My Favorite Source for Low Cost Custom Graphics to Keep Your Website Looking Fresh (and How Get the Best Product Quickly)

If you are a startup entrepreneur doing business online or using a website to drive traffic to your brick and mortar business, there’s a good chance that you are involved in graphic design decisions.  For the well-funded startup this means that you will periodically review concepts presented by your graphic design team.  For the rest of us, it means staring at the same, boring homepage thinking, “how am I going to freshen up the look of this site without breaking the bank.”

My secret?  Fiverr.Com.  Okay, millions of people use the service, but it seems that at least half of the people I talk to haven’t heard of it.

Fiverr, a marketplace for products and services that cost 5 dollars, is a treasure trove of true bargains in a sea of “you get what you pay for.”

On Fiverr.com you can hire an actress to dress as a nun and deliver a custom video message from your own script.  For five dollars.  Paint your logo on somebody’s back?  Five bucks.  Video of a guy dressed like a banana shouting the name of your limousine service?  Five bucks.

“Fiverr, a marketplace for products and services that cost 5 dollars”

Some of the real gems on Fiverr reside in the Graphics and Design category.  You will find very specific offers for “gigs” to create web graphics.  A top banner for your facebook page.  An HTML action button.  A Google+ profile page banner.  Each of these graphic element must meet specific requirements to be compatible with the hosting service and these parameters can change from time to time.  For example, the standard for iTunes podcast artwork is presently 1400 x 1400 pixels.  There was a time when 800 x 800 worked fine, but as screen resolutions improve, standards change.  And that’s part of the beauty of Fiverr.  Need new artwork?  Throw down 5 bucks and you are back in business.

I went to Fiverr looking for something fresh for my Sports Car Junkies Business Podcast website, www.sportscarjunkies.com, and I found a seller (profile name: semigod) who was offering to create a custom license plate graphic with the name of my website on it.  His ratings looked solid and his recent deliveries where all completed within one day.  I looked through his sample work, selected a design and paid using PayPal.  About 3 hours later, I received a link to the completed file.  Easy.

This is what he sent me:

PODCAST_WITH_STICKERpodcast_rusty

Pretty cool for five bucks.

Now, the classic cost, schedule, performance tradeoff applies here as much as anywhere else.  As the old guy in my grandfather’s story said, “You can get it fast, cheap, or good.  Pick two.”  When my grandfather told his story (over and over again, actually) he was thinking like a guy who spends only American dollars.  On Fiverr that may not always be the case.

What if the person offering a 5 dollar gig lives somewhere that people routinely work for 5 dollars a day?  Right.  Now you are dealing in the realm of “not cheap”, opening the door to both good and fast.  As a practical matter there are American sellers on Fiverr who can either create a product with very little effort and time (as in the license plate graphic example here) or are willing to work for peanuts with the expectation that they will be introduced to a few customers who might be willing to buy full-price services and goods as a follow-on to their Fiverr gig.

“how do you sort through the sea of vendors to find the right one?”

So, how do you sort through the sea of vendors to find the right one?  My method is less than perfect but it gets me a good product most of the time, and when it doesn’t work I’m only out five dollars.

First, decide what you value most: cost, delivery time and/or quality.  Then apply the relevant tips for best results.

If Cost is a Priority

Cost is pretty straightforward with a few exceptions.  Some gigs will require upgrades, called additional gigs, to deliver what you actually want.  For example, the listing may show a full color caricature with two subjects.   When you to to order you learn that a black and white drawing is one $5 gig, color is another $10, and a second subject is an additional $10.  $25 may still be a good deal, but you will have to sort through a few listings to get the full story if the one you are considering requires upgrades.

If Delivery Time is a Priority

If fast delivery matters look first for “express gigs”.  You can search any category for these gigs which are promised to be delivered within 24 hours.  Presumably, sellers who list express gigs have to perform on schedule to continue offering them.  If there are no express gigs in your category or if you are not impressed by those offerings, look for gigs with short delivery times (1-3 days) then cross check the seller’s average delivery time.  They display a histogram of recent delivery times to give you a good idea of what you can expect.

Note that response time is very different from delivery time.  Many sellers will respond almost instantly to ask for additional information, such as the text to be printed on my license plates.  They may even use an auto-responder for this so the response time statistic doesn’t mean much to me.  In some cases you will see that the seller offers to upgrade delivery for another 5 dollars.  In my experience, many of these sellers will make it a point to deliver at the maximum time limit if you don’t upgrade to faster delivery.  This makes sense.

If Quality is a Priority

The real skill required to navigate Fiverr is the ability to sniff out poor quality.  I start with seller ratings, including number of stars and buyer comments.  Then I look at how long the seller has been on Fiverr and how many ratings they have.  You can sort sellers my ratings, simplifying the process a little.  Then I look closely at their sample products.

If the graphics look a little grainy in the samples, they are probably going to be a real mess when you get them.  Also look for correct proportions.  Some of the hack jobs you will see result from the seller grabbing a buyer-supplied image and jamming it into a header without regard for aspect ratios.  The end result looks like the subject has been smashed down or stretched thin, not unlike the images you would see on some of the early wide screen television.  If it looks like crap in the listing, it probably is.

My best advice?  Don’t count on a five dollar product for any elements that is critical to your business.

Have fun.  Expect little.  Celebrate success.