A little over a decade ago, crowdsourcing didn’t exist. It wasn’t until two college kids decided to start an online, weekly t-shirt design contest that this idea broke into an ongoing business model. Threadless did a little over $30 million last year and they sell around 120,000 tees a month. Professors now teach their crowdsourcing methods at Harvard—not bad for two college dropouts. Currently, the company opens itself up to all sorts of graphic designers and artists and allows each to submit works to be voted on by an online community of fellow artists and designers. T-shirts that win receive a cool two grand and a $500 gift card to the company, which will score free t-shirts, laptop cases, backpacks and iPhone cases designed by those in the Threadless community.
Many successful business models use a form of crowdsourcing or outsourcing to produce phenomenal results from professionals around the globe. Essentially, crowdsourcing involves subcontracting single tasks to an undefined community, which is slightly different from outsourcing, where employers will send similar tasks to a group of professionals in a particular field. Soloprenuers, 9-5ers, and small business owners alike can use these two methods to increase productivity in order to not only become more efficient, but more effective. Websites like Elance, Freelancer, Odesk, crowdSPRING, 99designs and Fiverr provide an array of eager experts that can help companies and individuals complete projects, articles and designs for a fraction of the cost and time.
Elance and Odesk are two of the most popular freelance sites for outsourcing and finding work online. Through these websites, individuals from all over the world can compete for jobs by placing bids on job descriptions. For those wishing to hire, it really is as simple as posting a description in the correct category. For example, if someone needs to hire an outsider to write an article, design a logo, build an app or even fill in a database, it only takes a few moments to create a free post. After creating a post in the correct field, employers can choose from anyone who places a bid and even invite freelancers who fit the qualifications for the job. With a bid, employers can see the client’s background, portfolio, a brief summary of what that individual can bring to the job and how much it will cost to complete the job in a certain amount of time. Time and estimated cost should be in the initial posting to save time and find the perfect candidate.
Although it’s fairly simple, there are specifics that need to be examined when hiring from an outside source. It’s important to be as concise as possible in the descriptions. This is especially important when hiring someone who speaks English as a second language. List exactly what needs to be done for the job and ask questions to the employee to make sure everything is understood perfectly. Another factor to consider is the time difference that comes with outsourcing. Some may find it difficult to coordinate across multiple time zones. For me, having a part-time assistant in the Philippines is perfect because I can post a job before bed and wake up to a completed project. It’s also an exciting way for me to connect with someone in another culture.
Some people may be against outsourcing to other countries, but the benefits can’t be ignored. If an employee in India can finish the job in a fraction of the time for a fraction of the cost, it allows the employer to hire local workers to perform more difficult jobs and build the company in other ways. For instance, my graphic designer is Czech, my web designer, Argentinean and my assistant is Filipino. The later is well-educated, eager to work for an “American actor” and does everything from submitting me for acting roles, bidding on jobs, entering data, conducting research or making reservations- all at $3 per hour. This gives me back 40+ hours per month, allows me to earn more so I can afford to work with an American business consultant, audio editor and research assistant to accomplish more than I could ever do on my own with my limited budget.
Three examples of crowdsourcing are crowdSPRING, 99designs and Fiverr. Amazon and Starbucks have both used crowdSPRING for either logo design, web design or writing services. One of the largest marketplaces for creative services, the company also works by posting what is needed and how much the employer is willing to pay. With crowdsourcing, the creative workers do not simply apply but actually submit work for buyers to choose from. Currently, buyers can choose from an average of over 100 entries and the company even offers a money-back guarantee. 99designs is similar and designers post completed concept designs, which are then rated and the winner receives the prize money. With this site, a new design is loaded every five seconds that may fall into the category of a logo design, business card, t-shirt, postcard, brochure, web page, illustration and so on. Fiverr walks the line between crowdsourcing and outsourcing and is perhaps the cheapest and most unique form of either. Everything from singing background vocals to illustrating mermaids to helping your social media site can be found on Fiverr for only five bucks.
Whether it’s a business logo, a press release, an article or help with social marketing, there are endless creative types seeking employment online. These websites allow for all sorts of people to find jobs and hire great employees they never would have encountered otherwise. Through outsourcing, work can be purchased from all over the globe at a savings of both money and time. Through crowdsourcing, those who post jobs can literally choose from a hundred designs to pick a logo or image that best resembles their initial vision. The key is to be precise in the description and examine portfolios and ratings from past users to find the best possible candidate for each job. Whether a one-time job or long-term virtual assistant, we can all access these powerful talent pools.