How to Use a Contest to Commission Freelance Work

by Tim Parker

3 min read

Does your company need a logo? Perhaps a website redesign or a promotional piece? As a small-business owner, you probably do not need to forge a relationship with a high-end design or marketing firm. Yet finding a freelancer who will deliver high-quality work is difficult, even with all of the websites that allow you to screen and hire them.

On the bright side, the online hiring model is evolving: Companies are finding quality freelancers by reversing the process and reviewing the final product before hiring the freelancer. How? By holding a contest.

How a Contest Works

Take the popular website, for example. The site allows you to run a contest for anything from a logo or business card design to a whole new website.

First, you upload your design brief, or the document that describes your needs. Next, interested designers submit ideas within the one- or two-week time frame that you specify. (According to the website, logo contests tend to receive around 100 submissions.) As designs are submitted, you may review them and offer comments or request changes.

At the end of the contest, you pick a winner. You may ask for further modifications or have the source files delivered to you in 24 hours or less.

Logo contests are the most common and receive the most submissions, but you may use these services for business cards, brochures, T-shirts, website design, blog articles, and ad copy.

What It’ll Cost You

Prices for logo designs using a contest format typically cost between $200 and $300. DesignCrowd lists numerous projects starting at $200. Offering a higher payment to the winner may yield a greater number of designs, the company says.

The website 99designs offers three options, each with a set fee. Its bronze logo package costs $299 and, according to the company, will yield about 30 design choices. If you pay for its more expensive silver or gold packages, the company says you’ll work with its best, handpicked designers.

You don’t have to use a third party, either. If you have a particularly strong marketing voice online or in your community, you could advertise your needs through your own marketing channels. Most businesses, however, will yield more results by running the contest through a service like, Design Crowd, or 99designs. This also gives you access to freelancers around the world.

How to Get a Superior Product

Getting a product you love comes from taking an active part in the design process. Here’s how to do it.

1. Write a detailed design brief. The brief is where you describe the project in depth. You may be tempted to provide a description of your company and let the designers create the art, but that’s not likely to yield strong results. Instead, provide background about your company. Include colors you like, examples of other art that you find attractive, and some descriptors (modern, clean, vibrant colors, minimalist, etc.).

2. Monitor the contest daily. As designs are submitted, make comments. Reject those that you do not like. For designers, your feedback is more valuable than your brief, because it gives them insight into your personal tastes.

3. Revise your design brief. If you aren’t getting designs that you like, it’s likely that you were unclear about your needs. If you offered very little information in your brief, consider expanding it to include more art that you like, more detail on what you are (and aren’t) looking for, and general feedback about the current submissions. If your brief is highly detailed, consider refining it to sharpen its focus. If it’s long and complicated, for example, designers may not read all of it or may get confused.

4. Don’t settle. Don’t accept anything you don’t like. Most contest sites have a money-back guarantee. If you’ve been active in providing feedback and still don’t get a product that you’re excited about, you may need to work with a professional design firm instead.

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