How You Can Benefit from Crowdsourcing

The days are long gone when the only way to build your business was by hiring full time employees. Now there are so many more choices. Many employees are interested in part-time work. Some prefer to work virtually, which frees a company up from being limited to local talent. And then there’s crowdsourcing, a whole new way to tap into talented labor on a project-by-project basis.

Crowdsourcing is a special way to outsource a task. With outsourcing, you know exactly who will be doing the task. With crowdsourcing, you don’t; people just show up and contribute. Wikipedia calls it “distributed problem-solving.”

99 Designs

A great example of crowdsourcing is 99 Designs. When are dozens of heads better than one? One answer is when designing a logo. Even if you’re perfect at hiring an artist, how do you know whether you’ll like what that one individual person comes up with? You don’t.

Enter 99 Designs to the rescue. You get to choose how much you’ll pay for the project you have in mind. Then you post your project to the site, and the magic starts. Dozens of graphic artists will submit their designs for you to consider.

There are about four steps to the process where you gradually eliminate the designs you don’t like and keep the ones you do. You can request changes of the artists during the process. The best part is that you get to see far more designs than you would have if you had hired only one artist to do your logo.

How do the contributors get paid? Only the artist whose design was accepted got paid. In effect, it’s also a competition.


Another place where the wisdom of the crowd is more powerful than one person is in research and development. InnoCentive is a site where companies can post major R&D challenges such as how to collect rainwater in a third world country. Solvers can submit their solutions, and the reward is not only good money, but the opportunity to contribute a new idea or invention that helps the world. For people who like brain teasers, it’s far better than crossword puzzles.

Mechanical Turk

Got thousands of small tasks, such as looking up an address on a website? You can get help through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, one of the original crowdsourcing sites. It allows companies to get high volume repetitive tasks done by numerous people. Workers take the volume of tasks they can do, and the task gets done.


My Arlington, Texas-based artist first told me about Dreamstime. If you need to illustrate an article or website and do not want to take the picture yourself, you can access a database of millions of photographs (called stock photography) where you can purchase usage rights to the photo. As few as 5-10 years ago, I would pay up to $1,000 for this type of artwork for about 5 or so photos. Now the process averages less than $5 and often only $1. The “crowd” of contributors not only makes selection amazing; it’s lowered price.

Even Getty Images, the company I used to pay hundreds per photo to, has bought, a site competitive (and a little more pricey) with Dreamstime. If you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em.

A World of Labor

Crowdsourcing is one of many newer options to tap into talented labor and get stuff done in your business. The secret is to discover which tasks it’s best suited for and get those tasks prepared for crowdsourcing.

Since labor costs vary all over the world, crowdsourcing levels the playing field for many people in remote or depressed areas. There are literally no country borders when it comes to crowdsourcing. As a matter of fact, the person who completed the logo was from Eastern Europe, where the fee that was paid (a few hundred dollars) was a huge amount of money for him.

Add crowdsourcing to your list of tricks you can pull out of your hat when you need the wisdom of the crowd.