Illustration: Ashley Siebels
An ad campaign by freelance services company Fiverr this week wanted to give a shoutout to the “doers” — the people who work tirelessly to make things happen.
You know the type: “You eat a coffee for lunch. You follow through on your follow through. Sleep deprivation is your drug of choice. You might be a doer.”
But instead of winning over adherents, the ad campaign was derided for glorifying the culture of workaholism — a message no one wants to hear any more in the most overworked country in the world.
The "gig economy" is literally killing us.
— it's B! Cavello 🐝 (@b_cavello) March 9, 2017
Fiverr’s edgy advertising style
Provocative advertising is an established part of the company’s brand.
A female narrator says , “Got an idea? Isn’t that cute. My little sister has ideas. You? You have a business to build.”
Later on in the ad, the female narrator says, “Cancel the brainstorm. The only one who can do this is you,” as a woman slices a whiteboard with a chainsaw.
Using words like “cute” and a machine with sharp edges to get the company’s message could be perceived as an edgy strategy.
The name of the campaign, which also appears on the ad with the young woman, is “In Doers We Trust.” It raised the hackles of many workers who have already been told for too long to work constantly and let everything else in their lives drop. Even if necessary for some to survive financially, it’s not pleasant — and made some question why the company is celebrating this lifestyle.
— KELLY RYAN O’BRIEN (@kellyryanobrien) March 10, 2017
The company commented on the campaign:
“Fiverr is a marketplace for talented freelancers and bootstrapping entrepreneurs who pursue their dreams and passions, value flexibility, rapid experimentation, and doing more with less. Our ‘In Doers We Trust’ campaign targets customers, those entrepreneurs who are starting a business from scratch and recognize the kind of work ethic it takes to bring an idea to life,” Fiverr told Ladders.
But the company seems to have triggered dissatisfaction with a larger issue: the difficulty of making a living on “gigs” alone, and how it wears down workers — particularly young ones.
The “gig economy”
Trying to survive on freelance work can be difficult, particularly for young people who are part of the “gig economy.” Task work requires a heavy workload, pays less than full-time work, and does not come with healthcare. Gig workers also frequently have to deal with difficult taxes at the end of the year.
Let’s get one thing straight: the gig economy isn’t making anyone rich. The pay for gig work is low, and people from lower-income backgrounds are more likely to rely on getting gigs to pay the bills.
Americans who live in households making $30,000 or less every year are “more than twice as likely to engage in technology-enabled gig work, compared with those living in households earning $75,000 per year or more,” according to a 2016 report by the Pew Research Center.
And the burden is disproportionate for younger workers: In the last year, “fully 12% of 18- to 29-year-olds have earned money doing online tasks, but that share falls to 4% for Americans ages 30 to 49 and just 1% among those 50 and older,” according to a 2016 report by the Pew Research Center.
Nor is the gig economy limited to the United States.
A 2016 McKinsey Report found that “…up to 162 million people in Europe and the United States—or 20 to 30 percent of the working-age population—engage in some form of independent work.”
With so many people relying on this part-time labor as a form of income, let’s just say some felt it was too soon to make light of the exhaustion it causes.
What other people are saying:
So Fiverr’s “In Doers We Trust” campaign was enough to get some people’s blood boiling.
A freelancer spoke up about why he thinks the company’s message didn’t apply to him.
— Ben Powell (@gog3tcreative) March 10, 2017
Another user played up the sarcasm:
I eat potato chips for lunch.
I don't follow through.
I fucking love naps.
Quality time with my family is my drug of choice.
I'm a doer. https://t.co/hIueCjSbWV
— Christopher Ingraham (@_cingraham) March 10, 2017
Wherever you stand on Fiverr’s “In Doers We Trust” campaign, one thing is certain: people have had different experiences hustling in the freelance world, but being frazzled is far from something they wear as a badge of honor.