Can Crowdsourcing Help Your Small Business?

For small businesses not familiar with “crowdsourcing,” they may not know how well this new trend can help them save money. Thanks to the Internet, inexpensive services are just a mouse click away, allowing you to seek out quality talent at low, low prices.

Crowdsourcing is a merge of the terms “crowd” and “outsourcing.” Rather than outsourcing services to other countries, many businesses are now choosing to keep those services in America, calling upon large groups of citizens willing to give services for low fees. These citizens may include homemakers, students, or professionals looking to make extra money on the side.

One prime example of crowdsourcing is the website, where anyone can offer to do just about anything for five bucks. Whether you need a picture of someone brushing his teeth or a video of someone singing Happy Birthday to You, you can likely find it on this site. Quality may be an issue, but there are talented people on

Other crowdsourcing avenues include sites like, where businesses post requests for freelancers in a variety of areas. Freelancer provides a pool of talent that spans the globe, allowing businesses to easily outsource individual programming, writing, translation, and design jobs to India, Australia, America, and just about anywhere else you can imagine.

iStockPhoto is a true success story in crowdsourcing. Businesses once had to pay freelance photographers large sums for photos-on-demand. iStockPhoto gives businesses access to a large pool of high-quality photos for as little as a dollar per photo. These photos are taken by professional photographers, students, and even talented amateurs.

Craigslist is also a popular place for businesses to crowdsource. A business posts an ad for a desired service and resumes begin pouring in. Often businesses can pick from talented workers willing to perform a certain job for much less than a traditional freelancer.

Contests are also a popular way to find inexpensive workers. Businesses put out an open call for workers and choose from the best submissions. SitePoint, a media company based in Australia, encourages companies to hold design contests that will gather the collective pool of talented graphic designers to create the best work. Graphic designers, in turn, sign up with the site as a resource for freelance work.

ReadWriteWeb gathered examples of companies that have made crowdsourcing work, citing such projects as software designer Cambrian House, which accepts ideas from the mass public and allows people to vote on which idea is best, and Marketocracy, which encourages members to pool their collective knowledge to find the best mutual fund.

The problem with crowdsourcing is that it tends to dilute the talent pool. That one-dollar photo or video, for instance, may not quite be the quality your business was hoping. The old adage “you get what you pay for” could apply. However, by asking for work samples or holding contests to pick the best of all submissions, you should be able to resolve this issue and get the quality work you need for a fraction of the price.


About Stephanie Faris

Stephanie is a freelance writer and young adult/middle grade novelist, who worked in information systems for more than a decade. Her first book, 30 Days of No Gossip, will be released by Simon and Schuster in spring 2014. She lives in Nashville with her husband.

  • Anonymous

    I believe this allows a small business or anyone to get stuff done in a budget. As you mentioned, diluted talent pool might be a problem but when you get the funds for multiple figure video you can always “upgrade” it.
    The other problem, is that for $5.00 USD jobs not many people can feed their families in the Western or European region, while in Asia is more feasible to feed a family for that much.
    Mark Brundage UOBIM

  • Tyler Ward Is-Bored

    There is a difference between freelancing sites and crowdsourcing sites.  I would think of Freelancer and Fiverr as, more or less, freelancing sites.  Sites like quirky and kickstarter are what you would consider pure crowdsourcing sites.  I could be wrong here.

  • danai_p

     Can you suggest me any other freelancing sites? The only one i’ve used is

    • Ramon Ray for free lance, 99designs for crowdsource