E-bay for e-services

The $5 fee for freelancers’ services on Fiverr puts paid to fractious negotiations.

Fiverr app (photo credit: PR)
Fiverr app
(photo credit: PR)
Imagine being asked to accept $5 for your work. Well, millions of freelancers are doing so on Fiverr, and many of them are managing to earn a reasonable living.
The eponymous Fiverr is an online marketplace where freelancers can offer any service – referred to in Fiverr- ese as a gig – which can be delivered digitally.
Micha Kaufman and co-founder Shai Wittinger aimed to revolutionize the freelancing market for both sellers and buyers when they launched Fiverr in 2010.
According to Kaufman, human resource companies have traditionally handled vast databases of freelancers, who are required to undergo lengthy, at times fractious, negotiations when competing for a project for a prospective employer.
“Employment in the modern world is undergoing major changes,” he asserts.
“Job security is on the decline and people are challenging the 9-to-5 regime. Also, there’s a mismatch between people’s passions and talents and what they actually do to earn a living. Just because they qualify for a job doesn’t mean they’re making the best use of their talents.”
Kaufman and Wittinger realized that people were seeking employment and financial independence on their own terms, particularly in the US.
“There is a huge change in the workspace.
If you look at the trends, the size of the market, the concentration of the workforce and online participation, the freelance market could reach 40 percent by 2020. Right now, about 30% of the American workforce is freelancing, and technology is playing a big role in that,” explains Kaufman.
However, he was shocked to discover that 99.5% of the freelance market is happening offline.
“That figure was quite an eye-opener,” says Kaufman. “It meant that even if you found work through the Internet, the work itself and the billing was done offline. The whole process from the beginning to the end of the project should be online.”
“This is probably the biggest opportunity since e-commerce was launched by eBay over 20 years ago. Fiverr,” he states, “is the eBay for e-services.”
At first glance, selling a service for $5 appears bewildering – but, as Kaufman points out, no one is going to spend a day, or even an hour, working for that sum. “You’re smart, you’ll figure it out,” he says. “If you’re selling an editing or proofreading service, you can decide how many words or sentences represent a unit worth $5. We leave that to the sellers; they define the parameters of the deal.
“We decided on a single price of $5 per service to remove price negotiation from the equation. This is a major point of friction between seller and buyer. Size up something you’re willing to offer for $5, and that the buyer would consider good value. There’s no negotiation.
“But that is just part of it. We’re also giving talented and creative people the tools to package their skills in the form of a product. Because we took pricing away, the only way to compete on Fiverr is quality. For the buyers, it’s the ultimate e-commerce experience.
They go in, they browse, they search and they buy. There’s no haggling over price. It’s that simple.”
To help people earn a living through selling their services in units of $5, Kaufman describes how they created an automatic promotion system that monitors a seller’s performance. If buyers give the seller high ratings, the system continuously promotes them to higher levels, which allows them to increase their price incrementally.
“When looking for a service, for example a graphic designer, buyers can search by reputation or popularity. It’s as easy to buy a service on Fiverr as it is to buy a book on Amazon.”
The entire communication between both parties in the transaction is done through the system, including file exchange, file storage, billing and payment, tracking customers and dealing with repeat business. Says Kaufman, “Our system can help sellers who get 50 orders a day prioritize their deliveries based on the estimated time of delivery they gave.”
Payment is a seamless process; the buyer deposits the money in advance in the system and once the buyer has confirmed the work was completed successfully, the money is transferred to the seller.
There are close to four million services listed on Fiverr, with between 3,500 and 5,000 added a day. “When you think you’ve seen it all, someone comes up with a new idea,” Kaufman smiles.
Fiverr’s professional categories include standard professions where output can be delivered digitally, such as graphics, writing, editing, translations, marketing, video production, programming and advertising. There are also more piquant offerings listed under the “Fun and Bizarre” category: the Plastic Bag man, who in his promotional video appears to be standing in the middle of the Ayalon Highway swathed in plastic bags, offers to create a video testimonial; Pops from the US will “yell and give you crap” for 30 seconds.
Want someone to send birthday wishes to a friend while performing a weird dance or doing a split, make a prank call or deliver a message written on a big belly while performing a jungle dance? Need a reading from a psychic or a spell spun for you? Some of these weird and wonderful gigs get positive, even glowing, testimonials and high ratings.
But most of Fiverr’s sellers practice more conventional – and lucrative – occupations.
One of its local top sellers is Tzachi Perach, a 32-year-old graduate student from Jerusalem, who develops apps for mobile devices under the name ttzachii. “It wasn’t anything I planned,” he says. “It started as a game but then I began to get a lot of buyers, my ratings went up and I was able to offer more services and ask for more money.”
Perach, whose customers include small business owners, bloggers and website owners, isn’t planning on returning to his studies any time soon.
“On Fiverr, I earn money, I’m independent, I control the numbers of hours I work and the amount of work I accept,” he enthuses.
Fiverr has changed lives. Kaufman recounts with pleasure the story of the IT manager who joined Fiverr to follow his dream of being a voiceover artist.
“He was earning so well on Fiverr, he was able to put a down payment on a house. Today, Fiverr is his only source of income. When we heard his story, we sent a camera crew to his house and filmed him telling his story in his own words.” (See: blog.fiverr.com/superseller- mymondo-the-down-paymentfor- his-house-came-from-fiverr/) Kaufman is momentarily reflective.
“There’s something fundamentally great about what we’re doing,” he says. “We share these types of stories mostly internally because for our team, it’s stories such as these that get us out of bed in the morning. It’s almost a cause.
“Fiverr is truly changing people’s lives, and this is super-empowering for us.”
Fiverr website: www.fiverr.com/
The writer has worked for over 20 years in hi-tech. If you have a question about any of the products featured in this column or have developed a product you’d like to share, contact: patricia.jpost@gmail.com