Business English Vocabulary: Crowdsourcing

This Business English text is all about crowdsourcing and start-ups. Useful vocabulary is highlighted and the definitions are at the bottom. There is also a short quiz and some discussion questions for you to answer.

The terms start-ups and crowdsourcing almost seem to go hand in hand nowadays. In fact, it’s probably thanks to crowdsourcing that we now have so many start-ups in the first place. It’s also why they generally do so well. For people unfamiliar with these terms a start-up is a new business, often set up by only a small number of people. They can consist of anything from a kid in his bedroom to a team of MBA qualified executives. But what about crowdsourcing? To put it simply, crowdsourcing is about taking a traditional project for 1 or more full-time employees and dividing it up into smaller tasks. Then, they are ‘farmed out’ to the general public via online notice boards or specialist websites. These groups of people are also called ‘cloud labour’.

Why do start-ups use crowdsourcing?

It’s perfectly suited to small companies just starting out as they often have few employees but lots of work. They also don’t have the time or the means to hire full-time or even part-time staff for one-off projects. Now, thanks to the net you can find and employ large numbers of freelancers very quickly. Financially, it also saves them a lot of money that would otherwise go to middlemen like recruitment agencies.

Does crowdsourcing make money?

Well, you can be the judge of that one. In 2011, providers of crowdsourcing announced an increase of over 70% on the previous year. Their revenues shot up from $210 to a pretty impressive $379 in 12 months alone. And it’s all down to the 6.5 billion crowdsourcing workers, a number that’s growing by the day.

What kind of work can you get from crowdsourcing?

A lot of Business start-ups operate in the internet industry so early projects may involve website construction, testing or development. Whereas, other companies use the net to run their business and so offer things like marketing research or even short translations.

What’s the catch?

Well, some critics have accused crowdsourcing of creating ‘digital sweatshops’ because freelancers can work long hours but only get a paid minimum wage. This is due to the common ‘pay per results’ structure where pay doesn’t reflect the amount of time put in.

Useful Vocabulary

To go hand in hand
Normally go together
To be unfamiliar with sthg
When you don’t know something
To set up sthg
To start or establish something like a company
To be farmed out
When sthg is distributed to other people
Online notice boards
Websites where you can leave messages or announcements
To be perfectly suited to sthg
When 2 things or people go well together
Starting out
At the beginning of their business life or career
The means
The resources such as money
One-off projects
Small jobs that are not repeated
From the perspective of someone interested in money
Or else
People or organisations who operate between producers or suppliers and end customers like recruitment agencies
You can be the judge of that one
You can see the result and make up your own mind
Shot up
Increased quickly and by a large amount
It’s all down to sthg or someone
It’s completely due to sthg or someone
Run their business
Manage their company
The catch
A negative point like “you don’t get sthg for nothing, there’s always a catch”
Digital sweatshops
Where people work long hours for little pay online
The time put in
The amount of time invested/used for the project

[poll id=’31’]   Discussion questions

  1. Would crowdsourcing work in your country?
  2. How can companies use crowdsourcing?
  3. Is crowdsourcing good for employees, employers or both? Why?

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