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Shireen Qudosi

Cloud Labor Offers Small Business a Flexible and Dynamic Workforce

May 03 2011, 11:48 AM by

One of my favorite all-time video games has got to be Super Mario Kart. Between the races and the one-on-one battle modes, the game is a small screen version of our daily grind – minus the satisfaction of sabotaging your opponent with bombs, bullets and bananas.

In real life, the race between you and your competitor doesn’t just have one player – it has a team. Your team is made up of all the people who help you get to that finish line with each project. As a small business, you can reap the benefit of having a larger, fully staffed and fully experienced team without the overhead.

New trends in workforce innovation allow small businesses to go toe-to-toe with larger agencies. You may have already seen this starting to surface with on-the-go offices. With finger tip technology, most people now have an on-the-go office enabling them to do business from just about anywhere they can get a signal. You’ve probably also seen workforce trends shift with telecommuting communities. The increase in technology paired with an ongoing recession has made it profitable for many companies to simply hire workers as telecommuters. This allows corporations to save money on overhead associated with having employees pouring into an office each day. Hiring talent as a telecommuting contractor also saves corporations from having to pay for health insurance and pension plans.

But by far the newest and most interesting and radical approach to the labor force is something that’s being referred to as cloud labor or crowdsourcing. Cloud labor is the idea that you can go to one destination to get a cloud of skilled freelancers offering comparable rates and diverse ideas for any number of services.
How Does Cloud Labor Work?
Through cloud labor, a client can throw out a project, specify the budget and deadline and get a  talented pool to choose from. Clients can choose either one service or a selection of services. For example, you can state your need for graphics, web design, marketing materials and copywriting services – and you never have to go further than just one spot for all your communication needs.

Use the pool of people to get a larger number of professionals working on a project for extremely competitive rates. Use it to test out marketing/branding ideas for your business without the expense and waste of sourcing larger agencies. Additionally, use the pool to source hidden talent and then put them to work the next time you need a project done. This allows you to contract labor inexpensively and offer it to your client as a package in-house deal.
The Best Cloud Labor Sites
There are a number of crowdsourcing sites. My advice is to visit a few sites, play with the different options and get a feel for what type of return you get before you invest in it for a larger scale project. Check out these to start with:
 
Idea Bounty and InnoCentive – An online market place trading in creative ideas. Innocentive is the more elite of the two systems, with corporations and governments offering tens of thousands of dollars for creative solutions.
Amazon’s Mechanical Turk - Get live humans to complete tasks that are too complicated for humans.
LiveOps – A contact center cloud offering virtual call centers that handle and process calls over the internet.
RedesignMe - Source creative thinkers to come up with new product designs and service ideas.
uTest - Cloud labor for software and usability testing, saving you thousands in costly designer/programmer fees.
Elance – Outsource jobs such as graphic design, proof-reading and legal services to professional freelancers around the world.
Kluster - Form valuable focus groups and virtual drawing boards with trusted users.
99designs – Online marketing place for logo, web and print material designs.
Crowd Flower - A professional tool that manages crowd/cloud labor projects.
Flickr Creative Commons – Save on costly stock images with this free user-generated photo archive system.
 
These flexible workforce models gives small businesses the advantages of larger agencies, but with far more flexibility and lower overhead. It allows them to work smart and go from a one man show to one man with thousands of smart, creative laborers at his disposal.

Posted in Online Tools and Applications, Online Branding, Growing Your Business

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