99 Designs Review: When 98 Designs Just Isn’t Enough

I got 99 Problems and Design Ain’t One.

99 Designs is one of the better crowd-sourcing sites out there.

While it’s hard not to be impressed with 99designs, it’s also hard not to realize that the “design crowd” concept is not exactly an innovation these days. Between sites like Crowdspring and DesignCrowd, having people work on your designs before you select which designer will get paid has become essentially commonplace.

That why if we’re going to give this 99 Designs review all the attention it deserves, we’re going to have to judge it based on its own merits and compare how those merits stack up to the likes of a DesignCrowd. And how does it stack up?

That’s exactly what we’re going to find out now.

I’ve got 99 Designs But a Logo Ain’t One

Okay, I sacrificed accuracy for the easy Jay-Z reference: 99 Designs does have plenty of categories within which you can post your graphic design projects. This ranges from the aforementioned logos to stationery, web design, WordPress themes, and even T-shirt design. At some point, you wonder if 99 Designs will simply stop using categories and just make one gigantic “Stuff That People Draw” category. It’s simpler that way.

Clicking the easy button “Get started now” on their main page introduces you to the pricing structure right away. Might as well get that out of the way. You’ll see the typical minimum prices that you often see on these crowd-source web sites – larger projects will range in the several hundred dollar range with significantly less for smaller logo-centric projects. A Twitter background, for example, will only run you about $95, which is hopefully a nice chunk of change to a designer capable of whipping one of those up in a short amount of time.

Clearly, the entire crowd-source idea works, because sites like 99 Designs have absolutely no problem acquiring their as-advertised crowd. Though 99 Designs has the obvious in-title promise of giving you 99 designs every time you post a project, the average is actually a mere 96. False advertising? Not really; even the introductory video simply states you’ll get “dozens of designers to work on your project.” That’s enough for me to consider crowd-sourcing for the next time I need some graphic design work. A healthy average of 96 bids per project is definitely something to make my eyes twinkle with delight.

There are some additional tweaks and innovations that really make 99 Designs stand out in my mind. In the upper-left corner of the page, you’ll be directed to a logo store. At the logo store, you can simply browse through ready-made logos with filler content to see if there’s something out there you really enjoy. (Note: while the other button up there says “design contests,” it’s really only referring to the typical design contests that takes place with every project. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t witness some more design competition.)

99 Designs definitely makes its mark in providing reasonable prices for its projects and hosting plenty of would-be designers to bid on your final approval. So there must be more to the story. As is so often the case, we have to find out what really separates 99 Designs from the competition by examining the price you pay.

99 Designs: Is It Worth It?

Paying for your design isn’t a major issue, so we’ll have to tackle this from the prospective of the would-be designer looking to make a few bucks. It can be hard enough trying to win a design competition when there are 95 other designers posting on every project; having your well-deserved winnings taken away from you via transaction fees can be downright disheartening. Any site that disheartens a freelancer doesn’t score big points in my book.

Besides, since the project posters are sitting on a 100% money-back guarantee, they really have little to worry about in the world of pricing.

No, these people did not pay for this 99 Designs review.

99Designs Team

The news is good. You can download your money onto PayPal with zero 99 Designs fees, although you’ll have fees if you go with other options like having money transferred via Western Union. Of course, if you’re using Western Union, that should also be considered a bad decision tax.

This is a major selling point. No wonder 99 Designs is able to find 96 people willing to post per project – all the designers have to worry about are their PayPal fees, a standard operating cost of any Internet-related business these days anyway. This is a really nice feature that means you’ll have to consider 99 Designs a must-register. That’s right: a must-register. Time to get your design on.

Is there more to the story? When isn’t there? You can find out more about 99 Design’s policies over at their help section.

When Designers Attack

In truth, sites like 99 Design are why the Internet works so well. Many people need designs and many people need the work – bringing them together for a minimal (or no) fee is still profitable because there are other ways of making money. 99 Designs seems to realize this and puts the concept to good use in an overall structure that is satisfying, easy to use, and ultimately attractive. It’s a killer combination, and perhaps reason enough you should consider 99 Designs your first place to go to when it’s time to do some design work.

Of course, that’s not to say you should ever put all of your eggs into one basket. An effective freelance designer is probably as comfortable with crowdsourcing as any other type of freelancing online – as long as they know how to do it well. Diversifying your resources and income generators across a variety of sites from Freelancer.com to 99 Designs should be considered an integral part to creating a successful online business.

Any major complaints about 99 Designs? Well, the project minimums could always be a little cheaper, but that’s a constant battle waged between designers and the people who pay them. As a non-designer myself, it’s probably one of the first things I think about when I consider signing up to a site like this.

Otherwise, it’s a solid site and if you haven’t bookmarked it already, now’s the time.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Rating

Dan Kenitz

Dan Kenitz is a former professional Search Engine Optimization specialist and current freelance writer, commentator, and all-around entrepreneur.

8 comments

  1. Thanks for the review.

    Those are indeed real life people who work for 99designs – not just a geek stock photo :)

    Cheers,
    Jason

  2. Trust No One

    I have submitted a logo contest this week on 99designs. However, when I went to pay with my credit card the “processing” message just kept spinning. Nothing was going through! However, I received a call from my bank asking if I had made a payment to them and if I would approve it. I, of course, did just that…despite no official record of my payment on their site ever going through.

    That was several days ago. My account at 99designs still shows that my transaction is pending and my logo contest has still not been published.

    To make matters worse, I expressed my concern via their customer support form and still have not heard a word from anyone at 99designs. No shit! I don’t see how they will stay in business with this sort of customer service.

    For anyone considering using them, based on my experience thus far, I would strongly reconsider at this point!

    Sorry Jason. Now go back to school and take some courses on Customer Service.

  3. Emory Rowland

    99designs has a toll free number. I’d give them a call if I were you. Please post back and let us know how things turn out.

  4. Steve-o

    I always use DesignCrowd. In my opinion they have a better designers than 99designs and a better process. I’ve never had a problem with payment there, they offer credit card, PayPal and Moneybookers as options.

  5. As a web developer & designer I do not like 99 designs nor sites with the same model. It is a total undercut to the freelance web community. What client wouldn’t pay $700 for 100 plus submissions to choose from. Plus the amount of time spent submitting designs vs. the amount of time you are picked is way lopsided. The only benefit I see is to increase your portfolio and to hone your design chops. I will not bookmark this site thank you very much.

  6. b

    Jason,
    None of the designers work for 99 designs. They are competitors and obviously desperate for work. “Working” for a company means you get a salary or an hourly wage.

  7. xox

    sometimes when the design pays good, there are several hundreds of designers on the job not just 95, and minimal fee is no minimal fee, its 30%, thats alot.

  8. Oscar

    Hey,
    I really liked you review, and also I’ve heard of another platform called designonclick.com. Does anyone have experience with design contests there?
    Thanks in advance

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