Design Dilemma: Are Crowdsourcing Sites Really So Bad?
There’s no bigger hot button in the design industry than crowdsourcing. Sites like fiverr, eLance, 99designs, DesignContest, and oDesk promise digital client relationships while protecting the rights and payments of the “winners.” And therein lay the problem—these sites have winners and losers—mostly losers. But, what if you are a winner?
A designer wrote and asked if he should stay away from these sites or give them a try. He had won $1,000 in a smaller design contest for some music label and was riding high on the thought he could continue winning—and earning money.
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Crowdsourcing is a Tricky Subject
So, how does one burst bubbles and dash dreams? Well, I’m just the guy for that job! So, join us as we delve into another investigative Design Dilemma, helping to answer your questions, queries and concerns about the murky world of design.
I recently won $1,000 in a CD cover design contest (and a bunch of copies of the CD!) and I really liked the experience. I’ve heard bad things about sites like Fiverr and 99designs but I’m really stoked to do a few more of these.
What sites are the best and which should I stay away from?
He was high from winning, and believed he could keep on winning. There’s no reason to think he can’t—except the ratio of contests entered vs. winning.
I hate discussing this subject because, while it makes designers murderous, crowdsourcing is not the devil. These sites thrive because clients use them and designers participate willingly. In the interest of this article not becoming a one-opinion rant, let’s be truthful and look at the true cause and effect from crowdsourcing.
What Would You Say About Crowdsourcing?
I did a little research on “Oji” and found he was quite talented and lived in a country/city with a lower cost of living than New York, Paris, London, Rio, or Tokyo, just to name a few expensive places in our neighborhood of Earth. In a place where he probably relies on the internet for all of his income, crowdsourcing offers him a way to practice his designing while bringing in a good chunk of income that those of us in bigger cities would ignore as undervalued.
If you needed to support your family and the only choice was to work at a minimum wage job, would you? Of course you would. I know a lot of former creative directors working in Home Depot and similar jobs. Would you work a job that helps eat away at our industry fees if it were your only choice for income? Yes, we all would because we have to survive and we need to be creative.
There are, naturally, some thoughts that always rise to the top of the debate on crowdsourcing among professional designers:
- Crowdsourcing shows clients that they can pay less for designs and that hurts my business.
- When a large company runs a design contest with a small prize, it takes away from a professional firm that would earn that fee and pay multiple creatives a fair rate.
- It takes design work out of this country and gives it to people who can work for lower rates.
Not Really Anti-Crowdsourcing
- The clients that use those sites are not the ones I want as a client. I prefer to work with people who understand and respect design as a process for a solution and that a logo isn’t a “brand.”
- Small businesses deserve design work and if they only have $100 for a website, then let them use a crowdsource. They’ll get what they pay for and learn they need to spend money for great branding, or they’ll just go out of business.
- There will always be clients who demand a website cheap or free and threaten to use an art student or a crowdsourcing site. Let them!
- The business is changing and competition on a global scale has fed crowdsourcing and bidding sites for design work. If you are against this, then don’t shop at Walmart. 99designs offers design services in “nine languages” and “connects clients and designers from 196 countries,” and reports registrations “surpassed 850,000 designers” and “has paid out $80 million to its community of graphic designers and is on track to hit $160 million by the end of 2015.” That’s not a failing enterprise.
- We are not owed a living by anyone or anything. If you can’t compete, then you find something else, or starve. There are a LOT of designers because anyone can buy a computer and design software.Complain and debate as we may, crowdsourcing is here to stay.
- Have you never had a client refuse to pay all or part of your invoice? Do you balk at asking for a deposit or contract? What does that cost you in the end. Contest and bidding sites at least get the client to pay—right away, and if there are changes, you bet the client must pay for those. In a way, after reading the client’s creative brief of the desired design project, you get to gamble that your best design will be the one they choose. You design it and they take, it or not. None of the weirdness you read about on ClientsFromHell.net.
- Too many of the “winning” designs are rip-offs of other, existing, trademarked designs! What do you expect for $5 (99designs and DesignContest.com do have considerably higher rates than Fiverr). It didn’t take long for some savvy entrepreneur out there to create a “logo factory” made of a dozen elements that could be puzzle-fitted for a supply of endless logos to place into these contests. There are, of course, talented designers, too, or there wouldn’t be such growth in this industry.
So, with all of that in mind, what would I tell “Oji”? That crowdsourcing is destroying MY client supply so he shouldn’t do it and instead take a second back-breaking job for more pennies a day?
There’s some differences in the sites you ask about. Participating in a contest is speculative but if you can come up with two or three great solutions for the design, you stand as much of a chance as anyone else in the contest (and I think winning that CD cover design is a good sign!).
Sites like eLance and oDesk are different from 99designs and DesignContest.com. These are sites where a client lists there project and designers bid on how low they will go under what the client has listed as their top budget. While a project may be listed at $500, if someone bids .99¢, then they might be the winning bid.
Fiverr, although it advertises $5 logos and such, has an option to charge/pay more—but not much more! I wouldn’t waste my time on it if I were you.
You might also want to look into Zazzle or CafePress to place your designs onto T-shirts and other products, which might help supply a design income for you.
Best of luck to you!
Was I wrong? Have I helped destroy the design industry? Will “Oji” get rich by stealing clients at $100 a project? Will you go out of business?
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