole new persona and possibly suiting up. Also, I’m steadily coming round ti the idea that everything blockchain is inherently evil and pressing fast forward on the totalitarian 1984 police state button. In this case, there is a bit of a moral dilemma there…

Then there is the fact that I would kind of like to just close my laptop forever and work in the local corner shop. The ease and regular hours seem heavenly.

It’s not just Fiverr, Legiit or Upwork. Every freelancing platform is becoming worse as time passes by.

I have been exploring a couple of options lately:

A) See how things play out with the publisher - and focus to be my main work for the upcoming years while limiting other freelancing work by bumping my prices.

B) Explore a totally new field of work. I want to start with videography, video-editing, creating and selling 4K stock footage.

C) Focusing on having master studies in US/Europe and finding a 9-5 job in a decent company. Maybe, law school in the USA (providing if I somehow get a scholarship).

D) Beg my uncle to hire me for his company in Canada until I can get on my feet, get a masters degree and find a great job. Of course, this is an option that I don’t like at all.

Freelancing is making me crazy. :slight_smile:

Oh, and definitely bumping my prices on Fiverr.

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Yes, this is my experience too. PPH used to be my main breadwinner. Now it might as well be called "This is Where Everyone Who Had The Idea To Resell Before You Did Lives."

If I activate my account. I just get bombarded with Indians (but apparently UK blonde Indians with big boobies) trying to make me jump through hoops to wite an article for $10 or less which they are selling on for $50+.

I was also happy with my prices up until September last year. However, there seems to be a glitch on Fiverr where "$15 or $20 Copywriting and Content Writing" now gets translated as "In-Patient Virtual Psychiatric Ward."

Having always been crazy, it’s just made me cynical, prejudiced, and left me feeling empty inside. :wink:

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I forgot to say, it made me have huge trust issues - and actually be scared once I get a large order.

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That’s not a bad idea actually, just specify that it would be an elementor blog, set up an good-looking example to share (is WP allowed on Fiverr or is it still just stuff like blogspot?), push prices up after a couple of good reviews, not 100 or whatever (call it a discount on the first 10 or something). Either way, a pricey new gig seems to be what the fiverr algo yearns for, so…

Morals and inevitable corruption of anything that makes money aside, that’s not a bad idea at all. Besides, you could network at all that shizz while writing on the spot reports rather than stuff based on PRs, which could be good (muscling up on your Twitter would probably be good here as well). Besides, you don’t have to be Mr Supportive - you could start off it and develop your own little journey into the bad things about the scene. Preferably not in Malta though, and only with super-safe targets.

Finding a long term client and taking them off-platform is definitely a good way to get a sustainable long-term job (in my pre-Fiverr experience on Upwork/Odesk/Elance), especially if you live in a low-income country. Of course, I am taking a kind of opposite journey to you here, and I think you’d have much better opportunities abroad anyway. But, for anyone who wants to escape platform tyranny, that’s really the best solution. Build a client stable!

The only clear thing here is really to find client who respect you and can provide you with regular work, and the platforms… well. You all know.

Cheer up guys, in some years freelancing will be exposed for what it is! Then we can tell our grandchildren how much we suffered in the early 21st century mills with no rights for no pay. But if you want to do that, don’t forget to have children first - they’re an important part of the grandchild recipe.

It’s actually cheaper to have the client on Upwork, and pay Payoneer fees, than taking the client off platform and do wire transfers as that way I would be in the “system”

It’s both true and false. I actually, learned that crappy freelancers from the west tend to charge 4X more than what I charge (they charge $50-100 for a social media banner, and I charge $10). However, when I try to charge as those I never get any work.

On the other side, getting those $10 here is like getting $80 in the US.

Yep, I agree with this. My problem would be finding funding or a scholarship for master degrees at a great university or law school. That’s why this option is on my “IN CASE OF EMERGENCY”.

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I just used PayPal, and I’ve never done fee math, but I think it worked out for me mostly not because of the $ lost or gained, but because it was a relationship of equals - and only with clients I trusted who also trusted me. That was more important overall than having to jump through platform hoops.

Yeah, I think that’s the point really. Cheap clients know they can get good quality work from the ‘third world’ for a fraction of the price. The pressure to keep up with the platform just induces a race to the bottom in many cases due to the pressure of getting that work in the first place, especially on Fiverr (well, there was no choice on Fiverr at first - @razvan was there in the v. early days unlike me so may be able to confirm that it was all/mostly ‘fun stuff’ until Indians etc came in with ‘proper’ offers for $5 and so on.

Nobody can blame a platform for taking advantage of the influx, and in some ways it is taking responsibility now (I’m talking about algo changes here discouraging lowball offers), but maybe I’m taking a sunny view there.

You are a poverty-stricken poor EE boy whose live was ruined by nasty communists. OK, pre-ruined if you’re not that old. You could also go to one of those Euro countries with free tuition and shizz where the courses are like all in English. Unsure, however, where Macedonia sits on all that. But tug a few politically correct heart-strings, that seems to work - worst case, you could cultivate a sad disability to boost your chances :wink:

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It was not pre-ruined, as actually the country got more ruined a couple of years ago.

Not the case with former Yugoslavia. People actually had a great life here because the US funded us, as Tito was an kinda ally. The real enemy here are the nasty globalists which destroyed the once mighty Yugoslavia.

But, you are right, I can sell that story, probably. :slight_smile:

Sometimes it was way too much fun, to the point of projecting the wrong image onto Fiverr - but the fun days are gone now, yet Fiverr still got a wrong image with the help of meksels :smiley:

Honestly though, I don’t know which would have been the better choice: Fiverr as a badly cheap platform, or Fiverr as a crossing-the-line funny platform? :thinking:

Hopefully Fiverr will abandon the meksel ship like they did with the fun ship - who knows what the future holds for us mere mortals :eyes:

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