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We Used 99designs For Logos: Here’s Our Review

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What is it like to use 99designs? We’re going to go through the process of creating a design contest from start to finish to show you what the entire experience is like, so you can decide for yourself if 99designs is for you. For this 99designs review, we’re going to follow all instructions given and document each step of our journey for you to see below.

For this test project, we’re going to submit a contest for Owner’s Mag logo to see if 99designs can interpret a better logo for us. The chances of me getting this approved and having the CEO change the logo is practically 0, but this will be a fun project that everyone in our office can contribute feedback to. It couldn’t hurt, right?

1. Creating our design project

We went ahead and searched “Logo” and went through the process of creating the logo project. When selecting the business category, surprisingly there’s nothing related to digital publication, news, or publisher there. We went ahead and chose “Internet” as our category.

2. Choosing a name

Now it’s time to name our project. We’re going to call this one “Owner’s Mag Logo Design”. Not sure if I’ll ever get the approval to change the logo, but it’ll be a fun project that everyone at the office can give input on.

3. Types of logo

Logos come in all different shapes, themes, and types. They can be just a word logo, icons, abstract, or something unique with a mascot. Here’s where you can tell the 99designers what type of logo you want.

4. Choosing a style

I like this section a lot. Sometimes it’s difficult to actually describe what you want. Here, you can browse through a long list of logo designs that cover a wide spectrum of styling. Select the ones that best fit your taste and it’ll give the 99designers a better idea of what you want.

I went ahead and chose a few text-focused logo, since Owner’s Mag is a text-only logo. The selected examples in the screenshot above aren’t the ones I chose.

5. Brand Style Meter

I’ll be honest, this section is a bit weird for me. On this page, 99design asked me to explain the style I want using different sliding scales. There’s more than the 3 listed in the image above. I personally had a hard time deciding if Owner’s mag logo should be “Classic” or “Modern”, “Mature” or “Youthful”. Femine vs Masculine I can work with. But the other categories aren’t intuitive for me.

6. Choosing Colors

Now it’s time to pick our color preferences. I stuck with “Reds”.

7. Writing project brief

Filling out the project brief didn’t take too long. The questions were straight forward and all makes sense. It is odd that the project brief itself is this far down the process.

8. Choose your package

So far, we haven’t paid 99designs anything. Now it’s time for us to pick a tier for our plan. Although the Logo starts at $299, that’s actually for the Bronze tier. The higher tier you go, the more submissions and higher quality the work will be. Or at least that’s what 99designs promise.

For this, we chose the Silver $499 plan. We’ll be expecting about 60 designs to be submitted with this package.

9. Add-ons

In addition to the $499 we’re paying for the Silver tier, 99designs will upsell us for a few things. Some of these I think makes sense, others I felt should be included in the price I’m paying.

Personal Creative Consultant ($129) actually looks like customer support to me. I’m not a designer. Of course, I will need some help through this process. I felt like this should’ve already been included in the price instead of being a $129 add-on.

Guaranteed doesn’t cost anything. But it will null your money-back guarantee. This ensures the designer WILL get paid if they make it to the final round. Because of 99designs’ pay structure, this makes your project much more appealing to designers and more will likely submit drafts if you opt out of their guarantee.

Private ($59), this came as a shocker. I didn’t know this would even be public. Why my project is even open to the public in the first place is beyond me. This doesn’t feel right. Paying $59 just so 99designs keep my designs private seems like a scare tactic for me to cough up more money. Not a fan.

Duration lets you pay a bit more for faster delivery. For this, I feel the prices are fair and it’s typical to pay more for expedited work anyway. You can pay $39 for 3 day instead of 4 day delivery, $59 for 2 days, and $79 for 1 day.

9. Complete! Now we wait…

I opted to not purchase any add-ons for this review. Once paid, we’re redirected to 99designs’ dashboard where we can see the estimated timeline for the project. From today, it’ll take about 4 days for all of the designs to be submitted. Each day some designers will submit their work and on the final day, the round will be closed and we have 4 days to pick finalists.

The Designs Are In!

First off, I was very disappointed that we only received 17 designs instead of the promised 60. I contacted 99designs support about the issue and they claim that they don’t guarantee “60”, even though their pricing tiers clearly listed “Expect ~60 designs”.

Maybe the 17 designs we received are good? I’ll let you be the judge of that before we give our verdict.

Here are the 17 designs that 99designers submitted to us after 4 days.

What does our office think?

We passed the designs around our office to get some initial thoughts. Most thought the designs were random and not aligned with any of the directions given. Some look templated. Others look like they just slap a random icon in front of the text and call it a logo.

Overall, none of us were impressed by the results thus far. We eventually picked #6 to give feedback just to move the process along, not because we love the design. We felt let down that only 17 versions were submitted since 99designs promised we’d get around 60 designs to choose from.

We submitted our revisions and now wait for our designer to spin something back to us.

4 days later…

We received new versions of logo #6 within about 3-4 days. Personally I wasn’t happy with the new versions, but I shared the new designs with the office. You can probably guess how we all felt about the new drafts. Results…were disappointing and not what we had suggested. At this point, we didn’t feel compelled to give any further instructions or move the project to the final round.

We’re not happy

We decided not to continue the project given we’re not happy with any of the drafts so far. Even revisions were still so far off what we would even accept. I understand graphic design is subjective, and that sometimes you just have a difficult client. I assure you, we’re not that difficult and was looking for a very simple logo.

It was hard for us to justify even moving to the final round given the designers barely followed our directions. We specifically asked them to design the logo using our RED, and some of them ignored it completely. We asked them to NOT use any icons and just keep it text-based, yet there were logos with random icons.

Getting a Refund

Our experience could be a unique case and your experience could be much more pleasant. We eventually asked for a refund and was met with another obstacle. You can’t get a refund on the website, they request a call to speak to you to “verify” your identity before releasing your refund.

This is an annoying step clearly put in place just to discourage refunds. I oblige and got on a call with a representative. The rep was understanding and didn’t try too hard to sell me, which I appreciated. Our refund was promptly processed afterward.

Final Verdict

Our experience with 99designs has been mixed. I like how intuitive the website is and how easy it was to get your logo project started. The biggest let down were the number of submissions we received (17 instead of the promised 60) and the quality of each design. You can judge for yourself. Looking at the logos submitted, I didn’t feel like we got even intermediate level designers. These just felt rushed, patched together, and overall unpolished work.

Giving revision was difficult because most of the designs were so far off base. I didn’t know where to start, except tell the designer to re-read my project brief and start over.

Overall, it wasn’t the best experience for us. We would’ve gladly paid an agency or a freelancer the same amount and get more dedicated care and attention to produce 2-3 good logos instead of 17 poorly design random logos.

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Business

10 Subscription Based Services Business Owners Need to Try in 2022

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Over the past decade, subscription-based services have taken the business world by storm. Cloud-based infrastructure makes it easier for businesses to start, scale, and succeed. Paying a simple regular fee to use a software or service helps keep all your expenses in order.

Nobody wants to get tangled up in too many subscriptions. And with so many services on the market, it’s easy to end up with more than you need. That’s why we’ve assembled 10 great subscription based services for your business needs.

1) Hive – Subscription based project management tool

Project management is one of the areas where cloud-based tools come most in handy. Real-time collaboration is a great way to keep track of everyone’s work and ensure that it all gets done.

Hive offers just that. On top of task management and time tracking, they offer a variety of views to help each team member visualize their work the way they see fit, whether it’s as a kanban board, Gantt chart, calendar, or table.

There are plenty of great project management tools to choose from, but Hive’s versatility puts it over the top. They offer quick integrations, automations, and even a built-in messaging system.

Pricing: Unlike the rest of these services, Hive only has a single paid subscription plan. They offer three options:

  • Solo – Free of charge, for individual users.
  • Teams – $12/user/month. Includes shareable forms, an in-app calendar, and Zoom and Slack integrations.
  • Enterprise – Bespoke plans for enterprise customers. Include flexible add-ons, heightened security, custom analytics, and dedicated support.

2) Omnisend – Subscription based ecommerce marketing service

Marketing solutions aren’t exactly hard to come by, but what if your company has specific needs? For ecommerce brands, that’s where Omnisend comes in. This SaaS has everything you need to create successful, automated email and SMS marketing campaigns.

Tools like sign-up forms are geared directly towards ecommerce. They offer integration with all the major platforms, including Shopify, WooCommerce, and dozens more. They also have some pretty extensive analytics tools to help you keep track of your campaigns’ success.

Pricing: Omnisend comes in three tiers:

  • Free – $0/mo. Reach up to 250 contacts. 500 emails/mo.
  • Standard – Starts at $16/mo (pricing based on contact list size). 6,000 emails/mo.
  • Pro – Starts at $59/mo. Unlimited emails. 3,933+ free SMS credits.

3) Identity Guard – Subscription based data theft protection

Identity theft protection services are often geared towards individuals and families. But while security may start at home, your business’ data is just as precious.

If you’re looking for data theft protection for your business, look no further than Identity Guard, an AI-driven subscription based service by AURA. They offer robust data breach protection as well as employee protection plans, all backed by IBM’s iconic Watson AI.

Pricing: Breach protection comes in two plans:

  • Value – $36/year per activation code
  • Total – $120/year per activation code. Includes bank account and credit monitoring.

Employee benefit plans are custom-built.

4) Zoho CRM – Subscription based CRM platform

Zoho offers a staggering range of cloud-based software solutions, including email, customer service, docs, HR, and much more. But their first, foremost, and perhaps best offering is their customer relationship management (CRM) platform.

Zoho has great customer solutions for businesses big and small. You can micro-manage operations with their detailed analytics, or streamline your process with automated workflows. On top of all that, it’s totally customizable, so you can create your ideal workspace.

Pricing: Zoho’s CRM comes at five tiers:

  • Free – $0. Includes up to 3 users, essentials like leads, documents, mobile apps.
  • Standard – $14/user/month. Includes automated workflows and custom dashboards.
  • Professional – $23/user/month. Includes real-time notifications and inventory management.
  • Enterprise – $40/user/month. Includes AI, mobile SDK, advanced customization.
  • Ultimate – $52/user/month. Includes advanced BI and highest possible feature limits.

In addition, you can buy Zoho CRM Plus, which combines 8 other Zoho services, for $57/user/month. Bigin, a pipeline-based CRM for small businesses, starts at $7/user/month.

5) HubSpot CMS Hub – Subscription based content management system

Like Zoho, HubSpot offers a wide range of software solutions for businesses, which they call “hubs.” You can buy these hubs individually according to your needs or combine them for discounted bundle pricing.

Their content management system (CMS) is one of their more impressive hubs. It includes handy tools for secure website hosting and building, including a drag-and-drop editor and mobile optimization. On top of building websites, HubSpot makes it easy to scale with multiple plans and performance monitoring.

Pricing: HubSpot CMS Hub comes in four plans:

  • Free – $0. Allows for 1 blog and up to 25 web pages. Includes analytics, hosting, SEO, drag-and-drop editor.
  • Starter – Starts at $23/mo. Includes 50 web pages, ad management, URL mappings, payment support, reporting dashboards. Removes HubSpot branding from site.
  • Professional – Starts at $360/mo. Allows for up to 100 blogs and 10,000 web pages. Includes custom analytics, advanced SEO, dynamic personalization, content staging, video hosting, site tree.
  • Enterprise – Starts at $1,200/mo. Includes highest limits on all features, custom objects, site performance monitoring, web apps, sandboxes, permissions.

A 14-day free trial is available. Add-ons such as custom SSL and limit increases can be built into your plan.

6) Penji – Subscription based graphic design service

Content management is one thing, but where do you get the content itself? When it comes to graphic design, Penji offers professional-quality designs on a subscription basis.

With Penji’s unlimited model, you can get as many designs as you need. Their plans cover everything from logos to social media graphics. They even design websites and apps. With a global team of full-time designers, they deliver quality designs in a matter of days.

Pricing: Penji offers three plans:

  • Pro – $499/mo. Includes unlimited graphic design, illustrations, logos and branding.
  • Team – $699/mo. Includes unlimited web designs, app designs, presentations, and animated graphics.
  • Daytime – $999/mo. Includes USA daytime designers, same-day turnaround, and a dedicated art director.

All plans come with a 30-day money back guarantee.

7) Rippling – Subscription based HR and IT cloud service

This enterprise software solution is one of the best options out there for payroll maintenance, but it’s got much more than that. It combines workflow automation with HR and IT tools, helping enterprises streamline their employer-to-employee processes.

If you’ve been making use of this list, you’ll be especially happy to hear about Rippling’s app management. You can set up, manage, and disable employee apps in one simple place, ensuring that you’re using everything you need and nothing extra.

Pricing: Unfortunately, Rippling doesn’t offer transparent pricing on their site. Because they cater to enterprise customers, they offer quotes based on businesses’ precise needs. At the very least, their core platform costs $35/mo, with an additional $8/user/mo for payroll services.

8) Moz Pro – Subscription based SEO tool

Moz was founded as SEOmoz in 2004 as a site for some of the world’s earliest SEO experts to share their research. Basically, they wrote the book on SEO.

Moz Pro isn’t the cheapest option for SEO on the market, but it uses its history of experience to its advantage. They offer robust, eminently useful data to give your business the search engine boost it needs, crawling your site to precisely pinpoint issues.

Pricing: Moz Pro offers four plans:

  • Standard – Starts at $79/mo. Includes 3 campaigns, 300 keyword rankings, 60 tracked URLs, 100k page crawls per week.
  • Medium – Starts at $143/mo. Includes 10 campaigns, 1,500 keyword rankings, 200 tracked URLs, 500k page crawls per week.
  • Large – Starts at $239/mo. Includes 25 campaigns, 3,000 keyword rankings, 500 tracked URLs, 1.25 million page crawls per week.
  • Premium – Starts at $479/mo. Includes 50 campaigns, 4,500 keyword rankings, 1,000 tracked URLs, 2 million page crawls per week.

9) Tableau – Subscription based business intelligence service

You can have all the fancy subscription based software in the world, but it won’t get you anywhere if you’re not paying attention to what works. Tableau is a leader in business intelligence (BI) and analytics. They offer a robust array of digestible data to help your business work smarter.

Tableau is trusted by customers ranging from Whole Foods to Pfizer, Nissan to Charles Schwab. Powered by Salesforce, they also offer integrations with SQL, AWS, and dozens of other cloud services.

Pricing: Tableau offers three cloud-based plans for teams:

  • Viewer – $15/user/mo.
  • Explorer – $42/user/mo.
  • Creator – $70/user/mo.

They also offer server-based plans (on-premise or public cloud), a Creator plan for individuals, and embedded analytics.

10) Bit.ai – Subscription based service for workplace collaboration

The final piece of the puzzle that brings your whole business infrastructure together: collaboration. Plenty of cloud-based offerings include collaboration tools, and many businesses use free tools like Slack and Google Docs to power their communication.

Bit.ai combines all these features and more. Think of it like a document editor that’s also a content manager. It lets businesses share, create, and keep track of the content they put out, all with robust communication. They also integrate easily with tools like Tableau, OneDrive, Google Suite, Miro, Trello, Facebook, and more.

Pricing: Bit.ai offers three plans:

  • Free – $0. Allows for up to 5 members, 50 documents, 1GB storage. Includes content library, integrations, collaboration tools.
  • Pro – $8/member/month. Allows for unlimited members, unlimited documents, 500GB storage. Includes export, bulk import, version history.
  • Business – $15/member/month. Allows for unlimited storage. Includes trackable documents, priority support, engagement analytics, guest access.

Bit.ai also offers custom plans for enterprise customers.

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Thinking of Investing in An Early-Stage VC?

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venture capital

Do you find yourself asking, “should I invest in early-stage VC?” If so, you’re not alone. Venture capital has become one of the most popular ways to invest in high-growth startups. It offers high returns and the chance to join the founding team of a company before anyone else. With venture capital, you have not only access to top-notch business management but also an opportunity to build your portfolio.

However, due to its early stage, venture capital investing is not for everyone. Those who are looking for ways to make money fast should consider other options first. Think about it: what do investors require in order to fund a startup? An answer that’s likely yes will do it again—at least in this case. The same can be said about the minimum investment required by venture capital firms—it depends on their target sector or geography. This article will help you understand what you need to know before investing in venture capital.

What is venture capital?

Before we tackle the answer to the question, “should I invest in early-stage VC,” let’s discuss the basics of venture capital.

Simply said, venture capital is the funding of new businesses and expansion. That said, venture capitalists provide funding for startups at an early stage. They see potential in ventures that are often in the “uncertain” stage of their growth and usually lack funds. They provide the necessary capital to help companies realize their full potential. In addition to that, financial and managerial resources may also be offered.

Insider Monkey says the biggest VC companies in the world in 2021 are Google Ventures, Insight Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, Index Ventures, and Sequoia Capital.

Why do people invest in venture capital?

person presenting something

The main reason people invest in venture capital is to gain a high return on their money. Another reason is the chance to build a portfolio of investments. For instance, some investors are interested in the high level of skill involved in the management of a venture capital fund. Some investors, on the other hand, want to be part of launching new products and services.

How does a venture capital firm operate?

VC firms are a unique blend of investment and management. They begin by identifying, researching, and screening a large number of high-potential companies. After evaluating these startups, the VC firm decides which to fund. It then hires management teams to run its companies. As mentioned above, the VC firm provides not just financial support but also expertise and advice. After all, the success of the startup means investment growth.

So, here’s the million-dollar question – should I invest in early-stage VC? The answer lies in whether you can stomach the risks. One of those risks is losing your entire investment. For example, a VC firm can fail due to bad investment decisions, poor management, or even bad timing. If you’re ready to go through these risks, however, then a VC investment may be for you.

Why should I invest in early-stage VC?

If you’re thinking of putting your money in a VC firm, some believe that now is the best time to do it. After all, some VCs have grown to be household names over the last 20 years because of their success. In addition to that, VCs have made a reputation for investing in early-stage SaaS ventures with low startup valuations.

But here’s what should be the biggest trigger for you to consider VC investment: global equity prices correction. Due to geopolitical instability, inflation, and many other factors, the economic downturn can be inevitable.

At the same time, many startups today are building products with world-changing potential. And given the high quality of these products, these startups can survive – and even thrive – in recession-like scenarios.

Given these two elements, many startups may be at a “discounted” valuation at the moment, and it would be wise to strike while the iron is hot. After all, VC is one of the most exciting ways to invest in high-growth startups with a potential for high returns.

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7 Effective Ways to Improve at Networking

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person using a laptop

Believe it or not, networking works. Whether you hate meeting people or socializing, if you want to grow your business, you need to do some networking. And when you want networking to work for you, you must be pushy and assertive but politely. Read here to know the ways to improve at networking.

Here are 7 Ways to Improve at Networking

Identify Your Goals

journal and coffee cup

The first thing you need to do is to determine what you want to get out of the task. Ask yourself, what am I looking for? Once you understand your goals and objectives, it’s easier to identify which events to go to. This way, you can find which ones are better aligned with your business to get more productive results. This will also assure you that your efforts won’t go to waste.

Research the Events

Once you determine your goals and lined up a few events to go to, do a bit of research. Try to get as much data about them as possible. It is also highly recommended that you get to know the people attending these events. If you see a company you’re interested in, you should find out more about them before going.

Wear the Appropriate Clothing

people in a meeting

They say, “dress to impress,” and this rings true when attending networking events. Choose clothes that will make you feel comfortable while suitably dressed for the occasion. You can wear bright-colored clothes for a casual event and be the ice-breaker. Or add an accessory that can be a conversation starter. This way, socializing becomes more effortless and will get you more people to network with.

Practice Makes Perfect

It pays to rehearse what you’ll say to people about your company. You can stand in front of a mirror and practice your pitch so you won’t have to forget an important detail. Remember to include your achievements to make them see how your business will help them improve theirs. A little bit of humble brag will go a long way.

Create a Killer Business Card

business card

There will be exchanges of business cards at these events, so make sure that yours will stand out. There are many websites you can go to where you can design your own. Ensure that all pertinent data is on it, so people aren’t left hanging. In addition, make sure that your design will grab attention and won’t have the card end up in the trash bin.

Be Prepared

Make sure to set yourself at ease and relax, especially if it’s going to be a long event. Get your socializing skills warmed up by getting a drink, if applicable. This can also set the mood for the event to help you start talking to people. Once you get the conversation going, you should engage in active listening. 

As much as you want people to absorb what you’re saying, you should do the same. Allot a time for each person you talk to and stick to that time. Then, excuse yourself politely to start conversing with other people. Hand over your business card and move on to the next prospect.

Don’t worry about offending people, many networking event attendees understand the transactional nature of them. Give them a promise to follow up and end the conversation. 

Follow the Best Practices

After you go to one event, analyze your moves and try to make a pattern of what worked. This can help you avoid mistakes such as wasting your time with one company and other similar situations. Also, think of the best lines that will quickly convey your message. Think of networking as speed dating, so arm yourself with the best pickup lines.

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