Friday, August 13, 2010

[TIPS] 10 tips that will help you win on 99designs

If you don't know what 99designs is you should just visit their website and you'll understand.
Anyway, here's a quote form their own description:
"99designs is the leading design contest marketplace, powered by a massive community of designers and contest holders."

1. I'm ready to win! (my folio says so... )
     First of all, there's not much hope in winning a contest if you've been designing for about 1 week. If you're a web designer you need to have a portfolio of at least 30 creations before expecting to win a contest.
     I will not talk about what should you design or what makes a good design. All I want to tell you about this is that an unique and professional design is really going to help.

2. Choosing the right contest.

     The most important part is by far choosing your contest. If you're lucky you can find a contest having less than 3 designers participating (most of them having some "not-so-great" designs). But be careful, lots of these contests will be refunded due to the newly added "100% money-back guarantee" feature...
     To have a greater chance of finding a contest in which a winner will be chosen you can look for 2 things:
  a) Guaranteed contests (in these contests the CH must choose a winner, or the money will be split among all the designers who have entered the contest)

  b) The CH has a "history of successful contests" (he held other contest in the past and choosed a winner).
     The way I used to choose my contest was:
-> Selecting the design category I wanted (usually logo design)
-> Using the Search Filter to find only Blind&Guaranteed ones.

-> Aranging the contest by the "ends" column.

3. Blind vs. Non-Blind

     Here's another big decision you have to take: entering a blind or a normal contest. If you enter a normal contest you can see other's entries and understand better what the CH is looking for. The bad thing about this kind of contests is that your designing idea may be "stolen" by others that will tweak it a little bit and show proudly "their" great idea to the CH. You can report this to 99designs, but the chances for any actions to be taken are very small.
"So then, I'll just go for the blind ones..."

     It isn't that simple. When entering a blind contest your idea will not be stolen, but the CH has to be very active. As a lot of 99d users said: "a blind contest without any feedback is a waste of time". It's true, if the CH only gives ratings and no feedback it's very hard to tell what exactly is he looking for. The good part is that a CH cannot launch a blind contest if he hadn't held any contests before.

4. When should I post my entry?

     Things are really simple here:
  If it's a blind contest you want to enter as soon as possible into the contest, so that the CH will have a lot of chances to give you feedback, and you'll have time to make all the changes he may want.
  If it's a non-blind contest the best time to enter a contest is when less then 2 days have remained. This way others will not have time to copy your idea, but you'll still have time to receive feedback and make one or two revisions .


     Before even thinking about having an ideea for the contest make sure you have read the brief at least one time (that's why the "read the brief" button is before the "submit a design" one). If there's anything unclear about the brief feel free to send a PM to the CH and ask him to update it.
     You must also read the comments the CH has posted in the "Discussion" board.
After you submit your entry you can either wait for some feedback & rating or you can just go and submit another design, improving your chances to receive some feedback on your entries.

6. I've received feedback!

     This is some good news! Generally, when the CH gives you feedback means that he's interested in your designs. Don't stop here, try to have a conversation in the comment section and ask him what does he think about your designs, what should you change, what must be removed etc.

7. Ratings.
     There can't exist a guide that tells you: "if you received 2 stars you should try a new design" or "if you receive 4 stars you should definitely tweak this same design until the CH likes it" . A thing you have to understand is that every CH has his own style of rating the designs. I've seen contests where great designs had 1 star (almost all designs in that contest had 1 star) and I've seen contests where even a paint-like entry had 5 stars (you should avoid these 2 types of contest). After receiving rating the first thing you should do is sort the contest entries by rating. This way you'll see how many entries are higher rated than yours.

8. Get your design noticed.
     If you see that the CH feedbacks others' entires, but not yours, you can get your designs into his attention by sending him a PM asking him to have a look through your entires.
It's a bad idea to submit 10entries with the same design having only the colors changed. This will only make the CH think you're desperate and have no other ideas than the ones you've already submitted.

9. The CH chose my design as a winner!
     Congrats! All you have to do know is go to the Design Handover page, transfer copyright, transfer all the files the CH needs and you're done. The money will appear into your 99designs account balance.

10. Never lose hope!

    If you've entered a contest which made you think that you'll be the winner and the CH has chosen someone else don't stop trying. First of all designing is fun, and it's great to win money for "having fun". Also remember, it's freelancing: you can design whenever and whatever you want, you can also take a break when you feel you need to (e.g. 1week without opening PS or AI :) ).
     As a fact, I used to work on 99designs too. My first win came along the contest #64. So I had to work on 63 contests before smelling the success. After that the wins came a lot easier. Until now I've entered 214 contest and won 6, I've also received about 4 projects outside the 99designs community from CHs, working directly with the client. I haven't entered a contest for a while but I have improved my working-style a lot so wins could come much faster. I've just taken one of those breaks...

     Please ignore my bad English, I'm trying to get it better every day, but it will never be perfect :D .

Waiting for your comments!

99designs is posting a tutorial about using their search interface.
I have noticed that 99desgins changed it's contest system. I will update this post or make another one soon. :)


  1. Really Thank you for these Tips,
    I'm also new in 99Designs, and I've almost 10 entries, and I'm checking contests I'll work hard to work more and get feedbacks to improve my work.

    Maher Sinjary

  2. inspiring I say... you touched me in the way I needed... I'll be patient and keep doing my great effort. Thank you, let see when I will have my first victory

  3. hey, thanks.. blind and guaranted contest are the best

  4. hhahahah. Thanks for the tips. i hope all the poeple read this, will be a winner

  5. Thanks a lot guys! Really appreciate it :D .

  6. The real keys to winning are a unique design, customer service, and revising your designs to perfection.

    I have entered 50 contests which have now finished and I won 10 of those. I am totally new to the site, but last month I came in the top 9 designers, and furthermore, I have no official qualifications.

    Jonathan Frost

  7. mysideproj3ct You're right but in this post I'm not giving specific tips for your design but tips for how to handle a 99designs contest as a designer :) .

  8. Great job dude... very helpful tips :)

  9. Thanks man! Your are right it should be fun. I always say thinking alike is not thinking outside of the box so go crazy and make your designs count

  10. just read your article and it really boost my passion on 99designs. I'm always desperate when i give my best effort & CH choose me as a front runner, but the winner often the other designer. But i like when you say "designing is fun, and it's great to win money for "having fun"". I will always try to fishing more money with having fun! Thanks for this great article!

  11. Thank You So much.... Its very very helpful to me that's why I am thanking you again. Thanks.

    Mohammad Sajjad Khan
    Chittagong, Bangladesh.

  12. when you feel like your lacking on skills: you can just go to non-blind contests and take a look at the designs. or just google for tuts or inspiring designs. cheers!

  13. Thank you very much! This post is very helpful for
    designers of 99designs.

  14. thank you so much for these wonderful tips. It really helps me a lot. Thanks.

  15. Hi, I have been entering contests more than 90 times already but I am not winning anything. I am hoping that I could become a gold designer or at least become a level 4 designer? I am still a level three. I am not complaining. I'm just sharing my experience.

  16. @Christine at the time this post was made there weren't even designer levels. If you have already entered in 90 contests you may want to change your contest-choosing strategy. Make the ones you choose don't fit your style or you don't post your entry at the right time. After entering in this many contest I suggested only participating in blind ones. Also, before designing a logo you can take a look on for some inspiration, not neccessary logo-inspiration but that design is great for getting ideas or color palletes.

  17. @Christine, I have checked your 99designs and it seems like your logo quality is not high enough. I firstly suggest that you learn Adobe Illustrator as it's much more appropriate for logo-designing than Photoshop (that's my guess your using right now). Also, after learning to work with illustrator look through some logo-desingning tutorials and best-practice, I actually have posted some logo-tutorials on tips4design too. And, my most important advice: don't get dissapointed. If you haven't won yet it doesn't mean you won't win. You should talke a few days break and only study winning desins and also look for some websited that have examples of gread logo designs. 99designs is a community with outstanding designers placed in a very competitive enviorment.

  18. I am a regular 99designs and freelancer dot com contest contestant. Thanks for the tips. It gives me hope.

  19. Thank you for posting and giving the information. Honestly, I admire your blog as it catches much interest and has got a very good layout.

  20. thanks for informative share! you touched me in the way I needed... I'll be patient and keep doing my great effort. Thank you, let see when I will have my first victory

  21. Thanks for this informative topic. Now I'm going to participate in 99 Designs contests.

  22. thanks bro. you are right. ..........

  23. thanks for articles... thanks so much..

  24. Thank you very much fot the tips

  25. 99designs is very interesting platform for freelancer but one need a lot of patience before winning a contents & you will have to put hard effort without knowing you can win or not. There are certain pros & cons of working on 99designs & In my case I am very happy because I just won a $1200 logo contest in Platinum Category….

    1. Congratulations! :) When I was working on 99designs there was a very different system (no shortlist, less interaction done by the CH).

  26. Thanks for the tips. Do you have any thoughts on alternatives to 99designs? I feel frustrated that so many designers work for free on each contest.

  27. Thanks admin for sharing this information, it is worth to read.

  28. Thank you so much for your experience! so inspire me..

    By :
    Twitter : @IndraDesainer

  29. that was a great idea of sharing knowlede......

  30. I'll be patient and keep doing my great effort. Thank you, let see when I will have my first victory

  31. Sometimes I like to get into unguaranteed contests because first- there are few entries, second- you can get really interesting projects and third-there is a chance that client can guarantee money after some time.Yeah and it's good for the beginning.