- High-quality designer community
- Client perks
- No service fee for freelancers
- Live chat support
- Money back guarantee
- Only for design work
- No proper compensation for freelancers
99designs is a freelancer website that has an international presence, with localized versions for the Spanish and Aussie audiences. The site operates with a strict policy: they only deal with graphical designers, thus programmers, writers and other workforce won’t find any work here. However, digital artists will find a thriving community where they can challenge their skills against others. T-shirt designs, business card logos, YouTube-channel mascots, book covers: any type of digital creative work goes. Design contests are the main attractions of 99designs: employers are able to launch a contest by prompting an idea, while freelancers can create their own work according to the guidelines. Although only the winner can take a monetary prize, none of the other contestants leave empty-handed, as they receive lots of help and feedback too. Admittedly, becoming accepted as a freelancer is quite the challenge, but don’t forget one of the greatest pros of 99designs: the site won’t charge any service fee on the freelancer’s earnings.
99designs offers a chance to artists all around the world to showcase their talent, receive reliable feedback, gain experience and, by partaking in a design contest, hit the jackpot with prize money and earn a large sum for their efforts. The site ventures deep into all sorts of graphical art, opening up possibilities on numerous fields, including such on-demand categories as logos, business cards and artwork for YouTube channels. However, you can also request a full re-haul for your website, as some of the artists even accept to rearrange the layout of your site and landing pages. Businesses and marketing heads are going to love the separate business category, where they are able to submit a contest for booklets, posters and even resumes. The list doesn’t stop here, as 99designs covers the field of 2D and 3D character drawings as well, not to mention the unique designs for wearables, books and packages.
In order to become a member of the 99designs freelancer community and partake in a contest, you need to go through the sign up process first. Although creating the account only takes a few steps, you won’t be able to submit your work without proper account verification. Said verification is done by providing a scan or webcam-shot of your ID card, passport or driver’s license, and a snapshot of your face made by your webcam. The system processes the data in a few minutes, and then stores them on an encrypted network.
But don’t think you can immediately become the Paganini of the artistic world the moment you have registered, because fresh members are limited to participating in 20 events per month. Furthermore, during your first days, your creations will be judged by the 99designs staff, and they only elevate your account if your work hits the quality mark.
There’s no doubt that 99designs is the ideal place to indulge your business with impressive artwork made by skilled designers. The most common way of attracting the site’s greatest talents (thus achieving a large choice of artwork) is by holding a contest. Launching a contest is really simple: you just offer prize money for freelancers, who’ll send you their creations according to the details and instructions you provided in the description. However, if you struggle with the launch of your contest or you have trouble visioning the ideal design, you are free to consult with one of 99designs’ experts.
There are several perks catering for clients. For one, you can demand a full refund if you are unsatisfied with the results. You are also allowed to contact the artist to request specific changes or to initiate the so-called “Final Round”, an extra stage of the contest in which you can pick up to six of the best contenders. This latter option is highly motivating for designers, especially if they learn that you are allowed to split the prize money between different freelancers.
When starting a new creative assignment, you have two options. You can either launch a contest every freelancer with a matching resume can participate in, or create a 1-1 project where you are free to hire any seasoned designer you know and agree on price and the details in private. In the former case your work is guided by an online brief, including pre-made topics to help you set up the contest in the best way possible. This is also the part where you can aim at a target audience and choose from a gallery of samples to show contenders what kind of art style is preferred. After the final touches, you need to roll with a package, a major deciding factor in terms of the maximum number of designers and expectable art quality. Each contest lasts 7 days, during which it’s free to alter any design. After the winner is announced, the freelancer must sign an agreement and upload the finished files.
99designs utilizes a somewhat unique approach when it comes to pricing, because it applies no service fees on your earnings as a freelancer. Instead, the site maintains itself from the four pricing packages (Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum) each employer must choose from to activate their design contests.
The price of these packages depends on the art category: for example, getting logos created is $299 in the Bronze pack, $499 in Silver, $799 in Gold, while Platinum is the most expensive as it charges you $1,229. At first these outlandish prices seem to favor freelancers, but remember that any artist whose work is dismissed will not be compensated in any way. In fact, the only package that guarantees a participation award for each contestant (thus somehow justifying the sky-high prices) is Premium.
It’s safe to say that 99designs has one of the best customer support services among freelancer websites. In case you run into a problem you can check a quite long FAQ chock-full of knowledge, submit a ticket, call the staff over the phone, or simply initiate a live chat, which is available most of the time. The personnel is quick to reply and provide all answers you need in a prompt manner. The website also offers localized versions for other nationalities, including Spanish and Australian artists and clients.
Although 99designs is a decent solution for serving the needs of both sides, we cannot help but feel that the site prefers employers over freelancers. In fact, the site addresses clients most of the time and explains very little about the other side of the coin. Most features cater to employers, as they have the ability to demand a full refund and even initiate private projects with selected designers only. On the other hand, freelancers must undergo a verification process and have to face some limitations until they can prove themselves. However, the most insulting thing is that only the winning artist gets properly compensated (unless it’s a Premium contest), making it virtually impossible for newcomers and other, more experienced freelancers to earn their living. And last but not least, the packages are very expensive, despite that there are no other service fees.
Overall, 99designs stands for quality design work, but on the longer run it only pays off for the client. However, if we take into consideration all pros, including the thriving community and the many help options, this site is guaranteed to be satisfying for everybody participating in the contests and the creative processes.