Crowdsourcing: The Natural Evolution of Consulting

Crowdsourcing. A term and business model that has started to saturate our lives as a consumer whether we know it or not. I realized the other day that it’s possible for my entire day to be aided by crowdsourcing in one way or another?

For example if I were a freelance graphic designer:

  • 9:00 am- wake up and pack (alarm from Kickstarter project)
  • 11:00 am- catch train into the city
  • 11–11:30- Finish some logo design revisions (99Designs)
  • 11:30–12:30- Review and apply for more jobs (Upwork, Guru, Elance, 99Designs)
  • 12:45- Remember parents are visiting Monday. Schedule house to get cleaned and guest shower drain to be fixed (TaskRabbit)
  • 1:00- Arrive in the city and go to sweet loft walking distance from venue (AirBnB)
  • 5:00- Get ready to meet friends for dinner . Put on your favorite shirt- (Minted)
  • 6:30- Arrive at restaurant (chosen through Yelp reviews)
  • 6:45- Buy online tutorial on awesome new graphic design product friend recommends (Udemy)
  • 8:00- Drive to concert- (Uber)
  • Drink a beer (Mobcraft)
  • Drink responsibly (Lyft)

Crash on fresh sheets (AirBnB)

In the above day, the person not only uses crowdsourcing products, websites, and even in-person services but also IS the crowd. How did this happen? How did we come — as a society — to rely so heavily on

the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers — Merriam Webster

As I thought more about it I realized that crowdsourcing really isn’t a new concept, it’s just become much bigger and applied across industries due to increased technological advances. Essentially companies have been obtaining needed services, ideas and content from a large group of people — consultants, experts, freelancers, etc. — for a long time. Now, rather than needing to use a temp agency or word of mouth, companies have created platforms that immediately connect you with a crowd of people. This has not only increased the options for what can be crowdsourced but also who can do it and why. We no longer need an expert in the field to do something like install a new ceiling fan in my house. Many people know how to do this and will do it for a fraction of the cost of an electrician thereby enabling a handy college student to earn some money on the side. Similarly, new professionals in a career can use crowdsourcing sites to increase their portfolio. I know several artists that use 99Designs, Elance, Guru, and Minted to increase their portfolio with smaller, specialized jobs. Once they have a breadth of work then they are able to go for larger more profitable freelance work or even apply for a position at a design firm. Finally, crowdsourcing has also enabled experts in the field to continue to be practitioners. Several people that are really gifted in their area (e.g., programing, graphic design, writing) eventually move up in a company to a more management/strategy position suddenly limiting — if not killing — their ability to practice their craft. Crowdsourcing sites enable them to take on jobs (e.g., Bug bounty research, graphic design, freelance writing) on their free time as a hobby. Have a long weekend, start hacking on a program to find bugs. Find something interesting? Sweet! You also get paid.

So even though crowdsourcing has seemed to take our world by storm, I don’t see it as the ‘hipster’ of business practices that will fade into the sunset. I actually think that by enabling more people to do more things crowdsourcing will not only start to increase the quality of what we consume but will also help us be more efficient consumers and business owners.