Building Relationships at

February 18, 2010 - Connecting Client and Designer

One of the biggest benefits of using for both clients and designers is that it creates a tremendous opportunity to BUILD RELATIONSHIPS for future work.

We recently received the following email from one of the designers in the community, pb_design, who wanted to tell us about just one such relationship.

Hi Guys,

Hope you’re all well.

Just want to share a story with you and it’s some positive feedback.

About a year ago I won a design contest on 99designs for a logo and iphone
application icon:

Since then I’ve continued working with the client, Ambient Industries, as
their graphic designer, designing the look of the whole application and the
website. During the evolution of the application it has changed name and
brand, from ‘Groove’ to ‘Flook’:

Flook is a location browser, it’s free to download and is currently a
staff pick on the Apple store US. Try it out and let us know what you

I believe this is one of the true benefits of using 99designs. It enables
clients and designers to meet, who otherwise wouldn’t know of each other.
In a number of projects I, and other designers in the community have gone
on to do further work with the clients after the initial contest is
complete. Your site supports this, right across the world, which is

So, here’s a big thank you from me and Ambient Industries! If you hadn’t
hosted the contest, then the partnership in creating the app could never
have happened!

Pete Borlace (pb_design)

Oh and if you have an iphone – check out Flook… it’s pretty cool!


16 Responses to “Building Relationships at”

  1. latinacrg Says:

    I love the site! Great use of color and stronge design elements! :D

    PS. I’ve saved it under my favs! :D

  2. Scotty D. Says:

    I don’t see this being the norm. The week that I found this place I entered 3 t-shirt design contests and haven’t entered another one since (I sold 2/3 designs outside of the contests to the contest holders). A few days later, I actually had a different contest holder find my profile, look at my work, and contact me directly to say how much they liked my work, and asked me to submit to their contest. When I told them that I could work on a freelance basis (no spec work) and that I also printed t-shirts, they said they would see how the contest goes, and would contact me regarding printing. Never heard from them again. People on here expect you to submit spec work if you want to have a chance at being paid, even if they like your portfolio. How insulting. One of the contest holders that bought a design from me wanted to use me on a freelance basis, but he was trying to set payment terms and conditions, so we parted ways. Sites like this give the customer the mindset that they are in charge of telling you how much they will pay for your work, and promote the disregard for the design profession as a whole. Who are they to come to me asking for my help, and they expect to set my salary? Just another reason spec work websites do nothing but cheapen design.

    • Hans Says:

      Just because you failed here you don’t need to write over and over again how bad 99designs is.
      Obviously you’re really frustrated. Get over it!
      I’ve just made 1000 Dollars for two logos (each logo for $500) which is a reasonable price. Plus the client will work with me on further projects in the future. And that happens several times to me. How bad is that huh?
      I’m not a full time graphic designer. I’m a game designer who use the money from here to funding game projects. It is a easy way to make money and find some clients. You don’t need to acquire clients for years.

      If you don’t like it you don’t need to participate. It is really that easy!

    • Jason Aiken Says:

      Scotty D.

      The pricing of goods and services is always a negotiation between buyer and seller.

      In your example it sounds like you were not able to come to an agreement – which is fine – but it has absolutely nothing to do with 99designs corrupting customers to believe that they have a say in what they will pay – they have always had a say.

      There is greater need for design today than ever before – there are also more designers and more ways to get design work done than ever before.

      We believe 99designs helps broaden the market for design even further – exposing small business to professional designers much earlier than they otherwise would, thus growing demand for higher end design services down the track.

      You do not need to like 99designs – but the story above is not uncommon. There is opportunity – because there is a need.


  3. Scotty D. Says:

    Hans, I was compensated for 2/3 of my designs for a total of $450. That is $225 each t-shirt design purchased, or $150 per design entered. I have also picked up several t-shirt printing orders without submitting anything. That is hardly failure, and being paid 66% of the time is far better than nearly every other designer on here. If you won 2/2 contest entered for $1,000 congrats, you are rare exception. Name another profession, where the client sets your rates and payment is optional.

    I have a scenario for you so that you may be able to relate to what is like being a designer on 99designs. What if the powers that be at 99designs came to you and said: Jason, instead of paying you a salary, we are now going to give you the “opportunity” to work for us. We are going to give you an “opportunity” to make far less than most Business Development and Marketing Managers are compensated, AND we will also be hiring 100 other people that compete for the same position. At the end of each week, whichever one of you does the job the best job will be paid. To the other 99, better luck next week. I have a feeling you would tell them to jump in a creek.

  4. Ram Says:

    I liked the way of marketing you did. :)

  5. SUNNY Says:

    I am a new in this era. i didn’t won any contest till yet but i will keep try.

  6. Ade Says:

    Thanks for an interesting post Jason :)

    I recently interviewed Pete (pb_designs) for If anybody thinks this is a lucky, one-off case, I got to tell you Pete is a creative with a very strong background in design, has entered many contests and works hard to produce fabulous designs.

    Those of you who still spend longer complaining about design contests than actually designing for clients, there are thousands of creatives that given the opportunity to conect with clients can produce designs at least as good as yours. Whilst you waste time moaning and complaining thousands are embracing the flipped market, leveraging the connections sites like 99designs offer and most importantly, designing and continually improving their own skills.

    As always, sorry for my awful spelling.

  7. Shel Holliday Says:

    I’ve yet to win any designs. My business is new and I’m really trying to build a better portfolio.

    I’ll admite I’ve been upset over some of the time put into the work and not winning. Especially when the CH asks for little details changed every other message.

    But! In the long run.. I’m getting some real experience, just no pay… I feel like an intern. :) I’ve only been here for about a week, but I think with time I’ll start winning some contests.

    I did have a company contact me through email off my website, which I hope will turn into work.

    This momma just needs some work to pay back all of my business start up! :P

    What I’d like to know… is what is the average ratio of submitted work to wins. I seen a guy had submitted 500 designs to only win 20.

    • Scotty D. Says:

      The average win ratio is well below 5%. If you want to practice your photoshop and illustrator skills, this website will help. If you are trying to make money, your time would be better spent elsewhere. Even the best designs don’t always win. Giving customers hundreds of choices only gives them more of a chance to choose a lousy design. The reason that clients hire designers is because the designers job is to extract as much information from the client as possible, and produce the best possible solution. Here, designers are trying to submit designs to as many contests as possible, while spending as little time as possible on the design. That is why you see so many generic, web 2.0 designs. 99% of the logos submitted here have that reflective plastic web 2.0 look using gradients and reflective drop shadows. Very amateurish, but clients believe that they are looking at professional logo designs.

    • Ade Says:

      Shel. Like you said “I’ve only been here for about a week”, know of an alternative way of getting your designs in front of so many prospects in a week? Maybe Scotty has a suggestion he’d like to share?

      You could try the straight freelance forums and job posts but with little or zero experience in dealing with clients, (not so scary once you had some practice) no portfolio and no testimonials or forum ratings from previous clients think you could have turned a profit?

      If you wanna hit the forums and job boards you could offer up some concept designs free of charge in the hope of getting your foot in the door to impress and at least ask for feedback from the job posters if they don’t go for your designs. Hmm sounds like a design contest…

      Stick at it, desipite the impression the few vocal naysayers (is that a word?) would like to impose, you are in the right place for gaining experience, feedback and just as importantly making new contacts.

      Oh, and while I’m here giving my over zelous opinion, forget about average ratios. Forget about avergage anything. Unless you want to be an average designer and have an average life.

      All the best in your chosen future Shel, and if there is any thing I can do to help feel free to ask :)


      • SR Promotions Says:

        Ade and Shel,

        I think youre a bit confused as to the goal of any person with a business or chosen profession.. the goal is to stay busy making a living. In the design world this has nothing to do with 99Designs.

        Scotty D. is correct, this place is good for practice. For some of us its good for extra cash.. or really nothing more than a challenge during free time. In my case ive won 2 out 20 (that were paid), in reality ive won or been told from the CH or awarded outside the contest 5 out of 20 or 1 in 4. However, there was and is no tangible benefit to being viewed by many “prospects”.., really there is no tangible benefit to being here at all unless youre really good and can win a few contests.. AND.. have a real source of income outside of this.

        This certainly is NOT the place to try and build business contacts unless it is strictly for free time. If you really have nothing else to do and its midnight or something.. sure, choose a few contests and have fun, relish the challenge and see where you stand in your skills. 99Designs is not a forum for customer prospecting. The reasons for this are simple… THESE CH’s ARE NOT YOUR CUSTOMERS.

        Thats right. They are customers to 99Designs. 99Designs spent the resources to promote this venue, they dedicated the resources to providing the platform and the rules, the pricing, the education, the methods of payment.. everything… you are really nothing more than a vendor providing services for free in the hopes of a tip.

        Therefor everything you do here has no positive impact towards anything youre attempting to do on an individual level. For that you need to undertake the same efforts 99Designs has done for yourself.. you need to promote your services and skills directly to the very same people that 99Designs is approaching and interdict them and take them BEFORE they decide to come to a place like this.

        You see 99Designs is a professional designers competition.

        So..Shel.. 99Designs isnt really here to help your business.. their model is built on the goal of talking business owners out of doing business with you and instead doing business with them.

        You (Shel) and 99Designs are competitors… even if the people like Jason and others would like to frame you as “partners”. lol HOWEVER and this is important… the type of client that comes here are in most cases not the type of clients you’d want to have a business relationship with. The more experience at 99Designs will re-inforce this. I wouldnt go as far as to say most of them are bottom feeders.. but you’ll find that many contest wont pay even if you win them.. most of the CH’s here dont really provide feedback, dont really stay that involved, and really you cant place blame on them, theyre invested for $40.00 (99Designs take), and POSSIBLY another $150 or so.. i mean, its just not that major an investment as to compell anyone to be very committed to anything. I mean, 99Designs is a place for cheapness to rule as a whole. Certainly there are some good opportunities here and there, and sometimes those actually pay and everyone’s involved and it can be a good thing.. but this is really the exception to the rule.

        (Shel) My advice would be to choose your contests very carefully, only work on the projects that are worth some effort, attempt to engage the CH on a personal level and do your best.. there isnt any reason why you cant win 1 in 4 or 1 in 6 or 1 in 8, gain some experience in terms of design and push yourself in the challenge of the competition.. but do this in your free time, dedicate your real working hours to soliciting paying customers of your own (not 99Designs customers), and hit it hard. This is the perfect place for practice, it costs you nothing to participate… but never expect anything in return from this place.. even if you win a contest. lol

        Good luck!!


  8. Rog Says:

    Thanks for the link. Just a quick note to explain that we did specificall come to 99Desigs with the intention of using the competition as a recruitment tool. We thought it gave us a good chance to test not only design skills but how easy someone was to work with – how well they took (and asked) for feedback, how quickly they turned designs around and how tenacious they were at meeting our requirements. Pete obviously did well at all of them. I should say that there were a couple of other good designers in that competition too although we only had one designer opening.

    Also, Pete is being modest – flook recently won a UI design award from the Strategy Forum for Mobile User Experience


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