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Review: The Truth About 99Designs

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Getting graphic design work done can often be a challenge. Where do you even start? Hiring a full-time graphic designer is expensive and risky. Hiring a freelancer online can take a bit of time. And often times, your designer works in a completely different timezone, making collaboration near impossible.

That’s where 99Designs come in. The company offers a talent-sourcing platform where you can create a design contest and have designers from all over the world submit their entry. You pay 1 flat fee for the contest and guaranteed many drafts. Sounds too good to be true? Let’s find out!

99designs Review

In order to review 99designs accurately, we prepared several projects to submit on the platform. These projects are things that we actually have a need for and may use if the design results returned are good enough.

We’ll go through the entire process that 99designs laid out and follow all rules and instructions given to us. Upon receiving the design work, we’ll pass it around internally to 10 people in our office and simply give a yay or nay. Whatever the results are, will be the numerical grade given. Let’s begin!

What 99designs can do?

In short, just about anything but they’re limited to just graphic design. In our quick 99designs analysis, they offer the following design services:

  • Logo & identity
  • Web & app design
  • Business & advertising
  • Clothing/Merch
  • Illustrations
  • Packaging
  • Books & magazines
  • And more…(the remaining categories are a bit obscured or too niche to list)

It’s a fairly extensive list and seems like if you’re a new startup or business, they’ll cover most of your initial design needs.

What 99designs CANNOT do

As the name implied, 99designs only offers graphic design. They can design a website or app for you, but you will need an independent development team to code it. 99designs also currently don’t offer content support, which isn’t that unusual. Whatever you want designed, you’ll need to provide all of the content before hand.

And that also means you need to do all the proofreading as well. Whatever you submit to be designed, will be designed. The designers usually won’t comment or question your grammar mistakes. So be sure to double and triple check all your content before submitting it to be designed.

Another thing to note, 99designs cannot deliver on time. The delivery runs on a rather flexible schedule that can take up to 2 weeks or longer. So if you need something done fast, 99designs may not be the best solution, even with the expedited delivery add-on purchase.

99designs’ ACTUAL pricing

When we audit 99designs’ pricing structure, we found a few of their categories to be confusing. Categories such as Logos, Web & app design, and Business Advertising can be misleading or vague. For example, when choosing a logo design, you might think you have to buy one of their packages that starts at $349. But with a bit of patience and knowing where to navigate, you can actually just buy a single logo design without any add-ons.

To avoid confusion, I’m going to break down a few of the categories below just so you know exactly how things are priced.

4 Different Tiers

After you fill out the first page of the project brief, 99designs will ask you to pick a tier. The lowest tier will give you the fewest number of design submissions and will usually be assigned to junior artists. Meanwhile the more expensive tiers get more design submissions and often given to more experienced designers.

The price breakdown below assumes you’re going with the lower price tiers, since that’s what most people tend to choose.

Logo & identity prices

Logo alone: $299
Packages: 5 packages offered between $349 – $599

Web design, Website Re-design, and WordPress Theme design prices

The $599 promotional price is NOT for an entire website design or re-design. This is just for ONE page. If you want multiple pages to be designed, 99designs will charge you PER PAGE. The more pages you want designed, the most it will cost. However, you’ll get a steeper discount per page if you request multiple pages at once.

As of now, 99designs only offer up to 5 pages designed initially. If you need more than 5 pages designed, you’ll likely need to hire a designer from 99designs afterward to continue working on the project.

1 page = $599.
2 pages = $749.
3 pages = $899.
4 pages = $1049
5 pages = $1199

Landing page design prices

Landing pages are charged at a flat rate of $349 since it’s just 1 page. There are no options for multiple pages. If you want additional pages to be designed afterward, you’ll have to create another $349 landing page contest, and that’s not cost-effective. If you have a landing page with multiple pages, you’ll have to cough $599 for the web design package.

App design prices

For the advertised price of $599, you are NOT getting an entire app designed. You’re paying PER page of the app to be designed. The more pages you want done, the more it’ll cost. But it’s the initial page design that will cost the most. The more pages you need done, the cheaper it is per page to be designed.

1 screen = $599
2 screens = $699
3 screens = $799
4 screens = $899
5 screens = $999

Business & advertising

The prices for Business & advertising are all over the place and might not make any sense. For example, why does it cost $299 for an Album cover design…when it costs only $199 for a Podcast cover? They’re both square dimension graphics with basically the same requirements. If you need an Album cover design, you can just request a “Podcast cover” to save money.

Anyway, here’s a breakdown of what you can get at each different price points.

Starting at $149: Billboard, Tradeshow banner, Banner,

Starting at $199: Postcard, Flyer, Leaflet, Direct Mail, Poster, Podcast cover, Signage, Menu, Website header, Resume, Word Template, Tradeshow Booth, Other business advertising

Starting at $299: Album cover, Brochure, Booklet, Pamphlet, Email, Email newsletter, Powerpoint template,

Starting at $349: Car/truck/van wrap

Starting at $599: Infographic

Extra Add-ons

In addition to the base cost of the project, you can pay for additional add-ons.

Dedicated support: For a price of $129 extra, you can have access to dedicated customer support should you run into any problems.

Guaranteed: This doesn’t cost anything, but it basically negates your 100% money-back guarantee with 99designs. The reason they offer this is because how designers are paid. Often times, they’re paid pennies for participating in your design contest. Out of possible 20 – 30 design submissions, they will only get paid a reasonable fee IF you choose their design.

If you request a refund, no one gets paid. Therefore, if you choose this option, designers have more confidence that there’s a stronger chance you’ll commit.

Here’s what 99designs promises if you choose to negate your guarantee.

  • Have more designers participating
  • Receive 50% more designs on average
  • Get a wider range of creativity

Private contest: This $59 add-on gives you the assurance that your design/intellectual property won’t be leaked onto Google or used by designer. Designer will sign an NDA to ensure they protect your privacy. You can even use your own NDA.

Duration: Typical turnaround for 1st draft is 4 days. Need the design in a hurry? Pay a small fee for expedited delivery.

99designs pricing review

Overall, the prices can fluctuate quite a bit depending on which tier you select and how many add-ons you buy. I wouldn’t say 99designs prices are cheap, because they’re fairly expensive for just 1 design. They are cheaper than hiring an in-house designer or a design agency, but there are definitely much cheaper options. The one benefit of 99designs’ model is that you get a lot of drafts for that price, so you have much more to choose from during each round of revisions.

How long it REALLY takes to get your designs

There’s 5 rounds total that you need to go through before you can get your design files. Each round can take anywhere from 1-2 days up to 14 days to complete. Most of that does depend on you. If you give feedback quickly, you’ll get your design files much faster. Here’s a breakdown of the 5 rounds.

Round 1: Qualifying round (4-5 days)
In this round, 99design sends your project out to all qualified designers in their talent pool. Designers can choose to accept or ignore your contest. Once enough designers have accepted your contest and submitted their design work, you move onto Round 2.

Round 2: Select finalists (4 days)
It’s probably 4-5 days now since you started the contest and your designs are finally in. You’ll have a lot of designs to choose from. Now you have 4 days to review the designs and select up to 6 designs that you like. Any designs you don’t select will be rejected. Designs you select gets to move onto the next round.

During this round, there’s a 99designs review feature that lets you share the submissions with others via a shareable link. You have 4 days to select your finalists! Once chosen, the contest will be moved to the 3rd round.

Round 3: Final round (3 days)
In this round, you’ll need to leave revisions for the selected finalists. Your finalists will work on as much revisions as you give them in this round. If you don’t like something, you can request more revisions and they’ll keep submitting. Keep in mind you only have 3 days for this round.

Round 4: Choose a winner
Contest is now officially over and a winner must be selected. In this round, you can create and send a poll to everyone you want feedback from to see which design is the best. You can only select 1 winner.

Round 5: Handover (5 days?!)
Your designer now has up to 5 days to hand over all of the design files and any copyright materials to you. Yes, you read that right. 5 days.

So…how long does it really take?

Let’s assume that you’re super responsive and you complete YOUR part the same day 99designs notify you…

Round 1: 4 days for all initial designs to come in
Round 2: 1 day to select finalists (because you’re responsive)
Round 3: 3 days for final round of revisions
Round 4: 1 day to pick a winner (because you want the files fast!)
Round 5: 1-5 days to get files

So you’re looking at between 10 – 14 days to complete a single design project. If you’re a new startup or business that doesn’t have strict deadlines to meet, this delivery window is perfectly fine. If you’re more established and looking for someone to help you meet an aggressive marketing schedule, 99designs may not work for you.

How to get QUALITY designs from 99designs?

If you’re coming to 99designs with a limited budget for graphic design, then chances are your results will vary. From my experience, the lower tier designers often just use templated graphics from Freepik or Envato.

If you want high quality designs from 99designs, here’s what you’ll need to do.

  1. Sign up for higher tier: Choose Gold or Platinum plans. They’re significantly more expensive, but that’s what you need to get experienced designer’s attention.
  2. Fill EVERYTHING out: When creating your project brief, do not skip any steps. Fill out as much information as you can and spend time creating a solid brief.
  3. Give additional examples: The last field on most form will ask “Is there anything else you would like to communicate to the designers?”. Use this opportunity to give more information. Also include even more examples of what you like and don’t like. This helps the designer narrow down your preferences.

Pros & Cons of 99designs

We’ll start with the PROS

  • Affordable compared to hiring an inhouse designer
  • No hiring or managing of designers. They do all of that for you.
  • Lots of designs to choose from for each round
  • One platform can cover most of your design needs
  • Easy to use platform
  • Clear indicator of how far along your design is
  • Offers a 100% money back guarantee

Now for the CONS

Who is 99designs really for?

99designs is best suited for startups, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and anyone just starting out. The prices are affordable and you get a lot of selections. Having 20+ drafts submitted to you is a great benefit, especially if you’re starting out and have no idea exactly how you want to brand yourself.

For larger businesses, marketing teams, and agencies, 99designs may not be the best fit given how expensive the bill will eventually be if you need 10+ designs per month. The 10 – 14 day delivery window can also be a major setback if you’re trying to meet deadlines.

  • Can get expensive if you have consistent design needs
  • 10 – 14 day delivery
  • Design quality is mediocre unless you’re willing to pay a premium
  • No real way to interact with designer except through feedback
  • Customer support is a paid add-on

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Business

The Shift Towards Banking-As-A-Service

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The changing times and the pandemic have created a significant shift in how we bank. In addition, our expectations from banks have also differed through the years. The digitalization of the financial services industry has furthered the plan to get free access to banking data. This is in connection with the Open Banking initiative and the dramatic rise of fintech companies and neo-banks.

The market space that the traditional banks once dominated has now given new players the opportunities to compete alongside them. Indeed, the commoditization of bank services has inevitably begun.

A void to connect banks and these new players has been filled in the form of banking-as-as-service (or BaaS for short) providers. It’s only logical that a service such as this emerges. It’s the order next in line to streamline the customer experience and provide products that are built to engage the modern world. 

What exactly is banking-as-as-service?

The easiest way to explain what banking-as-as-service is is through a few examples, these are:

  • Bank accounts
  • Lending systems
  • Credit card payments

The digital world is changing the relationships of brands and businesses with their customers. It is rapidly shifting and improving that even non-bank companies have already integrated financial services to their customers. Established companies such as Walmart, Apple, Uber, or Amazon have already been doing this to add value to their products and services.

Why businesses should take the banking-as-as-service opportunity

To those in the know, banking technology is a complex matter. Developing it from the ground up can be laborious and expensive. Add to that the challenge of getting a bank license which turns off those trying to get in that niche. What banking-as-as-service does is to connect businesses with banks that take care of the requirements and provide the technology they need to provide financial services through a slew of digital channels.

This process will make banking services more engaging and less transactional. Businesses can now integrate services throughout the buying journey without redirecting them to a different platform. This means customers will no longer do the rigamarole of going from one channel to another. They will get what they need when and where they need it.

And statistics show that it is working. Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) services are steadily climbing at a rate of 39% per year for approximately 10 million Britons making their online purchases. 

What now for traditional banks?

Since traditional banks have little appetite for risks, they weren’t built to handle the demands for embedded finance. BaaS companies make it faster and easier for fintechs and other companies to increase their offerings by embedding digital banking services directly into the purchase. Instead of seeing this as competition, traditional banks should collaborate with BaaS to benefit from this embedding.

What can Banking-as-a-service do?

With the help of banking-as-a-service, new players in the finance industry will have the capability of targeting niche communities and coming up with slimmer product sets. Also, the solutions that BaaS offers can give valuable insights to businesses on how they can improve their products or services. They will have the much-needed data to learn about industry trends, saving and spending behaviors, and general engagement with their offerings.

All these means that businesses can have more information on how they can improve the overall customer experience. This also means companies can deliver products and services that are more targeted towards the right customers. The possibilities that banking-as-a-service offers are endless in terms of innovation in the banking and financial services market.

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Business

Playrcart Gives You What You Want – Immediately

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We’ve all watched ads and immediately thought, “I want that. Right now.” Some of us wish we could jump right into the TV and into that sexy Ford F-Series quicker than we can have a second thought. But how many of us have gone to make a purchase only to be discouraged by the needlessly complicated payment process? “Too many,” says UK-based startup Playrcart

We believe this is the future of advertising.” 

Founder Glen Dormieux, along with CTO, Richard Mason, created Playrcart born of that very frustration.

What we’re seeing right now is fairly traditional – they’re doing the same thing time and time again.

Currently, when viewing an ad, you have to go through several pages in order to complete a purchase. How many sales are lost in that time-consuming process? “Too many!” say business owners in a Mr. Krabs-esque demeanor. 

How Does Playrcart Work?

Playrcart has designed its platform to convert digital assets into instant transactions within the ad itself. How is that possible? Technology, stupid. 

You can actually make the transaction go directly within the asset itself. So you engage with the ads, you interact with the purchase within the ad without ever leaving that same piece of content.

It effectively dilutes numerous clicks that you normally have to navigate through. The average of reduction clicks is about 75 percent.

With Playrcart, you can watch the trailer for a new Spider-man movie and buy tickets before it’s even completed. You can schedule a test drive in the Ford F-Series as you’re watching a professional drive it on a closed course. 

Consumers will now have the option to purchase something when their emotional response to an ad is at its peak. You can see an ad for a major event and as you’re riding that emotional wave you click and purchase tickets. As the ad concludes, you can emotionally conclude with it – satisfied. 

You can see Playrcart’s technology in action here

Playrcart is capitalizing on our instant gratification society, and they’re doing it with modesty and innovative advances in technology. 

We want to hit them instantly while you’ve got their attention.

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Business

Crazy Things That Happened in 2021

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Although 2021 would probably go down in history as one of the craziest years in recent times, 2021 is looking like it’s catching up. Here are a few of the crazy things that happened this year:

Capitol Hill Riot (January)

Early January saw a massive riot happen at the US Capitol. Former President Trump was charged with incitement in his impeachment trial in the Senate. This resulted in a mob that was pro-Trump, breaking into the building. This forced members of Congress to evacuate and left five dead.

Battle of the Billionaires (January)

Elon Musk has surpassed Jeff Bezos to become the richest man in the world. This, thanks to the increase in Tesla’s share price giving him a net worth of more than $185 billion. Bezos was the holder of this title but went down with his $184 billion worth.

Trump Impeachment (January)

A call for Former President Trump’s impeachment happened twice this year. Some Democrats and members of the progressive group, The Squad, called for his impeachment. This, after his supporters stormed the US Capitol.

Frigid Weather in Texas (February)

Brutal winter storms ravaged Texas for more than seven days. It caused unprecedented devastation that claimed the lives of at least 26 people.

The Grammys Breaking Records (March)

Records were broken in this year’s Grammys, with Beyonce winning more awards than any in the award-giving body’s history. Along with Megan Thee Stallion, they became the first female artists to win best rap performance, breaking records. BTS also made Grammy history by being the first foreign act to perform solo and the first KPop group to be nominated.

The Free Britney Movement (April)

Pop icon Britney Spears has been under a conservatorship by her father since 2008. In April this year, the hashtag #freebritney gained traction as fans cried for the singer to be free from the legal binding. 

The Friends Reunion (May)

Not really a follow-up to the lives of the Friends character, but a reunion in which the main cast members reminisced about the good ol’ times. The fans were treated to a recreation of the set along with some table reads from scenes that were rehashed. 

Bitcoin Price Plunge (May)

After hitting a record high of $64,829 in mid-April, Bitcoin prices plunged to around $30,000 at one point. All this is in connection with Elon Musk’s Tesla’s suspension of purchase with the cryptocurrency, citing environmental concerns over the mining process.

The End for Keeping Up With The Kardashians (June)

The month of June saw the end of the reality TV show, Keeping Up With the Kardashians. After 20 seasons on the air, the show ends with a two-part reunion special. However, this isn’t the end for the Kardashians-Jenner, as they will star anew in a Hulu reality series later this year.

On another note, the year also saw the divorce of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West after six years of marriage.

All Eyes on Simone Biles (July)

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics was held in 2021 due to the pandemic. And on this one, all eyes were on Simone Biles as she has proven that she’s not superhuman after all. The celebrated gymnast withdrew from the team gymnastics finals citing the “twisties” and her efforts to focus on her mental health.

Facebook Name Change (October)

From Facebook to Meta, the rebranding was announced in October in an attempt to own the metaverse. The company says that the new name is reflective of their ambitions that go beyond being a social media platform. CEO Mark Zuckerberg considers the move as a nod to the metaverse, the concept of a three-dimensional version of the internet.

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