Why Crowdsourcing Websites Are A Bad Idea – Lancers Edition


When I first registered for “Lancers“, a Japanese crowdsourcing website akin to Fiverr, I was hopeful it would lead to me improving my design skills while giving me the chance to add to my portfolio. In hindsight, I realised it favours the client side a little too much to my liking. Here I am going to list the reasons why crowdsourcing websites are a bad idea, in regards to those who are looking to find work in graphic design.

1. Competition Style Projects


The biggest problem I have with sites like Lancers is the abundance of “competition” style projects, especially with jobs related to design. As the name implies, a client provides details on what they want made, whether it be a logo, leaflet or business card. However, only one winner is chosen in most cases (runner up prizes are given out on some occasions) so a lot of the time designers are forced to work for free creating a negative cycle like so:

  1. Lose a competition
  2. Regret having had to work for free
  3. Try a new project
  4. Lose again
  5. Working for free again – motivation goes down
  6. Try a new project, but output quality is reduced as a result of the extremely low chance of being selected
  7. And so on.

The worst thing about this cycle is that the standard of work produced is lowered, meaning that the client loses out too.

2. Intense Competition On High payout Projects

High payout

This is a particular problem among logo competitions, where the number of entries becomes enormous. Since the stakes are so high, everyone flocks to these projects. However, the more people participate, the lower your chances of winning, so again, the chance that what you make will be all for nothing is further increased.

3. Bad Clients on Low Payout Projects

Low payout

On a similar vein, projects that demand lower payouts tend to feature lesser experienced clientele. This results in specifications that are vague and of a lower quality. Due to the lower payout this means your chances of being selected are a lot higher, as interest is lower. Unfortunately however, the inexperienced clients that tend to offer these kinds of projects are more likely to choose objectively less well put together entries. This means that even the best of designers’ work is often ignored. Additionally, the low payout is sometimes paired with extraneous demands that isn’t worth the effort, even if you do win.

4. Copycat Designs

Copycat designs

Some projects, especially those that offer less money may have entries available to view publicly. From this, “copycat” designs start to become a problem. I faced this on a couple of projects I tried: after submitting an entry, the designs that followed looked eerily familiar. In a logo competition I participated in, I even saw my own logo concept blatantly copied! This of course results in entries all looking similar, with the whole advantage of competition-based projects – being able to choose from a variety of designs – out of the window!

5. High Dependency on Ratings


People who joined the site in its infancy are at an advantage – they were able to receive ratings while competition was still low. Ratings play a big part on crowdsourcing websites. The higher the rating, the more trustworthy you are seen as, so clients are more likely to choose your work. People who joined the site later however are put at a disadvantage – they have zero ratings in a place where competition is fierce. Veteran designers enter competitions for the underdog to be ignored. And why? They have a low/non-existent rating.

6. No Feedback

No feedback

I have put a lot of effort into the designs I made on “Lancers”. However, even with all this effort, a loss means you work for free, in addition to getting no feedback on how to improve – that is given only to the winner of course.

Final Thoughts

Having participated in a number of design competitions on “Lancers”, I quickly realised that the client side is at huge advantage, while the majority of participants are forced to work for free. Unless you’re top class, using these websites to look for design projects is – I’ve found, a waste of time. What worked for me is good old-fashioned networking. It’s been said a million times, but that means reaching out to anyone you know that you think might be interested in your services, and/or other fellow designers. You never know where it might lead.

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