What the heck is crowdsourcing, and what does it have to do with running my small business?
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Crowdsourcing is sort of like outsourcing on steroids.
Sites such as CrowdFlower, crowdSPRING, Trada and uTest enable a business to complete projects using the collective intelligence of a knowledgeable and skilled community. Instead of spending hours finding the right contractor to do a job, such as designing your website or translating copy into Japanese, post your project on a crowdsourcing site and then review the bids from people who have been pre-qualified.
Crowdsourcing can save you time looking for skilled workers, and may be more affordable, too. “It is usually cheaper, up to 30 percent less than offshoring,” says Matt Johnston, vice president of marketing and community at uTest, a site for software testing.
Companies often find they get as good or better quality results with crowdsourcing. Depending on your needs, you may have a virtual team of people working for you on one or many projects. "Crowdsourcing allows you to tap into the creativity and diversity of an entire community," Johnston says.
Sarah Harris, marketing manager for Norman’s Rare Guitars, says she had mediocre results with freelancers before using crowdsourcing. She used crowdSPRING to source a logo design and Web design project, and was delighted with the result and the service. “I had a lot of revisions for the designers and they were all receptive and completed everything so quickly,” she says.
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As crowdsourcing has evolved, there seems to be an unlimited number of ways a business can use it. Beyond Web design, marketing and software development, companies are using crowdsourcing to make videos, do fundraising, conduct market research, transcribe audio files, take customer orders and provide customer support, and even to solicit ideas for new products and services.
Crowdsourcing is a novel and efficient way to hire experts for short- or long-term projects. Give it a try, but don't shortchange the processes you use for hiring contractors on your own. Provide ample guidance up front about your business and goals when requesting bids for a project, says Niel Robertson, CEO of Trada, a site for paid search advertising experts. “If you frame the problem better, you can get much better results," he says.
— Polly Traylor