Crowdsourcing and the Gig Economy

How would I solve a simple problem using crowdsourcing?


In today’s world, as many as one in every three workers are part of the gig economy¹.  This means we are regularly searching for help outside of our organizations.  But finding the right contractor or freelancer can be challenging.  There are dedicated websites geared to help you find someone with specific skill sets, or you could try a simple Google search, work your network, or go through an agency.  Even after you identify potential freelancers with the right skill set, it may yet take several attempts to find the right fit. This cycle can be painful.   


There is another way - tap into the power of the crowd.  Crowdsourcing lets you see multiple options all at once, allowing you to pick the ones that work best for you.  No matter what your problem or task might be, there are individuals all around the world that can help and become part of your crowd.  

How to Crowdsource a Solution


Let’s say you need to hire a freelance blogger to write blog posts for your company’s products.  We already know what the traditional path looks like. If you were to crowdsource a freelance blogger, what might that process look like?  In this example, there would be four distinct steps:

  1. Open call - Think of this as a Request for Proposal, where you set clear specifications for the project you want to be accomplished. In this example, you would set the parameters for your blog post - length, subject matter, any resources you want to be included, etc.

  2. Audition - Anyone who meets your open call criteria could submit their work for your review. For your blog post, you might ask for a brief, 50-word sample post on a specified topic to get a feel for writing style and writing quality. 

  3. Shortlist - After reviewing all your options, you would narrow down your candidates to a shortlist. You would then invite the most compelling respondents to write an actual blog post. Since they would be doing actual work for you at this point, you could offer a set dollar amount for the completed blog post - say $200 for every person invited to write the post. 

  4. Final selection - The shortlisted candidates would then each send you a completed blog post for your review. You would be able to compare the different samples of writing and select the best fit for you and your company.  The winner would then receive a prize (which should be comparable with the average price for a blog post today), their work would be published, and you would now have a proven blogger at your disposal.

The Crowdsourcing Process



At the end of a crowdsourcing process, you have an array of demonstrated options.  In this example, you might have found two or three very good blog post writers. Although you chose one as a winner, you now have additional known resources at hand should you need them.


The Crowdsourcing Advantage


We used the need for a freelance blogger as an example of how crowdsourcing can work.  But crowdsourcing can be adapted to meet almost any need - regardless of size, industry, or subject matter.  It can help you look for a blogger, an algorithm, a new material, or a process design. Everytime you run a crowdsourcing project, you are building a new crowd that is tailored for your specific need.  You are in control and can:

  • Build your own crowd: broadcast the request to a wide audience, or tailor the request to a specific group.

  • Create the right prize structure: offer many small prizes and a short timeline to generate lots of quick ideas, or offer a tiered approach with multiple opportunities to advance to win a significant prize for a more complicated deliverable or a more aspirational goal, or something in between.

  • Manage the relationship:  you get more great results than anticipated and choose to move forward with more options than originally planned, or none of the results were the right fit and you pay out the prize but choose not to move forward with anyone.


Crowdsourcing offers many advantages over more traditional approaches to problem-solving.  Specifically, a crowdsourcing project:

  • Provides multiple options

  • May offer unexpected ideas or approaches

  • Allows for active management of both budget and time constraints (through careful selection of the incentives and awards offered and the deadlines presented)

  • Broadens your networks


Crowdsourcing isn’t the right tool for every problem.  To learn more and to see examples of other types of problems that can be crowdsourced, visit our Resources page at  If you have specific questions and would like to speak with an expert — email us at

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Eloise Young

Crowdsourcing Specialist

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