Crowdsourcing, as you probably know, is a way of using ‘crowds’ to ‘source’ solutions to your problems. In 1999, SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, launched a project called SETI@home, in which it asked anyone with a computer to run the SETI screen saver program. This program used the idle time of personal computers to crunch data collected by the Arecibo radio telescope. The result was the most powerful “computer” of its time. While the program never found alien life, the data has been used in the study of pulsars, and the idea of the home PC supercomputer has been used in other areas of science. It is an excellent example of the power of the crowd.
Crowdsourcing harnesses that power for a variety of projects: from getting, the best graphics for your website to involving tens to hundreds of people in doing simple data-crunching tasks that computers are still not qualified for. Researchers have used it to track hurricanes or to take the pulse of their target market. Some businesses have found that using crowdsourcing has let them get projects done quicker and more cheaply than if, they had them done in-house or hired out the work to a specific company. The Oxford Workforce’s 2020 Report projects that 83 percent of companies will use a flexible workforce over the next three years.
With the creation of the internet, online crowdsourcing has made it increasingly convenient for businesses to take advantage of this new way of hiring labor. Companies can access skilled and unskilled labor across the world without concern for time zones, labor laws or dealing with different currencies. Crowdsourcing companies handle the details of contracting the freelancer and handling the payments. To learn more about crowdsourcing, check out these articles.
Crowdsourcing generally covers four areas:
Crowd Labor: Crowdsourcing labor lets you seek freelancers to complete all or part of a project online. You can either seek people to perform specific tasks at a set price such as with the crowdsourcing site Fiverr or you can post projects as contests or work for hire and have talented freelancers compete. Amazon Mechanical Turk allows you to split projects that have a huge number of tasks that cannot be done by computer, such as classifying photos, and pay pennies per task.
Open Innovation/Crowd Creativity: These crowdsourcing companies allow multiple people to post on projects. HitRECord is an art and video crowdsourcing company that lets people post and collaborate on artistic projects whose results have competed in film festivals. Chaordix uses a similar approach but for product innovation.
Access Distributed Knowledge or Experience: Wikipedia is the most common example of a crowdsourcing website used to access and share knowledge from multiple sources; however, there are companies that foster this for more specific business purposes. This can also include customer feedback or beta testing.
Crowdsourcing Funding: Companies and solopreneurs are turning to the public for funding of ideas. If crowdsourcing fundraising is your area of interest, check out our crowdfunding and business crowdfunding sites.
Crowdsourcing: What to Look For
Crowdsourcing technology has grown sophisticated, connecting freelancers and enthusiasts with companies looking for projects or simple task completion. It has progressed beyond want ad lists to include file sharing, video, social media and more. Each company has its own unique angle and focus area. Therefore, even the top crowdsourcing sites might not be the best for your particular needs.
As you consider the best crowdsourcing site for you, check these features and tools:
Approach: Each company takes a different approach to how it finds and connects freelancers. Some treat each account as a one-time, task- or project-specific deal. In these cases, you only interact with the freelancer with respect to giving feedback and payment on the project completed. A few that do this let you directly contact the freelancer after the fact if you would like to hire them directly for future projects. Other websites have social media crowdfunding tools that let you develop a community. In this way, you can develop an active fan base, introduce more than one project and garner feedback.
Filtering: Some companies attract a pool of freelancers that they evaluate for skills and then match to your project. Others open projects to anyone and leave the evaluation to you. Still others allow anyone to pipe in with the crowd also determining quality through likes.
Platform: A few sites, like Fiverr, have you search for the type of work you need, then find the freelancer that appeals to you. However, most sites let you post a project. For sites like these, check the platform they provide for posting your project description.
Do they lead you in the aspects to consider summary, feel, color scheme, desired effect?
Do they let you upload samples?
How formal is the form?
Does it let you specify due dates and payment, or are these pre-determined by the site?
Does the platform allow you to give feedback privately? Publicly?
Does their software allow you to establish a community? Speak to the freelancer’s one on one in order to develop a working relationship for the future?
If you run your business on the go, you may want to consider crowdsourcing companies with mobile platforms as well.
Pricing Scheme: Some sites allow you to set your own price, while others have packages. The package you purchase determines the quality of freelancers that apply and sometimes affects how many bids you get as well as how quickly the project is done.
There are many benefits to crowdsourcing. You can access the talents of people you do not know, often in other states or countries. You can get a wide range of proposals to choose from. Crowdsourcing often works more quickly and more cheaply than traditional hiring methods. As the notion of hiring freelancers to do one-off tasks grows, crowdsourcing websites will increase in popularity and utility. Check out these 10 well-known crowdsourcing solutions to see which best meets your needs.
Crowdsourcing Sites: 99designs, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Chaordix, DesignCrowd, Fiverr, Freelancer, hitRECord, InnoCentive, OneSpace, Upwork.