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What Is Crowdsourcing?

Taking_Advantage_of_the_C_69262_130512Crowdsourcing, a term coined by writer Jeff Howe, is the act of designating tasks usually performed by a specific person, such as a contractor or employee, to a large pool of workers who handle these individual chores on a freelance basis. Since these workers are independent contractors, the usual expenses of hiring, training and even keeping track of payroll taxes are unnecessary, and since the people in the “crowd” could be anywhere in the world, it’s possible to get the simpler and more repetitive tasks done at a very low price. Crowdsourcing is kind of like hiring an army of temp workers who get paid by the task, instead of by the hour, leaving the work that needs to be done in the physical office to your full-time employees.

Making Crowdsourcing Work for You

Crowdsourcing is an immense benefit to a business that doesn’t have the desire or the resources to hire a large staff of people to put in eight hours a day at the office. When you can tap an unlimited amount of talent that is available 24 hours a day to do your work for a mutually beneficial price and on a flexible schedule, it takes your business well beyond the typical capabilities of the 9-to-5 world and spares the expenses of hiring and retaining employees. With crowdsourcing, there is always a large pool of talent waiting to snap up assignments, and by using large, reputable crowdsourcing sites like oDesk, CrowdSource.com and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, there is already a system in place to vet and maintain good workers so that you will be assured of getting a quality product.

Crowdsourcing isn’t just for doling out menial data-entry and photo-tagging tasks to the masses, however. Designating tasks via crowdsourcing allows you to tap into the expertise of specialists, as well, on however large or small a chunk of work you need done. For example, you can hire expert writers to provide content for your commercial blog or to write ad copy or sales letters; you can have a web designer spruce up your website; or you could get voice-over specialists to record commercial spots or even podcasts for you, all for a fraction of what it would cost to hire a consultant or a traditional service. The tasks are done on your deadline, and because the workers want to maintain the good feedback and high ratings required to get the more elite assignments, they will ensure a quality product. Many business owners can connect with reliable, quality workers via a crowdsourcing site and enter into a regular, mutually beneficial working relationship.

Tasks aren’t the only thing crowdsourcing can help with. For example, Quirky.com uses the crowdsourcing concept to gather feedback and suggestions for new products, from the design and function right down to the color, the nam, and even price points. There are hundreds of sites that allow members to take surveys for a small amount each, providing information that could be invaluable to your business for a tiny cost outlay. People are willing to work for very small amounts of money if they can choose the task and work according to their own schedules–the trade-offs benefit everyone. For a small business, this ability to access an unlimited workforce on limited funds can be a dream come true.

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