At Fiverr.com the slogan runs this way: Fiverr is a place for people to share things they're willing to do for $5. Buy, Sell, have Fun! And the slogan sums it up. People from everywhere in the world there’s internet think up one or more “gigs”they think someone somewhere else in the world where there’s internet will pay $5 to have done. They post them and people buy them. It’s grassroots globalization, it’s peer to peer commerce, it’s a miscellaneous bazaar of small-scale tasks fueling small-scale dreams.
It was invented in 2009 by two young Israeli men, Micha Kaufman and Shai Wininger who are serial entrepreneurs, one an MBA type and one a tech type. It was an idea whose time had come, since they’re currently listing more than half a million gigs. And since they skim a nice fat dollar off every fiver that changes hands, you can bet that there’s some big piles of money piling up somewhere.
And what’s it like? It is, not surprisingly, a mixed bag.
Some are creative and charming:
- I will record me in red lipstick singing you happy birthday and send it to you for $5
- I will make the funny Yeti dance like crazy and reveal your Christmas and New Year video greetings with music for $5
- I will toast your name to a pint of Guinness from a pub in Ireland for $5
- A lot of them highlight the depressing underbelly of the internet:
- I will get You 1000 to 6250 LinkedIn Contacts From Real People Who Can Add Value To Your LinkedIn Network for $5
And some of them are evidence of the race to the bottom of everyone on earth competing for little scraps of five dollars:
- I will do data entry jobs for 2 hours for $5
If you want to purchase a Fiverr gig, you send $5 into escrow with PayPal. When the job’s delivered, the seller accepts it and the money’s released. If there’s a dispute, Fiverr facilitators will intervene if necessary to resolve it; they don’t often: things are pretty much always peaceful and pleasant. There’s a reputation server in operation: each seller’s gig says on sale, how long it’s been available, how many times it’s already been sold, and what percentage of customers have given it a thumbs up.
So, what are we to make of the Fiverr phenomenon? It is a brilliant adaptation to the current situation of the world. We’re all newly able to be in direct communication with each other. More and more people are trying to find a place in the global economy, discovering the old models aren’t always working, and trying to create something independent and ad hoc. And, when times are tough, small price tags are attractive. It’s the free market in miniature, and some are definitely doing better than others.
There are sellers who do pretty well (though it’s relative: no golden parachutes and executive compensation scandals here) especially if they think of something to sell that captures the imagination and is easy to accomplish, or they can sell something at retail, like a PDF eBook on how to relieve stress and sadness or a guide to success on LinkedIn. Or the guy selling nearly microscopic slivers of US spacecraft.
For buyers, there’s some chance of finding sweatshop-caliber bargains, but there’s also a chance to find real value: there’s a few very good writers working for $5 a throw, and some very talented designers, 30-second video producers and artists. Hopefully most of them, having gained a little confidence and tested the waters, will find a way to market themselves in a higher-paying marketplace.
And it’s good for the world. It’s good to see the that talent, creativity and hope springs eternal, and it’s good to see all the little flags next to each seller and know all of us in our different countries speak the language of liking good things. We’re headed to a peer-to-peer world, with disintermediation already taking place or scheduled in more and more areas of our lives. Fiverr really does seem to be a piece of irrefutable evidence that there’s something plausible about the utopian dreams that decentralized authority, instant universal communication, and ever cheaper and more powerful technology will usher in a new era of freedom, creativity and human-scale positive energy. Since it’s free of charge and pretty nearly free of risk, why not give it a try, offer something for sale for $5 or make a $5 purchase. Maybe you’ll be tempted by divataunia’s offer to “do one act of kindness on your behalf for $5.” She’ll even donate half of your $5 into the bargain.