If you are looking for professional design work for your website, logo, stationary, mobile application, or anything in between, 99designs is the place to go. While we have select designers we use for our website design and development projects, we also use 99designs and have found some of our current designers there in the past. Depending on your project, prices range from $199 to $1,499. We will cover tips to help you get the best results, including inviting top designers, providing feedback, and guaranteeing your prize early, plus insight from top 99designs designers.

99designs was created to give customers a place to look for quality and affordable web design services. Using the site, you can launch a contest and then choose a winner among the various web design templates submitted by the web designers in 99designs.

The most obvious advantage of using the site is that you are not constrain to a single web designer. At 99designs, you get to work with more than one web designer, choose your favorite design, and award the winner.

However, you just don’t create a contest, you’ll need to make it appealing to designers to make them join your contest and offer their design services to you. And to help you with that, we have created this ultimate guide in getting the best out of 99designs.

Getting started with 99designs

Before launching a web design contest, it is important to know the basic rules around 99designs. All original work submitted by the web designers are copyrighted to them even until you have chosen a winning design. The rights to the design is only transferred to you by the time the designer agreed to transfer it during the Design Handover stage and signed the Design Transfer Agreement.

Right after you launch your project, find designers that you like and invite them to your project. I search for Winners and Finalists for similar projects and invite them to my project until I hit my maximum invites for the day. Then, the next day, I do it again. You want to get as many quality designers working on your project as you can.

If the designer has submitted more than one design, you only get to own the design that you have chosen as a winner. Although, you can negotiate with the designer to give you the entire submissions.

During the Qualifying round, designers submit their web design templates and you provide feedback to them. Providing feedback early and often not only helps improve the designs quickly, but helps you develop rapport with the designers and attracts more designers to your contest. At the end of the round, which lasts up to six days, you are given four days to choose six finalists to join the Final round.

During the last round, you get to work closely with the remaining designers within five days. Once the Final round ends, you have until two weeks to review the designs and to announce a winner.

If you need more time to review all the submitted designs, you can contact 99designs’ support team. In my experience, they have been extremely helpful and responsive.

Choosing the right package for your contest

There are three kinds of design packages at 99designs: the Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Choosing the right package for you depends on how much you can afford and how much you want to give as a prize for the winning design. The higher the prize, the more it will get the attention of the best web designers in 99designs. All packages have a 100% money-back guarantee, until you select finalists or guarantee it early. I have effectively chosen the Bronze package and found quality designers for my projects early by reaching out directly through 99designs and guaranteeing the project early so they know the winner will get paid.

You can also create your own package price, as long as it’s more than the price of the Bronze package. However, the starting price package for a single web design page is $599.

Aside from the difference in prize amount, each packages contain different features. With Bronze, you can expect around 30 web designs for your project, including iterations from the same designers. By being active, I typically get 50-70 designs with the bronze package. According to 99designs, the Silver package will get your project featured above the Bronze projects and you’ll get around 60 designs, and the Gold will give you an account manager and you’ll receive designs from top web designers in 99designs.

Paying for the contest and the winner

Prior to launching your web design contest, you’ll need to pay upfront. This is to ensure that you’re going to pay for the contest and also to get the trust of web designers.

99designs accepts currencies in USD, AUD, CAD, and GBP. If you want to pay under your currency, all you have to do is launch your contest from the following URLs: 99designs.com (US), 99designs.com.au (Australia), 99designs.ca (Canada), and 99designs.co.uk (Great Britain).

You can pay your contest using PayPal, Visa, MasterCard, and American Express. After inputting your PayPal or credit card account details, you can click the 'Pay & launch contest' button.

Don’t worry, if you’re not happy with any of the web design templates being submitted in your contest, you can always get your money back if you have not guaranteed it.

Creating a good design brief

You have to make it appealing to web designers, enough to grab their attention and their time to join and submit a design template for your project.

In your design brief, you need to be as detailed as you can be in order to get that perfect design. Describe your website briefly and its target audience. You need to outline the content, layout, and goals that you want for each page of the website.

According to Joanna Krenz-Kurowska, an awesome designer that I have worked with in the past and highly recommend, there are a handful of aspects of the Design Brief that she focuses on when selecting projects to work on. She admits that the type of design, package (Gold, Silver, or Bronze), and total pages necessary are factors, but there is more.

When I asked her to expand, she said "The industry branch is important. For example, I have never worked on legal websites. Also, does it inspire me, is the brief well written, does the client really know what they want, and what are my chances of winning. Also, I rely on my intution." That is some great insight from Joanna, who also contributes to the 99designs blog often.

You can also list some of the things that you don’t want in the design. It is helpful if you can give website design references that the designers can get inspiration from. Providing sites that I like and detailing why with screenshots has provided me with the best results. If you have some sketches or mock-ups, you can also give that to the designers.

Here is a breakdown by 99designs:

99designs contest options

For your web design contest, you have the option of creating a blind contest. You can choose this type of contest if you want designers to have some privacy on their submitted designs. Yes, there are designers who prefer to join a blind contest so that other participants are not going to copy their ideas.

Blind contests are not viewable in the first three rounds of the contest. When a winner is announced in the Final round, this is the only time that all entries are visible. This is how the submissions are shown:

Another type of contest is the fast-tracked contest. If you’re in a hurry and need to have a design as soon as possible, then you can speed up the duration by choosing this type of contest. There are no Qualifying and Final stages in this contest, and it only lasts up to 3 days. You can select a winner in just one period of submission.

Selecting the finalists for the Final round

Under a normal contest, 99designs is going to notify you once the Qualifying round of your contest ends. After that, you are given 4 days to choose up to 6 finalist to join the Final round of your web design project. If you can’t submit your finalist within that time period, 99designs is going to put your contest on hold.

To include a web designer in the Final round, you only have to click the 'Select' button under the designer’s entry or entries. Make sure to take your time in choosing the correct designers because you can’t undo the list of finalists. If you’re already confident with your final contestants, click on the 'I’m done selecting' button.

Providing feedback to contest participants

Communication is key in getting that perfect web design that you’re expecting to get. One of the ways in giving feedback to designers is by leaving a comment. Through this channel, you can guide or tell any of the designers if they’re going in the right direction with their designs or not. The designers want feedback.

You can also send a private message to any of the designer in your contest. Just click on the name of the designer to get to their profile page. Then click on the Send message link to get started in communicating privately. It is important to note that designers can’t start a private conversation with you, just like you can’t send messages if you don’t have a contest launched yet.

Another tool in providing feedback is by rating the designs submitted by the participants. The star rating system is under their submissions. The highest rate that you can give is 5 stars. Although, it is highly recommended that you don’t give more than 3 stars early in the contest, so as not to discourage any new designers in joining your contest.

You also have the power to eliminate a submission from the contest. Simply click on the X icon under the entry and choose if the design was Off brief, Not to my taste, or Not original.

Running a successful web design contest

The secret in managing a 99designs contest is through active participation. This means that you have to be always visible right from the start of the contest until it ends. Provide feedback to new designs that are submitted each day. If you think designers are not getting the design that you want, edit and update your design brief to get your message across. Be friendly and try to answer all their questions.

As much as possible, always guarantee your prize money and make it attractive enough for top designers to enter the contest. To have it guaranteed, click on the 'Guarantee prize' link under the contest title. However, if this is your first contest, you need to have at least 10 design submission before you can guarantee it.

Invite designers who are watching the contest and tell them why your contest is worth their time. The more designers joining your contest, the more choices you can choose from. To view contest watchers, click on the 'Watchers' tab at the right side of the page.

Make sure you know whether the winning design that you have selected is stolen or not. Be open in feedback from other designers, they know their designs very well. To validate the design, you can use PicScout or TinEye. Always ask the designers if their designs are original, and also if they’re using copyrighted images, photos, clipart, and fonts.

If the designers are using elements that carry licences, redirect them to the FAQ pages, such as What fonts can I use in a design?

Promoting your contest

If you think there are not enough designers joining your contest, you have the option of getting help from 99designs. Their contest options includes getting your contest featured on top of the list for the contest package that you have picked; highlighting it with colorful backgrounds and bold fonts; promoting it on the sidebar of 99designs’ blog; and tweeting it on their Twitter account with more than 60,000 followers. I have used the highlighting feature before and believe it helped, especially attract people to watch my content, who I then reached out to.

To get one of these contest upgrades, click on the 'Contest options' link found at the right side of your contest page, then click 'Upgrades & promote' link.

Choosing the contest winner

This is the last and most important part of the process: announcing the winning web design entry. You need to choose the winner within 14 days after the contest ends.

If you haven’t chosen a winner after the given time period, your web design contest is going to be locked. And if the contest is guaranteed, the prize is automatically distributed to all the participants who are still in the contest.

If you need more time in picking the winner, or you need the contest unlocked, call 99designs’ support team.

To declare a winner, you only need to click on the trophy icon under the web design entry that you have chosen as the winning design for your website. Alternatively, you can also click on the design entry. Once you’re on the entry’s full page, click on the 'Award winner' button found at the top part of the screen.

Picking more than one contest winner

In the event that you like more than one web design, you can opt to award other contest winners. This scenario usually occurs when a contest holder wants to keep the other web designs entries.

To do this, you need to pay the owner of the entry the same amount that you’ve posted as prize money for the contest.

To award another entry, you just need to follow the same process I’ve already stated above on how to choose a winner. You can repeat the procedure for each extra winning design.

Design Handover stage

This stage is where you are able to get all the rights of the winning web design template. Both you and the designer are going to sign the Copyright Transfer Agreement. The designer will also turn over the files for the said winning entry.

Within 5 days, you can review the files of the design and request revisions. After this time period, the money is going to be automatically transferred to the designer. If you have everything that you need, you can click on the 'I Accept' button to release the money.

As bonus to the designer, you can leave a testimonial for his or her services. This is going to be featured on the designer’s 99designs portfolio page. To do this option, just go back to the Design Handover page and click on the 'Leave a testimonial' button.

To access all the files of the design, or the Copyright Transfer Agreement, you can click on the 'Handover' tab found on your contest page.

Working with the same designer for future projects

If you’re impressed with the work of your winning web designer, you can acquire his services again via 99designs’ 1-to-1 Invoicing system.

With the system, you can directly negotiate with the designer on your next project’s fee and discuss all the tasks involved in the project.

Once a design is done, the designer is going to send you an invoice using the system. 99designs will notify you every time you have an invoice under your account.

However, this system is only a means for accepting payment. 99designs is not anymore involve with any of the design process because it’s already outside the design contest platform. It means that the transfer of files or the turnover of the design’s copyright is not facilitated by 99designs.

The 100% money-back guarantee is not covered under the 1-to-1 Invoicing. All fees paid to the designer are subject to a 5% processing fee, which is payable on top of the base amount.

Wrapping it up

That should cover everything with getting started on your 99designs contest, plus some tips that have worked for us. Please contact us if you have questions or leave comments below.

Lastly, to help you succeed as a 99designs contest holder, remember these seven practices: respect the community, be clear, provide regular feedback, one design task per project, keep it clean, respect copyright, and be honest.


Do you have any questions? Have launched a 99designs project before? How was your experience? If you have, any tips for everybody?

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