Crowdsourcing sorcery: Do the pros outweigh the cons?

You may have seen online crowdfunding requests in which individuals ask strangers or others to help fund their projects — some seemingly legitimate, some just plain goofy. Consider the recent call-outs for money to build a two-wheeled flying bike invention à la “E.T.” or a giant, inflatable sculpture of Lionel Richie’s head.

But what about crowdfunding’s less grasping (and often more practical) cousin, crowdsourcing? That’s emerging as a way to hire talented and/or creative people to complete needed tasks — a process typically cheaper and less time-consuming than hiring someone through more traditional paths.

One option is accessing a skill-swapping website like Swapaskill that brings together people wishing to trade their skills and specialties. If you’re in construction, for example, perhaps you could built a wheelchair ramp in exchange for improvements to your website by a skilled designer.

More general crowdsourcing sites like Amazon Mechanical Turk or Fiverr (which bills itself as “the world’s largest marketplace for creative and professional services”) link you with the services of freelancers in graphics/design, online marketing, writing, translation, video, animation, music, audio, advertising, business, programming and other tech fields. You simply submit an online post describing your needs, invite submissions in your price range and then wait for offers. In some cases, vendors even send their work on spec.

The results can be positive, but keep in mind the following possible downsides:

  • Some believe using Crowdsourcing at low prices is a slap in the face to other professionals, as it tends to drive prices down industry-wide.
  • Quality is negligible, as some Crowdsourcing freelancers are just starting out or are unemployed, while others yet are skilled professionals who like their freedom, are possibly moonlighting or simply between jobs.
  • Users typically don’t create a relationship with the other professional that would allow for free adjustments; many Crowdsourcing agreements are “one and done” deals.

“With all the pros and cons to consider, crowdsourcing isn’t ideal for every small business owner, notes an article on the National Federation of Independent Businesses website. “The key is to realize the scale of design you want.”

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