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Let the Crowd Build Your Company

Hiring a full-time employee is tricky. Lucky for you, there is power in the crowd.
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One day, I was on stage giving a speech, when I spotted a young woman in the back of the room with only one leg and a pair of crutches.  As I was speaking, she got up to get a glass of water and fell. I was horrified.

After my talk, I went into the audience to find her. It turns out she had lost her leg in a terrible auto accident and couldn't afford a prosthetic. As a result, she fell a lot, and as a single mother she struggled even more.

What immediately came to mind was crowdfunding.  Can the community come together to solve a problem?  Of course it can, so I turned to a start-up called GiveForward.com, for which I am an advisor. GiveForward uses crowdfunding to raise money for medical expenses so people can afford their medical care. Today she is walking and holding her child.

An Untapped Resource 

There's lot of talk these days about crowdfunding and crowdsourcing applications. The most visible discussion centers on using the Internet to fund start-ups and other ideas such as independent films. But for all the chatter, many small business owners aren't thinking broadly enough about how to tap into this amazing resource.

Before you think about hiring your next full time employee, consider the crowd.  Are there people who could solve a problem for you, for less?  That's the beauty of crowdsourcing. You can farm out your work to people all over the world, and often only pay the one whose work you like best.  At times you can pay on a per project basis, rather than taking someone on board full-time.

But that isn't all crowdsourcing can do.  If you need software developed, rather than hire a full-time programmer, consider tapping the community for development work. Companies such as TopCoder have nearly 500,000 developers in the network worldwide, or ODesk, a global micro-tasking community of web developers, software designers, translators, and so on, are both good bets.

If you need graphic design work or customized website or logo design, check out sites like 99 Designs, a marketplace where creative submit logos, graphic designs, website design, and more; and CrowdSpring, which is similar to 99 Designs but has over 100,000 designers in more than 200 countries.

When I was CEO of uBid.com and RedTag.com, we used CrowdSpring to get logo ideas from all over the world and discovered incredible talent at a fraction of our budget.  You may still choose a traditional design agency for your marketing needs, but check out crowdsourcing as an alternative.

There are companies who can outsource content development for online brands, such as CrowdSource.com, which has over 500,000 workers who create, manage, and moderate content remotely; and companies who can crowdsource your entire product development process, such as Quirky, an outsourced community of product designers who use the crowd's opinion to refine your new product designs.

Make a list of what you need to do to grow your company successfully.  Separate the tasks into categories like Design, Development, Content Creation, Marketing, etc., then go out and search for crowdsourcing companies in every one of those categories.

You'll be amazed at what the crowd can do for you.

Last updated: Aug 7, 2013

JEFF HOFFMAN | Columnist | Co-founder, ColorJar

Jeff Hoffman, co-founder of ColorJar, is a serial entrepreneur who was on the founding teams of Priceline.com and uBid.com. He is also a frequent public speaker on the topics of innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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