crowdSPRING By The Numbers Ross Kimbarovsky | July 14th, 2009
UPDATED: March 17, 2010.
People often ask questions about our community and marketplace. Here, we share our answers to the most common questions.
1. How many projects have been completed on crowdSPRING and how does crowdSPRING know this?
Answer: crowdSPRING launched in May 2008. Since that time, over 9,647 projects have been completed on crowdSPRING. We know this because we require the buyer and winning creative(s) to complete their project on our site in order to protect both parties. From the moment we launched, we’ve offered full project management tools, including file transfer, to make this easy for both parties.
2. crowdSPRING guarantees that the buyer will be 100% satisfied with the results of their project. Can you please explain the guarantee?
Answer: We’re proud to offer an unconditional money back guarantee. We want our buyers to be absolutely, positively happy with their project and, if they’re not, then we’ll refund all their awards and even our own project fee. We offer this guarantee because we’re confident that buyers will find an entry that they’ll be thrilled with. And we’re so sure that we’re willing to put our money where our mouth is. If a buyer isn’t happy with their project, not only do they get to walk with a refund but we’ll also pay one of the creatives in the project up to $250 out of our own pockets – just to keep our promise that every single project will have a winner, no matter what.
At the end of the day, the creatives will generally give you exactly what you ask for. And, better yet, you’ll get out of the process exactly what you put in. If you take the time to write a good creative brief, we’ve proven that you’ll have a better project than if you don’t. And, if you take the time to give comments and feedback on your entries, we’ve found that you’ll have 5 TIMES as many creatives work on your project! To help along the way, our community has put together a helpful guide for managing design projects.
3. How many projects has crowdSPRING refunded since launch in May 2008?
4. Why did crowdSPRING issue refunds in those projects?
Answer: Approximately three (3) percent of the projects were refunded because in those projects, buyers had fewer than 25 entries to choose from and they did not like any of the entries that had been submitted (prior to our current 100% guarantee, we offered buyers a 25 entry guarantee). The majority of the remaining projects were refunded because shortly after they were posted but before creatives submitted work to the projects, we determined that the scope of the project was either too large given the amounts offered as awards, or the scope of the project was not well suited for our community.
5. Are refunds more likely when buyers don’t provide active feedback to creatives?
Answer: Yes. We’ve observed that in projects that are refunded, the buyers are generally inactive with feedback. For example, back in April 2009, the average number of comments left by buyers in successful projects was 32, but in refunded projects it was 4.6.
6. What is crowdSPRING doing to improve the quality and amount of feedback that buyers provide in their projects?
Answer: We always look for ways to improve the feedback from buyers. After all, creatives cannot read minds – good feedback is an essential part of the design process. Our community has written an excellent guide that helps buyers to understand the importance of feedback.
Among other things, we proactively make efforts to share copies of that guide (and other guides) with prospective buyers. Additionally, as soon as a project is posted, we provide the buyer with a link to this guide and emphasize the importance of feedback. Throughout their project, we remind buyers in writing about the importance of feedback and our customer service team personally follows-up with each buyer when the buyer has provided limited or no feedback in their project.
We encourage buyers to leave public feedback (either directly to the creative for a specific design, or in the activity tab of the project, to all participating creatives). We also encourage buyers to provide feedback in private messages.
We’ve built a health tool for every project which, among other things, shows the number of comments the buyer has provided in that project, compares it to the average for that category, and also shows a scoring breakdown. This way, every creative can evaluate before participating in the project whether the buyer is actively providing feedback.
To help measure the levels of feedback and to guide our efforts to improve this process, we’ve built a number of internal tools, and we plan to incorporate some of these tools on our site to help our community evaluate this too.
We engage in regular discussions with our community (including with buyers) in our forums about ways that we can improve feedback – and we invite you to contribute to those discussions – in the forums or in the comments below.
7. How many creatives work on crowdSPRING and how does crowdSPRING know this?
Answer: 55,000 creatives work on crowdSPRING. They come from over 170 countries from 5 continents. We know this because when a someone registers on our site, we ask them whether they anticipate being a buyer or creative.
8. How many entries have been submitted by creatives to projects on crowdSPRING?
Answer: Nearly 800,000 (as of the time this post is being written) entries have been submitted to projects on crowdSPRING.
9. How many entries does a typical project on crowdSPRING receive?
Answer: At the moment, we average 112 entries across all project categories. Some categories (such as packaging and product design average more), while others (such as illustrations) average a bit less.
10. How much has crowdSPRING paid to creatives since launching in May 2008?
11. How does crowdSPRING know how much creatives have been paid?
Answer: crowdSPRING requires each buyer to pay in full before their project is posted. crowdSPRING escrows those funds and at the conclusion of the project, pays the winning creative(s) on behalf of the buyer. We’ve followed this practice from the day we launched. As a result, we can with complete certainty say how much designers have been paid. We don’t just tell you how much has been awarded – we tell you how much has been paid. There is a difference. And it’s real.
12. How many creatives have found new clients on crowdSPRING?
Answer: We have paid over 3,250 different creatives directly for their work on crowdSPRING. We estimate, based on feedback we’ve received from creatives and buyers, that another 1,750-2,250 creatives have been hired directly by buyers for projects outside of crowdSPRING.
13. Does crowdSPRING charge creatives to work on crowdSPRING?
Answer: No. crowdSPRING does not charge creatives any fees. When we pay via PayPal, we pay the transactional fee (some creatives pay a fee directly to PayPal to convert the payment into their own currency). When we pay via other methods, such as wire transfer, we charge the actual cost of the wire transfer.
14. Are creatives who work on crowdSPRING often hired directly by clients for work outside of crowdSPRING?
Answer: Yes. As we said above, we estimate, based on feedback we’ve received from creatives and buyers, that 1,750-2,250 creatives have been hired directly by buyers for projects outside of crowdSPRING. We also estimate, based on feedback from creatives and buyers, that 50% of projects posted on crowdSPRING lead to additional work for that creative and often result in a long-term relationship with that client. A number of creatives have found exceptional full-time design jobs as a result of their work on crowdSPRING.
15. Why do creatives who don’t win projects continue to work on crowdSPRING?
Answer: The answer differs for different people. If measured solely in terms of dollars -it is true that most of the creatives who work on crowdSPRING haven’t yet earned any money. However, much to our surprise, money is not the only thing that motivates the creatives in our community.
Some who work on crowdSPRING have been unable to break into the design business – not because they lack talent – but often because they lack experience, a formal education, or because they live in a small market or a country which doesn’t support a thriving graphic design industry.
Others have been successful working for someone else and now have decided to freelance and create their own design businesses. It could be a successful designer who’s now a stay-at-home mom, or someone who wants to control their own hours. Or someone who’s simply become frustrated with the corporate environment and wants to focus on creating, not timesheets and meetings.
Some have lost their jobs and look to crowdSPRING and other marketplaces as a source of business.
Yet others are just starting out and while their work may not yet be at the level that allows them to find new clients easily, they are improving and learning every day – and continue to use crowdSPRING as a stepping stone to new opportunities.
The desire to freelance isn’t surprising. The economy is in bad shape. Businesses are cutting back on advertising and marketing expenses. Talented creatives can match or exceed while freelancing the amounts they would earn working for someone else. For example, according to the Aquent Survey of Design Salaries 2009, a designer in the U.S. earns between $38,000 and $53,000 (slightly higher for web designers). The median expected salary is $46,095, and that’s roughtly the average for graphic designers around the world, based on the most recent data. These numbers may be comparable in parts of Europe, but the situation is much different in the rest of the world – where designers earn much less. Some – although certainly not all or even most – creatives on crowdSPRING are doing quite well compared to these metrics.
The community on crowdSPRING isn’t unlike many other communities where large groups of people, for one reason or another, elect to participate – sometimes without receiving a dime in pay.
For example, it is estimated that it would cost $10.8 billion dollars to develop the Linux distribution Fedora 9 using traditional means. Over 1,000 developers from over 100 different companies contribute to every release of the Linux operating system. Fedora 9 is estimated to have required about 60,000 person-years of development time. That’s an incredible amount of free time contributed by thousands of people.
Without that effort, Amazon’s Kindle would have cost must more, and the ultra mobile PCs that are all the rage today (they often run a version of the Linux operating system) would not have been possible at their current price points.
16. Do you think creatives have the right to decide how they work?
Answer: Yes. We fundamentally support the notion that a person should have the right to decide for themselves how they want to work and what risk they’re prepared to take. This simple concept is at the heart of a free market economy. Efforts that seek to undermine this universal freedom of choice are doomed to fail.
Without question, there are real risks when doing speculative work – whether you are an attorney, architect, writer, photographer or graphic designer. In building crowdSPRING, we looked for ways to decrease those risks and we’ve written extensively about what we’ve done in response.
17. What types of companies have posted projects on crowdSPRING?
Answer: The vast majority of companies that have posted projects have been solo entrepreneurs or small businesses. But we’ve also been fortunate to work with large brands, including LG, Doubleday, Tivo, Forbes, Starbucks, Barilla, Epic, ConAgra, and Random House. Numerous other high profile brands (large and small) have posted Pro projects (where we provide full privacy protections).
18. From what countries have projects been posted on crowdSPRING?
Answer: We’ve had buyers from the following countries: United States, Great Britain, Canada, Japan, China, Brazil, Gibraltar, UAE, Spain, Hong Kong, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Thailand, Kuwait, Chile, Estonia, Croatia, Guatemala, Latvia, Dominican Republic, Belize, Panama, Argentina, South Korea, Virgin Islands, Egypt, Australia, Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Italy, Israel, India, Philippines, Turkey, Finland, Switzerland, Greece, Iceland, New Zealand, Slovak Republic, Mexico, South Africa, Romania, Singapore, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Czech Republic, Cayman Islands, Spain, Malaysia, Bermuda, Yugoslavia, and Hungary.
19. Have advertising and marketing agencies posted projects on crowdSPRING?
Answer: Yes. Many large, midsize and small agencies have leveraged the crowdSPRING community for their clients. Among others, our community has helped Crispin Porter + Bogusky, BBH, Omnicom’s Element79, BBH, Shift Communications, and Starcom Worldwide’s IP Pixel. Numerous other advertising and marketing agencies have posted Pro projects (where we provide full privacy protections and as result, can’t disclose the names).
20. Why has crowdSPRING established minimums in its projects?
Answer: We are building a community of the most talented creatives on the planet. In May 2008 we set what we thought were reasonable minimum prices for projects in all categories. Our hope was that “market pressure” and our community would together establish the actual awards that buyers offered on their projects. Buyers sometimes ask for too much and offer too little. We want every buyer on crowdSPRING to walk away thrilled with their designs and our community. We want each of them to be successful, and we want Creatives to feel that a project is worth participating in.
21. What does crowdSPRING do if a buyer wants to post a project for an amount lower than the established minimums on crowdSPRING?
Answer: Although we could increase the number of projects in our marketplace by decreasing our minimum pricing, we decided when we launched that we could not build an awesome community and give buyers what they need with $50 or $100 minimums. We encourage buyers to increase their budgets. We’ve found after thousands of projects that it’s important to establish pricing that is fair to both buyers and creatives. If buyers want to spend less than our project minimums – we refer them to our competitors, including Elance and 99designs.
22. Why has crowdSPRING raised project minimums a number of times since its launch in May 2008?
Answer: We believed when we made our first price adjustment in May 2008, and continue to believe now, that low-price projects undervalue the work of creatives.
Let me illustrate with our Pro projects. When we launched Pro projects back in September of last year, we set the minimum price at a very easy to grasp $1,000 across all categories. Since then, we have collected a great deal of data on Pro projects, including participation, submission levels, average awards, numbers of non-disclosure agreements executed, and project lengths. These projects have been very successful and we continue to see growth month over month both in the number of Pro projects posted, and in the average awards offered. The data also clearly shows a direct correlation between the amount of an award, the complexity of the project, and the level of participation. To that end, a few weeks ago, we adjusted the minimum awards in Pro projects to differentiate across the categories.
23. From how many countries do visitors to crowdSPRING originate and how many languages do they speak?
Answer: Our visitors have come from 216 countries and territories. The map below is from Google Analytics, showing the countries from which we’ve had visitors. Our visitors speak over 195 languages (data from Google Analytics).
24. How does crowdSPRING differ from other online marketplaces?
Answer: When we launched in May 2008, we introduced new innovations that were then (and even today) unmatched. We’re not sitting still. We haven’t stopped innovating.
Here are the top ten differences – there are many more:
We Have An Awesome Creative Community. Don’t just take our word for it. In 2009, we were nominated for a Webby Award (as one of only five startups in the world) for the Community category. The Webbys are the leading international award honoring excellence online. One of the companies we most respect – Flickr – won the award.
Some of the most creative people on the planet work, learn and teach on crowdSPRING. Our community has people from nearly every corner of our planet. We’re lucky to have some who are just starting out and creative directors from some of the world’s top agencies.
But a large collection of users by itself isn’t a community. Our community shares common goals and interests. How can you have a community without communication? We constantly talk and debate in our forums and in our blog (our blog is ranked in the top 50 worldwide in the AdAge Power150). Our customer service team talks to hundreds of users every day – tens of thousands every year about great suggestions on ways that we can improve. We interact daily with thousands of people on Twitter and Facebook (we follow nearly everyone who follows us – we do this because we learn from others and we don’t want to stop learning. Ever).
Our community has worked together to help fight some of the worlds most challenging problems in our Give Back program – where both crowdSPRING and designers agree to help – without any fees – worthy charities and non-profits with graphic design needs.
Our community has worked together to create outstanding guides to help buyers around the world, including:
Some of the most successful creatives in our community have written a guide to help others in the community –
Our creatives have freely shared some of their most important methods of making buyers happy. For example, one of the creatives freely shared her templates for presenting final proofs to buyers –
Extraordinary Customer Service Is Our Norm. Like Zappos, we’re building a culture where extraordinary customer service is the norm. People say that imitation is a form of flattery – and we think Zappos does customer service better than nearly anyone on the planet. We believe that happiness is helping others and that helping is happiness. And thousands of our customers have let us know how much they’ve benefited from our approach to customer service. Don’t take just our word. In June 2009, we won a Stevie Award from American Business Awards (the world’s premier business awards program) for Best Product/Service.
Commitment To Education. We’re not just a marketplace. We’re a community, and our commitment to this community extends into numerous areas, including education. As I wrote above, our community has collaborated on numerous guides to help others, we spend a great deal of time collaborating, educating and learning in the forums, and we’re proud to share helpful resources not just with our community but with designers around the world. We share with our community awesome design resources through our Twitter account and in our forums and blog. We’re shared with our community and everyone in the world two free e-books (Contracts for Graphic Designers who Hate Contracts and Contracts For Software Developers Who Hate Contracts) to help designers and developers with their freelance legal contracts.
Money back guarantee/Guaranteed Project Payments. As you can read above in Q&A 2, we guarantee that you’ll be 100% satisfied with your project. Period. And we guarantee project payments to winning creatives. There’s no such thing as an abandoned project on crowdSPRING. That’s why we required from day one that all funds be escrowed in our projects. Because of these policies, some of the most creative people on the planet work on crowdSPRING.
Customized Legal Agreements. Other marketplaces, if they do anything at all, just give you a generic form agreement and leave you on your own to figure it out. How does that help you? We’ve built a sophisticated system of dinamic legal agreements that take into account the country you’re from and the country that the winning creative is from. Each legal agreement is customized to your project. And we don’t charge you a penny extra for this – it’s all part of our 15% project fee.
Respect for Intellectual Property. crowdSPRING respects intellectual property – this is one of our core values as a company (before co-founding crowdSPRING, I spent 13 years as an attorney focusing on the protection of intellectual property, for clients around the world). We don’t just talk about it – we’ve spent an incredible amount of time building tools, policies and procedures to help us. If you’re interested in the details, please take a look at this post: How Does crowdSPRING Protect Intellectual Property?
Pro Projects. Almost from the day we launched, many companies, brands, and advertising agencies have asked us if we can give them privacy features and greater control over projects. If you are an agency, you’re worried that your campaign may leak out before its time. If you are a brand, you’re worried that the competition may get a peek at what you’re up to. Pro projects offer a great way to crowdsource product or packaging design, or a way to leverage our community without letting the general public see what you’re up to until you’re ready. Pro projects are automatically added to our robots exclusion list so that they are not profiled in search engines. We’ve built a dynamic system of non-disclosure agreements to let you screen creatives before they are permitted to participate in your project. Creatives will see a public description of the project and must agree to a non-disclosure agreement before they are permitted to see the full project brief and materials.
Buyers have full control over access to their Pro project. They can admit participants automatically after a non-disclosure agreement is signed or can decide on a case-by-case basis. And once participants are admitted to a project, they can be removed by the buyer and added back at any time. Buyers can decide whether creatives can see one another’s entries and comments (including the buyer’s comments to other creatives). Pro projects can last up to 30 days. And Pro projects have all of the great features we offer in standard projects, including: customized legal agreements, full project management tools, robust notifications, great customer service, etc.
Robust notifications/communications. We’ve built useful tools to help you communicate with the crowdSPRING community. After you post your project, we list it on our site, send emails, and inform people via RSS. You can public or private message any user or group of users in the community, and will be able to communicate with anyone either publicly or privately. We’ve also built tools to let you communicate with everyone participating in your project. And each step of the way, we inform others when there’s a comment or message waiting for them (each user can set customized notification preferences).
Full project management. The entire project is fully managed right on our site and we give you the tools to make this easy. You can easily sort or filter the entries as they come in, provide feedback and score, ask for iterations, send public or private messages, create updates to your project brief, upload files to share with the participating creatives, ask your customers to come vote for their favorites, and much more. Even the project wrap-up takes place on our site. At the end of the project after you pick your winner, you’ll complete the project on our site. The winning creative will upload proofs for your final tweaks/comments and then will upload the final files with your favorite designs. We even take care of paying the winning creative(s) on your behalf after you approve the final files.
Reputation System. We’ve developed a two-way reputation system with relevant information to help you decide whether to work with a particular creative or buyer. At the end of every project, we ask the buyer and designer to rate each other on a variety of factors and to provide a short written narrative about the project. This reputation system helps buyers and creatives on crowdSPRING to make informed decisions.
25. What recognition has crowdSPRING received?
Answer: We’ve been very fortunate. Together with our awesome community, we won WIRED Magazine’s Small Biz 2008 competition, won Business.com’s best people solution competition, won the Illinois Technology Association’s Newcomer award in 2009, were nominated for a 2009 Webby Award (as one of only five startups in the world) for the Community category, were named an Official Honoree for the Services and Applications category in the 13th Annual Webby Awards, and in June 2009, we won a Stevie Award for Best Product/Service.
We’ve also been very fortunate to have received attention from the news media.
26. How can I ask a question that isn’t covered by any of the above?
Answer: Please feel free to ask your question(s) in the comments below and I’ll answer them in the comments and/or add to this article.