3 min read

The Market for Outsourcing Generative AI Prompts

Will “Prompt Engineer” be the next “App Developer”-like title that balloons in use? The way that Generative AI is heading, with millions of people using these tools, the cream is bound to rise to the top. And we know natural market forces will coax people into outsourcing their Generative AI work to freelance prompt engineers.

That’s why I’m fascinated by the question, “what makes a great Prompt Engineer?”

What Makes A Great Prompt Engineer

I want to know what that skillset looks like now so I can build that knowledge base or at least be able to know what to look for in an employee. The challenge is that there’s no manual on this job.

DALL·E has not explicitly been 'taught' anything, like who Frida Kahlo is, what a llama looks like, or what a wide-angle lens does. It has just studied 650 million images & captions and left to draw its own conclusions. That's why there can't be a regular “manual” based on functionality that the developers intentionally programmed in – even the creators of DALL·E cannot be sure what DALL·E has or hasn't 'learned,' or what it thinks different phrases mean. Instead, we have to 'discover' what DALL·E is capable of, and how it reacts. – Guy Parsons

Although there aren’t true manuals to prompt engineering, there’s a lot of first-hand experiences being shared. Like Guy Parsons’ manual he collaborated with OpenAI on. After studying his advice and reading many blogs, I found that prompt engineering requires a few things:

  • A colorful vocabulary
  • Cultural encyclopedic knowledge (art periods, prominent figures, etc.)
  • Technical encyclopedic knowledge (setting scenes, styles, “camera position, etc.)

The more descriptive, the better. Sometimes. Of course, you can just roll the dice and get lucky too.

Truly, the people best-suited to be Prompt Engineers are the very people the AI tools replace. It’s the artists who understand the hundreds of period aesthetics. It’s the photographers that can describe every element that goes into a photo, like the type of lighting, camera angles, and the exposure triangle. It’s the creators that know how to describe all the technical and cultural aspects of their discipline and know exactly what to reference in their prompts.

Selling Prompts

There are lots of people already earning income as Prompt Engineers on PromptBase. It’s a marketplace for buying and selling prompts for Generative AI.

PromptBase rolled over 11,000 users this month. “There’s a pretty healthy marketplace going on,” [Founder, Ben Stokes] says. “There’s probably about double the amount of buyers compared to sellers right now on there.” – Fast Company

Prompts sell for $1.99 a piece. Although I think that buying prompts makes more sense as a monthly subscription or SaaS model, still the idea of buying prompts seems absurd. But it’s really no different than outsourcing your SEO (search engine optimization) work to an agency. SEO requires knowledge of human-to-machine translation not unlike Generative AI.

For PromptBase to already be making noise with just 11,000 users, is a sign of how polarizing the job of Prompt Engineer is. Imagine if this marketplace grows 10x.

Ultimately, I think this shows if you want to make money in Generative AI (although many people feel it's wrong), it pays to go niché. And I think we’ll see the emergence of ultra-specific prompt marketplaces based around certain professions or tasks, such as:

  • Prompt site for generating legal documentation
  • Prompt site for interior designers
  • Prompt site for costume designers, set designers, and hair stylists
  • Prompt site for generating YouTube thumbnails
  • Prompt site for NSFW content (bound to be a lucrative venture, eventually)

Just think of a profession that could use these tools, and there will be a marketplace for prompts to help those people get going in automating a task with Generative AI.

We’ve seen the incredible output some people are able to engineer. If you’ve ever experimented with Generative AI, then you know it’s not so easy to replicate. Therefore, it’s obvious that outsourcing this skill set, whether through prompt marketplaces or freelance prompt engineers, is inevitable.