Crowdsourcing offers opportunities for extra income

“More money, more problems” might be a favorite mantra of rappers and hip hop artists weighed down by the burden of their economic prosperity, but for college students with lean wallets and thirsty pocketbooks some extra cash is always welcome. In recent years, the steady stream of dot-com companies following a crowdsourcing business model have opened up reputable and convenient avenues for freelancers and dilettantes to turn their talents into cash.


Gengo has become a popular resource for multilinguals looking to earn some extra income. The company, formerly known as myGengo, operates an online translation service powered by a network of prescreened translators worldwide. After signing up for free, prospective translators are required to take an online test before qualifying for jobs. The testing process calls for successful completion of a five-question multiple choice test and a translation exercise which is graded by professionals in the field.

Users who pass the test are then free to peruse job listings – Gengo prides itself on its flexible “no-hassle, no-obligation” approach, meaning translators are free to commit to the jobs they want to do rather than being assigned a particular translation. Jobs can include simple translations like emails and blog posts to more complicated texts.

Pay ranges from $0.03 per word – or $0.018 per Chinese or Japanese character – for standard-level translators to $0.08 per word for translators who qualify as pro-level. Payments are disbursed twice a month via Paypal.

Last month, Gengo’s success was further validated by Intel Capital’s $12 million dollar investment in the company.


A long-time champion of collaboration and creativity, Threadless has been built on the talent of its dedicated users. Submissions are voted on and rated by the Threadless community. After one week, top-scored designs are reviewed by the company and are printed on an array of products ranging from apparel to accessories.

Artists receive $2,000 if their submissions are chosen for printing as well as a $500 Threadless gift card, which can be exchanged for $200 in cash, and an additional $500 each time the design is reprinted. When an artist’s work is printed the company obtains the rights to the design.

“My experience with Threadless has been extremely beneficial,” Ringling College of Art and Design alum Eric Zelinski wrote in an email. “Being printed several times has given my work tons of exposure. I’ve made connections with artists from around the world. Threadless is also a great resource for inspiration and learning tips/tricks from other artists.”

In addition to the ongoing “Threadless Challenge,” the company continuously features multiple themed design challenges to get the creative juices flowing. Cash prizes for the various contests vary.

“[Threadless] has a very welcoming community,” Zelinski, who has been an active member since 2005, added. “The forum is a great place to get feedback on whatever it is you’re working on, be educated by others in related creative fields and so on. I don’t think a lot of people realize how useful that part of the site can be.”


Teefury’s tagline “Tee today, gone tomorrow,” reflects the transient nature of their business model.  Home to “the limited edition cheap t-shirt gone in 24 hours,” the company relies on user submissions for their designs. Selection is internal and artists are notified within a couple of weeks if their design is chosen. Teefury pays designers one dollar for every shirt sold within the 24-hour period and, unlike with Threadless, the artist retains full rights to their design.

A list of top earning artists, a prolific bunch with multiple chosen submissions, shows designers who have received a range of $39,000 to $69,000.



Although very similar to Threadless, Society6 does not screen designs before allowing artists to post their work. Artists have more autonomy – they set their own prices for art prints, receive a percentage of the profit and retain the rights to their work. When a sale is made, the company produces, packages and ships the product.

“I put my photos on there on a whim and haven’t sold anything, or tried marketing it or anything at all so I guess it hasn’t really been a success,” thesis-student Audra Locicero said.

Zelinski, who also submits work to Society6, admitted he has had more luck with Threadless.

“I tend to use Society6 more as a promotional platform,” he said. “It’s extremely hard to get steady traffic to your shop and secure sales [on Society6].”

Nonetheless, the company announced on their blog that some artists have made more than $5,000 a month.

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