The Pros and Cons of Crowdsourcing Business Tasks

by Kathryn Hawkins

2 min read

Celebrities like author Chuck Palahniuk and entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki have used crowdsourcing contests — in which many people submit concepts but only get paid if their idea is selected — to come up with cover art for their books. Through various online networks, you too can crowdsource your business-related wants and needs. But is harnessing the creativity and know-how of the masses a good idea for your company? Consider a few of the benefits and drawbacks of crowdsourcing before you solicit help.

Pro: Crowdsourcing provides access to many original ideas at reasonable costs. If you hire a graphic designer to come up with a concept for your logo, she might give you four or five ideas — but that’s it. If you choose to crowdsource your new logo, however, you may end up with dozens or even hundreds of concepts to sort through, so there’s perhaps a greater chance of getting what you want right off the bat. Because you’re generally able to name your price, you may pay considerably less for the work that you’ve commissioned than you would if you’d hired an agency or an independent professional.

Con: You’ll need to sort through submissions that aren’t up to par. There’s no barrier to entry in crowdsourcing competitions. You may find a few seasoned professionals submitting ideas, but the majority of entrants are likely to be art students or amateur enthusiasts. And, because they don’t get paid unless you opt to use their submissions, they’re unlikely to put much time or thought into your project. As a result, you could wind up with a lot of half-baked concepts and very few (if any) legitimate contenders.

Pro: Crowdsourcing contests, particularly if run independently through your own website, can create buzz about your brand. When Counting Crows singer Adam Duritz hosted a crowdsourcing contest to design the album cover for his collection of Valentine’s Day cover songs, his efforts were written about by the Wall Street Journal and other high-profile news outlets.

Con: Crowdsourcing can hurt small businesses. Before the crowdsourcing phenomenon popped up, the only option was to hire a professional — and pay professional rates — for a project. Nowadays, with many companies turning to crowdsourcing sites, independent designers and other creatives are missing out on opportunities, being asked to lower their rates, and losing business. If your industry is vulnerable to crowdsourcing, it may not be in your best interest to support to this business model.

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