You’ve probably heard about crowdsourcing as well as outsourcing, and if not- you will. Whether it is technical work, design work, development or other tasks- it makes sense both resource-wise and time-wise to reach out to others to do work you cannot do due to time restraints, knowledge, etc. The problem comes when we start looking at the options; do you outsource or crowdsource?
At first the question seems confusing, because it would seem there is little difference. While the principle is the same, it is the details that make the difference. Outsourcing is hiring one company, or person, to provide work or labor for another company. Crowdsourcing is essentially the same, however you are opening it up to, well, a crowd. So, with that out of the way, which one is better? What do you choose?
The obvious benefit of crowdsourcing is summed up in the old adage, “two heads are better than one.” There is also a personal adage of mine, “Competition leads to excellence.” For example, say you need a logo designed. You would put this out to a crowd or a community, giving important information and a budget and a deadline. At that point, any designer that is interested will either put in bids for the work or in some cases create finished work, if you have a set price. Then you can choose which logo you like the best. When you have multiple people working on one project, you are bound to have a greater scope of ideas and concepts due to the higher number of people working on your project.
Secondly, you don’t have to go hunting for talent. If you are sourcing out work, you usually have a deadline in mind and the last thing you need is to waste time hunting for the right designer. Where would you look? Do you even know where to start? What’s your criteria? It becomes a job unto itself.
Also, this kind of competition and bidding helps to keep costs low. Obviously you want to respect the designers and their skills and not low-ball them. However by using this process you can assure yourself that you are getting the best price. Also, with so many concepts being turned in- you are minimizing the risk of coming away with nothing. Not to mention the speed with which you will get finished work. Never forget, it’s a competition, and everyone is fighting for your business.
Finally, it’s a great head hunting tool. You never know when you are going to find an exceptional designer or developer that it just clicks with. You may just find a permanent employee, or at least a go-to freelance to keep on retainer.
The most difficult part of crowdsourcing is having to manage the crowd. You have to make sure you are taking care of communication with any potential designers and that you are clearly defining your needs. If you start flaking on communicating with them, you will quickly earn a reputation you don’t want.
While you are going to get some really great work, there is the other end of the spectrum. You are going to get some really bad work thrown at you too. If you are using a bidding system, be sure you are asking for samples and portfolios before agreeing to any arrangement. This also leads to reliability. Some people that claim to be professional designers are anything but. You need to make sure you have firm deadlines in place and agreements on pay that keeps you safe. The last thing you want to do is lose money AND have to come crawling back to the designers you rejected.
Another con is confidentiality. You are putting your project’s info out for all to see. So if you are working on something that is sensitive, crowdsourcing might not be for you. For instance if you are looking to market a product that isn’t on the market yet and you don’t have patented yet- that’s pretty sensitive material. And it goes without saying, military projects are probably out.
Finally, you have to do your part to keep the crowdsourcing market place thriving. That means not just going with the lowest bidder out of hand, or committing highway robbery with your rate. Do your research and know what a fair price for your project is. Remember, it is so true that you get what you pay for.
Overall, you are going to be reducing your costs and overhead. By having an outside company, you have the organization of an existing business that is already taking care of costs you would have to if you hired internally. No computers, no desks, no office space, etc.
With overseas contracting, you will be able to take advantage of different time zones and holidays. Meaning, work gets done even past your regular workday. This works great in conjunction with someone in-house working during the day and then turning over work to the outsourced employees at night. You literally have work happening around the clock.
Finally, it is easy to hire and replace outsourced employees as opposed to direct hires. There is no need for an HR department, or going through a hiring process- this is all administrative. And you can end your relationship at any time, barring a contract.
Like crowdsourcing, you are losing confidentiality here. There is less investment in your vision from outsourced employees and you don’t have the same level of control that you do internally. So keep this in mind when hiring for sensitive positions.
Another downside is that you have no control over management of the project or individual employees. You have to hope that they are being properly managed and putting in the time they are supposed to and that your orders are followed out. And you cannot coach or discipline an employee, in fact you will often not even know who specifically is doing your work on any given day.
Quality is another consideration, because it isn’t a given in outsourcing. In my experience, a lot of overseas outsourcing companies don’t have the highest quality standards. When it comes to coding and development you might not see very clean or commented code, and sometimes you will not see best practices being carried out.
Cost can be another factor, especially hidden costs. Make sure you are aware of any costs up front and any provisions they might pull out. If they are going to put on a surcharge for doing something in particular or at a particular time or day then you need to know about it up front.
And, coarse as it may seem, there are cultural and language barriers. With overseas contractors you can be dealing with very heavy accents, words that don’t translate, as well as social and cultural details you don’t know. Keep in mind, these aren’t native English speakers with the same customs as you.
Both of these options are really solid ways to get work done that can’t be done in house for some reason. I have found that crowdsourcing tends to be a better way to get things done for graphics/artwork and design and development work. However, technical and IT issues tend to best be served by outsourcing to a company. In any case, do your research and make sure you are opening yourself up to the best talent possible.