Guest post by Kirsten Wright

[Ed: Kirsten Wright had a strong reaction to my recent post on MycroBurst. Since I respect her opinion, I invited her to guest post on WUL as to why she doesn’t think crowdsourcing is the way to go. Here you have it.]

To start, what is spec work?

  1. Traditional spec work. This is usually done by new designers to get themselves experience and using “free” to outbid any other designers.
  2. Crowd-sourcing: This is the type that fits sites like 99 designs and MycroBurst. This is the type of work that we’re talking about.

So let’s talk about exactly what happens when a project gets crowdsourced:

  1. The company is looking for a designer for web or print work.
  2. They are unsure where to go to find a solid designer or a designer that they can hire for the price they want.
  3. They go to the site like the ones mentioned above. They choose the price point for the project, explain what they’re looking for and then let the work come to them.
  4. Once the work starts coming in, they review what they think, add suggestions, and then finally pick a winner and reward the prize money to that person. No one else who participated get any money.

How crowdsourcing works is pretty simple, but the opinions on it are extremely different.

From a business owner’s standpoint, crowdsourcing is a great way to get a project done at a lower price point.

It also eliminates the need to hunt for designers, ask for referrals, or even meet with multiple people. Which means you don’t run the risk of hiring somebody and then not being happy with their work.

It’s extremely easy to understand why a business owner would want to use a crowdsourcing site.

From a designer’s standpoint, crowdsourcing feels like you’re sitting behind a restaurant begging for leftovers.

The biggest issue with crowdsourcing for a designer is that the small guys can’t compete. If you’re a one-man shop, you can’t spend your time doing work that you’re not getting paid for.

If you actually look at the most successful designers on crowdsourcing sites they tend to be either large companies or off-shore companies. They do well in crowdsourcing because they have cheaper labor and more people who can submit work. This completely devalues the work, the time, and the training that goes into being a really good designer.

A few other brilliant minds have shared thoughts on it too:

Let’s take a hypothetical scenario. You are on the hunt for a logo for your website and I give you two options:

  1. You can have 50 samples of your logo created, pick one and pay the creator $1,000. However, you can’t meet with them face-to-face, you can’t actually get to know them, and they won’t take the time to really get to know your business or clients; or
  2. You can hire one individual and work one on one with them to develop your logo. You get to have multiple conversations (even potentially meet in person), you can ask for recommendations, see their past work and they will get to know you and your business. They give you one finalized design after going through multiple rounds of revisions and you pay them $10,000.

Which are you more likely to choose? While a small group of people will understand the value of working with a designer one-on-one, most people would choose option 1… and this is exactly why crowdsourcing sites do so well.

For those of you who are still a little confused because we’ve been talking about it from only the design standpoint, let’s take crowdsourcing to the “real world”:

  • I have five holes in my roof, so I need to hire a roofer to come fix them. I get five different roofers and each one fixes one of the holes in my roof. Then the end, I only pay one of them for the work that they did. Is this acceptable?
  • I go to a gourmet restaurant, and I ordered five meals. I take a couple bites of each meal until I’m full. I thank the chef, but I only pay for the one meal I like the best. Is this acceptable?
  • I need financial advice. So I meet with five financial advisors and each one gives me their advice. I pay the one that gave me the best advice, the rest walk away empty-handed. Is this acceptable?

Obviously, my point is that none of these situations are acceptable, and yet for some reason companies hiring designers think that crowdsourcing this industry is perfectly fine.

We all want to get the best work for a price that we think is “fair” but if it takes devaluing someone’s work to get the price that you want, how fair is that?

I get why this would have been great 50 years ago. It was hard back then to reach out to the people you knew to get referrals. You really only had the people close to you.

However now, all you have to do is turn to your followers, your fans, or anyone in your social connections and ask for a referral. I guarantee you, you’ll get more than a dozen suggestions, in all price ranges, for a phenomenal designer.

Moral of the story: You need to treat a designer as you would any other provider: Ask questions, spend some time determining the best person for the job, and hire them.

What do you think?

Image: linus_art via Flickr, CC 2.0

Kirsten Wright runs a successful web design and social strategy firm, Wright Creativity. Her business is dedicated to taking the small business to the next level through individualized strategies, custom designs and a complete understanding of communication marketing. In her free time, she lives in South OC with her hubby, enjoys good food and wine, and loves taking their greyhound, Badger, for runs.