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This woman earns $13,000 a month writing YouTube jingles on Fiverr

Business Insider logo Business Insider 3/10/2019 Shona Ghosh
a woman sitting on a bench© Sarah Hughes

Even the most talented musicians struggle to turn their skills into a regular income, but 28-year-old Sarah Hughes has already bought her own house and paid for a wedding in the last year.

Hughes, like most of us, works between the hours of 9am to 5pm every weekday. But unlike the average commuter she also takes time out of her day to potter around the house, do chores, meet friends, or go shopping. She never works after 5pm, or on weekends.

And she makes $13,000 a month, before tax, or about ten times higher than the UK national average.

Hughes is a freelancer on Fiverr, a marketplace where anyone can buy freelance services for as little as $5.

She has been using the platform since 2013 and charges up to $300 a time to create original jingles. She can play the ukulele and sing but, she says, her real talent is with Apple's recording software, Logic Pro X.

Her Fiverr page advertises original ballads for Valentine's Day, voiceover work, and nursery rhymes. More recently, she told Business Insider, there's been a lot of demand from YouTube creators who want cutesy backing music for videos designed to entertain kids.

Without Fiverr, Hughes said, her finances "wouldn't be good."

"I got married in November, and just exchanged on a house," she told Business Insider. "We've saved up for huge things."

a person holding a guitar© Sarah Hughes

Hughes isn't the only person to make decent money through Fiverr. One US dad coined $1 million and got himself out of debt doing voiceover work.

Fiverr is a marketplace for freelancers to sell their wares, and has been around since 2010.

While Fiverr has strong associations with that $5 price point, popular freelancers like Hughes can charge considerably more for their services and after winning loyal customers and good reviews.

The company has raised $111 million to date and, according to Bloomberg, is mulling a public float at a valuation of around $800 million.

Fiverr may be worth almost $1 billion

Chief executive Misha Kaufman says there have been 50 million transactions in total on the platform, although he wouldn't share details of revenue, user numbers or active sellers.

He wouldn't comment on the possibility of a float either, saying it's "just a rumour." Still, LinkedIn postings analysed by Business Insider show that Fiverr has bulked out its finance and accounting teams with at least three new hires in 2018, suggesting the firm may well be prepping for an IPO.

This is Kaufman's fourth company, he told Business Insider. His previous startups included encryption software firm Keynesis and user rating service Spotback.com.

"What really drove me to start this company was that I've been an entrepreneur for many years, and I've worked with a lot of freelancers," Kaufman said. "I've worked a lot with freelancers, and that usually involves a lot of friction. The way most freelancers' work is done to this day is very old-fashioned. You usually get your freelancer through references, then you get in touch, meet in coffee shops, figure out if you want to work together, then there's all the contracting that has to take place."

The process, Kaufman said, is highly inefficient, even as the number of freelancers is set to rise. According to Morgan Stanley, freelancers represent about a third of the US workforce.

"What we wanted to do was increase the efficiency of this market," Kaufman said, likening Fiverr to Airbnb and Uber, and other big marketplace companies. "We make purchasing a service online as easy as buying a product on Amazon."

Fiverr made negative headlines after PewDiePie hired freelance workers to hold up a sign saying 'Death to all Jews' a man holding a sign© YouTube

Buying another human's skills "frictionlessly" has some drawbacks, as the company discovered in 2017.

Felix Kjellberg, the Swedish YouTube star better known as PewDiePie, hired a couple of Indian comedians through Fiverr to hold up a sign that read: "Death to all Jews." The two comics, who call themselves Fiverr Funny Guys, have been banned from the service since, and Kjellberg was widely criticised for the anti-Semitic stunt.

Kaufman is stoic. "Everybody needs to remember Fiverr is a marketplace, it offers services that are offered by people," he said. "It's user-generated content. You might come across things you find offensive or inappropriate. Much like YouTube, we give you the option to report these things and we have a zero-tolerance policy.

"As much as we put technology and marketplace integrity in place, it's the internet, you're never going to field everything 100%. That's why we encourage our community to report anything inappropriate."

With a possible IPO on the way, would Kaufman consider raising the base price above $5, in order to boost Fiverr's own earnings?

"We won't be encouraging that for many years," he said. "The $5 is a tiny fraction of our business. Historically it's what we were associated with, but it's a very small part."

The $5 price tag, he added, has caused journalists and commentators to hold Fiverr up as an example of a race to the bottom for freelancers, in a world where struggling workers are turning to unstable "gig economy" work like driving for Uber to supplement their income.

"Fiverr has tried to do the opposite," said Kaufman, noting that Fiverr freelancers are free raise their prices as they build up loyalty and regular customers. "We're trying to allow people to price in the right way in terms of what they're offering and experience."

The US is Fiverr's biggest market, Kaufman said, but the firm is making its first major push in the UK. It already has a chunk of freelancers and customers here, but the platform has hired dedicated staff to support its users. The idea is to run meetups for freelancers, offer tips and tutorials to help people win more business.

Fiverr points to Hughes as an inspiration, as someone who has managed to build up a steady income and enjoys the freedom of working from home. "I don't think I would have got anywhere without Fiverr," she said. "I'd have been stuck in a job I didn't want to do."

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