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Crowdsourcing and Outsourcing: Worth it or Worthless?

Crowdsourcing and Outsourcing: Worth it or Worthless?

October 24, 2014

Do you remember…?

Once upon a time, you needed a logo. Naturally, you had to find a local designer. It was someone who then came to your office and showed you his or her portfolio.

Do you remember that time? I do.

It’s so different today.

A little while ago, we needed a logo for a project. We posted a design project on the crowdsourcing site 99Designs and quickly received numerous submissions from designers around the globe. We ended up with 30 logos to choose from, and within a few days, we selected our favorite logo — all for under $1,000. We found someone from Malaysia who produces great infographics, and we recently contracted with a programmer from France who specializes in Constant Contact programming.


You can find some amazing stuff through crowdsourcing: SEO services, animation, graphic design and much, much more. There’s even this guy in Australia, whom you can find on Fiverr who boasts that he can record anything you want as a racehorse. (Technically, he means a race horse announcer, but for $5 you can’t be too picky, can you?)  For an extra $10, he’ll even write the copy for you.


The point is, there’s a world of people doing all sorts of things for just a few bucks. Some are desperate. Many are from parts of the world where a few dollars is quite a bit of money. And then there are people looking to break into an industry or to build a portfolio.



The Pros and Cons of Crowdsourcing



Crowdsourcing is a lot like the “cattle call” in show biz. It’s essentially bringing in anyone and everyone who wants to audition for the job, and only paying the one who gets it. Good for the buyer, but potentially terrible for the sellers trying to get work. 

The Pros of crowdsourcing include:


  • Getting something for practically nothing


  • Having a number of possibilities to choose from


  • Discovering new, untapped talent


The Cons of Crowdsourcing include:


  • All but one of the candidates receiving nothing for their efforts

  • Potentially ending up with nothing acceptable, costing you valuable time reviewing poor-quality submissions


  • Getting something that is not actually the work of the person who sent it


  • Miscommunications due to language barriers or because most crowdsourcing sites do not facilitate direct conversations with the seller  




The Secrets of Successful Crowdsourcing

First and foremost, when you are working with something mission-critical, crowdsourcing is not the way to go. This is not the place to trust your most significant projects or your clients’ most important needs.  In such cases, you seek out tried-and-true professionals with proven track records. The old adage caveat emptor (“buyer beware”) should be on your mind when it comes to vital projects.


Crowdsourcing can work when you are in the testing phase, trying out new ideas, or perhaps looking for a new take on an old one. This is where you test the waters for a few dollars; you may or may not find a winner.


If you use crowdsourcing, make sure the website and the seller acknowledge in writing that anything they are selling to you is original work and that you now own the copyright. Since laws may differ in other parts of the world, you want to do it right. So if you have to add an extra $5 to $50 to make sure it is safe to purchase, do it. I always make sure that I own the copyright for whatever I purchase. I don’t want people to steal something and then sell it to me.






In recent years, outsourcing has become associated with American jobs being sent to India and other countries. This has cut costs for some US companies — and it has also left many Americans out of work.


But outsourcing right here at home has also been done for years.  American Express and Humana Insurance, for example, outsource their call centers domestically. They want their customers to feel comfortable when discussing sensitive issues, so they make sure callers will reach a call center located in the United States. Some companies outsource to home-based small businesses or even to individuals, a practice that has been called homesourcing.   


At Brand Launcher, we don’t need to do everything in-house. We outsource our technology needs to an IT firm and our maintenance needs to cleaning and landscaping companies. You’re probably outsourcing now and don’t even realize it.   

The pros and cons of outsourcing are pretty straightforward.


  • Saving money on employee salaries and benefits for jobs that don’t require a full-time commitment

  • Getting people with the expertise you don’t have but need



  • Spending too much time on training

  • Trusting sensitive materials to outside companies


The Secrets of Successfully Outsourcing

Once again, in general, vital ongoing tasks like bookkeeping should often be trusted to experienced professionals. What we often do is give several vendors an opportunity at the same time, paying each of them for their work, and then deciding which one we want to work with on an ongoing basis. We’ve developed some of our long-term, trusted relationships this way.  

Of course, you need to know what you are looking for when outsourcing.  Along with samples of their work and references, what we look for when assessing talent are the following:

  1. Did they really listen?

  2. Did they understand our needs, or were there communication barriers?

  3. Did they follow instructions?

  4. Were they timely?

  5. Did the results reflect the quality and personality of our organization?


I also think it’s imperative to have an agreement spelled out in advance, so you know what the expectations are, when the project will be completed, whether or not you get money refunded if things don’t work out, who owns the rights, and so forth. Decide in advance where you will and will not compromise. For example, I never get involved when people start talking about royalties.  I won’t go down that path.

It takes time to find outsourced talent. After vetting many possibilities, you will sometimes find that very few make the cut. Just last week, we interviewed a very talented, very smart, very captivating candidate on the phone — but when asked for some real world examples, they didn’t produce.


Why do I share this?

I always say that entrepreneurs should play to their greatest strengths and the best use of their time.  To do that you must learn to leverage.

Thanks to crowdsourcing, you can spend less money and for a greater impact than you could in the past. Thanks to outsourcing, you can tap into talented professionals with expertise in all sorts of fields… pretty much anything you can think of.  

For marketing, both crowdsourcing and outsourcing can be effective cost-saving strategies to help test the market, create an image, build or revamp a website, and find or create promotional items.

Always consider:

  1. The significance of the project: less significant for crowdsourcing, more significant for outsourcing to proven resources, mission-critical to established, known companies.

  2. Whether you will truly be saving money

  3. Whether you will truly be saving time

  4. The quality of the work

Taking you from where you are to where you want to be,


(Please note: The crowdsourcing and outsourcing companies mentioned in this article are not endorsed by Brand Launcher.)