Words by Tara Coates Art by Gemma Baggio
Perhaps the most unprecedented by-product of today’s globalised society has been the ‘gig economy’, a term used to describe the growing prevalence of freelancers and independent contractors, who rose from the ashes of unemployment.
In fact, by 2020, it is predicted that just under half of the American workforce will be independent freelancers, making it highly likely that a huge chunk of us will be bringin’ home the bacon via multiple income streams. Operating outside the traditional constraints of a full-time job seems both exciting and bloody terrifying; after all, we are the guinea pig generation of this movement, making our ancestors scoff from their comfy, single-income-sourced graves.
Luckily we have learnt to adapt to the times, with companies like Fiverr popping up as our one-stop shop for all freelance networking needs.
Fiverr had its beginnings in 2010 as an online marketplace for media content outsourcing. Sellers could advertise their services and receive $5 for the completion of each ‘gig’, accepting the brand’s challenge of “what are YOU willing to do for $5?”. The site was popular straight away, as businesses could suddenly outsource editing, writing and media tasks for dirt cheap. Also, if there’s one thing Fiverr has revealed about our intriguing 21st century morals, it’s that there really is no limit to what people will do for money. A couple of the more bizarre examples include one user offering to “sing happy birthday as tin foil man in just a thong”, another who will “convey your message like an ape-man” and a guy who will send you a picture of alphabet spaghetti spelling out whatever it is you want. And people actually pay for it. I know, cutting-edge stuff.
It may seem hilarious to those of us on the cosy side of the screen. However, it does allude to the lowly circumstances some people are in and the subsequent exploitation of the desperate that Fiverr readily facilitates, at least in the early days.
This is where infamous YouTuber PewDiePie (Felix Kjellberg) stepped in. At the start of 2017, Kjellberg noticed the ridiculous lengths people were going to for a meagre $5 and decided to make the ultimate point. He commissioned various Fiverr groups to endorse anti-Semitic messages, such as the Indian duo funnyguys who posted a video of themselves holding a sign saying “Death To All Jews” before performing a jungle dance. Though Kjellberg stated he in no way supported the messages himself and only did it to prove “how crazy the modern world is, specifically some of the services available online”, the videos obviously received copious amounts of backlash.
He chose a pretty extreme method to shed light on the issue, but it nevertheless contributed to a fundamental change in Fiverr’s business model. Shortly afterwards, Fiverr came out with a new campaign headed “In Doers We Trust”, focusing on re-branding the company as “the home of the lean entrepreneur”. It champions the ambitious and powerful freelancer who works their ass off to benefit from the unique opportunities that come from being in full control of their career. This is a much better springboard off which to support features such as ‘gig extras’ (where sellers can increase the value of their services from a base amount with the offering of various ‘add-ons’) and ‘Fiverr Pro’ (an elite stream of the marketplace where buyers can find more professional and reputable freelancers, who are able to set prices to be proportionate to their efforts).
Compared to the initial ‘race to the bottom’ that the $5 model encouraged, this is a huge 180-degree turn.
As an example of such entrepreneurship through Fiverr, look no further than Big Man Tyrone. From humble beginnings of funny testimonial tapes at his desk to the sought-after custom videos, merchandising and motivational talks he now does, his whacky personality and laid-back humour has propelled him into the million-dollar media empire he currently sits atop. The best part is, this totally new and unique career would have been impossible within the bounds of a conventional pathway. Can you imagine telling your lawyer and engineer grandparents that someone can make a six-figure sum of money by making a video saying “every 60 seconds in Africa, a minute passes”? He even has his trademark ‘long Tyrone laugh’ as an extra add-on people can purchase in their video orders.
Tyrone claims that “what you can become in life, depends to a large extent on what you are willing to attempt”. The gig economy, despite stability fears, has opened up the doors of creativity and flexibility like we’ve never seen before, and we are supported now more than ever to thrive off our unique offerings. Tyrone represents the new wave of hustlers; people who work hard at making a smart buck off the easiest things they’re good at.