The power of 99designs is far greater than just one contest win. What’s often missed are the established client relationships that often double designers’ earnings (if not more). The reason is simple: many clients have regular work that needs to be done.

One of my best clients is a web hosting business owner from the UK. Even though I only won $600 for a 1-page web design project, I later made 22-pages for her website. Plus, she saw me as an asset and started promoting my web design services to her clients. To this day, we’ve finished more than 15 projects. To put things in perspective, this infographic illustrates how my real earnings are far greater than what meets the eye.

Even if your client doesn’t need extra work (or you aren’t specialized in other fields), word of mouth goes a long way. They may have friends with businesses of their own. And let’s not forget creative agencies that outsource their work through our community that offer a constant supply of clients. You’re bound to find plenty of work by impressing and creating good relationships.

We’ve established how 99designs is a great source of constant work, but it’s our job as the professional to form these relationships and create our network. Through experience, I’ve figured out the actions I need to take in every single contest to up my chances of impressing the client. Here they are:

1. Be nice and polite

Be nice & polite

This is Captain Obvious, reporting in! I know this is a basic point but I’ve seen way too many heated discussions in the public comments area. I’ve also seen clients complain about arrogant, self-entitled designers who can’t take a hit to their ego.

People are not only looking for an expert in the field, their also looking for someone to talk to, who can relate to their needs and make them feel comfortable through the entire process. Keep in mind, most clients are here for the first time and some may not know what exactly they’re looking for. Introduce yourself, be nice and be polite when something doesn’t go as you planned.

2. Communicate efficiently


I design good, yes? Working with a client on 99designs is a process. It’s a relationship in which you exchange ideas with the client and through your combined efforts an excellent design emerges.

This is an international community which brings together people from all over the globe. Being able to communicate efficiently is as important as the design itself. Even the best design needs multiple revisions and if you can’t properly express yourself and subsequently understand the client’s requests, then it doesn’t matter how good your design is.

For a large part of our community, myself included, English isn’t our first language – but we have to make the best of it. As you develop your Photoshop skills, you need to work in the same fashion when it comes down to your vocabulary. Proper spelling, grammar and well-written ideas are essential for earning a client’s trust. Failing to do so will create doubt in their eyes.

3. Show availability

Show availability

After following the 2 points from above, you should have made a pretty good impression on the client and if your design was decent you’re in pretty good shape. As the contest progresses you have to show you are willing to work on interior pages or maybe further refine your designs.

Clients don’t want to be pressed with a certain limited number of revisions. They also sometimes fear that after they’ll award the contest you’ll simply stop answering. You have to show you’re nice, polite, communicate efficiently and you’re happy to work on additional page and/or projects.

An important thing to note is you should never promise “bonuses” for getting the win. Free coding, free additional pages, very low prices for other interior pages — these all should be avoided. You can mention your rates for subsequent work but I recommend you quote after seeing a complete brief for the next pages.

So to sum it up: show you’re willing to work on additional pages but never promise the moon.

4. Reply fast

Reply fast

Clients are busy and for good reason. They sometimes respond slowly, don’t give appropriate feedback and in some cases they may even skip your designs. This is part of our work and you should be accustomed to it. When the client does give you input, I strongly recommend you reply fast to show your responsiveness.

For example, say a client wants 5 things changed in your design that might take a few hours to complete. If you’re in a different time zone, then this may take up a day or more. Don’t wait to write a message after you’ve made the changes. Acknowledge his requests, tell him if anything is unclear and give him your opinion about it.

This may be hard to do if you’re working part-time but there are ways to stay on top of feedback. I use Yahoo Messenger since my Yahoo email is connected to my 99designs profile. I’m immediately notified when there is activity in any of my contests, so I don’t have to constantly check my profile throughout the day.

5. Guide the client

Guide the CH

For most clients, this is their first interaction with 99designs. They may know how to properly run a contest, but most of the time assume they don’t. Knowing this, you should take on the role as both a designer and a guide.

The first rule is to be humble. When guiding a client, it’s important to make them feel comfortable. You’re not showing off your superiority, you’re just wanting to help them have a good contest. For example:

  • Kindly explain how you want to receive your feedback.
  • Explain how the wrap-up process goes.
  • Give them information about what happens after the contest.

These bits of information are most likely familiar to you but for a first time client, these aspects may be unclear.

An informed client will be a joy to work with. Most of our daily frustrations come out of a lack of information and/or poor communication. Helping the client out (of course, after you’ve first helped yourself) is one of the best things you can do to gain additional work.

Final Words

After following these points rigorously, I found clients who felt we had a good connection and who trusted me with additional work. The result has been a constant supply of projects through my own network of clients. And since 99designs has a great 1-on-1 invoice system, I have everything I need to keep busy. Stick with the program and create your own network of clients. Good luck!

Received follow-on work through 99designs? Please share!