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A big stumbling block in hiring the graphic designer who most “gets” your business is this. You won’t know if you’ll like the design until after you put your money down. The smaller your business and budget the greater the risk it seems.

That’s how it works at two popular places, ifreelance and Elance. Buyer post requests for designs. Designers submit proposals. Buyer hires a designer, then waits to see the results.

This month, crowdSPRING, an online business launched to level that risk. It provides protections for creatives and for buyers.

Here’s how it works. Would-be buyers post a description of their project, the budget and their deadline. Then, according to co-founder, Ross Kimbarovsky, “Creatives from around the world submit actual designs – not merely RFPs. Buyers pick from actual designs.” To demonstrate how it works crowdSPRING posted a $5,000 contract the design of their home page. (I spoke at HOW Design, a conference where attendees could give great feedback on this approach.)

crowdSPRING provides for buyers and sellers such protections as project management, legal contracts, reputation management, online portfolio placement, and intermediary customer service. Adds Kimbarovsky, “We believe that once a buyer purchases creative services using crowdSPRING’s new model – they’ll never go back to the traditional model.” Note, they already have 1,503 members and visitors from 122 different countries/territories. For variations of this approach see GeniusRocket and Criggle.

Kimbarovsky and his colleague Pete Burgeson, said they took this approach after reading about crowdsourcing and communities in Howard Rheingold’s book, Smart Mobs. Crowdsourcing, a term actually coined by Jeff Howe, means, “taking tasks traditionally done by a single person or small groups of people, and farms them out to a global workforce.”

Thanks for the tip Michelle Wolverton. Kimbarovsky and the other co-founder, Mike Samson, “wanted to achieve just three things with crowdSPRING: give creatives a level playing field, offer buyers choice, and protect intellectual property for all.” See what you think.

moving from me to we


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