Fiverr artist Professor Hans Von Puppet created this video above, to introduce this article.
Can you dance a jig in spandex while playing the accordion, craft words in water out of tiny boats, or fluently speak the Dothraki language from Game of Thrones? Then call up Mom and give her a big I-told-you-so, because finally you can cash in on that supposedly 'impractical' skill set. Maybe.
Fiverr.com is a social network for services. You sign up for free and offer your product or service for $5 to buyers in more than 200 countries. Make sure you stand out, though, as there are currently more than a million services offered, with 2,000 more every day.
Here are five ambitious and talented SoCal artists who faced those odds and managed to get noticed among the fray while make some cash to boot.
1. David Lindenbaum & Theresa Ryan: Personalized Parody Duo
A personalized song parody ... for L.A. Weekly's Public Spectacle blog
David Lindenbaum discovered Fiverr while searching online for freelancers to assist his company, Getkombucha.com. Intrigued by the format, Lindenbaum's online-marketing experience told him there was an unclaimed niche market on Fiverr that he and his singer/actor friend Theresa Ryan could cash in on. "We saw a lot of people offering to sing you a song, but no one was offering a specific band or artist," Lindenbaum observed. Since they both love the Beatles -- and, as an amateur guitarist and vocalist, Lindenbaum admitted, "I need to know the music really well to even be 1/10th as good as Theresa" -- the two decided to perform personalized Beatles song parodies as their service.
Their niche was a hit, but as the orders started coming in, the two realized that writing original parodies takes a lot of work. After writing, practicing, shooting and editing they were making about $1/hour. After receiving consistently positive reviews from clients and 100 percent ratings for their work, however, Fiverr rewarded them with a "Best Seller Rating" and a Featured Video on the home page.
This acclaim, plus their advancement to Level 2 sellers where they could charge more for longer videos with upgraded features, increased the couple's profit margin. "Now we make between $10 and $20 per hour depending on the week," Ryan says. "But people also write to us and say, 'My mom cried when she watched this on her birthday,' or, 'Our business increased so much after this video, we want to purchase more,' so we are rewarded from our work more so much more than just financially."
You can get your own personalized "Penny Lane" from Lindenbaum and Ryan here. And remember, they also have a tip jar.
2. Mark W. Gray: Professor Hans Von Puppet
Mark W. Gray has worked as a cinematographer and director in Hollywood for 22 years. On a whim, he decided to create a puppet alter ego to do his Skype calls. Soon he found himself puppeteering a testimonial at a KCRW fundraising drive. "Then I wanted to make a puppet for my son, Noah, who's always liked science," Gray remembered. "He said, 'Make me a scientist!' So I created Professor Hans Von Puppet."
When Gray discovered Fiverr, he decided to use his filmmaking skills to churn out slick HD video personal messages with Hans Von Puppet as the star. People bought them for birthdays or to promote their companies, and one business owner even bought 50 to send as personal holiday cards to all his employees. "I've had a handful from India for men trying to express their love to their girlfriends, or apologize for something," Gray laughed, "but my favorite was a web commercial for a website called Hymenshop.com. It was a great triumph in dancing around a delicate subject matter."
According to Gray, he now makes about $1,500 a month working only a few hours every few days. About half of that is through basic $5 gigs, of which Fiverr takes a $1 cut each, and half are $10-$25. It takes him only two to four minutes to make a $5 video. "If you can't reduce your skill down to a marketable item that you can deliver in just a few minutes, it's going to drive you nuts," Gray advises. "There was a girl making cool crocheted hats last summer. I got one, but she immediately burned out on it and quit. You've really got to think it through like a business".
You can check out Hans Von Puppet and friends on Fiverr here.
3. Jinna Yang: The Woman of Many Faces
Style blogger, actress and singer Jinna Yang joined Fiverr in May and already offers 14 services you never thought you needed, like pretending to be your crazy ex-girlfriend or delivering your message as a "Ghetto Fabulous Asian Queen." And people are buying. According to Yang, she made more than $200 in her first two week and orders continue to come in. "The amount of positive feedback I'm getting from this community is priceless," she says, "and it helps pay the bills. It's like you're getting paid to practice."
Yang's "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" character is especially popular. "My orders range from guys commissioning birthday messages for their girlfriends to a startup company asking me to do their quirky web ad. People have even pranked their friends by sending them a video of me claiming to have had their baby."
So hey -- If you have a nemesis co-worker who likes to party too hard and have unprotected sex, you can get back at him for only $5 with a video from Jinna at JinnaJuice on Fiverr.com
4. Emily Gilbert: Marilyn Lives
Emily Marie Gilbert moved to San Diego to pursue a career as a recording artist and songwriter. A year ago, she dyed her hair blond and started getting catcalls everywhere that she looked like Marilyn Monroe. "I thought, 'Wow! Maybe I should cash in on this,' she said. She started to book live gigs as a Marilyn impersonator. Then her husband, an entrepreneur, was searching online for freelancers for his business; he found Fiverr and suggested it to Gilbert. Since the account was free, she gave it a try, and her personalized "Happy Birthday" messages were an instant hit.
"Unlike most businesses, you don't need money to start making money," Gilbert says, "and you can work from home and set your own schedule." She says she made about $1,500 in her first two months. Like Gray, she is able to produce her $5 videos in just a few minutes, and has earned the right to sell "extra gigs" for a higher price.
Gilbert did warn, "I'm told I make more on Fiverr than 99 percent of people. To make good money, you must be original. You have to provide good service, get good reviews and get promoted. Basically you earn the right to charge more money."
You can check out the sultry songstress of Fiverr here.
5. Michael Airington: Performing as Elderly Jewish Lady
L.A.-based comedian Michael Airington has been performing his character Ester Goldberg, a 70ish Jewish lady and self-proclaimed "glamourpuss of all media," since the early '90s. She started as a radio personality on Star 106 in Nashville, moved on to a successful cabaret career in Washington, D.C., and now has her own YouTube channel where she hosts her "Showbiz Schmooze, Political Crap and Weird Ass News" show. "My YouTube exposure dwindled since they became corporate," explains "Ester" in an interview. Now she supplements her income using her 8,000 Facebook friends and 12,000 YouTube followers to promote her personalized videos and mp3s on Fiverr.
"I did a cute li'l video for a girl group in Canada called the Lollipops, a romantic soon-to-be-married video, and an mp3 for a gay porn site. I'm a spokeswoman for the people!" Ester laughs.
Her videos on Fiverr have been so popular that she was asked to create a Featured Video for the site's home page. Ester added, "I think I'm the perfect person to be Fiverr's spokeswoman. I'm damn funny, and proof that unlike YouTube, on Fiverr there is no ageism!"
If you're looking for a classy broad to promote your business or wish a loved one Happy Bat mitzvah, check out Ester on Fiverr.
Fiverr was founded in 2010 by Israel-based entrepreneurs Micha Kaufman and Shai Wininger. Just like Lindenbaum and Gilbert's husband, the two had been scouring the Internet looking for freelancers to assist in their business ventures. "We realized there were few outlets for micro-entrepreneurs, people who have skills but do not have the time or money to create a business and attract clients," said Kaufman. So their next business venture became an easy-to-use meeting place where talent could connect with demand.
Unlike sites like TaskRabbit, which focus on physical tasks and strictly business-related jobs, Fiverr took on an artistic flare. "It was a viral phenomenon," Kaufman said. "We literally put the marketplace online and the first people to use it told their friends and they blogged about it and their friends put it up on Facebook."
Kaufman admits he is not just an owner but a consumer as well. "I'm buying every day," he enthused. "I hired one guy to write and perform a personalized love song from me for my wife! Every day we are more amazed at the growing creativity of our users."