It’s a scary moment when a financial emergency hits—whether it’s job loss or an unexpected medical bill—and your savings can’t cover it. I’ve felt that panic firsthand.
When I got laid off from my project management job in 2013, I had a grand total of $500 in savings—and I needed a way to make money fast. So when I found a medical research study paying $7,500, I was thrilled at the prospect of covering my bills for at least five months. But there was a catch: The researchers planned to put participants on a brand-new medication that had never been given to humans before, then monitor for side effects.
After thinking over the potential risks, I backed out. But the fact that I’d even considered such a dangerous thing was the wake-up call I needed to get serious about saving. I really buckled down—ultimately putting enough money aside over the following two and a half years to cover my expenses for 12 months. (That really came in handy when I was laid off again this past August.)
Yet I sometimes wonder how easy it’d be to earn extra money quickly if I was ever in a pinch again, which prompted an idea: to start a side hustle on Fiverr.com. “Today’s gig economy enables workers to be proactive in their quest for cash,” Kristen Euretig, a Certified Financial Planner and founder of Brooklyn Plans told me. “With services [like these], a quick buck has never been easier to come by than it is today.”
I put that theory to the test.
Fiverr is a website where you can sell your work to buyers all over the world. Services tend to skew creative—designing logos or illustrations, writing or making videos—and usually start at $5 per job. I decided to offer my editing services.
From there, I created a profile and several job postings, or gigs, as the site refers to them. In total, the initial setup took just 30 minutes, which is about as minimal a time investment you could ask for when starting a business.
Here’s what happened next.
Once you’ve created a Fiverr account and posted a few gigs, the customers come to you. Although the going base rate is $5, you can tack on bonus features that drive up the sticker price. For example, I offered super-speedy delivery (a four-hour turnaround) and detailed commentary for $10 each. The good news is you’re always guaranteed payment through the site, so there’s no risk of doing work you’re not compensated for. The not so good news is it does take 14 days from completion of an order until you can withdraw your money.
All in all, I made $75 after working two weeks—and six gigs—on the site. And I spent just over three hours actually completing tasks, like editing a blog post. That translates to $37.50 a week, which isn’t much at all. But multiply it by 52, and you’re looking at an extra $2,000 annually. Not bad for just 90 minutes of extra work a week.
It can be difficult for newbies to attract customers on Fiverr, as the site relies heavily on seller reputation: Potential customers see how many jobs you’ve completed, and past customers rank you on a five-star system, in addition to leaving reviews—which you obviously don’t have when you first join. Honestly, I expected to make a good bit more cash, faster, than what I ultimately did. I assume I’d make more the longer I stay on the site, but it definitely doesn’t happen right away.
Another issue is that you could potentially find yourself doing a job that takes more time than it’s worth—say, spending two hours on something that pays just $5. That’s why it’s important to make sure you don’t over-promise in your service offerings. But probably the biggest drawback to Fivver is the fees. The site takes a 20 percent cut out of each service you book. Had I not forked over the 20 percent, I’d have $90 from two weeks of work instead.
While it’s not likely to be your best source of fast cash in an emergency, Fiverr could be a good way to earn extra on the side so you never get stuck in the first place. “Starting an emergency fund should come before anything else,” says Euretig. “Even saving just $10 or $20 a week—say, from your Fiverr account—can go a long way in building stability over time.”