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5 Reasons Not to Crowdsource Your Design Projects

Why would you want to crowd source your projects? It’s cheap, it’s quick and you get to see a lot of designs before handing over any money. But, we know what they say “you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”. Getting cheap design is easy, but getting cheap design that works is almost impossible.

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So, what is crowdsourcing? Crowdsourcing a design project involves the client posting a brief to a website alongside their budget, and getting “designers” from all over the world to respond to it. The client then picks the design they like best and awards the money to the winner.

What’s the problem then? Let’s take a look.

1. You’re Condoning People Working for Free

Only the winner of these so called “competitions” gets paid, meaning the other 99 entrants don’t get a penny for the time they’ve spent on your project. That’s not fair.

If you were a window fitter, you wouldn’t fit one window in someone’s house, along with 10 other window fitters, then, only accept payment if your window was deemed to be the best by the homeowner. People that give up their time to provide a service deserve paying.

2. Anybody Can Enter

The problem with a lot of these crowdsourcing sites is that anybody can enter. No qualifications necessary, not even a portfolio of work. People that call themselves designers and have just bought a copy of Adobe Photoshop (that’s right, Photoshop, not Illustrator) and have decided to “have a go at making logos” can enter. You wouldn’t hire a man to paint your house just because he owns a brush, you’d hire a decorator. So, why hire any old soul when you can hire a dedicated professional?

3. Work Shouldn’t be a Competition.

You wouldn’t work a telesales job where you only get paid if you sell more products than anyone else, so you shouldn’t expect others to do it for you.

A lot of people try and pass crowdsourcing off as “a great way to build your portfolio”. It’s not. A great way to build your portfolio is to either a) get paid to create fantastic work or b) create self-initiated projects that you really want to work on and that will help improve your skills.

4. If You’ve Got the Money to Invest, Don’t be Greedy

With crowdsourcing, you have to set a budget. A lot of people set ridiculous budgets, such as £100 for a logo design, but then you get some people who are actually realistic with their figures.

If you’ve got the money to spend, hire a professional. By crowdsourcing, you’re being greedy, trying to have your cake and eat it. Which leads us nicely on to…

5. A Professional Designer will Add to your Brand

Like I said, if you’ve got the money, get in touch with a few professional designers or design studios, and see what they can do for you.

Hiring a professional designer will be one of the best business decisions you ever make. Bringing someone onboard your project to work with you and advise you along the way will pay off.

At Canny Creative, we build lasting relationships with our clients and not only do we help them with design work, but with printing and other business issues we can help solve. Having someone on your side, with a genuine interest in your business, and advising you with decisions when you need it can be a godsend, and that’s something you don’t get from a crowdsourced project.

Like I mentioned in my post, 7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Use Low Cost Print Suppliers, sometimes, you really do get what you pay for. Sure, Nike got their logo for $35. However, that $35 didn’t get them the global recognition that they have today, that cost millions of dollars, and millions of hours, with a lot of handwork and dedication.

In this post I haven’t even touched on the poor quality of design work that stems from crowdsourcing sites, but, this comment from a Mashable blog reader pretty much sums everything up;

“Throwing random designs at a 100 word brief and hoping they stick is not the basis of a successful result for either the client or the designer. This commonly results in poor feedback due the posters inability to focus on individual designs and rushed work due to the nature of the sites business model. In order to earn even a meagre wage a designer must produce as many designs as possible for as many contests as possible meaning that both quality and originality suffers.”

Have you had any experiences with crowdsourcing? Have you designed for a crowdsourcing website? Let us know in the comments below.

11 Responses

  1. I can’t help but feel the problem with Crowdsourcing sites isn’t so much the people looking to get design for free, it’s the people willing to give it away in the first place. Whilst it would be nice if ‘clients’ appreciated the impact crowdsourcing has on the industry, I can’t really blame them for taking advantage of the situation.

    If your post makes just one person consider avoiding them, then I guess it’s a start 🙂

  2. Lee-Ann Donaldson

    Great article. I agree with Paul though – I think if people weren’t giving away cheap designs it’d make it harder for sites like this to exist.

  3. I think you’re right. But, I don’t care at all for people taking advantage of designers either. It’s a vicious circle. People are willing to give it away, people are always going to accept. Let’s hope that both parties learn from it!

  4. I’m as against crowd-sourcing as anyone, but the existence of these websites actually helps weed out the clients we wouldn’t want anyways… The shame of it all is when clients who understand the value of design still get sucked into it. Some people will just never buy into the notion that less is more.

    1. Oh yeah. I agree. Those websites are great for weeding out clients that are bound to be endless pains in the neck. They do serve that purpose. Like I say in the opening few paragraphs, I’m only interested in working with people that value design. I’m not cutting corners and prices just to work with people. Not a chance. Thanks for the comment!

  5. Rob Langer

    Hi Tony, really love your work – and a great website you have here. I’m just starting out on my own after 12 years in the design business (part time basis from home). I think its so important to raise this issue of crowd sourcing on your site, I fell into this trap myself – didn’t get anywhere, lots of work for no pay off. In a way it drove me to succeed in my new venture. What I’d like to ask is if I could possible use your blurb on crowdsourcing on my site – of course I’ll reference it – I think the more design firms who raise this issue the better, as it massively undervalues us and our profession. Thank you. Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Rob – thank you for the comment and good luck with starting out! Yes, of course feel free to use the blurb on crowdsourcing but please do link back to our home page. Thanks again and good luck.

  6. John R Peters

    Came across this and had to make a comment. I am a trained designer of 20 years. Work was a little slow, so I thought I would have a go on DesignCrowd (hope it is ok to mention the name as they really upset me as you will read).

    I was doing ok with a few projects and spent some 4 hard months trying to win contests I probably spent about 100 hours of design time, it sort of sucks you in as you know what it’s like as a designer you want your ideas to be liked and accepted. I think I was awarded 17 dollars as a contributor over the 4 months. Then I awoke and booted the MAC up and went to see how I was doing in the contests. To my shock they had closed my account. Just like that, no emails, no warning, nothing at all. I had spent all this time 100 hours and been commended for my work by clients and that was it. It really hit me hard as this so called company, probably working from a shed had no respect for me or the time I had invested with the website. I contacted them via email and got a basic response with a list of maybes for shutting an account down. I did not have a clue. It really hit me hard and took a long time to get over, mainly for the time I had spent on there. The clients who use these websites need to be aware of how designers are treated by these so called sites. I am a professional person and I would never treat someone like they treated me. I even tried to contact the Director via Facebook to vent my anger, but to no avail. If any clients or designers are reading this, stay away from these websites, they suck you in and can treat you like trash with the click of a button. There should be some regulation to these websites.

    I know you will all blame me for going the crowdsource route and it lowers the tone of real design, but I was desperate at the time and was just trying to earn a few extra bucks to feed the family.

    1. Hi John, thanks for commenting. I’m sorry to hear of your bad experience with a crowdsourcing site, but I can’t say I’m surprised. I hope business is going well for you now?

  7. Slone Preston

    I am working on my Masters in Information Systems and came across your site during a research of a term paper. I understand your point of working for nothing. Prior to my pursuit of my Masters, I worked in the retail auto industry (please hold the boos and hisses because I got out for this very reason.) The retail auto industry people, although most are not liked, spend many hours with customers that work them for the “best” price and then go down the road to the next dealership and buy for a $50 better price. This leaves the last salesperson that did the whole presentation, helped pick out all the options and find the perfect vehicle for the customer penniless for two to three hours worth of work. Like the other comment, if one begets the other then it will always continue until one side stops or both sides agree on a compromise.

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