We’ve covered outsourcing sites before, like Elance and Freelancer.com, which are open to all kinds of freelancers, from telemarketers to virtual assistants to graphic designers to bookkeepers. But some, like Chicago-based CrowdSPRING, specialize. CrowdSPRING dedicates itself to serving the needs of creative individuals, like graphic designers and writers, and those who need their services. Founders Ross Kimbarovsky and Mike Samson wanted to create an outsourcing environment, using a crowd sourcing model, that would safely open the world to new possibilities rather than limiting small business owners, or whoever needed creative services, to people in their own countries or communities.
Sramana Mitra: Hi, Ross. Give us some context about CrowdSPRING, what you do, where you are in your evolution, what’s your focus and so forth.
Ross Kimbarovsky: Today, CrowdSPRING is one of the largest marketplaces in the world for crowd sourced creative services, anything ranging from logo design to Web design, print, illustration, product design, and even copywriting. We have a community of more than 109,000 designers and writers from nearly 200 countries in the world. We handle 43 different categories of projects for tens of thousands of small businesses, entrepreneurs, big brands, agencies, and even government. It uses a crowd sourcing model, so unlike traditional marketplaces in which buyers post an request for proposal (RFP) or project seeking bids, and then providers bid on the work, our marketplace works very differently. Instead of choosing from bids and proposals, buyers in CrowdSPRING decide their own budget and the length of time the project is open. And instead of bidding on the work, creatives submit actual work to the buyer’s specifications. On a typical logo project, for example, our buyers are picking from more than 100 logo designs for their new company or product. It’s much like buying a television set or article of clothing in a store. You buy what you like. We sometimes talk about it as tangible services because it makes it much easier for people to buy services when you can see them before you buy them.
SM: So, the services need to be completed before anyone decides whether he’s going to buy? That’s the big difference, isn’t it?
RK: There are a couple of big differences. The services aren’t completed, because as a buyer, you’re working with typically dozens of designers or dozens of writers in a project. It would be asking too much for a designer to create a completed logo design with full deliverable files that would be print ready. Instead, what we try to do is minimize the risk on both sides. Traditionally, buyers run the risk of hiring somebody who may not be able to do the work, or may not be able to do the work competently, or may not be able to do the work in a timely fashion. On the other hand, the creative runs the risk of never being paid or spending far too much effort.
When we try to balance that risk, in a logo project, for example, we ask designers to create a rough sketch of the logo, a low resolution version of it. That’s what buyers essentially see in galleries. It’s perfectly good for Web use. They see a nice-sized version of it, but it wouldn’t be appropriate to put on business cards or letterhead or on the Web. Once you give feedback as a buyer – buyers give feedback to designers. They can score entries. They essentially spend time iterating various designs and working with their favorite designers. Once they pick their favorite, we go to what we call Project Wrap-Up. That’s when the buyer and the designer he selected or the writer he selected work one-on-one in a private wrap-up to get the final deliverables. That’s when the designer will do the full work. She’ll create vectorized graphics that will be print ready, create the illustration that would be necessary. Or, if it’s a Web design project, for example, a layered PSD file that would be appropriate for a Web developer. The bulk of the work happens after the designer is selected or the writer is selected. That’s one way that we minimize the risk for that creative to make sure that he’s not investing more time than is reasonable to help the buyer pick.