Fast Company

Would You Work For $5? Sites Like Fiverr.com Highlight New Global Labor Marketplace

Micha Kaufman, who with Shai Wininger cofounded Tel Aviv's Fiverr.com, a site where people sign up to do odd jobs or services (called "gigs") for five bucks a pop, remembers receiving a package at the company headquarters a few months ago.

As it turned out, his son had had the package delivered. “Inside was this digital underwater camera, worth maybe $100. My son was doing a gig on Fiverr where he would jump into the pool with a sign and someone else would take the picture. He would swim toward the camera with the company’s brand message on the sign."

Now the kid, who is 14 and a half, will be able to make back the cost of the camera, and a nice profit, in a week’s time, maybe even a few days.

Such is life now. A global marketplace that used to work in the industrial mainstream culture of office buildings is now drifting away from that and creating its own virtual clusters of shops and neighborhoods on the web.

Kaufman (pictured above), a former lawyer, is partly responsible for a rapidly growing--and organic--new type of outsourced working environment. For its part, Fiverr strives to answer the question: What is to be done for all of these unemployed, talented individuals who have disrupted traditional work patterns and drifted toward a global, outsourced, permanent form of freelance?

By Kaufman’s estimation--he didn’t discuss exact figures--there must be millions of people doing this, in over 200 countries, the largest by volume being the U.S.

It makes sense why. Fiverr is a place where people who have jobs, or who are unemployed, may put up tasks that they are willing to do. But who wants to work for $5?

Think of it this way, says Kaufman. If a person can do a simple task 10 times in an hour, they first of all get a steady income, without breaking much of a sweat; this is especially true if their tasks are aligned along passion points they'd be doing anyway, like photography, or drawing, or writing.

On the other side of the transaction, firms, individuals starting their own companies, or places like digital advertising agencies now have a global labor force to choose from, and each bid for $5 to an individual is actually a physical multiplier of that person’s attempt to start a business.

In a global marketplace where there is so much friction for the young digital natives to find a place, or for talented unemployed individuals to find a new job, Fiverr is actually creating jobs, according to Kaufman.

Using services like Fiverr, people can largely take care of themselves and grow a business organically just by focusing on what they love to do. When Wired wrote an article about Fiverr, Kaufman wasn’t even aware of it, until people using the platform started telling them that Wired writers were buying services to try out the platform.

Kaufman says he said to staff, “go ahead, let’s let them do it,” because he knew that if something was wrong, or if they didn’t like it, it was on them to fix it. Which is what you do if you run a business.

My sense in talking to Kaufman is that he and the 30 people he employes around the world are part of this global catalyst of young workers and innovative thinkers who do not need the pillars or foundations of an established company to make them whole.

It’s like they are part of this hyper-aware organic labor force that is more concerned with finding relationships and thriving economically and socially from them, than being able to put on a resume a work history that shows stability (in the form of working with big names), or pedigree (in representing that they went to this school or that university).

“We find that when we look at resumes, we don’t even look at education background,” says Kaufman. “We look to see if they know what they are talking about, or if they have experience or skills.”  

I don’t mean to sound hyperbolic when I say I would like to suggest that the new labor force is all about continually creating new business, and a new form of business. This is not Detroit, where work is building the best assembly line for manufacturing duplicates of exactly the same product. This is individual-to-individual, granular, and highly personal.

Check out the radio show where I interview Kaufman, on Rewired Radio.

[Image: Flickr user michakaufman]

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