designer working on a freelance project

Are you an amateur graphic designer trying to get your foot in the door of the oversaturated online market? If yes, chances are you’ve at least heard of CrowdSpring. It’s a crowdsourcing platform that connects aspiring designers with clients who seek new and original solutions to their creative problems.

But of course, you should know better than to believe nice promises. Is CrowdSpring really the place to start your career or just another online scam?

The word “crowdsourcing” is commonly associated with microwork, an entirely 21st-century phenomenon that has completely redefined the prospects of your average online jobseeker. It usually means engaging hundreds if not thousands of people on a huge number of micro tasks that don’t require any particular set of skills. Naturally, the payouts per task are super low, amounting to mere pennies. But if you’re really stubborn and persistent, it’s usually possible to supplement your income with a couple dozen or even hundred bucks every month.

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In the case of CrowdSpring, however, crowdsourcing works a bit differently. The assignments are very particular, requiring proper freelancers rather than microworkers. Since you DO need to have a special skills set (i.e. graphic design or copywriting), you can indeed hope to earn a couple hundred dollars per project. But how hard is it to achieve that? Read on to find out!

crowdspring homepage preview

Site and Company Overview

CrowdSpring has been around since 2008, which makes them one of the pioneers in the online crowdsourcing industry. They boast a list of very well known clients including Amazon, LG, P&G, Starbucks, Barilla, and many more.

Ever since the beginning, their main mission has been “to democratize design around the world”. This pitch hits just the right note. Graphic design has always been a form of art, you know – even though it’s mainly commercial in nature. And where there’s art, there’s also an elitist mindset that doesn’t approve of just about any self-professed enthusiast trying to tamper with it. That’s why you can sign up as a designer on CrowdSpring and submit your work, no matter your background, experience or technical knowledge. The clients’ sole concern is the quality of your work. They will never ask for your college degree or portfolio. 

While all of that sounds great in theory, let’s see how it works in practice.

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Can I Join and How?

If you want to join right away as a freelancer, you’re in for a bit of disappointment as they aren’t accepting new creatives. All you can do is submit your email address so they could let you know when (or if) they start recruiting again.

According to their Wait List FAQ, they typically reopen the process once every three months. They do this to avoid overcrowding their system with new applicants, which would significantly reduce the amount of work available to those who already work there.

While it may sound frustrating if you’re desperate for work, it’s commendable that they care about their community.

Anyhow, if and when they start letting people in again, here’s what you are to expect.

During the registration process, you will need to upload a photo of your ID or any other government-issued document. Then, upload three samples of your previous work. They’ll let you know when the verification process is complete, and you can start using the site and browsing their current projects.

There are a couple dozen types of projects you can apply for. Here are just a few:

  • Logo design
  • Website design
  • Product design
  • Company or product name
  • Signage
  • Tagline
  • Infographic
  • Book cover
  • Banner ad
  • Landing page design
  • Brochure

But now we come to the most problematic point of CrowdSpring. It’s called spec work.

What’s the Catch With Spec Work?

Spec work stands for “speculative work”, a concept notorious for what many people perceive as exploitation.

How so? The process is structured like a contest. A client lists the project along with the requirements. Then, the freelancers do the work as best they can. One of them gets chosen and paid, while all the others are left empty-handed, without even a rating to show for. All they can do is bid for another project – and risk doing even more work for free. And that is the single most important downside to CrowdSpring.

A lot has been said about the exploitative nature of spec work. But many agency executives claim that it doesn’t yield good results for clients either.

What We Like About CrowdSpring

  • Your final product is the only thing that matters. Apart from three samples that you need to submit as part of your registration, you don’t need to showcase anything else.
  • The pay is nice if you’re a newcomer to the world of graphic design. Earning $200 or more for a logo sounds very nice compared to, say, Fiverr, where many projects are done for as little as $5.
  • They aren’t geographically restrictive. So far, they have had over 220 thousand freelancers from 195 countries. 
  • Payouts go via PayPal and Payoneer, which are hands down the most convenient options a freelancer can choose.

What We Don’t Like (or Even Hate) About CrowdSpring

  • Spec work DOES smack of exploitation. True, you often have to do a lot of work for free when you’re dipping your toes into graphic design or any other area. But with CrowdSpring, you have absolutely no guarantee that you’ll ever earn a dime. Don’t forget that you are competing against thousands of other freelancers!
  • They aren’t accepting new applicants at the moment. But if you’re interested to give the platform a try, make sure to add your email to the waiting list.
  • It takes too long to process the payments. The company’s official policy is that your first payment may take up to 30 days to process. With every other project, the maximum delay should be 14 days, but many freelancers complain that it takes even more than that. 

Conclusion – Does It Make Sense to Try CrowdSpring?

Considering that they aren’t even admitting new members at the moment, the above question seems pointless.

But would it be worth it if they deign to open their gates one of these days?

I would still recommend to find some other place. If you like to work for free, you can always volunteer for a charity or NGO. That will at least reflect in your portfolio, boosting your chances to start making some actual bucks.

In the meantime, you can always resort to some other crowdsourcing sites such as Amazon mTurk. They don’t pay anywhere near $200 per project. But at least they pay.