Interview with Mark Harbottle: Co-founder 99designs.com
December 15, 2009
Freelance Review: How did 99designs get started?
Mark Harbottle: 99designs was originally started by designers in the SitePoint forums who were playing ‘photoshop tennis’ – practicing their skills by making up projects and then competing to see who could create the best design. Then a smart entrepreneur came along and suggested that rather than making up the projects why not design his logo and he would pay the winner a cash prize. It was an instant hit -more and more projects got posted each day and more designers joined in on the action. We finally built a platform around it and spun it out into 99designs.com.
FR: 99designs has been featured in Good Morning America, Fast Company and the New York Times among other publications. Why do you think 99designs has generated so much interest?
MH: I guess there are a number of reasons but the chief one being a unique model that provides a real value to both the client and the designer.
On the client side – design is often very intimidating and very risky for the average small business owner. 99designs helps reduce that uncertainty by allowing them to connect with a number of designers all at once and really see exactly what they will get.
On the designer side – It’s all about creating opportunity and building client relationships. First, 99designs exposes designers to a ton of projects that they would not normally have been exposed to -it could be a book cover for a New York Times best selling author or a logo for a small cafe owner half way across the world. Second, it allows designers to save time marketing themselves and focus on what they do best – designing. A designer may be extremely talented but a terrible salesperson – 99designs enables designers to stop knocking doors and writing proposals and start designing. The best part is, once a designer wins a project, – they now have a qualified relationship with that client that often leads to additional follow on work. And for the designer who is just starting out, its a great way to build your portfolio and work on real projects for real clients and potentially earn some real cash.