My 99Designs Review

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CrowdsourcingAbout a year ago now, I blogged about crowdsourced logo deisgns, including the costs and how the whole process works.

Now I’m no graphic artist at all, let’s make that clear. However, crowdsourcing has been used across the board for tons of different creative talents and I’ve also blogged in the past about different types of crowdsourcing sites you can make money with.

Personally, I am much better with words so for a while I was having a lot of fun with sites like SquadHelp and NamingForce.

Like many things which are fun, it was not making me much money. But that was fine, I didn’t expect it to. After all, you’re competing with tons of other creative people and the odds are stacked against you.

There are, however, some people on sites like these which do seem to dominate over the rest and have made thousands of dollars. They win contests more often than any of the other users on a site, but they are the exception.

My Experience in the Crowd

My own experience with being part of the “crowd” was mostly naming contests to help new businesses find a name for their company, product, service, domain (a bit more tricky) or a tagline/slogan to help brand them.

Obviously this is pretty easy on my end. That’s not to say it doesn’t require talent and creativity, but the reality is that thinking of a clever idea for a name and jotting it down to submit it on a crowdsourcing site is technically very easy to do and takes only seconds.

You can do this dozens of times to increase your chances too.

Now while I don’t claim to know much at all about graphic design, I would imagine it takes more time and work to design a logo for a crowdsourced contest. That means the designers are investing more into the competition, which should be something everyone thinks about who decides to go this route.

The Ethics of Crowdsourcing

I remember many times when I submitted names to contests on NamingForce and several of my suggestions were rated five stars by the contest holder, yet in the end no one was awarded the prize at all.

I figure that if a contest holder rates a good number of suggestions with five stars, they plan on choosing one of those names. In my opinion, it is dishonest and wrong to indicate you are totally happy with the names and then opt out for a refund and pay no one at all.

To be honest with you, paying only one person who has put in the work is questionable enough if you ask me. But to pay no one at all? That’s pushing it, in my book. 

What would stop the contest holder from simply using the name anyway? I mean, what could be done if that were to happen (which I’m sure it has)? There wouldn’t be any way of even finding out, much less doing anything about it.

So my point is that I know what a let down it can be when you are given praise for your idea or design or whatever else you contribute to one of these contest, only to be left high and dry with no idea how you could have improved your work.

Rebranding Myself

I actually really love my current logo, but I want to start using my real name now instead of The Girl Next Floor, because it’s too associated with my escorting persona. So I considered my options. 99Designs is the leader in crowdsourcing logo designs, which I have known for a long time now.

I worked for a company over a year ago now and they used 99Designs for their logo. I remember the owner sent out an email to have people vote on the finalists, which I did. It seemed like they got some really high-quality choices to pick from when I was checking them all out.

So I decided to go for it. Here are my thoughts on the experience.

99Designs vs. 48HoursLogo

99designs-2_600So I went with the bronze package for logo designs, which costs $299. It appears that the designer gets $200 and I assume that 99Designs pockets the remaining $99. 

I know that professional logo designs can cost thousands of dollars, but I’m nowhere near that level yet and this was a bit of an investment for me, which is fine.

But first a little background. Like I said, I really love my current logo. I bought it through a site called 48hourslogo, which is obviously trying to set themselves apart from similar crowdsourcing sites by suggesting a quick turnaround time.

Logo contests on 48hourslogo work a little differently than those on 99Designs. While the site may be nowhere near the size of it’s main competitor, I actually like some of the features enough to recommend them first. 

For starters, contests are significantly less expensive and start at only $29. This is great because you can test the waters without investing so much. Of course the drawback here is that your contest gets less attention from designers because of the lower amount.

If you don’t get many designs submitted to your contest after the qualifying stage, you can request a refund or relist the contest for free. 

I spent the $29 and once I saw the designs and was sure I liked the results I was getting, I went ahead and paid the full $99 for the guaranteed full payment.

While the contest only received a total of 15 designs, I must have just been lucky since there were a couple that I really loved. Obviously your mileage may vary. 

One of the things I really liked about 48hourslogo was the fact that they allow you to add “participation pay” if you want, which I did. Each participation pay is only $5, and I got three of them.

These are awarded to the designers who don’t win, but whose work you liked and appreciated most. I think this is really important and I think it should be at least $10 or even $20 instead, honestly. 

I wish that 99Designs had this feature, even if they are more expensive to begin with. I would have bought at least a couple.

Also, 99Designs says to expect about 30 designs for customers who purchase the bronze package. However, my contest received considerably more entries than that. In the end, a total of  108 designs were submitted and I obviously feel like I got an insane value and selection to choose from for the money I spent.

I imagine they purposely underestimate the number of designs that are likely to be submitted in order to offer a number they feel that they can guarantee to their customers, which is understandable. Besides, with their huge network of designers it seems highly unlikely that any contest would receive less than that.

My 99Designs Experience

Now for the record, I’m a little picky when it comes to graphic design and especially when the logo is supposed to resemble me in a realistic way. Many designs that were submitted were very well done, but just weren’t my style or didn’t look enough like me in my opinion. 

One designer in particular submitted several versions of a logo design for me and was obviously trying quite hard to win the contest. I thought their work was great, but it just wasn’t quite what I was looking for.

I rated the designs three stars and in the comments the designer replied by asking if I would please at least rate them four stars since they tried really hard and explained that they were trying to build a more impressive portfolio on 99Designs. 

Since I know all too well what it is like being on the other end of this deal, I said of course I would be happy to do that small favor to show my appreciation. So I rated them all four stars. In my opinion, it was the least I could do. They seemed happy, which made me feel better about the whole thing.

When I first paid for the logo design contest, I chose to hold off on guaranteeing the payment until I could see what kind of results I got first. Obviously the advantage for the buyer when they guarantee payment is that the designers take it much more seriously and you are likely to get a wider selection of designs to choose from.

Once I saw the quality of the logos and had a small handful of potential winners I was scoping out, I went ahead and guaranteed the payment and received another flood of awesome designs.

I also remember that when I was participating in naming contests on SquadHelp and NamingForce, I would mostly disregard the non-guaranteed contests and instead focused only on those for which someone would be paid no matter what.

While I wish I had the budget to at least offer some compensation to each designer that submitted a logo, it’s obviously not very realistic. However, I can’t deny that I would recommend 99Designs to anyone who needs a logo designed.

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