Take Five: Online Marketplace Fiverr Offers Almost Any Service for Just $5

Fiverr website
Fiverr website

Call it the $5 store. For the price of a fast-food combo meal, you can pay someone to proofread your business plan or record a professional voice over in the Queen's English. Fiverr.com is year-old international online marketplace for people to buy and sell everyday services. And yes, nothing costs more than five bucks.

Browse through some of the 500,000 listings and soon you realize that there is almost nothing than can't be bought or sold in $5 increments. The thrust of the site is on small professional tasks that could take a novice half a day to figure out -- for example, how to Photoshop a picture, start a Twitter account or solve an HTML problem -- but that an expert could turn around in minutes. The site also offers off-beat items such as a playful spin on busking: Pay a starving musician to play you a saxophone solo or order up a digital birthday card with a personalized bagpipe message. You can also "request a gig" if you need something done and are willing to pay $5 for it.

How It Works

Fiverr's success depends on its user-friendly social layer, complete with messaging, seller ratings and multimedia listings, which set it apart from other marketplaces like Craigslist or Mechanical Turk. The latter is a labor-exchange marketplace operated by Amazon.com (AMZN) that's focused on nanoservices: very small data-related jobs that are sold in bulk, like tagging photos or evaluating search engine results.

The site's growth underscores the shift in employment from the world of traditional 9-to-5 jobs to one in which outsourcing and freelancing are becoming more commonplace, site co-founder and CEO Micha Kauffman told DailyFinance. He started the site because there were no other options for "ordinary people to do an ordinary exchange."

Fiverr's greatest appeal, though, is for freelancers and other "micro-entrepreneurs" willing to think creatively about their salable assets, including skills, knowledge or geographic location. Take super-user Sam Cornwell, 30, who is a full-time student in the United Kingdom. He started selling videos of himself doing things like presenting products and singing songs last November and has sold 1600 gigs - or $8,000 - since. As much as he enjoys the extra cash, he says he also likes the international audience for his work.

More than 200 countries and regions represented on the site, which means that you could be sitting on a salable asset just by living somewhere unique. "People will take a picture with a message you asked them to write in Antarctica, or a picture in Times Square," says Kauffman about the site's crowd-sourcing ability. "People can do great stuff just because they are there."

Sellers are paid only after a buyer confirms and rates a service. They receive $4 for every sale; the remaining dollar covers the PayPal and credit card fees, and the site's overhead. Kauffman says that the sweet spot for sellers is to find a service that only take between 5 and 15 minutes to complete. But it's not always about the bucks.

"It is also a social connection and a way to talk to people who need what you have," Kauffman says.