Crowdsourcing: Is it Worth it?

By Jen Heller Meservey

Traditionally, when a business needed new ideas and help with special projects, they would outsource the work to a third-party professional or company. Now, businesses are realizing that they can get the job done just as well, or even better, for a fraction of the price by hiring not just one professional, but a crowd of regular people with spare time on their hands. Crowdsourcing taps into the world’s biggest network of talented, intelligent people (the Internet), to find the best ideas, solutions and services.

Crowdsourcing Websites That Are Worth It

Crowdsourcing websites offer a way for the average Joe to put his skills to work and earn money in his spare time. As a result, businesses can receive high-quality work at a lower cost than that of traditional outsourcing. If your company needs some fresh talent, or if you have talent and need some extra cash, you might want to give one of these websites a try:


Crowdspring crowdsourcing website logo
If you’re a web designer, graphic designer, or writer, you can earn hundreds—or even thousands—of dollars by working on projects through crowdSPRING. Large corporations like Amazon, LG and Starbucks post projects on crowdSPRING every day, according to the crowdSPRING website. Designers and writers called “Creatives” submit ideas for each project, and the “Buyer” picks the one they like best. The Creative with the best idea wins a cash award which can be anywhere from $200 to $3,000 or more. The Buyer gets their project done at a great price, like $200 for logo design, or $600 for a website. CrowdSPRING is free to join for Creatives and Buyers, but Buyers pay a small fee to list each of their projects.

iStockphoto crowdsourcing photography freelance website logo
Advertisers, designers, writers, and many more professionals use stock photos in their work every day. Purchasing these photos from professional photographers can cost thousands of dollars, but with iStockphoto, anyone can purchase stock photos for as little as $1 each. iStockphoto brings together a network of amateur to professional photographers, providing millions of photos in a wide variety of categories. Photographers earn between 15 and 20 percent for each download of their files, which are priced as high as $40 (for high resolution files), according to the iStockphoto website. Exclusive contributors (those with at least 250 downloads per month and a minimum 50 percent approval rating) earn 45 percent per download. So if you decide to pick up a digital camera and start submitting files to iStockphoto, you could be earning as much as $18 per download. At 250 downloads per month, that’s $4,500 per month. Not bad for taking a few photos. If you’re a designer, iStockphoto can save you hundreds of dollars over professional photographers.

Article One Partners

article one partners crowdsourcing freelance writer writing website logo
Researchers for Article One Partners help companies apply for patents by looking for “prior art,” or evidence that a patent’s ideas were known before a particular date. The researcher who finds the highest quality prior art for a “patent study” receives a cash award between $5,000 and $50,000, according to the Article One Partners website. Others can earn a “most valuable researcher” award of $100. Case studies on Article One’s website show that evidence found by their researchers helps clients avoid costly litigation. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a patent expert to become an Article One researcher. Their website provides plenty of information to help you start earning awards.

Crowdsourcing Websites That Are Not Worth It

Amazon’s Mechanical Turk

Of course, not all crowdsourcing websites are worth a crowd worker’s time and effort. Amazon’s Mechanical Turk provides a variety of tasks, called “Human Intelligence Tasks,” or “HITs” which for the most part pay only a few cents each. Of course, most of them are simple tasks that take only a few minutes to complete, but at 4 cents for a two-minute task, a Turk worker will end up earning only a little over a dollar per hour. It may not be the best deal for Turk requesters either, as they will receive hasty results.

amazon mechanical turk crowdsourcing website logo

Other crowdsourcing sites that may not be worth your time include “CAPTCHA farms,” like MegaTypers, which pay people to translate CAPTCHA images, those funny letters some websites ask you to type before submitting information. It sounds like a pretty sweet gig, but these websites pay only a fraction of a penny for each translation, so you could type all day and only earn a dollar for your trouble.

Transcription websites like Scribie initially lure crowd workers in by promising to pay $10 per hour for simple transcription work anyone can do from home. Once you sign up, it is revealed that the pay is $10 per transcribed hour, meaning for every one hour of audio you transcribe, you receive $10. Transcribing one hour of audio can take a novice transcriptionist up to 6 hours, which means you would actually make less than $2 per hour. Companies who request these services will receive transcription work from inexperienced workers, which will most likely be incomplete or inaccurate.

Is crowdsourcing worth it? In most cases it is. A crowd allows a business to access the creative minds of thousands of people around the world, at a much lower cost than traditional outsourcing. Talented people with free time can earn a few bucks to a few grand, without even leaving their homes. Crowdsourcing is a win-win when it’s done right, and with so many companies and workers benefitting, the crowd may be the workforce of the future.

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