One of the two new Awesome Column logos I got for just $5.
September 11, 2014 11:13 AM EDT

Recently, I decided to contract out the only thing I still do myself: write this column. You probably know about services like Uber, Amazon Fresh, and TaskRabbit that let you get Downtown Abbey-style service at budget prices. Now, through the magic of income inequality, web site offers millions of services people will do for just $5.

Things went slowly at first—to read about my experience click here. But, eventually, like a robber baron eyeing a boat full of laborers, I really started making it rain $5 bills: I got a logo, a press release, a ukulele jingle, 500 copies posted around the University of Chicago, a translation into Chinese and a rap song by J.P. from L.A.

Here’s just a sample of what you can do in the new new economy:

Not one, but TWO Awesome Column songs

The Awesome Column Rap, Released: 2014.

The Awesome Column Jingle, Released: 2014.

Some Awesome Column in Chinese

An Awesome Column press release




Joel Stein Hires Fiverr Writer to Help Pen Column on Subject of Gig Economy

New York — Sept. 15, 2014 — Time Magazine humor writer Joel Stein wanted to tackle the subject of the “gig economy” in his weekly piece “The Awesome Column.” The gig economy is a term used to describe the increasing number of professionals opting to pursue freelance work rather than 9-to-5 jobs in the wake of the Great Recession.

Stein decided it would be fitting, in a column about the gig economy, to outsource the job of writing the column to a freelancer. So he turned to Fiverr, an online marketplace through which freelancers of all stripes offer various services for $5 a job.

But because finding a worthy writer on Fiverr was work in and of itself, Stein outsourced the job of finding a writer to another freelancer via the website TaskRabbit. That task was outsourced to actor, writer and jack-of-all-trades MacLeish Day, who helped Stein locate the Fiverr content writer Jeff Butts.

Stein didn’t just stop at one Fiverr gig. After hiring Butts to write the first paragraph of his column, he decided to order other Fiverr gigs and “make it rain $5 bills” on Fiverr freelancers.

In the column, Stein details his misadventures purchasing a variety of additional Fiverr gigs, from editing of the column to pictures of Serbian model Ivona Vračević holding a sign that says, “The Awesome Column by Joel Stein,” an original Awesome Column jingle by Orange County-based ukelele player and songwriter Ryan Heenan, and more.

Even this press release was a product of Fiverr.

“I believe, per amount of work I put in, this is my best column ever,” Stein said.

Stein’s Awesome Column on the gig economy will appear in print edition of Time Magazine on DATE. All of the outsourced work can be viewed at LINK.

Read Joel Stein’s Awesome Column at Follow Stein on Facebook and Twitter.

And, of course, an entirely outsourced Awesome Column

Outsourcing used to be something you only heard about big companies doing. “We just outsourced our help desk,” you might hear, or “We need to talk about outsourcing our design work.”

Recently, though, it’s become almost common for individuals to outsource their own work. Got some shopping you want to do, but just don’t have the time? A site like TaskRabbit can help you find someone else to handle it for you at rock-bottom prices. Need to find someone to fix that leaky toilet? Once again, TaskRabbit to the rescue.

If your needs are more design or technical oriented, that’s not a problem, either. Freelancers hire themselves out on sites like Fiverr, where you can get a 500-word blog article written or a graphic drawn for just five bucks, less than you might spend on lunch at McDonald’s.

What does it mean when you can outsource your own work for much less than you get paid to do it? It becomes pretty lucrative to have someone else write that report for you, freeing you up to do other things. However, how fair is this for the freelancer who is doing that work for what seems like pennies?

I could even hire someone from Fiverr to write this column for me, if I really wanted to. Would that be fair to the Fiverr seller, though, since I’m getting a salary here and that seller only makes 4 bucks off the article (Fiverr takes 20% of the price for their own pockets, leaving sellers with 4 out of 5 bucks.)

Fiverr freelancer clefmeister says that it isn’t all that bad. “Most of the things I do for $5 only take me ten or fifteen minutes to do, so I’m really making 20 bucks an hour,” he said. He also said that it can be interesting, the kind of things people ask him to write about.

“I’ve got one gig right now asking me to write about premature ejaculation. I don’t know what it’s for, though. It’s too early to tell,” he quipped. Too early, indeed.

While a site like Fiverr advertises that you can get anything for a five-spot, sellers can earn the right to charge more. “I have gigs that net me as much as a hundred bucks, with Gig Extras,” clefmeister told me. He pointed out that it takes time to build up to being able to charge that much, but there are ways to turn selling on Fiverr profitable.

This ability to outsource our work to others is a different twist for the economy. Many of the sellers on places like TaskRabbit and Fiverr are 100% freelancing, either because they prefer it or because they can’t get a job in today’s economy. Some, though, just do it for extra cash.

Also, there are the freelancers signing onto the site from other countries, where $5 American is actually a hefty salary. Whether it’s a fair price or not really depends on how you look at it. If the freelancers are willing to do the work for so cheap, why not take advantage of the opportunity?

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