Think Twice: Hiring from Fiverr, 99 Designs, or other "Gig Economy" Design Sites

On the surface, finding a graphic designer to create a logo, website, or other materials for your business seems easier than ever. Sites like Fiverr and 99Designs advertise themselves with phrases like “Find The Perfect Freelance Services For Your Business” and “the best place to find and hire talented designers to grow your business.”

If you’re unfamiliar with how those sites work, it goes a little something like this:

  1. You, as the potential hiring client, write a description of your work and a general amount you’re willing to spend on it.

  2. This description goes into a database, where designers (usually from all over the world) can send you what is essentially a bid for your business. They can include their experience in working with this type of project, the amount of money they’ll take for a job, and other relevant information.

  3. The client then chooses a designer based on those bids, and the project begins.

There are a number of problems with this system, both for the client and for the designers.

Problems for the client

  1. You get what you pay for. One of the most appealing parts of using these sites for design projects is that it’s a cheap way to get a design. But clients, beware: anyone can register on these sites and claim to be a “designer.” They may have no formal training in the type of design you need for your business; their experience can be as elementary as “I constructed a Wix website for my cousin once” or “I really liked art class and thought I could try this out.” This can mean you’ll run into a multitude of issues, like:

    • Not having a “designer” with a skill level high enough to create a nuanced design that will work for your business, meaning that after several iterations of designs, you end up empty-handed;

    • Having the “designer” plagiarize a logo from another business (and potentially setting your company up for legal issues);

    • Risking the “designer” not understanding how to create a design that translates to other materials (you might only get one version of a logo, and not a white version, a square version, a one-color version, and so on).

  2. And you may not get what you pay for. It’s fully possible you’ll have a “designer” ghost you completely and never finish the project.

  3. Your logo will be a one-off, formulated logo. A professional designer or agency is going to follow process when creating your logo. They’ll ask questions about your business, have a call with you, and work to fully understand your aesthetic before they even begin. That’s where most of the cost comes up - not only designing the logo!

Problems for the Designer

  1. This platform takes advantage of professionals by forcing them to compete with non-professionals. Professional designers’ time is well worth the money, so many avoid platforms like Fiverr and 99Designs because their price is higher than what will get them jobs on those sites. However, for anyone struggling to make money (which, let’s be honest, many of us are in this emerging gig economy), that extra $50 or $100 might make the difference in making rent this month. The system is exploitative of the desperation of the quality professionals that are doing everything they can to generate new business for themselves.

  2. It’s much easier for clients to ghost their designers and never pay them for work they complete. This is truly a nightmare scenario for anyone who’s ever completed one-off design jobs of this nature for a client. Even if the client signs a contract, the designer often doesn’t have the money to pursue legal action against a client for non-payment, so all of that time and effort spent on a design is lost.

  3. In most cases, the requested design is a single project, not consistent business. It’s the equivalent of living paycheck to paycheck, but on top of that you’re having to find a new job every week or two. For most, this is an unsustainable way of living, juggling multiple low-paying projects at once and giving them less time to devote to your business’s design. 

For all of these reasons, it’s much safer to hire a reputable, professional designer outright, rather than outsourcing your design to someone through one of these gig sites. I highly recommend doing Internet searches for local designers in your city. Look at their websites and portfolios; see if their type of work is what you envision for your own business. Contact them via email or through a contact form on their website; set up a Skype/FaceTime meeting or, even better, have coffee or tea in person with them so you get a sense of their personality. Make a human connection with this person, and you’re all the more likely to get work you’ll be happy with in the long run.



For ClientsVirginia Spears