Guide
10 MIN

99designs Review: Is it worth it in 2021?

Jessica Kramer

May 24, 2021

About The Author
Jessica Kramer
Editor
Hi my name is Jessica K and I'm a writer for Servicelist. I've been writing freelance for several years.

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What is 99designs?

99Designs is a crowdsourcing platform that lets you pay to create a design contest. You can create a design contest for just about anything from Logo designs, brochures, marketing materials to web designs. Prices for the contest depending on the design category. 

We decided to explore 99designs to give you our thoughts on the service. Before you sign up for 99designs, read this entire review. This 99designs review will save you some money and headaches along the way.

Additional reading: See our review of 99design alternatives if you're looking to compare services.


How can I get a design from 99designs?

99designs offers two different models. You can create a contest or hire a single designer to work with you on your design. A contest has the benefit of a fixed cost to get many samples to narrow down. Meanwhile, it allows you to name your price to attract the best talent. The higher your contract offer, the more likely better designers will apply. 

If you're not sure what you're looking for, I recommend creating a contest instead. It's more streamlined and much less is required from you to get things started. Hiring a designer will yield better results only if you know what you're looking for and can communicate your needs accurately.

What is a design contest? How does it work? 

99designs allows you to create contests that designers can participate in exchange for a cash reward for the winner of the contest. You can submit a design brief and after which the design contest is open for submissions for a period of days. During that time, you can communicate with designers, request revisions/give feedback, and select a winning design and designer to work with to complete your project.

We went ahead and ran a contest, read our detailed step-by-step 99designs review on how running a contest went.

How much does 99designs contest cost?

Designs from 99designs vary on the type of design work you're looking for. 99designs has a wide selection of designs you can choose from, from website design, logo design, videography, and branding. Even after that, you can pay for different packages depending on the extent of what you're looking for. Paying more increases the probability of receiving more designs (but not always) and ensuring you're working with only the highly rated artists.

Running a design contest and hiring a designer on 99designs have different costs. It's typically much more expensive to hire a designer directly. Price is decided upon by you and your designer. 


How long does 99designs take?

After you completed your creating and paying for your contest, it'll be open for any designers on their platform to apply. 99designs contests operate in 3 stages typically. It may take 4-7 days for you to get all of the submissions in. 

Stage 1 - Qualifying (4 days): In this stage, you wait for designers to submit designs. From my experience, you don't always receive as many submissions as you paid for. If you only receive a few designs for the first couple of days, don't worry, as 99designs lets you know that most designers submit designs towards the end of the contest. 

During this waiting period, you can message and point out revisions/give feedback to designers that you'd like made on the submitted designs.

Stage 2 - Final Round (3 days): In the final round, you are made to pick your top 6 designers or "finalists" to move forward with. After choosing, you'll be able to continue to work with these designers to fine-tune the designs to your likings. 

Stage 3 - Winner (5 days): Here, you pick a winner and get your completed source files. 

What if I'm unhappy with the designs I received? It is possible to get a full refund back from 99designs. However, you have to do it within 60 days of payment and before you select finalists.

Curious about what running a 99designs contest look like? We went over our 99designs contest process.



99design’s quality of work

Design quality is subjective. Sometimes you don't know what you want. And that's where 99designs excel. The one thing 99ddesigns does right is giving you lots of choices. For those who aren't sure what they want, at least one design will catch your eye from the sheer volume of submissions.

We submitted an illustration design request, and here's what we got back.

Here are our top picks.

Top pick #1

Top pick #2

Top pick #3


How can I get my money's worth from 99designs?

99designs is not a cheap service, and when you're paying hundreds of dollars for one design, you will want to make sure that you're getting your money's worth. Fortunately, you can use tips to help you ensure that you get a design you're satisfied with even if it's your first time using 99designs. Here's some tips we used and recommend to help you:

  1. Spend time on the project brief: Don't rush this step. If you need to, save your progress and come back to it later. Take your time filling everything out accurately and include as many details and examples as you can in the description. 
  2. Include 3+ Examples: Do your research on Google or Behance to find designs that you like. Then include all of those examples inside the project description and explain what you like/don't like about each. 
  3. Tell them what you DO NOT want: If there are colors, fonts, or a style you want to avoid, be sure to include that. 
  4. Write in PLAIN English: Some designers on 99designs aren't native English speakers and will have difficulty understanding your brief if you use slang or don't write clearly. Due to this, writing your brief using basic plain 5th-grade level English can ensure it's easily digestible.
  5. Wait the full time: 99designs lets you know that most designs will be submitted towards the end. You may find some designs you like.
  6. Give feedback to designers: While the 99designs contest is called a contest, that doesn't mean you should just let the contest run unattended. If you're not satisfied with the designs you see so far, you can give feedback to designers during the submission period to help you get closer to your envisioned design.
  7. Create a survey: Unsure which design is the best? Run a contest and receive others' opinions with 99designs' survey feature can help you decide.
  8. Guarantee your contest: Guaranteeing your contests means that you won't be able to refund your contest if unsatisfied. Instead, however, more designers may be willing to participate because they will be guaranteed the monetary prize if they do win.

99designs review

Pros & Cons of 99designs

Pros: 

  1. Great for discovery: Great if you don't know what you want and you're more interested in discovering new ideas for your logo or design. 
  2. Lots of options: If you're someone who wants to see a lot of options and then choose from the list - 99designs is for you. 
  3. Affordable: While $299 for a logo and $599 for a single web page design may sound expensive, it's cheap compared to agency rates. 
  4. Easy to use: No hiring, interviewing, or actual communication is needed to get started on a project on 99designs. Everything is guided and felt intuitive. The lack of communication is both a pro and a con (more on the con later)
  5. Can directly hire designer: If you like the designer, you can subcontract them directly from 99designs. You'll still need to communicate and manage invoices through 99designs, but you get to work with that designer. 
  6. Clear processes: You'll know the progress of your projects every step of the way. 
  7. Simple revisions: It's easy to leave revisions on a design. You can open the design and click anywhere on the image to leave your edits.

Cons: 

  1. Can be expensive: It's affordable if you need one project. If you have consistent design needs, 99designs can get costly fast. 
  2. Web Design can be costly: At $599 for 1 page and $1199 for five pages, it's both cheap and expensive at the same time. It's reasonable if you need a quick landing page. However, if your website is more sophisticated, the design bill could easily be north of $5,000 for a website with 20+ pages. 
  3. Lack of communication: There are times when I want to have a direct chat with the designer to ask their opinions on something or show them what's on my mind. You can't do that with 99designs. 
  4. Designs are too similar: With logo designs, it does seem like designers are either using the same stock graphics, they're copying each other, or it's the same designer using multiple accounts.

99designs Alternatives

Maybe after reading this 99designs review, you feel that 99designs isn't your cup of tea. You may need a more consistent design team to work with or designers who can do a wide variety of design work and don't feel like running contests or constantly searching for new designers on 99designs. 

If this sounds like you, then check out our list of unlimited graphic design services - subscription-based design companies that offer multiple design categories for prices ranging from $299-599/month. 

In addition, there are other companies that you can turn to for 99designs alternatives.


Final verdict

99designs is a great platform to get quick one-off design work done. They're outstanding when it comes to logos, UX/UI, packaging, and marketing materials. You'll probably get the best bang for your bucks with their branding and logo design work.

While you can still use 99designs to get all your design needs to be done, the bill can rack up quickly as each design can run you $299 - $999. So if you're looking for 99design to save money on design cost, you'll likely spend more in the long run.

However, if you're a new business or startup looking for branding help, 99designs is a great place to start.

Commonly asked questions

Where is 99designs based?

99designs is an Australia-based company with an office in Oakland, California. They were founded in 2008 to connect designers with businesses looking for affordable graphic design help.

How much do designers get paid on 99designs?

99designs take 30-40% of the total project cost. The winning designer

Is 99designs legit and safe?

Yes, they're a legitimate and safe service to use. They're flexible and won't give you any issues with money-back should you run into an issue. Customer support is responsive and usually responds within 24 hours.