Design

Is Crowdsourcing Just Another Word for “Contest”?

Ever wanted to get a jump-start on your design or development business but your portfolio lacked the bite needed to close the deal or even generate interest? Ever wish you could just show a project lead what you can do for them? Crowdsourcing maybe the answer you’re looking for to get the projects you want without having an impressive portfolio.

Crowdsourcing Design (or Development) is basically when a project is outsourced to an undefined group, which could range from a select few to an entire industry, and most likely includes various experience levels. There are some pretty popular websites where you can try to make money selling your design (or skill) based on the project description or direction.  These are a few:

The big question though is “Can these sites really help a typical freelancer/consultant?” There are a few things that should be considered:

  • On a well marketed site, there’s a wide range of projects that could fit your skill set.
  • You can watch and analyze a potential client’s behavior, especially if they include in the project description that they would like to use you as a long-term partner.
  • It is possible to see feedback from other projects as well as yours, therefore learning the client’s tastes/sense of style and working it into your own project.
  • If your work was not selected, you can use the piece as part of your portfolio.
  • Under the right circumstances, you can network with clients, even if you lose the bid.
  • From a buyers perspective, they get to see many ideas from many point of views.

However, the disadvantages seems to outweigh the advantages:

  • The more people entering a project, the less chances you’ll get honest feedback.
  • Chances of you earning repeat business from a client are slim.
  • The value of your work might actually be worth less than the time you put into it.
  • Unless it’s a team project, there can only be one winner.
  • It’s harder to claim originality when your conceptual work is seen by the public.
  • Some clients will not allow you to use your project entry in your portfolio due to fair usage or non-disclosure agreements.
  • While it rarely happens (and sites are tightening up on this rule), some clients may abandon their project altogether.

There are professionals within the creative industry who frown upon crowdsourcing design for various reasons, but the one reason that they all agreed on:

It devalues the content creation process therefore driving down the price, forcing professionals who put in work for years to double or even triple their efforts.

While I do agree with some of the principles, I also understand that the US Dollar is quickly losing its edge. What use to be expensive to create in the US is now more affordable elsewhere. So, crowdsourcing sites are working hard to “level the playing field” by educating customers on how to make the most of your project and how higher pay usually equals more realistic expectations of higher quality. They are also looking to redefine the rules to make it less like a contest and more like a job bid. Recently, 99Designs introduced a “blind contest” feature, where only the contest holders can see all the project designs, helping the artist keep their design work original and not just an “improved copy”.  Steps like this will help make crowdsourcing design an alternative to getting work.

So, is crowdsourcing just another word for “contest”? It really depends on which side of the table you’re sitting on in this debate. One thing is for sure, this “fad” isn’t fading away anytime soon.

6 Comments

Comments

Cristian says:

Hi Matthew, enjoyed the post. The currently-hot crowdsourcing debate seems to be ignoring a couple of points. 1) With the real time web, value can be created both from the process (engagement) and the final product (creative result). 2) Agencies seem to be once again missing the opportunity to embrace a new model in its early stages. I expanded on these in a a recent article myself, would love your thoughts – http://digitalpopuli.com/crowdsourcing/whats-be

Cristian says:

Hi Matthew, enjoyed the post. The currently-hot crowdsourcing debate seems to be ignoring a couple of points. 1) With the real time web, value can be created both from the process (engagement) and the final product (creative result). 2) Agencies seem to be once again missing the opportunity to embrace a new model in its early stages. I expanded on these in a a recent article myself, would love your thoughts – http://digitalpopuli.com/crowdsourcing/whats-be

jaiken says:

Hi Matthew,

I recognize you from the site (and twitter)…thanks for mentioning 99designs.

I think you will see the crowdsourcing model evolve overtime…remember these are still very early days. At 99designs we have made many changes from when we first launched…including most recently – blind projects. And we will continue to improve the site to drive the value up for both designers and clients alike. Be prepared for some exciting news just around the corner.

Cheers,
Jason
99designs.com

P.S. As Always…love getting feedback on the site…that's how we adapt to best serve our community.

Hi Kate. I'm the author of this post.

I wanted to introduce to the audience “Crowdsourcing 101”. As someone who partake on a few 99Designs projects, I was interested in extending the scope beyond the design, which is why I included other creative services. I found your site worth mentioning, even if it's only beta or “feedback mode” as you called it.

I've seen a lot of discussions about crowdsourcing, most of them negative. I tried to balance it out and introduce a few elements to consider. At the end, all I see is that this is a trend (in form of contests) will more than likely stay around. However, if the people behind these sites are doing the best they can to give both the clients and the workers a “fair shake”, I'm all for it.

Kate Hiscox says:

Hi Matthew. Firstly, great post and thank you for mentioning Spudaroo.com. I am the founder of Spud which launched in the past couple of weeks and is still in 'feedback' mode as we discover how business material works in the crowdsourcing arena.

We've come to believe that blind contests or 'funneling' as I refer to them will work better with Spud and are looking at making this a default scenario for projects and 'open contests', an option for project owners. It's become clear that you have to respect the size of the 'creativity spectrum' and compared with graphics, written material just isn't as broad, hence the feeling that funnels are better suited to Spudaroo.com.

I have certainly inserted enough '' into this post so I will end it there but I agree with you, crowdsourcing is here to stay. Going forward its about working hard to level the playing field for both teams as no one appreciates fielding a pass up hill =)

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