99designs is known for their design contests. But when a client knows exactly who he likes to work with, the contest format isn’t always the best way to go. Thus, the birth of 1-to-1 projects.

You may have already heard about 1-to-1 projects from 99designs. It’s an online workspace where you interact one-on-one with your client directly, exchange comments and files, generate invoices and get paid. It’s easy to use, safe and a great way for designers to expand their business.

In this article, I’ll explain how you can get more work through 1-to-1 projects, establish lucrative relationships with your clients and get the most out of this platform. This is how many designers double (or even triple) their official earnings. There’s no secret to it – you just have to follow these steps.

Introduce 1-to-1 projects to your clients


When you first make contact with a client, it’s always best to include a few words about yourself and your skills. If you’re willing to work on other aspects of the project that aren’t included in the brief (say extra pages or a new logo), make sure explain the 1-to-1 projects system to your client.

Keep it short and sweet and use simple terms because most clients might not know what it involves. You can do so at the beginning or near the end of the contest, but never accept or propose free extra work in order to win the current project. That’s a major no-no.

Be very clear about the details


If your client is interested in 1-to-1 projects, you’ll need to be perfectly clear about the terms of the new work. You’re the specialist, so it’s up to you to put the proposal on the table. Here’s a short list that might come in handy:

  • Request a complete brief, wireframes and necessary files
  • Specify your turnaround (time of completion) for each of the following:
    • First concept
    • Initial design
    • Final design
  • Set boundaries for each of the following:
    • Methods of communication
    • Number of revisions
    • Delivery of the source files
  • Establish a price and always specify exactly what that price does and does not include (i.e. stock photos, premium typefaces, custom graphics, etc)

Follow up at regular intervals


It doesn’t hurt to check in from time to time. Just dropping a line saying “hello” is enough to make the client remember you. Ask how the project is going, if they need any help or anything along those lines. Holiday and birthdays are other nice occasions where a message from you is a nice touch. Of course you should never be pushy or too aggressive, because that might have the opposite effect.

Remember that most of your clients are entrepreneurs. They have loads of stuff they need to deal with on a regular basis, so they might not realize that your services are needed. A short message changes all of that and you’ll find yourself with a new project in no time.

Throw in a little extra


Don’t sweat the little stuff. If you find yourself in a situation where you forgot to inform your client about the 5% fee that goes along 1-to-1 projects, don’t make a big deal out of it. Your client will surely appreciate it and, in turn, might propose another project.

Think about what else you can do to improve your relationship. Take the time to research where your client can get the best price for the stock photos you used or where he can compare prices for the premium typeface he wants. These extra touches add up and they make a world of difference to your client, who might not be as tech savvy as you.


Use 1-to-1 projects to further expand your business opportunities and client network. It’s a great system that gives freelance designers another option on the site besides contests to build client relationships, expand their portfolio and get paid. Follow these guidelines and you’ll surely increase your work volume.