crowdSPRING is a marketplace for creative services. A customer puts out a project and sets the job price. Designers can choose to create a proposed solution, and the customer picks the winner.
It has attracted controversy, with professional designers saying that spec work hurts their industry. That is, a designer has to create a fully finished design, and may or may not be selected and paid. Andrew Hyde, one of my long-time Twitter friends and fellow test driver of the 2010 Mustang at BlogWorld this year, explained in 2008 why he thinks Spec Work Is Evil. And early in Small Biz Survival history, one of my good friends chided me in the comments for linking to a spec work company.
So I was wary when Ross Kimbarovsky of crowdSPRING approached me at SXSW. He and I talked a bit. Ross told me that over 36,000 designers work on cS, including quite a few based in rural areas. Of course, I’m always interested in rural small business, so I asked for the story of one of their rural designers.
crowdSPRING put me in contact with Rachel Stene, from Sparta, Wisconsin. Rachel is a freelance graphic artist by trade, specifically motion graphics. When her husband lost his job, she had to add something to her animation work to make up for the lost income. She started looking into crowdSPRING.
I discovered cS 4 or 5 months ago, and trepidly entered my first contest. I was totally ignored by the buyer. Then I entered another one, and got a 2 star rating. I gave up. For a week. I totally suck at couple more contests, and decide spec work IS evil. I’m out for good. For another week. I’m back. What is it with this place? I decide to just have fun with this. I’m experimenting, I tell myself. Relax. One morning while eating a donut, browsing the job list, I find a project to enter. I kick out a logo in 10 minutes between breaking up fights between my kids, and I win a $200 contest! I start to talk about cS to everyone I know, and even those I don’t know. I can’t stop talking about it. My husband threatens an intervention. I’m hooked. Never mind that I had higher paying animation work awaiting my attention. I was trying to remember how to use Illustrator. Word is I’m CRAZY for wasting my time on “evil” spec work, but I can’t shake the feeling that something HUGE is going on here. This community of creatives and buyers which has no boundaries. I love that I can decide when to work, how much to work. I don’t have to call my clients and apologize for my kids puking last night and promise I’ll have something done after nap time. Plus, I find I really like designing logos. And print. And illustration. I still love animation too, but now I get to have other experiences and it’s all working together to make me a better all around designer. I’m not burned out now. I can’t wait to start my day and jump into a project. I’m learning so much! It’s making me a better animator too.
Rachel told me she feels working with cS makes up for her remote location.
Pairing up with websites like crowdSpring make it possible for me to do business with people from all over the world, from next door Minnesota to Ireland to Tanzania without spending a dime. I don’t have to spend money or time promoting myself or finding clients, or invoicing them. For me this is the best way to work. I can focus just on my design, and I’m not held back by being in a rural area with no local clients or connections. I can also afford to work on lower paying jobs because money goes farther in my town than in a large city. I can get a lot of groceries at the local farmers market for $200.
I’m expecting a robust discussion on this topic. I’d love to hear your feelings on this subject.