For those in the creative field, as a logo designer you are probably familiar with 99designs, a freelancer platform for connecting graphic designers and clients. One of its most well-liked (or most-disliked depending on your position) features is design contests, where graphic designers compete against one another by creating designs based on the client’s brief, with the winning submission getting the prize money.
Why I Decided to Give 99designs a Try as a Logo Designer
MY EXPERIENCE AND REASONING
So I have been working as a freelance logo designer for the past few years, and have shared my thoughts on whether 99designs is worth considering for someone who is looking to get into freelancing and graphic design. I harbor the same sentiments as many others, in that design contests are essentially spec work, with logo designers putting in time and effort into creating something that will be up against tens, even hundreds of other entries. And to rub salt in the wound, sometimes the winning submission is quite obviously just a mishmash of clip art images, put together with no design skills whatsoever.
On the other hand, platforms like 99designs can be useful for building your portfolio and connecting with clients, among others. This year, I decided to give 99designs a try by competing in design contests as a logo designer, in the hopes that my experience would help you make an informed decision on whether to invest your time and effort into the platform.
Here I will also share the logos I have designed and ways that I’m able to make use of them even if my entry doesn’t win.
HOW I APPROACH DESIGN CONTESTS ON 99DESIGNS
In order to reduce the negative aspects of design contests, such as getting my work stolen and scammers in the guise of clients just looking to get concepts from designers for free, I always make sure to filter contests and only go for those that are blind and guaranteed.
In a blind contest, designers are only able to view their own entries, which prevents others from stealing your work. For guaranteed contests, the client has chosen to guarantee the prize money to designers who participate, thus reducing the risk of scams and ghosting.
I also try to only choose contests where the client seems to have a good idea of what they are looking for and I can come up with something that is easy to conceptualize and execute. Since the probability of my submission getting declined or eliminated is quite high, as much as possible I don’t want to spend too much time and effort on it.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH 99DESIGNS
So far I have entered 16 design contests as a logo designer, and the results haven’t been very encouraging. I did win one contest, but that’s about it — everything else has either declined and not chosen in the end.
Here’s a look at the logos I have submitted.
Sometimes the client will take the time to rate and provide feedback on my submission. For example, in one of my most recent contests the client is a small photography studio in North Texas that focuses on event, portraiture, and boudoir photography. They had the idea of incorporating a ‘?’ into a camera, which I took as reference in designing the logo.
Their feedback was quite positive, requesting some slight adjustments moving forward. Usually I would just submit and not make any further revisions, but in this case it seemed like I had a high chance of winning the contest. As such, I took the time and effort to make the adjustments the client requested… only to have my submission declined in the end.
As for the contest I won, the process was straightforward. I came up with a logo based on the design brief, my submission was shortlisted as one of the finalists a few days after, before finally having it chosen as the winner. Once the prize money was deposited, I withdrew it right away to my PayPal — and I would suggest you do the same in case anything happens to your 99designs account.
WHAT I’M DOING WITH MY LOGOS THAT DIDN’T WIN
I feel it’s a waste to not do anything with the logos I designed for the contests but didn’t win. After all, although I try not to spend too much time and effort on them, I still make sure that they are well-designed and of good quality.
Instead, I have been uploading them to platforms like Adobe Stock to earn passive income on the side. It’s not much, but better than nothing, and at least I get some value from those logos.
I’m also displaying them on social media such as Instagram as part of my portfolio. Since a brief is provided for design contests on 99designs, I can give context and explain my thought process on how I go about designing a logo that meets the client’s needs for a particular contest.
MY ADVICE IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO TRY OUT 99DESIGNS
While 99designs may be great for clients since they can easily source for ideas from multiple designers, it’s probably not where you will be earning big bucks as a freelance graphic designer.
I would suggest you use the platform only as a way to make some side income and build your portfolio. Otherwise, you will most likely feel discouraged by the lack of interaction with the client, the vagueness of the design brief, and the number of submissions that are just clip art cobbled together by so-called ‘designers’. Your time and effort are better spent elsewhere, such as creating passive income sources and working on your own portfolio site to attract clients.
Will I continue to participate in 99designs as a logo designer? Yes, but only once a week and devoting just an hour to a design contest. It’s a bonus if my submission wins, but if not I’ll upload it to platforms like Adobe Stock for passive income — and you should do the same.