What can you get> for five bucks these days? More than you deserve. I just enjoyed a little spending spree on Fiverr.com, a new Web site where freelancers offer just about any service you can imagine for a flat rate of $5. For the price of a Frappuccino, I got an HR professional to redesign my r sum . I got a doctor to review my blood-test results. I had a budding exercise physiologist design a personalized 10-week training plan for my upcoming half-marathon. I even found an unemployed banker in Denver who stayed up late to give me a 5:30 a.m. wake-up call in Brooklyn. I only requested four calls, but he originally offered up to 30. For five bucks, people could buy an alarm clock, so I figured I better make it meaningful, says Siam Luu.
Fiverr, which has already attracted more than 60,000 freelancers offering everything from custom love poems to PowerPoint presentations, is just the latest and most extreme online operation that s emerged to link frugal employers with opportunity-starved contract workers around the globe. Since the start of the recession, the number of freelancers listing their services through online contracting site Elance.com tripled to 700,000; CrowdSpring.com has more than 61,000 graphic artists and writers competing for work by submitting finished projects on spec. Yes, thanks to today s fantastically abundant labor supply, and technology that has American freelancers competing directly with their third-world counterparts, anyone can hire decent talent for less than the minimum wage.
This new era of the microentrepreneur is a welcome development for struggling employers, not to mention casual freelancers who are happy to make a little cash off their hobbies. Three of the nine folks I hired on Fiverr turned out to be college students who joined on a lark the freshman tech whiz who gave me a half-hour software lesson confessed he was scrambling for cash after buying his girlfriend a ring. Others see it as a way to keep their skills current, or explore a new career. Chrissy Derrer, the 37-year-old corporate trainer and former recruiter who did a fantastic job designing my r sum , says that despite her husband s protests ( For goodness sake, it s not worth it! ), she s had fun rewriting CVs for a record-industry lawyer in China and a recent Duke grad. Maybe it could grow into a consulting career, she says.
The folks who run these sites say they re simply creating opportunities that wouldn t otherwise exist. Elance CEO Fabio Rosati says the typical employer on his site is a small business with a tiny budget. If it couldn t hire on the cheap, it wouldn t be hiring at all. But serious professionals looking to support their families worry that the technology has created a race to the bottom. Sara Horowitz, founder of the Freelancers Union, a fast-growing guild representing 135,000 contract workers, notes wage floors have helped protect the interests of other labor groups. The downside, she acknowledges, is that some jobs would not get done.
That would be a shame. If it weren t for Fiverr, I wouldn t have hired Arun Bharali, a 42-year-old film producer who taught music composition and appreciation at the University of California, San Diego. For five bucks, he analyzed my favorite classical music selections and sent a chatty, three-page e-mail recommending 10 new pieces he thought I d love. His picks were spot-on I can t stop listening to Gorecki s heartbreaking Symphony No. 3. He was also the only contractor I met who expects to make real money on the site. Turns out, he s currently living in Mumbai, India, where $5 goes a lot further than it does in San Diego. Yes, he sympathizes with Americans who are struggling to pay the mortgage, but he also offers a suggestion: What s stopping them from creating their own start-up...and hiring some third-world freelancers themselves?