Guru.comWe don’t often look at web-based services for creative professionals here at Desktop. They’re a dime a dozen and they’re usually things we can do ourselves as IT-literate, creative people with the right software.

But every now and then one comes along that’s just worth its weight in gold, and is one. Simply put, it’s an outsourcing system, the global, digital equivalent of getting a temp in to do all that data entry, a work experience student to do all the fiddly logos for that huge brochure or even that whole website you don’t have time to do but promised your client. is the fusion of a temp agency and eBay. After signing up, you post a job and pros from around the world bid on doing it for you. It covers everything, not just the creative field. There are categories for accounts, legal, website design, programming, photography, sales, fashion, architecture, set design, secretarial and more.

Post the task, set a budget and sit back to let it happen. We’ve posted tasks in audio transcription and HTML, and it’s rare not to have at least ten bids within only a few days. Many are from the US, a handful are from Australia, and the rest are scattered across regions with a burgeoning digital class like Pakistan, India, Malaysia and more.

The lowest possible bid is $25, and you’ll get bids from miniscule to exorbitant amounts of money. It’s not uncommon to receive bids of $10 and $200 for the same thing, but that’s the beauty of the idea — sometimes you want $200 worth of quality, or it’s a cost you can pass on to your client. It can be all things to all people.

You set the job parameters as you post the job, but you can use the chat system to correspond with any pro you like the sound of to settle the details. Award them the job when you’re satisfied and wait for the result. The longest we’ve ever waited for a job to be turned around was barely a week, with the pro getting in touch the whole time to apologise for the delay (!). A recent task was posted and awarded and we returned to work only a few hours later to find it done and waiting in our inbox.

Setting up, awarding, dealing with and settling a job is easy at every step and the best thing is it doesn’t lock you into a certain path. When your project is awarded your pro is encouraged to upload an agreement for you to approve, but it doesn’t stop them going ahead with the job if you don’t. Similarly, once the job’s finished you can pay your pro through the escrow or invoice system or simply wire them the money via Paypal or your bank and still close the job off in the system with everybody happy.

There are all sorts of utilities for keeping track of your favourites suppliers, inviting them to bid tools to keep track of all your jobs and records. In this age of sticking to our core competencies, outsourcing is a very useful practice, and the crowd-swarming approach of is easy, fast and hugely cost effective.