Don’t you hate it when you hear someone got their logo designed through a crowdsourcing site?

99designs and other sites like it have crept into the design world and devalued our craft as graphic designers. Clients are now crowdsourcing their design needs, and not only that, they are only paying the designer who wins the contest a nominal fee.

If we don’t solve this problem we risk losing potential work to online logo contests. It’s not just a matter of landing those clients; it’s charging more than what they are paying on a crowdsourcing site. Why? Our livelihoods depend on it, as does quality design.

As designers, how can we compete when sites like 99designs turn our work into a commodity? And how can we not only compete but at the same time charge more?

In my years as a freelance designer, now studio owner, I’ve been faced with these pressing questions. In this post I’m going to share with you how I’ve managed to stay in business, grow, and charge more despite the increasing number of what I refer to as “logo farms.”

This post will cover how to:

  1. Compete with crowdsourcing websites.
  2. Land clients who value your work.
  3. Charge more than crowdsourcing sites.

Here’s how to start:

1. Change your mindset and take yourself out of that game completely.

According to, compete means “to strive to outdo another for acknowledgment, a prize, supremacy, profit, etc.” My question is—why are we even trying to compete with 99designs in the first place? Those who participate in a competition have similar skill levels and experience.

A major league baseball player would never seriously compete in little league. Start upping your game by finding a different game to play. Work on your craft. Learn how to give more value to your clients (see number 3 below). Look beyond the logo farms and start competing with design firms.

2. Land clients who value your work by identifying your ideal client.

Crowdsourcing sites offer a solution to the client who has a problem with finding affordable designers and who wants tons of design options. I’m not sure about you, but I do not want to be the solution to that problem and be lumped in the category of affordable designers. Someone who is shopping on price and convenience alone is not my ideal client.

I aim to work with clients who know they have a problem that needs to be solved and who are willing to seek an expert to solve said problem. Budget may be a factor in their decision-making, but it’s not the driving motivation.

I know my ideal client isn’t looking on places like 99designs to find designers. They don’t desire multiple design solutions based on their own brief. They desire someone to walk them through the creative process to help them discover what they can’t currently articulate. They are looking for someone to trust, a professional, not just an order-taker. Identify who your ideal client is, what they value, and what business problem they are trying to solve.

3. Charge more than crowdsourcing sites by providing more value.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but before I started receiving coaching from Chris Do on the Futur, I essentially was competing with online logo farms. I wasn’t offering much more value than what one would get off 99designs. I was either taking my client’s design brief or having them answer a questionnaire to meet their goal of finishing a project, not even going through a discovery process to see if that project was necessary or if it would help move the needle in their business.

I wasn’t focused on what my client actually needed, which sometimes wasn’t even my services. I was solely focused on winning projects and getting paid. I was humbled to learn that if I put the needs of my client first by finding out the underlying business problem that is driving them to seek out design work, then I could give more value. And by providing more value, I would naturally be able to charge more. I started solving bigger and deeper problems than just lots of options at an affordable price.

Change starts with me (and you).  

Everything changed for me when I stopped competing on price, identified my ideal client, and started caring more about my client’s success than my own. I began attracting clients who also stopped competing on price, who knew their ideal client, and who cared more about making a difference in the world over making their next buck.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that as I change so do my clients.

Melinda Livsey
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