Building a Community in the Gig Economy

Fiverr Community Event in San Francisco. Source: Fiverr Facebook Page

Community building has become an essential part of the marketing strategy of almost every business that touches consumers, online and offline. Recently the Vice President of Marketing of an up and coming startup told me “Community is the new marketing. Next year my department’s entire growth in headcount is reserved for community managers.”

I recently participated in a panel at TheNextWeb NYC about community building and in preparing for it had a chance to think — what is it that makes our community unique?

The Fiverr community includes freelancers with a variety of skills and talents from across the globe and has grown far beyond just a marketing and retention tool. We believe community is what drives our sellers’ success, keeps them going, and is an essential component of their working habits. That’s what makes a community successful. In other words, in order to build a vibrant community, it must be vital to your customers; it must address a real need.

We all hear that the Gig Economy is booming. But what’s the impact of the Gig Economy’s growth on the community it serves?

According to Intuit, over 40 percent of the U.S. workforce will be freelancing by 2020. While that number suggests a major trend impacting the workforce, only 3 percent of freelancers are online today. Moving online presents a number of opportunities for freelancers to get more business. By moving online you can get more traffic, expand your reach and build an international presence. One of the less discussed benefits of moving online is the presence of a unique community.

Being a freelancer is tough. While many focus on the “freedom” and “flexibility” that freelancing offers, the reality is that freelancers lack much of the structure that many of us rely on to do our jobs. There may not be an office to go to, or a boss to seek direction or assurances from, and forget about a co-worker covering you while you’re sick. The freedom and flexibility may be great, but they come at the price of professional solitude in many ways.

This challenge — a need to be part of a group and have peers — explains the success of shared working spaces like Fiverr partners WeWork and General Assembly. By joining a co-working space, you artificially create a peer group; an environment where you can share knowledge and resources, consult, collaborate, or just go out together for a beer after a long day at work.

But co-working spaces are an option for the few as opposed to the many. What should you do if geography or life circumstances eliminate this option? That’s what the Fiverr community is all about. The community is there to create a virtual and sometimes physical group of peers to consult with, collaborate with, help you grow, and vent to when it really hits the fan.

Through the Fiverr forum, blog, community events, meetups and other grassroots activities, we work to connect freelancers across the globe and help them share their knowledge and experience as well as consult, collaborate, and make new friends.

One example of the collaborative nature of the Fiverr community comes from a fairly well known YouTube musician named Kutiman. Working with 24 Fiverr seller-musicians from 12 countries, Kutiman produced a one-of-a-kind musical track by stitching together the performances of the 24 artists, none of whom ever stepped into a studio or met each other in person during production.

The reception to the song, (called “Inner Galactic Lovers”) has been phenomenal, with the track getting global air play and climbing the charts in Europe.

Kutiman’s creativity coupled with the Fiverr community produced unique creative content where the whole is substantially stronger than the sum of its parts.

Our Fiverr Ambassadors — successful Top Rated Sellers that have been with us for several years — help us monitor our forums and provide a helping hand to new or struggling sellers to guide them through the site, answer questions and generally help newcomers build their businesses on Fiverr. In fact, their advice and encouragement has turned into a recurring weekly segment called Fiverrcast. Through many different channels, they strive to make you feel like you are not alone.

In the first days of Fiverr, our community-building was exclusively virtual. It was all about providing an online venue for our users to communicate, share success stories and case studies, and create virtual friendships. In October of 2013 we had our first-ever in-person community event in New York. The atmosphere was electrifying. Meeting our sellers in person and hearing how Fiverr changed their lives was truly inspiring for us. It created a greater understanding of how we are creating a new future of work, right here and now. No story epitomized that shift greater than hearing from Harold, a music teacher that told us how he discovered Fiverr and used it to pay back his student loans. Using Fiverr, Harold now complements his income doing what he loves — broadcasting, singing and songwriting.

It was inspiring to see our community members connecting, excited to meet the people that helped them on the Fiverr Forum and turning the online connection into a real one. Many of the sellers that attended that community event established offline friendships that they continue to strengthen. They meet, they consult, and they collaborate. That New York event proved to not be an isolated incident. The same thing happened at the following community events we had in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and London. This encouraged us to expand our offline activities. We began getting requests from community members in different locations to hold their independent community events. The first “community led” event was held in Singapore. In the coming year, we look forward to having over fifty events led by our community members globally.

We also began to focus on local market activities, with our first city manager in New York followed by San Francisco. We realized that by meeting with our sellers and educating them on how to sell on Fiverr, we could bolster their confidence. It acted as a first step, with sellers choosing to create a community of peers that support each other and help grow their businesses at a faster pace. In a way, we’ve create a temporary environment similar to the co-working space; ad-hoc meetups, conferences and knowledge centers where sellers can meet, learn, consult, and collaborate.

So while community may serve as a channel for marketing and a tool for retention, it’s clearly about much more. It’s about driving our customers’ success. But that’s not all community building provides. By cultivating a flourishing community we spread Fiverr values to a community of millions. We share our belief in taking risks and reaching higher to constantly challenge yourself. We share our belief in creating equal opportunity and diversity with no limitations based on race, gender or religion.

Anyone can succeed on Fiverr and our community continually illustrates that, regardless of age, gender, color or creed. If you have a talent, Fiverr and its community are here to embrace you.