Enterprises marshal forces to give ‘crowdsourcing’ workers a leg up



New enterprises and programs for helping “crowdsourcing” entrepreneurs improve their skills and income are growing popular.

Crowdsourcing is a way to obtain and provide services from masses of people who are working jointly and usually online. It is an attractive option for people who want to work at home or when it suits them, such as housewives with children.

While companies often turn to crowdsourcing for writers or designers, the remuneration is often poor and the work precarious.

Comlabo is a nonprofit organization founded in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture, that was launched to invigorate the local economy by familiarizing people with information and communications technology. Late last year, at the request of the city government, it started offering writing and design lessons for crowdsourcers . All the participants were housewives with families.

In conjunction with Tokyo-based Lancers Inc., a crowdsourcing agency for freelance workers, those taking lessons from Comlabo were given actual work from Lancers starting last month.

Crowdsourcers usually work alone and find it difficult to take on large workloads because they have to be ready for contingencies, such a child taking ill. They often settle for routine, low-paying jobs.

Comlabo decided such issues could be addressed if the individuals worked in teams where members could help each other when necessary.

“I’m hopeful I will be able to work without sacrificing too much of the time I spend raising my kids,” a housewife in her 40s said after a class in early February.

Lancers has chalked up about ¥73 billion ($640 million) in orders since it began operating in 2008. While 54 percent of its client firms are in Tokyo, more than 75 percent of its workers reside outside the capital.

“Crowdsourcing is meaningful for the decentralization of work, among other reasons,” Lancers President Yosuke Akiyoshi, 35, said. “We will work with the local authorities to improve public awareness of crowdsourcing .”

Comlabo representative Masatoshi Yamada, 36, said increasing job availability across the spectrum is one of the company’s goals.

“We would like to create towns that are welcoming to residents by increasing job opportunities for young people and housewives,” he said.

Willgate Inc., operator of crowdsource-based writing services provider Sagooo Works, launched a new service in October under the name of Sagooo Works Platinum that guarantees higher pay for such work.

The new service allocates work to freelance writers who have passed Willgate’s qualification test. Registered writers have the chance to conclude exclusive contracts with client companies, a Willgate official said.

Based in Tokyo, Willgate started crowdsourcing writing services to fill corporate demand for professionally written information that would appear on websites.

Machi Shoda, a 28-year-old from Osaka Prefecture, passed the test late last year and began performing crowdsourcing work while studying to become a novelist. She accepts orders that meet her pay requirements and interests, which include food and pets.

“I earn around ¥1,000 per hour and the work environment is better than a part-time job because the hours are flexible,” Shoda said.