Meet one of 2015’s highest earning designers

Vlad (aka GangmaZ) knows how to work it. The Belgrade-based designer, who often works with his wife as a design partner is one of the highest earners on our platform.

Vlad’s abilities encompass everything from web design, to logos, to printed matter. Rather than chat with him about the specifics of these design projects, though, we thought we would pick his brain about using 99designs in general. Vlad is full of advice, for novices as well as advanced designers looking to amp up their freelance earnings. Read on for the interview.


Name: Vlad
99designs handle:
Location: Belgrade, Serbia

How did you first get started with design?

Since I was a kid I was mad about drawing. I would stay up late just drawing for hours. Sometimes, I’d wake up in the middle of the night and create images of what I had just dreamt about. I first became interested in web design in 2002, and my life as a professional designer took off from there.

From the beginning I have worked with my girlfriend, Jana, and we are the biggest support for each other. We run a small business with a couple of web shops for t-shirt printing, with all the necessary equipment for silkscreen, etc. It was an awesome experience learning a lot about the printing process, which really helped us in our subsequent design work.


When did 99designs come into it?

I was lucky to find out about 99designs early on – I think I was among the first designers here – from a friend of mine who won a logo contest. I wasn’t really familiar with freelancing and, honestly, after entering a few contests without results I was ready to give up.

Then my girlfriend won a website contest and that was a game changer for me. It encouraged me to try harder, which soon began to pay off. Wins just kept coming one after the other, to the point that I was winning 1/3 of the contests I entered for a time.


How has your strategy for using 99designs developed over the years?

Being on 99designs from the start, I have had to adjust to a lot of site changes, which can be very tough. One strategy I adopted was to follow and study even contests I wasn’t participating in, because I think that’s the best way to understand how contest holders think. One virtue you need to have on this site is patience. If you get easily agitated, this is not a place for you!

Another bit of advice I have: Make your 99designs team! In order to be a successful web designer on 99designs, you’ll often need help from fellow designers, as it’s a hard and time-consuming job. Try to find partners who will give you feedback and support you, because that’s the most important part of this story. When you are ready to call it quits, those people will bring you right back on track.

Additionally, be positive and think like a winner. You’ll transfer some of that amazing energy to the client, and then they will want to continue working with you. The last thing a client wants to feel is insecurity; rather, the client is looking for someone to come and blow them away with talent and charisma. Don’t feel bad if you get a bad rating, either—things can change rapidly in a 99designs contest.

Finally, you should respect your clients but demand the same respect for yourself. I always give even more to my clients than they ask, because I love my job and it’s not a problem for me to stay after hours and work on something that will impress them. The client that is right for you will respect you for this and you’ll get yourself a great long term relationship.

Those are great tips. Do you have any others for designers looking to get more work?

In my opinion, the basic thing is to find a contest that you will really enjoy and that fits your style. Basically, you need to give yourself to the contest completely and all of your energy, because you are the winner!

Next, make sure that the client will give you a good feedback, which you can tell by reading their brief or from the past contests they held. From my personal experience, the best clients hide behind the humble contest prizes, so you might even avoid big prizes. If you enter a contest that you think is a long shot but you do it anyway because of a good prize, you are missing the point and your chances of winning are very low.

What are your own goals for the coming year, or years? How would you like to see your design skills or business change for the future?

At any given moment, I have huuuuuge plans. So many big things that I often lose myself in them, but I always manage to accomplish a good part of my plans so I enter every new year on an upward trajectory, and that’s the goal. My personal plan for 2016 is to engage in producing mobile phone games and to enrich my team with some new creative fellas.

In general, you need to constantly improve yourself and follow the trends. In our world, you can easily become tedious—pausing your work for a few months is all it takes to fall behind everyone else. Learn and observe the world around you, look for inspiration in everything that surrounds you, and you’ll be set for the new year.

See more of GangmaZ’s work here.

Related articles

The fundamentals of responsive website design

The fundamentals of responsive website design

The days of designing a website for a single desktop screen are well and truly over. Technology and the expansion of mobile websites are pushing web designers to re-think how their work is displayed across various devices. Think about it: how much browsing do you do every day on your phone vs. your desktop? Enter:…

The surreal and stylized illustrations of Kuziola

The surreal and stylized illustrations of Kuziola

Andrzej Kuziola is a full-time, self-taught artist who joined 99designs to explore new creative challenges and experiences. We first discovered him when he was nominated—and then won—our first 99awards competition this year with his stunning illustration for a fantasy novel. Born in Poland and now residing in the United Kingdom, Kuziola began his career as a dentist…

How Meella accidentally became a full-time book cover designer

How Meella accidentally became a full-time book cover designer

Originally Mila Milic (aka Meella) wanted to become a psychologist before switching to economics. But somewhere in between, by pure accident, she wound up a successful book cover designer. It began simply enough… While searching through freelance websites for economist gigs, she quickly discovered a need for photo retouching—a skill she had, thanks to her Photoshop knowledge. Realizing design work like this was lucrative,…

Current Design Contests

Designers, check out these contests so you can start building your career.