How much would you pay someone to record your voice mail greeting in Homer Simpson's voice?
Chris Hardy will do it for $5. For $5 more, he'll record up to a 3-minute script.
Hardy doesn't stop with Homer -- he also does the rest of the Simpsons, most of the South Park cast, Beavis and Butthead, and a host of other cartoon characters. And, $5 price tag aside, the 47-year-old former radio personality has transformed his part-time voice-over gig into a lucrative side business. "It's helped me quit my corporate job, and has given me some really good supplemental income," he says.
Hardy isn't alone. According to the Freelancers' Union, at least 30% of the American workforce now qualifies as "independent workers." What's more, with continuing high unemployment and a brutal job market, it looks like more people are poised to join them.
The trouble is, while many people daydream about leaving office life behind, finding the gigs to make that possible can seem like an insurmountable hurdle. Some companies, like TaskRabbit or PA For a Day, are designed to help freelancers find clerical work and other service jobs. Then again, for creative people looking to leave the corporate world behind, a freelance career spent filing invoices or running errands might not seem like a great alternative.
Micha Kaufman, an Israel-based entrepreneur, thinks that he has the solution. In 2010, he and his partner, Shai Wininger, launched Fiverr, a website that bills itself as "The world's largest marketplace for small services." On the site, independent contractors offer a host of services for prices starting at $5.
Kaufman's goal is to create "an eBay for the service economy," an online marketplace where people can sell their creative talents. "The job market is changing," he points out. "People are looking to monetize their skills in nontraditional ways. When we started, the Internet didn't have a single place where people could offer their skills."
In the two years since its launch, Fiverr has exploded. According to the site, its contractors are based in over 200 countries, and offer more than 800,000 different "gigs." And these offerings are incredibly varied, ranging from prank calls performed in celebrity voices to custom-made puppet videos to personalized video games. On the other end of the spectrum, some contractors even offer traditional services, like proofreading, html conversions, and web design
But the real highlight of the site is its strange, often bizarre collection of creative gigs. If you want to see someone dance in a hot dog costume, sing "Happy Birthday" in Welsh while wearing a thong, or get someone to crochet you a fake mustache in the color of your choice, there's no better place to go. As Mark Gray, one Fiverr user, notes, "It's a brilliant platform for artists to sell their work."
As for Gray, he makes videos with his puppet alter-ego, Professor Hans von Puppet. Among other things, he has shilled for Australian fast food restaurants, proposed marriage for shy grooms-to-be, and hosted an awards show in Jordan.
His price? $5.
Gallery: Freelancers of Fiverr
Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.