What: 99Designs encourages artists and designers to design logos, websites, stationery, business cards, postcards, posters, clothing and brochures on spec

Expected pay: speculative

Husl$core: $$

Commissions & fees: 10% – 40%

Where: Nationwide

Requirements: Design skills and specialized software

(99Designs is a SideHusl.com affiliate. This does not impact our review. However, SideHusl could earn a small referral fee from links in this post.)

Want to design for 99Designs?

Click here to sign up. 

99Designs Review:

99Designs offers a great value proposition to customers who want a logo or business card designed on the cheap. For as little as $299, the customer can create a (Bronze) “contest” and have at least 30 different designers compete for the job. Higher-value contests — Silver, $499; Gold, $799 and Platinum, $1,299 — get you as many as 90 designs to choose from.

However, the value proposition is flipped for designers. Because you’re competing with at least 30 different designers for the lowest-value contest, you have poor odds of getting work. Your odds of doing a lot of work for no pay? Excellent.

If you do “win” a job, you’re paid in “credits” that must be turned into cash through either PayPal or Payoneer. PayPal will charge roughly 3% for this service; Payoneer’s fees vary by vendor and are not specifically disclosed by 99Designs, which recommends that you use Payoneer anyway. 

High fees

However, you’re not competing for the full contest value. According to designers writing on Quora, the site actually nabs 30% to 40% of the contest value for itself, passing on the remainder to the “winner.”

Worse, designers say that even when they appear to be among the relative few to be on track to “win” a design job, they can get booted from the platform without notice or appeal. You may lose all your accumulated credits, if that happens. In fact, the site’s terms say that “all amounts deposited or paid to 99designs are property of 99designs and 99designs may use those funds as it sees fit.” 


This structure and the poor odds that your work will pay off is why this site gets a substandard HuslScore. The only reason this site doesn’t get our lowest Husl$core is because it also offers the option of striking one-on-one design deals, where the site appears to take a far more reasonable 10% fee.

Still, opportunities for designers are dramatically better with Fiverr.

Still want to try 99Designs?

You can sign up here, but don’t say we didn’t warn you.

What their designers say:

(from Quora)

A bronze contest costs about $299 to the contest holder. The designer who wins the contest gets paid $190. Therefore, 99designs takes $109 on every bronze contest. Similarly, they take $64 on business card designing contests, $69 on T-shirt designing contests, $99 on book cover designing contests. All in all, 99Designs takes about 30–40% of the overall amount a contest holder pays. It depends on what kind of contest is held and the category it’s labelled under.

(from SiteJabber)

“After being on 99designs for a couple of days, and entering contests, my profile got suspended due to “not meeting their quality standards.” By that time I had already won one contest and gotten a 4 out of five stars on one of my other logo-submissions. I was in the middle of communicating with the client, and since my profile was on hold, I didn’t get notifications on my email. So then I had to check and log in all the time. When I contacted support to get an explanation to why I was suspended, they responded with a 2-sentence copy-paste from the original suspension mail.”

“It does not matter how qualified you are, you can’t compete with 100 other designers. They will show you $199 prize money but trust me you will never ever win that no matter how much you try.”

“Using services like 99designs degrades the quality of the creative industry. Designers get extorted in competitions creating ideas for free.”

A word from a client

For about $600.00 I ended up having 20+ offshore designers all generically copying the first two designs that I gave 4 or 5 stars. Designs in my contest were constantly being withdrawn (or designers’ accounts suspended mid-contest) because they were blatantly ripping off other designs. There also seems to be no chat support on the site.

Waste of time and energy

“Like so many others have said, they frequently ban your account. Even if you were a finalist among contests. Their support team is non existent, yet they sit and police people’s submissions. It’s nonsense. I’m sure they scam more people and there are a lot of fake reviews here. “

Booted “winners”

“I’m a college design student who has been using 99designs for the past 3 weeks as a way to potentially make some money because I couldn’t find a summer job. I participated in three contests, and was chosen as a finalist for two. One of the contests was about to end, and based on the customer’s feedback, it seemed like he was definitely going to choose my design. Today I received an email saying “Your account has been suspended forever…..” DON’T waste your time.” 

“I submitted a couple of designs and got good feedback. I then got suspended from the website before the competition was completed so my design has been removed. This is a joke. I’ve read some of the comments on here and people are being suspended for the quality of their work even though they have won competitions. Sort it out, you cretins.”

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