Fuck Free Work: Crowdsourced Design

They’re the desperate dudes at the bar buying overpriced drinks for uninterested women. They’re middle-aged men donning plaid shorts from Hollister. Engulfed in Axe body spray and bottomless low standards, they lurk in the darkness looking for anything with a pulse. Their aim is to get something for nothing if at all. They are crowdsourced design sites. Their names? Fiverr, 99Designs, Crowdspring and many more are the 36 year old, skinny-fat predator groveling over those naive freshman.

Perhaps you’re unfamiliar with the concept of crowdsourced design. Typically, the sites work on a simple premise. You have the client who makes a post detailing their needs for a design. Then, you have designers who each take a whack at said need. The client then chooses their favorite design and pays commission to the winning designer. Sounds kind of cool at first, right? A designer doesn’t need an agency. He or she doesn’t need to market his or her self–just make an account. No portfolio or resumé required. The client needn’t afford the expensive hours of an agency or a career freelancer. Both sides win.


If you’re the rookie client or winning designer, yes. You’ve won. You probably got some 60dpi flyer and she got $10. However, what about the other, say, 20 designers who spent actual time from their lives designing a solution? They get nothing. It’s fair they don’t because the designer accepted the site terms and embarked on the fruitless endeavor on their own. Simultaneously, they’re perpetuating this market of free work. Ultimately, they’re cheapening the industry and trade of design.

Sadly, it’s not just the crowdsourced design companies who are at fault. From agencies to in-house design teams, we see the exploitation of designers’ talent. It’s often evident in the hiring process. It’s typical for designers to undergo a “design test.” Employers want to gauge the competence of designers by testing their skills. That’s completely understandable. However, when they’re just doing it to acquire free thinking on something they’re too stumped to accomplish, they’re disrespecting candidates. They’re essentially valuing designers’ time at nothing. It’s figuratively worth something, because if they please the employer, they may get a job. Though, what about the other candidates who lose out? Some would say: too bad.

I say “fuck you, pay me.”

This isn’t greed, nor is it vain. It’s self respect. It’s knowing that my time and abilities are worth something. How can I be sure? I have a degree in design. I have experience. I’ve worked with really talented people and know what qualifies as good design. Me handing out my time and effort for another’s gain at no expense cheapens my value and when done enough, design’s. This isn’t stroking my ego. It’s awareness. Always request compensation in the exchange of work.

I mean, if hookers aren’t free, why should your design be?

At the end of the day, these cheap tactics have their place. A student may need a couple extra bones to eat something other than ramen. Not all designers are skilled enough for professional work. Not all have immediate means to make money off their craft. Not all clients understand how to acquire proper creative, nor do they necessarily need a professional.

Design is important to the world. Billions of humans interact with screens everyday and deal with design of some form. Unknowingly, they are indebted to it for the facility it brings to their lives. Uber, check in kiosks at the airport, ATM screens, etc. all need to have practical, clean design to ease your steps of satisfying a need. The background work put in to do that is crucial to advancing technology.

In conclusion, don’t be the slutty drunk girl at the party eyeing every male specimen with distinct thirst. Don’t sleuth around slinging out your goods for nothing in return.

You’re better then that.

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