A chef from a small restaurant wants to update a few items on their seasonal menu. But it’s a PDF, and he doesn’t have the software, let alone the knowledge, to do it himself. The choices? Spend a day licensing or pirating software and reading tutorials, or call around to have thoughtless work done at a premium rate.
The team behind crowdsourcing creation platform 99designs just announced a third option–a new product called Swiftly. It’s a service that connects people with small projects to designers with the know-how to knock them out. And a flat-rate of $15 covers all sorts of tweak-related tasks, from simple Photoshops (like putting a photo on a new background) to altering documents to formatting a banner ad and cleaning up a business card.
“It’s for that frustrating thing we all face on a daily basis,” explains CEO Patrick Llewellyn. “‘I don’t have quite the right file to send to a printer.’ Or ‘I want to make a modification–do I have the license for that software?'”
Meanwhile, a designer that’s been prescreened by 99designs/Swiftly has a queue open on their end. They select their jobs, and every completed task earns them $7-$10, depending on experience. In early testing, most tasks have taken about 10 minutes, meaning someone could theoretically make between $43 and $60 an hour for their work–by no means a windfall, but maybe a solid supplemental income for relatively mindless work.
But having sat on both ends of the employer/employee design spectrum, I was skeptical that this model could possibly play out fairly. Clients are often incessantly demanding, asking for waves of unexpected changes. And the platform seems ripe for ignorant abuse. What happens if someone were to put “I need a whole new website” into the queue?
In short, their request would be rejected, because Swiftly has built a feedback loop into the process. Requests that are unrealistically large are flagged, protecting designers who are simply offered the next project in the queue. (Those projects might also be referred to more premium 1:1 design services in the future.) Meanwhile, customers get to approve work before a job is deemed done.
Trying the service for myself (with some credits kindly provided by Swiftly), I decided to have some fun. I placed three orders, to add a smile that’s missing a tooth to Yahoo’s teaser logo, make Mark Zuckerberg my friend on Facebook, and place the Cubs logo on a roll of Charmin toilet paper.
About an hour later, I received emails notifying me that my projects were completed. Accepting, rejecting, or requesting modifications was a button press away, and I was asked to rate each designer’s work, too. I’d say I more than got my (well, their) $45 worth in Photoshopping services.* In the case of both Charmin and Yahoo, the results came back slightly differently than I’d requested, but both in what I’d say were subtly improved ways from my admittedly tacky orders.
Overall, I think Swiftly is a well-built product, smart enough to focus on the service’s simplicity through the design. From here, the biggest challenge for Swiftly will be to throttle their designers properly to anticipate low or high demand. The faster Swiftly’s turnaround, and the more reliable their 24/7 service can be, the more of an emergency go-to it can be for people across the business world, or a go-to prank service for someone just wanting a decent gag Photoshop on their boss’s last day. Llewellyn warns me this will take some time since they really don’t know what sort of response to expect, but after a few weeks, Swiftly should have turnaround within a few hours.
Now if they can just cut down wait times to 30 minutes or less, Swiftly would really have something big.
*Just one notable footnote from a Swiftly spokesperson peeking in on my order: “I just want to point out that in Swiftly’s terms of service, customers acknowledge they have a legal right to use the files they’re uploading. So in your sample task, this might not be the case. Fun task. ;)”