Crowdsourcing: A Solution for the Overworked Freelancer

Lots of solo business owners, freelance writers included, tend to dismiss advice about delegation when it comes to running their businesses. Why? Because being a solopreneur means there’s no one within the business to delegate the extra work to.

crowdsourcing freelance writersBut freelancers do have options for delegation, and that’s because of the overwhelming number of virtual service providers out there. If you don’t have a go-to logo designer or website guy, for example, thousands of them can be reached through crowdsourcing sites.

For instance you can:

What makes crowdsourcing appealing for the business owners is that with relatively little effort, you can post a job that will be seen by hundreds and hundreds of professionals all over the world. On the flip side, with the traditional quoting process, you’d spend a lot more time contacting just a few different businesses to explain what you’re looking for and request a quote.

The Difference Between Job Postings and Job Contests

If you choose to crowdsource a task for your small business, there are a couple of ways you can go about it. The standard job posting allows you to give the details of your project just once and let interested contractors make bids. In this scenario, you’d probably make a hiring decision based on two factors: price and your overall confidence in the applicant’s ability to do a good job.

But you can also hold contests on some crowdsourcing sites. Take www.99designs.com, for instance. I ran a contest on that site over a year ago for a logo design. I gave some basic instructions on the project and designers began submitting concepts to me without receiving any upfront payment or any promise of pay. They were working merely on the hope that they would win and receive the “prize.”

I’m not a huge fan of contests, and don’t plan to ever run one again. Although my financial investment was protected (I didn’t have to choose a winner if I didn’t like any of the submissions), I didn’t feel it was particularly fair to the people doing the work. I also think overall the quality of submissions I received were just so-so — probably because the designers didn’t want to put in too much effort only to see the prize awarded to someone else in the end.

And can you blame them?

Crowdsourcing Pros & Cons

  • You learn the crowdsourcing business. Freelance writers, designers, virtual assistants–you can all work for these sites too. If you’ve used crowdsourcing as an employer, you have an advantage as a provider because you know what you loved and what you hated about applicant bids.
  • You have no shortage of choices. This can be good or bad, depending. If you’re easily overwhelmed by to many choices or have a hard time making cuts, crowdsourcing might not be your first choice for delegating your small business tasks.
  • You can’t micromanage the entire process. Lots of solopreneurs work alone because they have control issues. (Yeah, I said it, and you know who you are.) If you crowdsource, you’ll have to trust someone else to take pride in the details.

This post is part of the April Word Carnival — a monthly group blogging event specifically for small business owners. (It’s the most fun you’ll have all month!) Check out the rest of the posts on outsourcing here.


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About Emily Suess

Emily Suess is a technical marketing writer by day and a freelance copywriter by night. And, no, she's not related to Dr. Seuss.
  • http://www.your-assistant-lisa.com Lisa

    I have to say I have used elance as a virtual assistant and it is hit or miss for decent jobs. I am sure the quality of work goes both ways.

    After several jobs on elance, I decided to start my own business so I could determine the type of client and quality of the project. It is a good place to start to get a lay of the land. There is tough competition with other markets outside of the US.

    • http://blog.emilysuess.com Emily Suess

      I totally agree Lisa. That’s one of the reasons I tend to see it as a more useful tool for outsourcing than for obtaining work. But it all really depends on the nature of the business and the assignment. Thanks for your feedback. (There will be more on this topic on SBB in May, in case you’re interested.)

      • http://www.your-assistant-lisa.com Lisa

        Whoops!  Looks like I went off topic :)  I had bootcamp this morning and my brain is not working!

        • http://blog.emilysuess.com Emily Suess

          Not at all! Both sides of the issue are pertinent. :)

  • http://www.devacoaching.com Sandi Amorim

    Who’s got control issues???

    Great perspective Emily! 

    • http://blog.emilysuess.com Emily Suess

      Not me! I swear! ;)

  • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

    Crowdsourcing is definitely an affordable way to get work done. I’ve only used it twice — once for getting a few interviews transcribed, and once for a copywriting project. I was happy with the transcriber (he was in India) but not with the copywriter (lackluster writer). I think if I outsource again, I will look to making a commitment with a VA. The relationship is SO important to me. 

  • http://getpaidtowriteonline.com/ Sharon Hurley Hall

    I’ve thought of crowdsourcing, but have shied away from it. Thanks for sharing your experience of the process, Emily.

  • SandyMc

    Thanks for raising the contest concept Emily.  When I first heard of this I was just so grateful we weren’t trying to earn a living doing graphic design anymore.  We used to charge a considerable amount to identify and resolve a business brand. Now here are designers pitting themselves against one another just for the merest chance of winning business and even then at a mere fraction of what we once charged.  It takes the whole idea of competitive pitching to another, almost ludicrous, level. 

    But you also raised the fact that the results were so so.   There is no accountability and why should there be given the lotto possibility of winning work that way.  This is really a case of getting what you pay for.  I just feel sorry for the fact that there are so many folk out there who risk their time and talent with such a minute chance of winning business.

  • http://www.IAmNickArmstrong.com/ Nick Armstrong

    I really dislike crowdsourced solutions. It teaches clients to pay much less than the going rate for what can sometimes be excellent work – but it’s ultimately speculative work, which is just plain wrong.

    When you participate in crowd-sourced solutions, you teach your clients to pay less than what you’re worth and you devalue the industry. You also hurt other professionals. As a web developer, I would often include design rates into my bid – “Oh no, we can get it for much cheaper than that…” is not something you ever want to hear.

    Excellent points here, thank you Emily!

  • http://www.creativekatrina.com Creative Katrina

    This is all so interesting to read, the post and all your comments. I don’t have much experience with crowdsourcing as a business solution, but this post has given me a lot to think about if I ever consider it as an option for my business. 

  • http://www.thenumberswhisperer.com Nicole Fende

    I had not considered the crowdsourcing perspective before Emily.  While I share @NickArmstrong:disqus concerns about lowest price, I’ve also heard from people who swear by it as a resource.  I think you just need to keep in mind this mantra when reviewing bids “You get what you pay for”

  • clarestweets

    I found the insights between job posting and job contests particularly enlightening. I had not thought of the job contest idea before. Good stuff.   

  • http://twitter.com/MelanieKissell Melanie Kissell

    Yeah … nobody likes losing a contest. Interesting concept and resource, though.  Thanks, Emily.

    I’ve talked to lots of folks who have used crowdsourcing and I wish I had something pithy to add.  It’s definitely been a case of 50/50 — some really good experiences and some really NOT-so-good ones. It all boils down to using the best filters you can come up with when deciding to take a chance on crowdsourcing options.  And even then, you may end up on the losing end of the stick.

    Nicely done Carnival post! :-)