Micro-job sites target SMBs with cheap services

Have you been searching for someone to read your pet’s Tarot cards for only $5? Or perhaps a stranger to read you a bedtime story over your phone for the same low price?

People all over the world are jumping on the trend of “micro-job sites,” Web sites where people can offer any service for a fixed price, usually a very low one. Some of the more adventurous people out there may spend their $5 on having their past lives read, or to see someone dressed in a hot dog costume dance to a song of the buyer’s choice.

The more bizarre examples come from sites like Fiverr.com, Tenbux.com or Fittytown.com, with sections specifically for unusual requests.

But these sites also have users offering services for businesspeople, particularly those who own very small businesses.  

Five dollars could be used for your business’ search engine optimization, Facebook fan page creation, or other social marketing and even dispute settlement.

Fiverr.com, operated by Fiverr International Ltd. based in Israel, is perhaps the best-known in its category. For just $5, you can buy a service or product using your PayPal account. Several other similar sites are popping up in recent months.

About a month ago, Elan Azzouz started Frogerr.ca, a Web site with a very similar model to Fiverr.com, but where users buy or sell products and services for $5, $10, $15 and $25. Canadians have been behind on the trend, Azzouz says. “We wanted to wake them up,” he says.

When you hire someone to socially market you, they should be targeting your customer base, he says. “Are they going to tweet your message to some guy in Sweden or some guy in Chicago?” he says. Really, they should be tweeting about you in Canada.

A major advantage of these sites is quick delivery. A job can be finished in as few as 24 hours, meaning if you are looking to grow your business quickly, then a micro-job site is extremely appealing. With Frogerr.ca, administrators take 20 per cent of the fee for a service ($1), similar to other sites like it. 

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Sites like Frogerr.ca are also ideal for business owners who just don’t have the time, he says. “There are companies that need to get on Facebook, that need to have their messages tweeted,” he says. Finding someone to do it quickly for such a low price can be hugely helpful.

The question of quality is an obvious one. After all, how nice will your business card design be for only $5?

“I’ve had people get really mad at me for the Web site, especially graphic artists,” Azzouz says. But realistically, Canadians are too expensive, he says. “People are well aware of what these things should cost,” he says.

“There will always be people who want a $50 logo,” says Paul Bies, president of Mystique Creative, a Toronto-based firm that offers graphic design and other branding services. The people who go for a cheap logo are probably the ones who don’t understand the value of a brand, Bies says. “They just want a pretty little logo to stick on a business card.”

His firm charges significantly more, but also for more service. Part of what a client pays to his firm is spent on research and he says he doubts that the people offering graphic design services for such a low price are putting in the same level of work.

You can also look at recommendations and comments on a person’s services to ensure the work will be done well. But, really, for $5, the loss if you’re unhappy with the work is so minimal, and not much time is wasted. 

“No one is going to get rich off this,” Azzouz says. Rather, it’s a way for freelancers to make a bit of extra money while marketing themselves and getting feedback on their work.

There are also freelancers who are offering testimonials for your business or product, whether on their blog or as a video. This can present a problem, though, if the freelancers don’t actually try your product or even research your company.

Canada’s Competition Act prohibits misleading advertising, including testimonials where the person hasn’t actually used the product he or she is promoting. So, if you pay someone $10 to make a video testimonial of your product for your Web site, and they never actually tried it, you could be in trouble.

The federal Competition Bureau also works with international bodies like the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to combat fraudulent claims in advertising, says Greg Scott, a representative of the Bureau. The Competition Bureau also monitors the Internet for this kind of information and deals with complaints about misleading claims.

“Basically, when it comes to testimonials, if they say they’re going to do it, I don’t see why they would lie about it,” Azzouz says.

Still, business owners should be cautious when buying this kind of service from a micro-job site. You can always pay someone $5 to meditate for you instead.

Harmeet Singh is a Staff Writer at ITBusiness. Follow her on Twitter, and join the IT Business Facebook Page.

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