5 Ways Crowdsourcing Can Help You Make Some Money

It seems like a lot of tech and business publications are talking about crowdsourcing these days.

But, what is crowdsourcing? Do you know? Could it impact you as a freelancer? Is it the future of projects?

In this post, we’ll briefly explain about what crowdsourcing is and how it works. We’ll also share five crowdsourcing sites that you may wish to explore.

What Is Crowdsourcing?

A few years ago, Jeff Howe of Wired coined a term for a method of generating workflow that was becoming more and more popular all around him. That term was "crowdsourcing"–a method of outsourcing work to a large group of people or a community of people rather than to individual employees or departments.

This is an old business concept that used to be second nature. Businesses (generally small ones) would enlist the help of the common people on the street to do a task for some reward or pay. This was usually for tasks of menial labor or distribution, and sometimes crowds would gather early in the morning to wait for these requests so that they could earn a living.

Of course, the process is now a bit more complex. Since the term was created and the practice became common knowledge, there have been conferences and organizations built around it to share new ideas and innovations. These include CrowdConf and Crowdsortium.

Usually crowdsourcing is implemented by larger companies that will put out a call for communities or groups of people who are best suited for the position. But individuals or smaller companies can also find ways to utilize this tool. It might even be a great option for non-profits and other groups that are limited in resources and so need all of the targeted (but economical) help that they can get.

Here are five easy ways to make crowdsourcing work for you, no matter what your needs may be.

1. Mechanical Turk

Mechanical Turk is based on HIT’s, or Human Intelligence Tasks. These are basically simple tasks that are easy for the average person, but not simple enough for an automated system to handle. The work itself is micro-labor. That means you will be paid pennies per section of each task, adding up to greater amounts for time. So if you chose to organize a website list to find active links, you might be paid a few cents per link. Others pay up to ten cents per section, which will add up faster. You can make money here, or even post your own jobs for others to do.

2. Cloudcrowd

Another micro-labor site, Cloudcrowd is more translation, data entry and editing based. You can also work in content creation, in a way similar to sites such as TextBroker. You have to have a Facebook and PayPal account in order to qualify, but chances are you have those anyway. The amounts are greater than Mechanical Turk, but the tasks are also a little more time and energy consuming.

If you have been looking for people who can transcribe your files, provide translations or do data entry, you can find some good ones here–however, you have to be prepared to pay a little bit more.

3. CastingWords

Anyone who has a typing skill can make some extra cash by doing transcription at CastingWords. It is associated with Mechanical Turk and allows you to search for jobs related to transcription, which is pretty much just very quick data entry. They pay through direct bank transfers or Amazon store cards, and the pay isn’t bad.

If you are going to use Mechanical Turk to find people who can transcribe for you, it is worth checking out CastingWords as well.

4. IdeaOffer

IdeaOffer is an interesting site. You sign up and look through projects on the site. They will ask you for any ideas you might have to improve it, market it, change it, name it…whatever they need. You submit your ideas and the best ones will be paid a reward. These might be anything from $1 to $100, but you can usually expect about $5 to $10 for each reward.

While this isn’t great for making a lot of cash, it is a good place to get help if you are stuck on your project. You will also be rewarding concepts and creativity.

5. NamingForce

Do you like some real competition? Businesses looking for product or company names will come to NamingForce and ask for your input. The winning name will get a $100 bucks or more for their efforts as they buy that provided name. It is harder to win here because there is more to gain, but it’s an interesting site.

If you are looking for some good marketing ideas and names, then this is a fantastic place to get what you need. You have to be willing to hand out some real cash, but it is still a lot less than you would pay a concept team. You will also be tapping into a fresh idea resource, and that is important in a business-oriented market where creativity can quickly become stale.

Crowdsourcing Gets Results

Of course, these are only a few ideas. You always have the traditional way of giving an open call to your local community, which will inevitably bring in some great minds for the task. But if you are looking for something quick and need a greater pool to choose from, these are some of the sites you can use.

Your Turn

Do you use or participate in crowdsourcing? Was your experience with it positive or negative?

Image by Sreejith K


  1. says

    The problem with crowd sourcing is that you are competing directly with developing world countries. There are plenty of good quality and support reasons for businesses to go for western suppliers over developing world ones, but generally if a business has gone to cloud sourcing to find a solution that’s not what they’re interested in.

  2. says

    Speculation, interns, work without pay, are also ways to the poor house. It is just appalling that someone who was in business would even suggest that idea.

    When did you say that your company was going to give us a couple thousand copies of brochures that we could use and if we liked them we could pay for them?

  3. says

    Really? REALLY?? You really think crowdsourcing for a company or product name is a good idea for something so important for a business?? And that $100 is adequate compensation for that? (And, that is only for the “winner” – everyone else gets nothing, although the company gets the ideas.) For $100, no company should expect a name that has been vetted for trademark infringement, originality or market effectiveness.

    You said it best in your 2nd paragraph; crowdsourcing was first used for menial tasks, and that is till true today. Services and ideas that help businesses grow and prosper need far more care, effort, and investment by both the company and the consultant or vendor. Crowdsourcing is a lazy approach to take by a company, and those who respond to these request are gamblers, not true service providers.

    I’m with Gold; I’ll have your company and a few other printers produce a brochure for me, but I’ll only pay for the one I like best. The rest will be left empty-handed for their efforts.

  4. says

    PsPrint does not participate in crowdsourcing.

    The object of the article was to share “five crowdsourcing sites that you may wish to explore” and pointing what’s good and what’s bad.

  5. says

    Really disappointing that Freelance Folder would devote any space at all to this garbage. A businesses that crowdsources design work is either completely ignorant about what good design is or they are just bottom feeders. If you’d like another view of what crowdsourcing is about visit http://www.no-spec.com/.

  6. Rosa says

    It is a sad and disappointing reality that some companies of all sizes are using these services. It is unethical to make the “crowd” work for free. If companies look for a cheap price, at least they should try to hire ONE designer whose fees are low but he or she gets paid, but not make many designers and Non designers work for free.

  7. says

    Why would you devote any web space to an article on companies that literally are cutting the financial throats of freelancers? Jumping on this kind of bandwagon leads to only one thing: A bandwagon that is heading over the cliff to the lowest common denominator of wage slavery.

    What you should be writing about is help freelancer’s promote their skills so that companies don’t see them as simply replaceable cogs in a wheel.

  8. says

    Although there are a lot of critics against crowdsourcing, it still continues to grow as more and more people are looking for ways to earn an extra income. It seems like the crowdsourcing party is just getting started. To know more about other sites that could help you earn more money, check this out, http://crowdsourcing.org/l/929.

  9. Jason says

    “The object of the article was to share ‘five crowdsourcing sites that you may wish to explore’ and pointing what’s good and what’s bad.’

    And I think it’s clear we all hate the idea. Very very badly.

    What kind of a professional even considers a $5-$10 job? Please.

    Only scum bags put together desperate freelancers in a room and what them fight over scraps. It’s taking advantage of people, pure and simple.

    Probably best you just remove this article, replace with “What is clearly unethical about Crowdsourcing”. Shame FreelanceFolder, shame!

  10. Ellen says

    5 Ways Crowdsourcing Can Help You Make Some Money.

    Who does this title refer to? I didn’t see any ways that I could make money here as a designer. I did, however, see a list of 5 ways to waste my time and exploit creative people.

    Freelance Folder, you are losing credibility with garbage articles like this one.

  11. Tina says

    As others have said above, this seems to be a way of getting work for peanuts. Based on the work available from the Mechanical Turk site and comparing those with the going rates on the UK National Union of Journalist site, they’re offering writing rates of about 1/30th the UK rates. As the others have said, exploitation – pure and simple. Shame on Amazon for having anything to do with this, and shame on you for suggesting it.

  12. says

    I agree that this is a sad development. As a commercial freelance writer and author of several books on the subject, I built my business – and encourage others to build theirs – on the assumption that there are companies who will pay good money (~$50-$125/hour) for good, solid, effective marketing copy, and there are. Yet, it’s inevitable that many companies start thinking they can do it on the cheap. Though, in the end, it often comes back to bite them as what they’ve gotten is crap that doesn’t get the job done. What’s regrettably clear is that entities like this are here to stay.

    But, I do take issue with several comments saying that creative people were being exploited by these services. Dead wrong. These services wouldn’t exist in the first place if there weren’t plenty of people willing to work on spec for the chance to make a few bucks. Yes, I think that cheapens the whole creative field, but that’s their right, and they’ve entered into such crummy arrangements of their own free will, uncoerced.

    And while I hate this trend as much as anyone, I have to be realistic. Ask yourself: if you were a company looking for a name, logo, slogan, product design, etc., and you were operating on a shoestring – as many are these days – can you honestly say, that if you knew such services existed, you wouldn’t initially toss out that creative need to the crowd on the off-chance that some gem might come of it? And if it didn’t, you could then go that more traditional route. So, I understand why it’s happening.

    Again, hate that it’s so, but as long as there are people willing to agree to those terms, and Econ 101 dictates that there will always be, that’s reality… We need to simply work to find those clients who understand the value of a professional and are willing to pay for it. And quit worrying about this.

  13. says

    Agreed Peter. The key is to be better than the crowdsourcers, and to be able to explain why you are better to your clients.

  14. says

    Thanks Alex,

    And better FOR your clients, by virtue of the results you get and the testimonials you earn. Persuasion alone rarely gets the job done. Often, clients have to come to these realizations on their own, after having been burned by doing it on the cheap.

    And yes, there will always be clients willing to accept mediocre work, either because they 1) they don’t know any better; or 2) they do know better but simply don’t have the money to afford what they need.

    Even in the case of #2, I still think it’s shortsighted, as the small investment they do make won’t give them what they need, and will often not even earn back the paltry investment they’ve made, whereas investing what it takes to get the job done right will return FAR more than what was paid in. The challenge is that the payback is often hard to measure.

    The key is to hone your skills so they’re far superior to those of most of the other practitioners in your field. When your skills are something clients can get from any number of countless other folks – which make you little more than interchangeable parts – those rates will drop to nothing. Why would a client need to spend any more than the minimum to get the job done? They don’t and they won’t.


  15. says

    People say that creatives are being exploited by these services, but they can also be a great way of improving skills especially for beginners.

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  1. […] Design is not the only thing you can crowd­source; in fact it’s prob­a­bly one of the hard­est dis­ci­plines to crowd­source. The best way to explain this is to show you exam­ples of crowd­sourc­ing com­pa­nies that exist. They have cre­at­ed envi­ron­ments where crowd­sourc­ing works and you’re wel­come to take part at any time. These exam­ples are taken from freelancefolder.com. […]

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