What Will People Do for $5

What do you get when you mix unemployment, frugal consumers and Internet boredom?

One possible answer — Fiverr.com, a site that allows you to buy and sell tasks for $5.

The “gigs,” all fixed at $5, range from the silly to serious. Among them: sending a nice postcard from Paris, burning a small paper effigy of your enemy, offers for breakdancing lessons, Photoshopping monsters into your family photos, coining that nickname you never got in high school, balloon animal instruction via Skype and even the penning of Italian love songs.

There’s a flurry of more practical microtasks, too: CSS microbugging, social marketing, resume revising and PowerPoint editing help.

The genesis of the site was purely practical, says Micha Kaufman, co-founder and CEO. The entrepreneur says he was irked by having to convert a chart in Microsoft Word into Excel. The task was too small to hire a separate employee or contractor, but large enough to be annoying and relatively time-consuming. Although sites like odesk.com help assemble workers for projects, Mr. Kaufman wanted something smaller in scale.

To keep it simple, Fiverr removed negotiations from the site and decided $5 was the sweet spot for pricing. The micro, micro, micro economy launched less than a month ago and already has 5,000 gigs posted. The site is Israel-based but draws users worldwide.

“It turns out,” Mr. Kaufman says, “a lot of people out there know how to do cool stuff.”

Some sellers’ offerings seem dramatically undervalued, such as the posts from a doctor who answers medical questions in plain English. The more creative gigs, like songwriting, also have taken Mr. Kaufman by surprise. “It went beyond our imaginations,” he says.

The $5 asking price ensures that there’s an investment by both the buyer and seller, but not a large one. “There is a tendency of others to think that if you give something out for free, it’s worth nothing,” Mr. Kaufman says. He would not elaborate on any future plans to expand to gigs that cost, say, $10 or more, but says there “are surprises” in store.

Mr. Kaufman and his co-founder, Shai Wininger, curate the entries, skimming for inappropriate ones and highlighting featured gigs.

Although buyers pay $5, sellers receive $4, after payment-processing and Fiverr fees, which is the primary way the site makes money. PayPal is the payment method and posting a gig is free.

The site is a good match for this economy. Buyers are looking for cheap prices and sellers are often unemployed or underemployed, seeking freelance income.

In spirit, it’s similar to sites such as Etsy.com that try to create a direct economy between buyers and sellers. As on Etsy, you can interact with users on the site before putting your money down. Even for those not interested in buying and selling on either Fiverr or Etsy, there is a bizarre joy to browsing the sometimes hilarious user-created content on the site.

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Posted in Employment, Entertainment, Finance.

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