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Make crowdsourcing work for you: Expert tips

Crowdsourcing is taking a job and putting it out to either a defined or undefined crowd to find the person with the most suitable skills to complete it. It’s a growing phenomenon – so how can you make it work for your business? 

Research released in February indicates that the world of crowdsourcing is here to stay and growing at a rapid rate. With growth of more than 75 percent in 2011, there are a range of crowdsourcing businesses offering services that your business can benefit from.

So what is crowdsourcing? Crowdsourcing is taking a job and putting it out to either a defined or undefined crowd to find the person with the most suitable skills to complete it. Gone are the days of the long pitch, spending numerous hours researching three or more companies to invite to tender, then briefing them and waiting for their pitches and presentations. This whole process could take weeks and require a huge commitment in both time and resources to research, brief and liaise.

The internet has paved the way for crowdsourcing, providing a platform for those in need of a particular service to tap into a wide range of talent from across the globe.  Now, with a single brief, thousands of services providers can be accessed and often within a very short timeframe.

The local market

Australia has been a leader in the development of cutting edge crowdsourcing businesses, with many of the best known crowdsourcing sites developed here, including Kaggle, Freelancer.com, DesignCrowd, 99designs and ImageBrief. 

The great news for small businesses is that the range of services now provided by crowdsourcing suppliers is wide ranging. Most areas of your business can be assisted by a crowdsourcing service from the design of your logo, sourcing photographic imagery for your marketing campaigns, accessing funding to grow your business or finding a freelancer to help you with human resources, legal or other services.  IT services can be crowdsourced, as can translation, research, data entry, editing – virtually any element of your business.

The beauty of having so many services readily available means that small to medium-sized businesses can compete on a global scale with larger competitors and have similar resources at their disposal, which can be switched on or off depending on demand.

99designs, Freelancer.com and ImageBrief

Take the example of a small publishing house producing a custom publication for a client. They could use a crowdsourcing service such as 99Designs to source the design of the publication, copywriters could be found using freelancer.com, the images needed could be briefed into ImageBrief and found with minimal fuss and the printing could be crowdsourced using printerboy.com. All of this could be managed by a single person sitting in a home office, without the costly overheads of office space, staff, human resources, technology and the list goes on!

For these service providers, the cost benefit is also enormous. One photographer I spoke to recently told me the development of crowdsourcing websites had made a huge difference to how he earnt money. Previously he would spend hours upon hours at networking events (which he generally didn’t enjoy), then continued to schmooze the client before finally being asked to pitch for some work, which in itself took a great deal of time to prepare and then present.  Finally he would get to do some photography! Now, with the advent of crowdsourcing websites, he can simply see what briefs are available and quickly determine if he has anything in his portfolio which will meet that need. On occasions he may take the time to shoot something to meet a brief if he has the time and resources to do so. Now while he may not win every piece of business he submits some imagery for, the burden on his time to ‘pitch’ is greatly reduced as is his cost base, so it’s a win-win for both him and the client.

This story is echoed across the numerous categories in the crowdsourcing industry. For the service provider to spend less time and money on winning the business means clients can enjoy the same service often at a reduced fee.

Many time zones, faster service

One of the many benefits of crowdsourcing is that clients have access to service providers across the globe, which may be a consideration in their selection if time is of the essence.  To use multiple time zones to complete a job means that your task is being worked on 24 hours a day and can be turned around a lot faster.  So not only can you save money, but you can also get the job done much quicker.

Another important advantage of this business model is that it provides a forum for up and coming service providers who may have incredible talent that has not yet been recognised. This is a huge plus for businesses as they can tap into this talent, often for a very reasonable rate.

The 2012 crowdsourcing industry report found that the industry is actively building supply faster than demand. For those seeking crowdsourcing services this means that there is a plethora of talent out there to tap into; however, does this pose the opposite problem of too much choice?

Too much choice?

The industry has become acutely aware of this issue and many providers are now putting processes in place to provide their customers with filters to assist in their selection. At ImageBrief, we are considering a range of these filters as our business grows and our customer selection increases.   These filters may include enabling the buyer to rate the images and/or photographer based on quality and accuracy, a reputation ranking system for the photographers which impacts the way responses are presented or an in-house moderation system. Such filters are being assessed to determine what is most suitable for both the buyer and supplier.

Of course, to my way of thinking the benefits of crowdsourcing far outweigh the drawbacks. To have at your disposal some of the best proven brains in the business, alongside a range of emerging talent, can only make us all strive for far greater things. Competition is not a new concept and in a world where everything is happening faster and more efficiently, embracing the notion of crowdsourcing can provide any business with increased capacity and talent.  So try crowdsourcing your next IT, design or research project and you may discover how to transform the way your business operates.

Here are six tips on Crowdsourcing Design from DesignCrowd.com.au:

1) Choose the right task – choosing the right design project to crowdsource is critical. Focus your project on a single task where you’re seeking lots of ideas (such as logo design). Avoid complex or confidential tasks (such as annual reports).

2) Use a big crowd – the tipping point for a creative crowd is 10,000 designers. Use an established crowdsourcing platform with 10,000+ designers.

3) Personally invite designers – browse designer portfolios and send a personal invite your favourite designers.

4) Share the rewards – offer second place or participation payments to designers that don’t win and you’ll attract more responses.

5) Feedback and praise – give constant and encouraging feedback to designers.

6) Get opinions – share designs with your friends, employees and customers to get their opinions.

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Simon Moss

Simon Moss

Simon Moss is CEO of ImageBrief, providing clients with a quick, easy way to source the photography they need.

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