6 tips for a great experience on 99designs

Barin Cristian Doru

99designs is a great marketplace for graphic design and an amazing opportunity for any designer who wants to earn money while constantly developing their designs skills. Like anything else, there are certain dynamics you have to take into account in order to improve your experience.

Here are some of the key things you should consider working on to increase your earnings and decrease your frustration level.

1. Introduce yourself

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When you submit a design proposal to your client, write a short paragraph about yourself. It shouldn’t be too long, nor should it be used as an occasion to boast about your credentials.

Mention your name, your age and maybe where you’re from. This last piece of information is very importance because 99designs is a global marketplace. It may be 5 PM in your area but for the client it might be midnight. This will surely influence your communication and your relationship. It also gives the client a chance to reply back with some information of his own. Knowing a little something about him might help you come up with a more appropriate design for his taste.

2. Present the design

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That text area input is there for a reason. Sure, you think your design is so good it doesn’t need an explanation but not all people are tech-savvy. Explain your choices, talk about the layout and write about any potential issues the client may see in the design.

For example, if you use a custom font: mention if there are any licenses that need to be purchased and what the cost might be. If you use large images, specify where he can get the best price for that particular set. These things might not seem important for everyday users of 99designs, but for a client who hasn’t been in touch with the web on a constant basis these little bits of advice are really appreciated.

Sometimes clients might be put off by things that aren’t immediately related to your design. For example, his coder might have warned him about certain design techniques he should avoid in his website. Don’t think all people are straight up about these things. It’s your job to guide the client, make him feel comfortable and preemptively address any potential issues.

3. Don’t rush things

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After working for 2-3 hours on a design you might be tired and keen on getting feedback. We’ve all been there and as you get closer and closer to the end of your design, your quality control may drop a little. Make sure you’re aware of this phenomenon and don’t be surprised to see your ratings go down because of it.

I recommend you take a short break and revisit the design. Look at it in full screen mode, without any distractions at 100% zoom level and then progressively zoom out to see the entire picture. Look at every detail from top to bottom and make sure you don’t have any alignment issues, any spelling mistakes or anything that might put off the client.

A good example is when you reuse an element from another design that hasn’t won a contest, say a footer, and you forget to change the company name. Imagine yourself in the client’s shoes. How would you rate that design? This one little mistake will compromise all your hard work up. The client might think your design is stolen or you don’t respect him well enough to produce an original design. Don’t put yourself in that position. Take your time and review everything after a short break. You’ll see things more objectively and avoid any embarrassing mistakes.

4. Focus on quality

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Are you being jumped from the feedback round? Do you see yourself getting eliminated or ignored? Then you have design quality issues. This is undoubtedly one of the worst things you can experience as a designer but I found that a lot of people don’t realize the problem is in their own yard.

Clients are busy. We all know that, but we still expect them to treat us with respect by at least writing a few words about our work. Sadly sometimes that doesn’t happen and we have to accept it. Instead of going off writing angry messages we have to focus on what can be done.

I recommend you force the client to acknowledge you by making such a great design he can’t ignore it. This is actually the only course of action when you get skipped over, when you see other designers getting feedback and you’re left out. You could argue the client isn’t particularly friendly or kind, but in the end that doesn’t give you anything in return.

Take a step back and consider the fact that your design might not be good. Then consider your design might be great but another designer came up with something totally different that fits the client’s style better. It’s not always black and white, but remember: the only thing you can do is come up with a better design.

5. Say “No”

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In some cases, the client you’re working for might not be a great communicator. He may also want to maximize his options by making all of the designers work extra just so he can see multiple options. Be wary of this situation. 99designs has a staged approach to contests: you have a qualifying round that lasts a week where the client can receive entries from anybody, and then a final round where up to 6 designers can be selected.

If you find yourself in a position where the client asks for all the pages in the qualifying round and he hasn’t given any indication that he likes your work, it’s probably time to say “No”. This is where you need to value your time and work and not be mesmerized by the winning prize. Luckily this doesn’t happen too often, but you still need to be vigilante and recognize the situations where you’re just being used as a brainstorming tool. Good clients will always tell you where you’re at in a contest or at least hint it.

Make sure you fully understand the situation before deciding to abandon the contest. In some particular cases the client may have a hard time deciding between a couple of great looking designs and he needs to see the interior pages as well. Again, you’ll surely get a least a hint about your position in the contest so it’s pretty easy to spot a good, honest client from one that is just trying to get as many options as possible for his money.

6. Be nice to other designers

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We are a community and a great one at that. 99designs has given us the possibility of liking another design and I recommend you use it. There’s no shame admitting another designer had a better design, so show some love. It won’t affect the client’s decision since they can’t see the number of likes designs in their contest get.

We are involved in design competitions but that doesn’t mean we are competitors or even worse — rivals. We have the option of using private messages yet some of use refuse to answer. I find that quite a shame. Replying back when someone is asking how one particular contest holder is treating you isn’t endangering your chances of winning. It’s just being nice and sociable.

A lot of young designers look up to seasoned users of 99designs and they sometimes find the courage to ask them a question or two through a private message. If you’re at the receiving end, whether you’re in a position to give some advice or not, take a few minutes out of your time and reply back with a sincere answer. It will mean a lot to the sender.

These 6 tips are sure ways to improve your time spent on 99designs. Working on this great platform can sometimes be frustrating as you get caught up in all sorts of things that ruin your experience. Designing should be fun and you should enjoy yourself. I hope these tips will come in handy and will help you step back from your everyday grind.

Have any tips for your fellow designers on 99designs?

The author

Barin Cristian Doru
Barin Cristian Doru

Barin Cristian Doru aka 'thislooksgreat' is an experienced web designer and proud member of the 99designs community: http://99designs.com/people/thislooksgreat Besides creating awesome website designs, he is also an entrepreneur, an Android App Developer and a content creator. His work ranges from freebie PSD files to small tips & tricks in Photoshop, all the way to a premium 16 hour long course on how to succeed on 99designs.

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