05/30/2012 12:16 EDT | Updated 07/30/2012 05:12 EDT

Micro jobs: Short-term tasks for quick cash appeals to many sellers and buyers

Need a video testimonial to promote your product? A customized "Happy Birthday" serenade? Or simply hankering to see someone boogie down dressed like a chicken? Then Rob Nadigel is your guy.

The Calgary DJ has a pretty stacked and diverse plate when it comes to his side gigs. But potential consumers needn't worry about having to shell out big bucks for his work: the bulk of Nadigel's services will only set them back the price of a large latte.

Nadigel is a top-seller on, billed as the world's largest marketplace for small services, starting at $5 a pop.

He's among a growing segment of entrepreneurs drawn to micro jobs, short-term tasks advertised online in exchange for quick cash.

Gigbucks lets freelancers of all stripes offer services priced from $5 to $50 per gig. Community marketplace Skillshare helps connect prospective teachers and learners.

Visitors to Nadigel's Fiverr page can not only peruse his services, but also the value-added Gig Extras. For an additional $10, the 39-year-old will not only sing "Happy Birthday," he'll also jump out of a human-size gift box complete with confetti, silly string and balloons. Want him to lipsync a tune for more than one minute? For an extra $20, he'll perform the full song.

"It's kind of like constantly doing a puzzle and putting the pieces together," said Nadigel, who so far has netted $5,000 in business.

"You always have to update your videos, you always have to keep track of holidays ... and you've got to stay relevant."

Nadigel has considered forging his own path to advertise his services but acknowledges it would be more challenging to go solo.

"It's something maybe down the road I'll look at, but I've got to go where my strengths are right now; and Fiverr is a big part of why I do sell," he said, noting that the site promotes him on their front page.

"It's not easy to do on your own. I've tried it, and I just don't get the traffic."

While he wouldn't disclose specific numbers, CEO Micha Kaufman said Canada ranks third behind the U.S. and U.K. in users — for both buyers and sellers.

As successful sellers ascend in level they get additional tools to do bigger business, such as being able to offer services for up to $150, said Kaufman. The company takes $1 out of each successful transaction to cover payment fees.

Kaufman co-founded the site with Shai Wininger, and said the end goal was to create an "eBay for services" where providers can turn hobbies into businesses. The roster of sellers features people of all ages, from students raising money to pay off loans to retirees wanting to share their knowledge, he noted.

Kaufman believes there's a good balance on the site between offbeat services allowing individuals to show their creative sides and more practical options like web design, programming, graphics and technical writing. But some people realize a talent isn't always needed to become a successful service provider.

"You can happen to be living near the Eiffel Tower and just take photos every day for people — that's a resource," he said. "You happen to know English? That's a resource for people where English is not their first language.

"People realize that sometimes the skill or the resource can be small, but for others, it can be huge."

Despite a flurry of sites featuring micro jobs, the concept of crowdsourcing isn't new, noted Sean Wise, assistant professor of entrepreneurship and strategy at Ryerson University.

"Now that we've added mobile to the picture so that people are accessing the Internet not from desktops but from smartphones we can add location," he said. "So before, it didn't make sense to ask someone who lived in India to cut my grass because it just wouldn't work. But with local, (I) could ask people who are in a one-kilometre radius to cut my grass."

Wise, author of "Hot or Not: How to Know if your Business Idea will Fly or Fail," said the motivations for pursuing micro jobs will differ among individuals.

"In the United States, where the recession is really tearing apart their employment situation, people are desperate to do everything," he said.

"You have lawyers working in coffee shops. Well, if that's the case, where do the coffee shop people go?

"All it's doing is creating a new lower class sort of wage slave. So from that perspective, it's good individually because making money is a good thing. But economically, I'm not sure."

Besides the money, Nadigel has been bolstered by feedback from those who've used his services.

"I get everything from 'Great job' to people really emphasizing strong words about how I made their 17-year-old just, like, cry," he said. "I had one person have my video played at a wedding in front of 700 people."

He hopes to be able to parlay his gigs beyond web-based work with aspirations of landing a TV or film role.

"Hopefully, I'll get my lucky break one day, and someone will knock on my door, send me an email, and with a little bit of hard work and a little bit of luck who knows?"